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Race tech: US Pro Cycling Challenge TT inspires unique bikes

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This Bissell rider used a rather standard cassette spread for the run up Vail Pass. Note the SRAM chain on the otherwise Campagnolo drivetrain.

This Bissell rider used a rather standard cassette spread for the run up Vail Pass. Note the SRAM chain on the otherwise Campagnolo drivetrain. (Image credit: James Huang)
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HTC-Highroad riders set out on their usual Specialized S-Works Shiv aero machines for the Vail time trial.

HTC-Highroad riders set out on their usual Specialized S-Works Shiv aero machines for the Vail time trial. (Image credit: James Huang)
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A small strip of electrical tape seals up the gap up front on this HTC-Highroad Specialized S-Works Shiv.

A small strip of electrical tape seals up the gap up front on this HTC-Highroad Specialized S-Works Shiv. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Jelly Belly riders used their usual designed-by-Walser Focus Izalco Chrono rigs.

Jelly Belly riders used their usual designed-by-Walser Focus Izalco Chrono rigs. (Image credit: James Huang)
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An 80mm-deep Mavic Cosmic carbon tubular wheel was fitted to the front of Ivan Basso's (Liquigas-Cannondale) spare machine.

An 80mm-deep Mavic Cosmic carbon tubular wheel was fitted to the front of Ivan Basso's (Liquigas-Cannondale) spare machine. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Ivan Basso (Liquigas-Cannondale) uses just grip tape on his Cannondale Slice bars. Apparently he's holding on pretty tightly, too - note where the grit has worn off.

Ivan Basso (Liquigas-Cannondale) uses just grip tape on his Cannondale Slice bars. Apparently he's holding on pretty tightly, too - note where the grit has worn off. (Image credit: James Huang)
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As is usually the case, Ivan Basso's (Liquigas-Cannondale) aero bars are fitted with a third brake lever so he can check his speed without breaking his tuck.

As is usually the case, Ivan Basso's (Liquigas-Cannondale) aero bars are fitted with a third brake lever so he can check his speed without breaking his tuck. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Ivan Basso (Liquigas-Cannondale) kept this hybrid road-time trial setup as his spare for stage 3.

Ivan Basso (Liquigas-Cannondale) kept this hybrid road-time trial setup as his spare for stage 3. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Ivan Basso (Liquigas-Cannondale) kept this hybrid road-time trial setup as his spare for stage 3.

Ivan Basso (Liquigas-Cannondale) kept this hybrid road-time trial setup as his spare for stage 3. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Levi Leipheimer (RadioShack) stuck with his usual Trek Speed Concept to take the win on stage 3.

Levi Leipheimer (RadioShack) stuck with his usual Trek Speed Concept to take the win on stage 3. (Image credit: James Huang)
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RadioShack's front wheel preferences varied from rider to rider.

RadioShack's front wheel preferences varied from rider to rider. (Image credit: James Huang)
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This Skil-Shimano Koga was equipped with fairly conservative 50mm-deep wheels and a clip-on aero bar.

This Skil-Shimano Koga was equipped with fairly conservative 50mm-deep wheels and a clip-on aero bar. (Image credit: James Huang)
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At least in theory, Skil-Shimano team mechanics could have added bar end shifters to this hybrid setup.

At least in theory, Skil-Shimano team mechanics could have added bar end shifters to this hybrid setup. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Skil-Shimano riders used a mix of road-time trial hybrid setups and their usual full-blown aero machines for stage 3.

Skil-Shimano riders used a mix of road-time trial hybrid setups and their usual full-blown aero machines for stage 3. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Spidertech-C10 riders used a mix of time trial and hybrid setups for stage 3.

Spidertech-C10 riders used a mix of time trial and hybrid setups for stage 3. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Remember Daniele Callegari's (Team Type 1-sanofi-aventis) horrific crash in the lead-up to stage 2's ascent of Cottonwood Pass? Here's his helmet. Ouch.

Remember Daniele Callegari's (Team Type 1-sanofi-aventis) horrific crash in the lead-up to stage 2's ascent of Cottonwood Pass? Here's his helmet. Ouch. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Given the reported injuries to Team Type 1's Daniele Callegari, it's no surprise to see so much damage to the front edge of his Limar helmet.

Given the reported injuries to Team Type 1's Daniele Callegari, it's no surprise to see so much damage to the front edge of his Limar helmet. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Team Type 1 had its Colnago Flights at the ready for stage 3.

Team Type 1 had its Colnago Flights at the ready for stage 3. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Cervélo's new S5 borrows many of its aero features from the full-blown P4 time trial bike so depending on the setup, the frame probably doesn't generate much more drag.

Cervélo's new S5 borrows many of its aero features from the full-blown P4 time trial bike so depending on the setup, the frame probably doesn't generate much more drag. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Dave Zabriskie (Garmin-Cervélo) opted for a 28-tooth large cog on his spare Cervélo S5 setup.

Dave Zabriskie (Garmin-Cervélo) opted for a 28-tooth large cog on his spare Cervélo S5 setup. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Bissell riders stuck with their usual Pinarello Graals for the uphill time trial.

Bissell riders stuck with their usual Pinarello Graals for the uphill time trial. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Bissell team mechanics were keeping a close eye on the weather given Colorado's notoriously unpredictable afternoon conditions. Disc wheels were fitted earlier in the day but deep-section rears were on hand just in case.

Bissell team mechanics were keeping a close eye on the weather given Colorado's notoriously unpredictable afternoon conditions. Disc wheels were fitted earlier in the day but deep-section rears were on hand just in case. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Easton's clip-on aero bars offered up a convenient hybrid setup for this BMC rider.

Easton's clip-on aero bars offered up a convenient hybrid setup for this BMC rider. (Image credit: James Huang)
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BMC ran a mix of full-blown time trial and hybrid road-time trial setups for the stage 3 time trial up Vail Pass.

BMC ran a mix of full-blown time trial and hybrid road-time trial setups for the stage 3 time trial up Vail Pass. (Image credit: James Huang)
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The EPM-UNE team out of Columbia clearly wasn't as well equipped as most of its rivals - note not only the non-matching bikes but also the different brands of bikes - but team rider Rafael Infantino put in a very impressive third-place finish nonetheless.

The EPM-UNE team out of Columbia clearly wasn't as well equipped as most of its rivals - note not only the non-matching bikes but also the different brands of bikes - but team rider Rafael Infantino put in a very impressive third-place finish nonetheless. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Team Exergy again used its Felt B2 aero bikes for the Vail time trial.

Team Exergy again used its Felt B2 aero bikes for the Vail time trial. (Image credit: James Huang)
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A generous helping of electrical tape helps keep the cables tightly together and out of the way of the wind on this Team Exergy Felt B2.

A generous helping of electrical tape helps keep the cables tightly together and out of the way of the wind on this Team Exergy Felt B2. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Exergy team mechanics were busy swapping riders' pedals from their road bikes to their TT rigs the morning of the Vail stage.

Exergy team mechanics were busy swapping riders' pedals from their road bikes to their TT rigs the morning of the Vail stage. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Christian Vande Velde (Garmin-Cervélo) uses a very narrow armrest pad setup.

Christian Vande Velde (Garmin-Cervélo) uses a very narrow armrest pad setup. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Christian Vande Velde was one of three Garmin-Cervélo riders on a trick road-time trial hybrid setup. According to team mechanic Geoff Brown, this arrangement provided nearly the same position as on his time trial bike but an unusually light sub-7kg weight that was perfect for the run up Vail Pass.

Christian Vande Velde was one of three Garmin-Cervélo riders on a trick road-time trial hybrid setup. According to team mechanic Geoff Brown, this arrangement provided nearly the same position as on his time trial bike but an unusually light sub-7kg weight that was perfect for the run up Vail Pass. (Image credit: James Huang)
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The R5ca's longer head tube demanded a hinged stem on Christian Vande Velde's (Garmin-Cervélo) trick hybrid setup.

The R5ca's longer head tube demanded a hinged stem on Christian Vande Velde's (Garmin-Cervélo) trick hybrid setup. (Image credit: James Huang)
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It's not often you'll see a disc rear wheel on a Cervélo R5ca but that's just what the Garmin-Cervélo team did for stage 3 time trial up Vail Pass.

It's not often you'll see a disc rear wheel on a Cervélo R5ca but that's just what the Garmin-Cervélo team did for stage 3 time trial up Vail Pass. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Christian Vande Velde's (Garmin-Cervélo) spare bike was another R5ca but with a milder hybrid setup.

Christian Vande Velde's (Garmin-Cervélo) spare bike was another R5ca but with a milder hybrid setup. (Image credit: James Huang)
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A 27-tooth rear cog on Christian Vande Velde's (Garmin-Cervélo) Cervélo R5ca was on tap for the climb up Vail Pass.

A 27-tooth rear cog on Christian Vande Velde's (Garmin-Cervélo) Cervélo R5ca was on tap for the climb up Vail Pass. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Christian Vande Velde (Garmin-Cervélo) had his usual Cervélo R5ca set up with clip-on aero bars as a spare machine.

Christian Vande Velde (Garmin-Cervélo) had his usual Cervélo R5ca set up with clip-on aero bars as a spare machine. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Tom Danielson (Garmin-Cervélo) also had his own trick road-time trial hybrid setup.

Tom Danielson (Garmin-Cervélo) also had his own trick road-time trial hybrid setup. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Dave Zabriskie (Garmin-Cervélo) had his Cervélo S5 set up with clip-on aero bars as a spare machine for the Vail time trial. He used his usual stars-and-stripes Cervélo P4 during the race.

Dave Zabriskie (Garmin-Cervélo) had his Cervélo S5 set up with clip-on aero bars as a spare machine for the Vail time trial. He used his usual stars-and-stripes Cervélo P4 during the race. (Image credit: James Huang)
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UnitedHealthcare riders stuck to its Boardman time trial bikes for stage 3.

UnitedHealthcare riders stuck to its Boardman time trial bikes for stage 3. (Image credit: James Huang)

Thursday's USA Pro Cycling Challenge stage three time trial wasn't your average race against the clock and so inspired some unique equipment choices for the leading riders.

Though the course climbed a significant 530m (1,738ft) over its 16.1km (10.0mi) length, the first half was only mildly uphill and many riders were treated to a healthy tailwind – making it neither a blisteringly fast individual effort nor a pure hill climb. Not surprisingly then, many of the bikes used today were novel hybrids specifically tailored to the day.

One of the most creative machines by far was Christian Vande Velde's Garmin-Cervélo rig. Built around Cervélo's ultralight R5ca frame – a roughly 700g featherweight normally reserved for big mountain stages – team mechanics then dressed it up in full aero gear, including a disc rear wheel, deep-section front wheel, and integrated aero bars mounted on an adjustable stem.

According to team sports scientist Robbie Ketchell, Vande Velde's position was actually nearly identical to that of his full-blown P4 time trial rig and given the nominal gains offered by even the best aero frames, the trick setup likely represented only a slight increase in drag in total.

More importantly, though, the ultralight chassis yielded a final package that was unusually light for a time trial bike – a key performance advantage for the second half of the course. According to team mechanic Geoff Brown, Vande Velde's aero-dressed R5ca was well under the 7kg (15.4lb).

Many teams stuck to their standard time trial bikes, preferring to just tweak the setups with slightly taller bar heights and/or larger rear cassettes to better handle the climb. But road-time trial hybrids like Garmin-Cervélo's machines were definitely present en masse – just in more mild incarnations that typically involved a set of aero clip-ons and deep section, or disc, wheels.

One thing we were surprised not to see, however, were Shimano Dura-Ace Di2-equipped teams taking advantage of the group's plug-and-play satellite bar end shifters. While we haven't tried the combination ourselves, teams should have been able to add clip-on bars to the riders' road bikes but add a very useful set of shifters out on the ends of the extensions to save a few valuable sections on the faster, lower section of the course.