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Tour de France Gallery: 30 years of time trial technology

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Miguel Indurain's Pinarello in 1995 was the height of aerodynamic fashion.

Miguel Indurain's Pinarello in 1995 was the height of aerodynamic fashion.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Always the early adopter of new technology, Greg LeMond is shown here with an aero-shaped helmet during the 1986 Tour de France time trial in Saint-Etienne.

Always the early adopter of new technology, Greg LeMond is shown here with an aero-shaped helmet during the 1986 Tour de France time trial in Saint-Etienne.
(Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Floyd Landis' 'praying mantis' position decreased his frontal area in 2006

Floyd Landis' 'praying mantis' position decreased his frontal area in 2006
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Bradley Wiggins as British champion before wearing the maillot jaune.

Bradley Wiggins as British champion before wearing the maillot jaune.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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David Zabriskie placed a big emphasis on that small frontal area.

David Zabriskie placed a big emphasis on that small frontal area.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Miguel Indurain won his five Tours based largely on his ability to time trial efficiently.

Miguel Indurain won his five Tours based largely on his ability to time trial efficiently.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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It's a good thing the integrated head sock of 1992 wasn't embraced

It's a good thing the integrated head sock of 1992 wasn't embraced
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Cadel Evans has such a huge drop from saddle to bars special provisions are made for his stem and bars.

Cadel Evans has such a huge drop from saddle to bars special provisions are made for his stem and bars.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Andy Schleck showed in 2011 that all the technology in the world won't beat knowledge of the course

Andy Schleck showed in 2011 that all the technology in the world won't beat knowledge of the course
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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An Olympic and world champion pursuiter, Bradley Wiggins could naturally hold a very aerodynamic position and still put out power

An Olympic and world champion pursuiter, Bradley Wiggins could naturally hold a very aerodynamic position and still put out power
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Bradley Wiggins used the time trials of the 2012 Tour de France to forge his overall victory

Bradley Wiggins used the time trials of the 2012 Tour de France to forge his overall victory
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Kask removed the tail from the aero helmet to good effect in 2012

Kask removed the tail from the aero helmet to good effect in 2012
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Helmet designers today know better than to produce shapes like this.

Helmet designers today know better than to produce shapes like this.
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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The wheels and body positions used in 1991 may have been fairly aerodynamic but the round-tubed Colnago used here by Rolf Sorensen was anything but.

The wheels and body positions used in 1991 may have been fairly aerodynamic but the round-tubed Colnago used here by Rolf Sorensen was anything but.
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Miguel Indurain used his mastery against the clock to win both the Tour de France and the Giro d'Italia in 1992.

Miguel Indurain used his mastery against the clock to win both the Tour de France and the Giro d'Italia in 1992.
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Oh, how times have changed. Top Tour de France riders now wouldn't even consider running their aero bars as high as Stephen Roche did in 1992.

Oh, how times have changed. Top Tour de France riders now wouldn't even consider running their aero bars as high as Stephen Roche did in 1992.
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Time trial frames in the early 90s were primarily designed to put riders in an aerodynamic position, not to be aerodynamic themselves.

Time trial frames in the early 90s were primarily designed to put riders in an aerodynamic position, not to be aerodynamic themselves.
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Tony Rominger's 1995 Colnago Chrono Oro was well ahead of its time with its carbon fiber construction and long tail, which helped smooth airflow over the rear wheel.

Tony Rominger's 1995 Colnago Chrono Oro was well ahead of its time with its carbon fiber construction and long tail, which helped smooth airflow over the rear wheel.
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Check out the unnecessarily narrow and tall top tube on Chris Boardman's bike as used in the 1996 Tour de France prologue.

Check out the unnecessarily narrow and tall top tube on Chris Boardman's bike as used in the 1996 Tour de France prologue.
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Carlos Sastre was not the most notable time trialist, but innovations from Cervelo helped him defy the odds and hold off his competitors in the final TT of the 2008 Tour de France.

Carlos Sastre was not the most notable time trialist, but innovations from Cervelo helped him defy the odds and hold off his competitors in the final TT of the 2008 Tour de France.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The UCI threw Specialized for a loop with its brand-new Shiv, rendering some elements illegal at the last minute.

The UCI threw Specialized for a loop with its brand-new Shiv, rendering some elements illegal at the last minute.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Aero bar companies are thankfully much more adept at providing adjustability on today's models.

Aero bar companies are thankfully much more adept at providing adjustability on today's models.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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This image of time trial specialist David Millar is now ten years old but the position he used back then would still work well today.

This image of time trial specialist David Millar is now ten years old but the position he used back then would still work well today.
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Most bike frames in 1997 were still made out of metal, which limited what designers could do in terms of aerodynamic shaping. Here, Jan Ullrich tears around the Saint-Etienne course on a bike with a disc rear wheel, medium-depth front wheel, and aero bars but with just a teardrop-shaped down tube instead of the full-blown aero creations of today.

Most bike frames in 1997 were still made out of metal, which limited what designers could do in terms of aerodynamic shaping. Here, Jan Ullrich tears around the Saint-Etienne course on a bike with a disc rear wheel, medium-depth front wheel, and aero bars but with just a teardrop-shaped down tube instead of the full-blown aero creations of today.
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Greg LeMond brought instant notoriety to aero handlebars during his historic time trial victory over Laurent Fignon in the 1989 Tour de France, where he beat the Frenchman by nearly a minute and captured the overall victory by a scant eight seconds.

Greg LeMond brought instant notoriety to aero handlebars during his historic time trial victory over Laurent Fignon in the 1989 Tour de France, where he beat the Frenchman by nearly a minute and captured the overall victory by a scant eight seconds.
(Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Back in 1987, bicycle designers had a vague idea of what made a bike - and rider - aerodynamic but they were mostly going by feel. Here, Charly Mottet speeds around the Futuroscope course with very low cowhorn bars but no aero extensions, leaving his chest open to catch the wind.

Back in 1987, bicycle designers had a vague idea of what made a bike - and rider - aerodynamic but they were mostly going by feel. Here, Charly Mottet speeds around the Futuroscope course with very low cowhorn bars but no aero extensions, leaving his chest open to catch the wind.
(Image credit: AFP Photo)
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In the 1990 Tour de France, Greg LeMond used not only a Scott clip-on aero bar but also the company's novel Drop-In road bars. The inward extensions at the bottom allowed for a very low and narrow position that was still UCI-legal for road stages.

In the 1990 Tour de France, Greg LeMond used not only a Scott clip-on aero bar but also the company's novel Drop-In road bars. The inward extensions at the bottom allowed for a very low and narrow position that was still UCI-legal for road stages.
(Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Even back in 1985, riders at least had the idea that aerodynamics mattered. Here, Bernard Hinault - wearing a pseudo-aero helmet - rides past Sean Kelly during an individual time trial.

Even back in 1985, riders at least had the idea that aerodynamics mattered. Here, Bernard Hinault - wearing a pseudo-aero helmet - rides past Sean Kelly during an individual time trial.
(Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Laurent Fignon was famous for his glasses and ponytail but he would have been better served aerodynamically with a teardrop-shaped helmet.

Laurent Fignon was famous for his glasses and ponytail but he would have been better served aerodynamically with a teardrop-shaped helmet.
(Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Aerodynamic performance wasn't nearly as much a concern back in the Merckx era as it is today.

Aerodynamic performance wasn't nearly as much a concern back in the Merckx era as it is today.
(Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Bjarne Riis was aware of the value of aero bars back in 1997 but even so, a traditional cap still won out over an aerodynamic helmet.

Bjarne Riis was aware of the value of aero bars back in 1997 but even so, a traditional cap still won out over an aerodynamic helmet.
(Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Chris Boardman was a major innovator of time trial technology

Chris Boardman was a major innovator of time trial technology
(Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Marco Pantani streaks around the 1997 Tour de France time trial in Disneyland with a rear disc wheel, four-spoke carbon front wheel, and aero bars.

Marco Pantani streaks around the 1997 Tour de France time trial in Disneyland with a rear disc wheel, four-spoke carbon front wheel, and aero bars.
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Bike designs such as the carbon Pinarello used by Miguel Indurain in 1995 started to look truly wild before the UCI began cracking down more than ten years ago.

Bike designs such as the carbon Pinarello used by Miguel Indurain in 1995 started to look truly wild before the UCI began cracking down more than ten years ago.
(Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Somewhat ironically, Lance Armstrong was much like Greg LeMond in his embrace of aerodynamic technology.

Somewhat ironically, Lance Armstrong was much like Greg LeMond in his embrace of aerodynamic technology.
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)

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.