Tour de France Gallery: 30 years of time trial technology

The individual time trial of the Tour de France has long been a fixture of the race, and a lasting legacy of the true intention of the event: to test one athlete against another over the obstacle of a set distance under the watchful eye of the clock.

Technology played only a minor role in the individual time trial until the pioneering American, Greg LeMond famously added handlebar extensions which allowed him to cut through the air quicker on the streets of Paris and so win the 1989 Tour de France by eight seconds over Laurent Fignon.

But that's not the only story of the time trial. Prior to LeMond, riders wore aero shells on their heads to improve their aerodynamics, as Bernard Hinault did in 1985, or used disc wheels to cut down on drag. The latter increased in popularity after the 1984 Olympic Games and Francisco Moser's successful hour record attempt in 1984. They first appeared en masse at the Tour de France in 1986.

With the advent of carbon fiber technology, the frames became lighter and more aerodynamic, as round tubes were replaced by oval shaped, molded frames. They've come a long way since Bjarne Riis chucked his high-tech, very expensive Pinarello into the verge after several technical problems in the final time trial of the 1997 Tour.

Technology began to become more and more radical and as a consequence, the UCI stepped in and put the brakes on secret innovations in 2000 when it introduced new rules governing the design of time trial bikes to a "triangular form" and other restrictions.

Regulations have further tightened in recent years, restricting riders to a specific saddle tilts, bar positions, and even saddle setback while banning fairings and some other elements that the UCI has (somewhat arbitrarily) deemed to serve only aerodynamic purposes. Many of those decisions have profoundly impacted bike manufacturers such as Specialized and Giant, both of whom were forced to make last-minute modifications so that their riders could use their bikes in competition.

This special time trial photo gallery tells the story of the design and development of the time trial bike during the last 30 years.



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