Tour de France Stage 3 Equipment Effect

Stage 3 of the 2013 Tour de France was another exciting finish (does anyone else feel their heart rate jump watching the final kilometre?).

Once again there are small and perhaps crucial differences in equipment that may have made the difference between the victor and the rather grumpy rider he defeated. So I’ll break out the calculator once more. 

Simon Gerrans pulled off a beautifully executed sprint – pushing Peter Sagan into second for a second day running.

As shown in the photo finish Gerrans took the win by about 15cm after a great lead out by team mate Daryl Impey. Now, I’m not aiming to deride Cannondale in particular with these articles but it is noteworthy that Gerrans rides Scotts Foil bike – utilising similar virtual airfoil shaping to the Trek Madone discussed yesterday.

Last year Velonews tested 4 aero road bikes vs a standard round tubed bike (not the Cannondale), all fitted with the same Enve 6.7 wheels. The Scott Foil was one of the test bikes.

Additionally – the new Cervelo RCa shares the same principles as the Foil so I cross checked with the comparison between the Cannondale Supersix Evo and the Cervelo RCa from the Cervelo testing.

Watching the video closely I judge that Sagan came off Gerrans wheel 7s before the finish – 125m at 65kph. So the distance I modelled is that short, but rather important, dash to the line.

The Velonews data shows a 0.07s = 1.3m advantage for the Foil over the round tubed bike. The Cervelo data shows a 1.1m advantage for the RCa vs the Supersix.

Thus we have two separate information sources that suggest an advantage of a little over 1 metre for the 125m sprint

If you cast your eye back up to the photo and the 0.15m that Sagan lost by you’ll appreciate how vital such small differences can be. Even if you don’t really believe that wind tunnel results translate to the real world – Sagan would have been rather happy to have had an advantage of just 20cm  – 1/5th of the claimed difference between the bikes.

Sagan was clearly going faster than Gerrans – but Gerrans and his team executed brilliantly. Where Sagan was left exposed early, Gerrans still had Impey doing a sterling lead out. Then Gerrans timed his acceleration and lunge for the line perfectly. Sagan was much less polished technically which cost him dearly.

The look on Sagans face during the Maillot Vert presentation suggested that he was thinking ‘how does a guy with a sinister little goatee get a stage win around here’ – I see three options:
  • Stronger team
  • Better tactics
  • Persuade the bike sponsor that round tubes are losing them races and to hurry up with an aero road frame

I’m sure that Sagan will get a stage win soon (probably not in the TTT though) despite the equipment advantages that others may enjoy. After all – for both Stage 2 & 3 we’ve been talking about tiny margins thanks to equipment and Sagans ability will trump those factors. But it’s still interesting that equipment factors have had some rather important implications so far in this tour.


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