The secret tech that GB cyclists will use to win gold in Rio

British Cycling has lots of special equipment we expect to be unleashed at the Rio Olympic games, all in a bid to save precious seconds and help deliver Gold. Here is what we know…

The Secret Tech That GB Cyclists Will Use To Win Gold In Rio

After narrowly losing out to Australia in the 2016 final of World Championship Team Pursuit, Sir Bradley Wiggins remarked I ll put my house on it, I ll say we ll win in Rio now. I m confident and I just think we will. His confidence was likely to be in part, because Ed Clancy was not on top form, having recovered from back surgery. However, the sharp eyed amongst you may have noticed several key details regarding the kit being used at the World Championships.

>>>Where to watch all the cycling action from the Rio 2016 Olympics1

We all joke about marginal gains on the club run, however when you consider how small the winning margin can be in the pursuit, the equipment used becomes hugely significant. Here we present a list of tech and equipment that we believe the GB athletes will be using at the Rio Olympics2 in order to give them an edge.

Bikes

At the recent World Championships in London, British Cycling were using the Cervelo T4 track bike. While no one would dispute this is very good bike, there are faster machines out there. The design was ridden to gold in the London 2012 Omnium by Denmark s Lasse Norman Hansen, but since then bike design has improved.

The Secret Tech That GB Cyclists Will Use To Win Gold In Rio

Wiggin s Pinarello Bolide HR is widely believed to be more aerodynamic than the Cervelo T4

Bikes such as the Pinarello Bolide HR developed in conjunction with Jaguar3 for Bradley Wiggins s Hour Record4 are likely to be significantly more aerodynamic. Prior to riding the Hour, Wiggins stated that the Pinarello Bolide HR was the most aerodynamically efficient track bike I ve ever ridden. Consider that he has also ridden the Cervelo T4.

The Secret Tech That GB Cyclists Will Use To Win Gold In Rio

Laura Trott riding the Cervelo T4 during the women s scratch race, Track World Championships 2016

Notable features of the Pinarello Bolide HR include the bowed fork and custom 3D printed titanium cockpit for improved aerodynamics. Although the difference over the T4 is probably just a couple of watts, this can be significant in the tenths or hundredths of a second that can decide an Olympic team pursuit.

The Secret Tech That GB Cyclists Will Use To Win Gold In Rio

Italian team ridng the Pinarello Bolide at the Track World Championships 2016

As it stands, in a twist of fate, the Italian national team arguably benefited from Wiggins s Hour Record, as it currently has the Pinarello Bolide track bike at its disposal for the Rio games.
In the 2012 Olympics Great Britain athletes rode custom UK Sports Institute bikes5, to gain an aero advantage over their rivals, however in 2016 the riders will be on board a new Cervelo that has been developed in collaboration with British Cycling6.

The Secret Tech That GB Cyclists Will Use To Win Gold In Rio

UKSI track bikes from London 2012

Skinsuits

The difference between a standard lycra skinsuit and the worlds fastest suit is huge. When you consider that the biggest obstacle riders face is drag and that most of the drag is created by the rider, what the rider is wearing becomes hugely important.

The Secret Tech That GB Cyclists Will Use To Win Gold In Rio

Wiggin s skin suit for the Hour record was similar to that used in Olympic TT. Note the trip strips on the arms

For Alex Dowsett s Hour Record7, Movistar reportedly tested 57 different suits to find the optimum. This appears to have paid off, as he not only smashed the hour, he also recently broke the National 25 record8.

The Secret Tech That GB Cyclists Will Use To Win Gold In Rio

Alex Dowsett wins the RTTC Classic Time Trial Series round in Essex. Note the special fabrics on the skinsuit

When asked about the difference between a standard skinsuit and a cutting edge suit, aerodynamacist and engineer Simon Smart informed me that although there are a lot of variables involved, such as rider size, I would expect to see a difference of at least 10 watts at 30 mph, and its not uncommon to see a difference as high as 30 watts.

>>> Chris Hoy backs Bradley Wiggins to win gold in Rio9

Again at the 2016 World Championships, GB athletes were wearing standard Adidas Lycra suits. Compare this to the special suits worn by Wiggins in the 2012 Olympic time trial and for his Hour Record, both of which featured special fabrics and strategically placed trip strips to disrupt air flow.

Chains

There has been considerable attention placed upon chains and optimising drivetrain efficiency. Muc-Off spent considerable time developing a process to measure and optimise the efficiency of bike chains.

The Secret Tech That GB Cyclists Will Use To Win Gold In Rio

Muc-Off Nanotube optimised chains

Using hydrosonic baths and the most advanced lubricants, top end chains can be something in the region of 5-6 watts more efficient than standard ones. At 147 the Muc-Off chain isn t cheap10, but we feel the Olympics is a special enough occasion.

Helmets

British Cycling currently has a deal with Lazer Helmets, with all the riders wearing them at the 2016 World Championships. However at the London Olympics the riders were wearing custom UKSI helmets, developed by the so-called Secret Squirrel Club11.

The Secret Tech That GB Cyclists Will Use To Win Gold In Rio

Victoria Pendleton wearing a UKSI custom helmet during 2012

We wouldn t be surprised to see a return of these helmets if they are considered to be more aerodynamic than Lazer s.

Socks

We previously reported on how the GB pursuiters had stopped wearing socks in competition12. The question is why? Fashion statement? Aerodynamic advantage? Or mind games?

Aerodynamics expert Xavier Disley of Aero Coach Ltd told Cycling Weekly that choosing to ride without socks is not a terrible decision from an aerodynamic perspective but there are faster options out there. Bare legs are faster than normal socks but not faster than the special ones Wiggins had on for the Hour Record.

The Secret Tech That GB Cyclists Will Use To Win Gold In Rio

Wiggins s mid-length socks are more than a fashion statement: they appear to have a crimped edge to panel on the front, and made from similar material to the sleeves of his skinsuit

Will we see GB athletes wearing special socks at Rio? Time will tell. As for the shoes, we may have seen them already.

Shoes

The Secret Tech That GB Cyclists Will Use To Win Gold In Rio

Wiggins new shoes feature a lace up design

While competing at the European Track Championships in Grenchen, Switzerland13 the Olympic time trial champion was seen to be wearing a new pair of custom carbon shoes.
Exact details of the shoes remain sparse but comparisons with Adam Hansen s one piece14 custom shoes can be made. The shoes appear to be very light featuring custom moulded carbon fibre with a simple lace up closure design.


Watch: how much speed can you buy?


Tyre warmers?

The Secret Tech That GB Cyclists Will Use To Win Gold In Rio

Tyre warmers have long been established in motorsport

Okay, this last one is highly unlikely and a little ridiculous we doubt that anyone will be using tyre warmers at the Rio games. However, they are a common sight in Motorsport and it is well established that the rolling resistance of a tyre decreases when it has warmed up, saving precious watts. It is possible that in the future we see top level track cyclists deliberately warming their tyres prior to a race.

What does all this add up to?

In sport, psychology is huge and going into an event thinking that you will already be faster is more than likely going to take some pressure off and has the potential to provide a placebo effect. It is similar to sensation of training on your rusty winter hack and then jumping onto your lightweight slippery summer steed. Consider that the men s team pursuit winning margin was just 1.129 seconds at the 2016 World Championships. All these margins that the team didn t use could feasibly add up to a winning time. Knowing that they could have won at the World Championships, had they used all this tech is a big psychological advantage.

That is of course, unless the Australians use all the same tech and level the playing field. With a bit of luck they will be too busy watching Neighbours and chucking things on the barbie to notice. What we do know, is that there is UCI rule stating that bicycles and their accessories shall be of a type that is sold for use by anyone practising cycling as a sport. This means that any of the equipment or clothing has to be commercially available to you or I.

However don t expect to find this kit down at your local branch of JD Sports next week as the UCI also states that no minimum production quantity or minimum price is defined for either bicycles or any component parts.

References

  1. ^ >>>Where to watch all the cycling action from the Rio 2016 Olympics (www.cyclingweekly.co.uk)
  2. ^ Rio Olympics (www.cyclingweekly.co.uk)
  3. ^ Pinarello Bolide HR developed in conjunction with Jaguar (www.cyclingweekly.co.uk)
  4. ^ Bradley Wiggins s Hour Record (www.cyclingweekly.co.uk)
  5. ^ athletes rode custom UK Sports Institute bikes (www.cyclingweekly.co.uk)
  6. ^ a new Cervelo that has been developed in collaboration with British Cycling (www.cyclingweekly.co.uk)
  7. ^ Alex Dowsett s Hour Record (www.cyclingweekly.co.uk)
  8. ^ he also recently broke the National 25 record (www.cyclingweekly.co.uk)
  9. ^ >>> Chris Hoy backs Bradley Wiggins to win gold in Rio (www.cyclingweekly.co.uk)
  10. ^ At 147 the Muc-Off chain isn t cheap (www.cyclingweekly.co.uk)
  11. ^ Secret Squirrel Club (www.cyclingweekly.co.uk)
  12. ^ GB pursuiters had stopped wearing socks in competition (www.cyclingweekly.co.uk)
  13. ^ Great Britain scores double team pursuit gold at Euro Champs (www.cyclingweekly.co.uk)
  14. ^ Adam Hansen s one piece (www.cyclingweekly.co.uk)

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