Drapac Professional Cycling recently received a Professional Continental license for 2014 and will make its WorldTour debut at the Tour Down Under. The move to Pro Conti comes with several new sponsors and the associated challenges with moving riders onto the new equipment.
Drapac gave BikeRadar access to the team's initial bike fitting session, a long but important process in order to prevent injury and get the best from the riders come race day. The move to Swift Cycling frames, Bont Shoes, Fi'zi:k saddles and Speedplay pedals is a significant change for all, and for some riders it's the first major equipment change in nearly seven years.
Bike fitting expert and Clinical Myotherapist, Ken Ballhause, spoke about the processes each rider went through.
"These sessions were to establish a baseline for the riders, for the most part we were mimicking the riders' previous setups and ensuring they were comfortable. We took video analysis, with this we will be able to make future improvements and recommendations at the next training camp."
The sessions catered for a dizzying number of factors – with rider flexibility, core strength, structural fitness and previous injury all affecting the outcome. Ballhause spoke about strength and conditioning.
"I believe it's equally important as the bike fit itself, we test the riders to diagnose areas of weakness and from there I can provide strengthening exercises which has huge potential."
A change to new saddles, shoes and pedals represents challenges for many riders. As Ballhaue said: "For me the saddle represents the largest challenge, it has huge effect on the riders' baseline measurements, luckily many riders were coming from Fi'zi:k saddles. For the riders, it's always the shoes, they immediately notice the change in fit and feel."
The potential effects of a saddle change was seen with Wes Sulzberger who had crashed a few days prior to the fitting and was complaining of lower back pain. Ballhause attributed this to being a neurological issue from lumbar flexion and the perceived pain was effected by a change in pelvic tilt. A basic tweak in saddle angle or a different model would solve Wes' short-term acute pain immediately.
Click on through to the photo gallery for a glimpse of what happens when a team begins a season with new equipment, in this case, riders getting fitted to their 2014 training bikes.