Romain Bardet was put through his paces in the wind tunnel last week, working closely with David Millar as he got his hands on the time trial bike he'll use in 2017 for the first time.
The AG2R La Mondiale team has switched bike suppliers from Focus to Factor, who are currently fine-tuning their new 'Slick' TT bike – set to be made available to the team at its next training camp next month.
Having been presented with the 'O2' road bike he'll use throughout the season at the team's first gathering in the French Alps last week, Bardet headed to Geneva to get himself set up, work on his position, and share his feedback and suggestions with Factor.
Millar, who won time trials in all three Grand Tours – as well as claiming a world title that was later stripped for doping violations – has been working with Factor as a consultant, and was drawn in to lend his experience and expertise to Bardet. Also on hand were bike fitting consultant Mat Steinmetz, of 51 Speedshop, and Factor co-owner Rob Gitelis.
"I am very satisfied with my first contact of the Factor Slick. During the wind tunnel tests, I really felt at ease and the gains are really obvious," said Bardet.
"It is really an amazing bike – performance and aesthetic. I enjoyed the presence of David and Mat. David was a huge reference on time trials during his career and it will help me improve my skills in that particular discipline."
Time trialling would seem to be the biggest weakness in Bardet's armoury. At this year's Tour de France, where he finished runner-up, the lion's share of his 4:05 deficit to Chris Froome was suffered against the clock. Over 37.5km of the rolling Ardèche terrain on stage 13 – the first 15km+ time trial he'd done since 2014 – he lost almost three minutes to the Sky rider.
"I have been helping Romain adapt his position and share my experience and love for time trials – trying to put a little bit of that on him because, obviously, time trials are not something that he loves quite as much as me," said Millar.
"I think a lot of people make the mistake that they don't like time trials and they think that it has to be comfortable in order to for it to work and generally it is not. It’s a very uncomfortable position and one that you can only use at threshold - when you are already hurting. Normally you are going so hard that your body hurts so much you forget about the uncomfortable position. So learn there is no real secret to it, you just have to get what works biomechanically and face the fact that it is not going to be comfortable."
The Slick will feature the unique split twin vein down tube seen on Factor's aero bike, which is designed to allow turbulent air to pass through the frame. There is still, however, plenty of fine-tuning to be done before Factor settle on the finished article that will perfectly suit AG2R La Mondiale's star rider and France's biggest stage race hope.
"It is definitely a balance because the whole time I have been working with Romain, I am just saying 'let's get information' because ultimately he is the deciding factor," said Steinmetz, whose company has worked with Factor on the front end. "I define comfort as sustainability, so the ability to maintain your position for the duration of your event. I just need to make sure he can adapt and hold that position. We are here in the tunnel so we are getting objective feedback but we are also getting subjective feedback from Romain to tell me 'this feels good' and not just cramming him into a position."
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