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Race tech: Planned bike swaps for California time trial

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Team NetApp had both their new Fuji Norcom Straight time trial machines and Altamira road bikes at the ready before the start of the stage.

Team NetApp had both their new Fuji Norcom Straight time trial machines and Altamira road bikes at the ready before the start of the stage. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Team NetApp road bikes were equipped with short clip-on aero bars.

Team NetApp road bikes were equipped with short clip-on aero bars. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Tejay Van Garderen's BMC TimeMachine TM01 time trial machine lies in wait before the start of the stage…

Tejay Van Garderen's BMC TimeMachine TM01 time trial machine lies in wait before the start of the stage… (Image credit: James Huang)
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…but Tejay Van Garderen's BMC TeamMachine SLR01 is also prepared and is sitting right next to it.

…but Tejay Van Garderen's BMC TeamMachine SLR01 is also prepared and is sitting right next to it. (Image credit: James Huang)

The Stage 6 time trial of this year's Tour of California is throwing riders for a loop with a rolling (and windy) profile for the first 30km of the course but then a nasty uphill kick for the final 3km. Several teams have planned to swap riders from aerodynamic TT bikes to lightweight road racing ones.

Team officials were mixed on how beneficial such a strategy would be due to the lower bike weights with estimates ranging from 10-30 seconds saved. However, that doesn’t factor in the time required for the swap itself, nor the energy expenditure to reaccelerate back to racing speed.

Moreover, racers and team mechanics aren't necessarily well versed in such a procedure, the US-style roof racks installed on the team cars aren’t as quick to use as compared to the custom setups used in Europe, and race rules don't allow the team car to jet ahead of the rider to prepare for a swap.

Trek team liaison Jordan Roessingh told BikeRadarthat it's a tricky strategy for sure and that the Radioshack-Leopard-Trek team would likely experiment with riders who sit lower down on the GC to see how well it goes. Given the small reward – but very large risks – Roessingh doesn't expect the top GC riders to take the chance.

That being said, Lars Boom (Blanco) has already proven that the strategy can work, having won a similar time trial at the Tour Méditerranéen back in February in exactly that fashion so don't be surprised to see more of this practice in the future.