Themes Within the Pro Peloton
One way of keeping myself amused through the dull moments of a bike race (mostly on TV, sometimes in real life), is to think about each racers set up. In particular, I enjoy looking for the bikefit themes within the team. This will be influenced by many factors including the bike they are riding (geometry) , their history, their body shape, and their team ‘bikefitter’. I use inverted commas as I am sure that some teams do not use a bike fitter as we know, but an aerodynamics expert, bike builder, directeur sportif, etc instead.
Here are five patterns I have noticed within the pro peloton. I may be completely wrong and it could be a coincidence that they are all set up this way, but I think there is probably an external influence. I don’t have much data to back this up, but I think it is an interesting discussion. Please comment if you think I am wrong or if you have noticed any themes, and don’t take anything too seriously!
1. Cervelo Test Team- Using a frame one size smaller than standard and having very large amounts of drop
Almost all the teams riders seem to running frames smaller than their body size would normally suggest (maybe one size?)- even by professional cyclist standards. This leads to very large amounts of drop. I guess that the thought is that by riding a smaller frame you will be lower and therefore more aerodynamic (I think they may have even done wind tunnel tests). The problem I see with this is that the riders are rarely seen in the drops, and adopt the gear levers as their default racing position. I can’t imagine it being too comfortable either with all that tension running through the back and hamstrings. Read my previous posts for the downsides of too much drop.
2. HTC- Columbia Riders running saddle higher than average
HTC make a big deal about their bike fitting with cyclefit.de, so I was surprised to see some slightly unorthodox saddle heights throughout the season. Tejay Van Garderen and Michael Rogers in particular seemed to run them very high. Maybe they used this before they joined HTC? It looked quite uncomfortable from the sofa anyway; a large amount of flexion in the back to reach the handlebars and quite a lot of movement in the hips.
3. Liquigas – Very Externally rotated cleats (heels in) to compensate for lack of varus support
This one I am convinced is linked to a bike fitter at the Liquigas team. Each of their GC contenders has the same set up, a relatively wide stance and no varus correction causing the foot be externally rotated to maintain contact with the pedal. Wedges are needed!
4. Xacobeo Galicia- Internally Rotated Cleats (heels out)
In contrast to Liquigas, whoever set up the XG team seems to favour using cleats with little float and holding the feet internally rotated (heel out). I couldn’t find many pictures but many of the riders seemed to have this set up when I was watching the Vuelta. This forces the knee to track inwards towards the top tube. I don’t know the reason for this.
5. Sky Team- Unusually aggressive handlebar position
I am the least certain about this trend. A lot of the Sky riders look like they have extremely stretched out positions, especially Geraint Thomas and Brad Wiggins. They are both exceptionally flexible but I think that the metabolic cost and discomfort to maintain such a postion must be greater than the aerodynamic benefits. This relationship becomes more crucial on the climbs (speed low =aerodynamic benefit is low), where Wiggins is looking for every advantage possible.