How quickly the 2017 season is moving forward. Back at the Tour Down Under doesn’t seem all that long ago, neither does the Giro d’Italia – yet it’s been almost two months since I was there. Still, it’s always interesting to check-in on the moving and shaking of tech gear within the Pro Peloton, especially when you get to find totally new products floating around the team areas.
Today’s first stage of the Tour de France was an individual time trial stage. While only 14KM in length, it was quite the feat for many with the rain and slick conditions. That meant teams were doing more than just being careful, but also tweaking gear too – such as tires to the weather. But for most of the sports tech stuff I track, the weather didn’t matter much. So onwards I went, trying to inventory it all.
Note that there are often slight variations between the TT and road setups. Side note: Virtually every team refers to the ‘road’ setup as their ‘race bikes’, whereas the TT setup is their…’TT bikes’. Kinda a funny distinction since almost everyone else would refer to them as road and TT. In any event, the point I was making was that we do often see slight variations often due to compatibility reasons. This is especially true of mounts.
Another good example here being that Team Katusha is riding the Quarq RED power meter for their TT setup, but using the newer DZero for their road bikes. I’m sure there will be others in this realm. Given the first day of the tour was a TT day, it was mostly TT bikes out. However, most teams also had their road bikes out for a portion of the day – so I inventoried as best as possible. Tomorrow it’s back to road bikes, so I’ll be on the lookout for any notable discrepancies.
Now in a lot of ways very little has changed since about 6 weeks ago at the Giro d’Italia. After all, UCI WorldTour teams tend to lock things down early in the season (usually around January or so), and then stick with them. Sometimes you get some little teaser items here or there, often in the 2nd week of the Tour. That’s when companies like to get your interest back and slip out a single rider on a new piece of gear.
But honestly, I don’t expect that this year. Mostly because I don’t expect any of the teams that have mainstream sponsors to release new products this year. Everyone was too busy last year and into this winter.
Still, since the Giro d’Italia was in Italy – it largely featured Italian teams as the Continental teams (non-WorldTour additions to the race). So, in that case, we got to see some more unique setups like bePro being present. But the Tour de France picks its own set of Continental teams, three French and one Belgium. So we’ve got different teams to poke into.
Like I said at the Giro regarding power meter brands, is to keep in mind that one thing all power meter companies are trying to do is establish credibility (newer players), or maintain creditability (some existing players). For long term power meter companies like Quarq and PowerTap, there’s little reason to deal with the hassle and overhead of a pro team. Athletes know their power meters are solid, and their name is well known. And the same is true of SRM, but I think the tables are slightly different there. In their case, they’re looking to maintain their name in the news (like this very post). So it’s not so much a case of maintaining creditability, but instead maintaining brand awareness and thus your interest.
(Pro Tip: I rounded up my thoughts on each power meter brand in that post, linked to the exact section here).
At the WorldTour level, it’s very rarely about what’s ‘best’. It’s just about the money. Which is what it is, cycling is a business after all. And it’s a business that heavily revolves around gear. With that, here’s the table of where things stood:
Tour de France 2017 Power Meters
|AG2R La Mondiale||SRM (fully SRM Branded)|
|Bahrain-Merida||SRM (fully SRM Branded)|
|BMC Racing Team||SRM|
|Bora-Hansgrohe||4iiii (dual left/right)|
|Cannondale-Drapac||SRM (Canondale variant)|
|Team Dimension Data||Rotor 2INPower (except Mark Cavendish)|
|Team Katusha-Alpecin||Quarq DZero for Road, RED for TT|
|Movistar Team||Power2Max NG (Road)||Type-S (TT)|
|Quick-Step Floors||4iiii (dual left/right)|
|Team Sky||Stages (dual left/right)|
|Team Sunweb||Shimano (most Road)||Pioneer (TT)|
|UAE Team Emirates||Power2Max NG (Road)||Type-S (TT)|
|Direct Énergie||Power2Max Type-S|
|Fortuneo–Oscaro||Look Pedal Power Meter|
|Wanty–Groupe Gobert||Stages (left-only)|
One notable item is that both LottoNL-Jumbo and Team Quick-Step Floors had some bikes on the newer Shimano DuraAce FC-R9100 cranksets. That in and of itself isn’t a big deal, but what’s more interesting is that both teams had their respective power meters (4iiii for Quick-Step, and Pioneer for LottoNL-Jumbo) also with new updated units. Similarly, we saw the same for Team Sky and Stages. In the case of 4iiii, they just announced their FC-R9100 setup started sales on Friday.
And here’s your pile of power meter imagery goodness. You can hover over any given picture to see the team name:
Now it’s time to spin over to trainers, cause we’ve got some neat stuff there.
Well there, would you look at that. Someone new is out playing in the sun…err…rain at the Tour de France. This unannounced Elite trainer in use by Team FDJ is obviously direct drive. The real question is what the exact price and specs will be. Given Elite has plenty of direct drive trainers in their stable, what matters these days is how much, how accurate, max inclines/wattages, and what other goodies it’ll have.
For that, you’re gonna have to wait.
Not long, but a little while.
I’d strongly suggest checking back here around sunrise Paris time on Monday (Update: Here’s the post on it.)
As for the rest of the teams, they were, as is usually the case – dominated by Elite and Tacx. There was one team each on CycleOps and Wahoo. As I’ve said in the past, this is largely the result of the many European focused team sponsorships for other bike parts – notably water bottles and water bottle cages, which Elite and Tacx also dominate. More like obliterate.
Tour de France 2017 Trainers
|AG2R La Mondiale||Elite|
|BMC Racing Team||Elite Drivo|
|Team Dimension Data||Tacx Neo|
|FDJ||Elite Unannounced Trainer|
|Team Katusha-Alpecin||Tacx Neo|
|Quick-Step Floors||Tacx Neo|
|Team Sky||Wahoo KICKR2|
|Team Sunweb||Elite Drivo|
|UAE Team Emirates||Elite|
|Direct Énergie||Tacx Neo|
|Wanty–Groupe Gobert||Tacx blend|
There’s very little surprises here compared to the Giro (none actually), though the theme for both Tacx and Elite was to continue equipping their teams with the higher-end trainers (Elite Drivo and Tacx Neo). Though all teams do have a small pile of much lighter trainers to use away from the bus (warm-up at TT starting shacks, cool-down at the finish for podium winners). Though, someone did drag a Tacx Neo all the way down to the starting shack. I can’t overstate how impressive that is. That’s a beast of a trainer, and it almost certainly wasn’t moved by car (traffic flow direction would have made that near impossible).
And here’s a look at all the units on-hand. Again, hover over image for team name:
As I noted previously/elsewhere, I don’t expect major movement in the trainer realm this summer/fall/year. Some minor/moderate announcements, but nothing like the craziness of last year.
Mounting it up:
I’m not sure why I find the mount situations interesting, but I figured I’d include it as I’ve done recently. There’s definitely a significant preference for K-Edge when a 3rd party mount is used. Whether that’s due to K-Edge just providing them, or teams actively going out and buying them I’m not sure. I suspect some of it helps that K-Edge as a brand came from the pro cycling ranks, so there may be some behind the scenes connections that help.
Still, I did see far more BarFly mounts than I’ve ever seen before out there today, primarily in the TT configuration. And to be fair – BarFly makes a really nice and compact TT bike mount. It’s what I use on my TT bike. It’s slim, lightweight, and you don’t really need the machined aluminum if you’re not placing an action cam on it.
Here’s the lineup:
Tour de France 2017 Mounts
|Team||Computer Mount||Bike Computer|
|AG2R La Mondiale||Stock||SRM|
|BMC Racing Team||Stock||SRM|
|Team Dimension Data||Stock||Garmin/Edge 1000|
|FDJ||Zipp blacked out||Garmin/Edge 1000|
|Movistar Team||SRAM TT Mount||Garmin|
|Team Sky||K-Edge||Garmin/Edge 820 & 520|
|Team Sunweb||Stock||Giant NeosTrack|
|UAE Team Emirates||Barfly||Garmin|
|Wanty–Groupe Gobert||Blend||Garmin & Polar|
And here’s the gallery. Note though that I expect things to be different tomorrow at Stage 2 with regular road bikes. That’s where you’ll often find teams will just default back to stock/default mounts, since they didn’t have to go out and get something unique for the TT bike. I’ll update the table accordingly after the stage.
What about the bike computers that go in them? Well, that continues to be really tricky to count – for the simple reason that most riders hold onto their own bike computers, and thus they aren’t sitting on bikes until the rider is too. So short of sitting at the starting shack for 3 hours to watch every rider go by – it’s tough to be 100% certain here.
However, the overwhelming trend was Garmin Edge units (a blend of Garmin sponsored teams and random purchases), along with SRM PC8 head units (mostly by SRM sponsored teams). Plus a few outliers like Pioneer head units on Pioneer sponsored team Lotto-Jumbo, and Giant’s head unit on their sponsored team, Team Sunweb.
This is an area that’s actually a bit easier to nail-down tomorrow, since riders tend to sign-in on the board pretty heavily grouped together.
There wasn’t any big…shift…here since the Giro – it’s still dominated by Shimano and Di2.
As I noted then though, keep in mind that’s largely driven by sponsorships. A few years ago SRAM worked hard at the launch of eTAP to have huge numbers of teams on the wireless SRAM RED eTAP, likely to drive adoption and confidence in the product. These days it more than sells itself, and likely believes there’s little reason to waste money there. So here’s the lineup:
Tour de France 2017 Shifting
|AG2R La Mondiale||Shimano Di2|
|BMC Racing Team||Shimano Di2|
|Team Dimension Data||Shimano Di2|
|Team Katusha-Alpecin||SRAM eTAP|
|Movistar Team||Campagnolo EPS & Mechanical on TT|
|Quick-Step Floors||Shimano Di2|
|Team Sky||Shimano Di2|
|Team Sunweb||Shimano Di2|
|UAE Team Emirates||Campagnolo EPS|
|Direct Énergie||Shimano Di2|
|Wanty–Groupe Gobert||Shimano Di2|
I’m not bothering to include a secondary photo gallery of just the shifting, since the power meter gallery tends to include the derailleurs of all bikes in them, and thus a way to confirm each one.
I didn’t see as much unique gadgety stuff out there today as I might have in the past. Part of that may be because it’s the first day of the Tour, so it’s more about stock stuff and ensuring partners/sponsors see all the latest/greatest. Whereas we often see companies ‘play’ a bit more in the 2nd and 3rd weeks.
Also, the reality is that the weather just sucked. Like, miserable. So things that may be less stable may have been kept out of the rain, or only briefly visible. With the team bus area spanning about a mile in length, no amount of my 14 miles of walking today could capture every device that popped out for just a few moments.
I did note that Trek didn’t use the Bontrager lights on any bikes I saw, unlike at the Giro. However, in place of it was that every bike at the Tour had a GPS tracker on it, which is part of the device sticking out the rear/tail. I’m going to hopefully do a more detailed piece on that down the road. In the meantime, this explains it a bit.
Finally, the Velon folks alongside GoPro were out there placing cameras on various bikes, as they often do. These were all GoPro Hero5 Session cameras on the bikes from what I saw.
I asked some of the Velon folks if they planned to use the GoPro Fusion 360° camera anywhere in testing at the Tour. They said no, but honestly, I don’t believe that. Plus, Velon and GoPro are technically separate (though work closely together here). I suspect we’ll see GoPro place it on some stages – as anything else would be a major lost opportunity for footage. And GoPro has a very solid history of putting together some spectacular edits from the Tour in past years.
With that, I’ll wrap up this gear post. I’ve got a separate post detailing more of the behind the scenes pieces coming up shortly though, with less focus on tech, and more on the unique quirks of Le Tour. Those following on Twitter today saw a bit of a peek at that!
Thanks for reading!