Left-side drive Felt TA FRD: Team USA's secret Olympic weapon for Rio unveiled

Last night USA Cycling unveiled a high tech pursuit bike, three years in the making, aimed at helping the women's Olympic Games team pursuit squad win gold in Rio. Developed in partnership with Felt and nine other technology providers the new machine is designed with two purposes, go fast and turn left.

USA Cycling announced the women's team pursuit roster in March. The the team representing the US in Rio includes Kelley Catlin (NorthStar Development,) Chloe Dygert (Twenty16-Ridebiker,) Sarah Hammer, Jennifer Valente (Twenty16-Ridebiker,) and Ruth Winder (UnitedHealthCare.)

The major innovations include an asymmetrical frame design and a left-side drive train aimed at improving aerodynamics and combating the slight yaw found at indoor velodromes. The left side drive train is a custom design by Vision based on its Metron TT crankset. It sports an aerodynamic chain ring cap and a Stages power meter with dual sensors.

In addition to the unusual frame, the women will use Hed wheels, specially designed to fit the narrower aerodynamic fork and rear stays. The wheels will be fitted with Vittoria tyres for their low rolling resistance.

IBM has provided space-age technology to show power, lap times, muscle oxygenation and "match burned" in real time - with a heads-up display in the Solos smart eyewear.

USA Cycing's newest partner, ASSOS of Switzerland, is also developing a proprietary speed suit for the team to go with their Giro helmets.

This is not a mirror image: The Felt TA FRD with the left-side drive train. Can they do that? Yes they can.

Team USA riders compare the new bike to a sword that easily cuts any resistance.

"I definitely at first thought that the left drive would be so much different, but it doesn't feel that much different," Winder said at the unveiling ceremony. "It is the first thing you notice. You go 'Oh my chain rings are on the wrong side of the bike,' but it feels so good. For the team pursuit, where you are always going left all the time, it feels so fast."

The US women's team pursuit squad placed second in the London 2012 Games and are the current World Champions. The program's success is one of the few bright spots the US has experienced in Olympic track cycling. The Rio Olympics will be the first time the women's field will ride a four kilometer four-person team pursuit. Previously the women raced a three kilometer pursuit in teams of three, but was brought up to speed with the men's event after the 2012 Olympics. Any marginal gains that Team USA can procure will be put to good use.

"Our goal after London was to assemble the best team in the world and to put that team the best bike in the world," USA Cycling VP of Athletics Jim Miller said. "Working with all of our partners, we feel that we have created a game changer that will help deliver us to the top step in Rio."

Expanding the US track program is currently limited by funding constraints, a factor which USA Cycling President Derek Bouchard-Hall is trying to tackle.

"I'm deeply frustrated that we do not have a men's team pursuit program, that we don't really have a men's and women's sprint programs," Bouchard-Hall said. "We just haven't had the money to do it. But we are fighting really hard to get the money. We are looking at ways to give more value to sponsors who support those events and we are doing a lot of work to with our foundation to raise money through donors."

USA Cycling also used the event, held in South Lake Tahoe at the conclusion the first stage of the Amgen Women's Tour of California, to emphasize their commitment to restoring confidence in the organization. In addition to unveiling the 'Project 2016' bicycle, USA Cycling showed off a new logo and outlined their commitment to the future.

"We want to shine a spotlight on USA Cycling that we have changed as and organization," Bouchard-Hall said. "We want to put a stake in the ground and say that we are a new organization and we are heading in a new direction."

The women's Olympic team pursuit program and 'Project 2016' could be USA Cycling's golden ticket to a new reputation.

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