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Tour Down Under 2020: Sports Tech of the Pro Women

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Each time I inventory the women’s pro ranks, things get better and better in terms of equipment. Back a few years ago, it felt like a push to even have the same bike frames on a team. Whereas this year that’s easily the baseline and the majority of teams have standardized power meters too. It’s good to see progression here, even if the sponsorship numbers don’t quite line-up one for one compared to the men’s.

In the case of the Women’s Tour Down Under, that race wrapped up on Sunday. Whereas the Men’s side of the house started on Sunday with a standalone crit event. In previous years they have had some element of a day overlap, but starting last year they began to separate them a bit more so they run one after another. There are pros and cons to both strategies of course.

I had a chance before the Sunday evening women’s crit stage to do a quick run-through of all the team’s bikes as they prepared for the stage start. It was a whirlwind look at the teams, since unlike the men they don’t have a dedicated staging/mechanics area in the TDU Village (which would have made it easier to get detailed inventory of their gear).

The next thing to note is that unlike the men’s TDU race, the women’s race actually isn’t the same ‘level’. Meaning, the Men’s race is a UCI WorldTour event (the highest categorization in pro cycling). Whereas the women’s TDU race is one level lower at the newly formed UCI ProSeries classification. Certainly, most of the top women’s WorldTour teams show up for the Tour Down Under, given the massive media exposure. But that does mean that other elements like race organization support standards, prize money, and so on aren’t all necessarily equal. However, in the case of the TDU specifically, the prize money has been equalized for both men and women as of 2018 (something I suspect you’ll see occur more and more going forward).

The Power Meters:

Overall-pretty2

Now, just like the men – sponsorships drive power meter and other gear tech choice. Well, they cover just about everything. For example, Shimano sponsors two women’s WorldTour teams this year (Mitchelton-Scott & Team Sunweb), thus, those teams will use Shimano’s R9100P power meter that’s integrated into the DuraAce crankset. Shimano also sponsors the men’s side of the house for those two teams as well. The same concept applies for SRAM’s team sponsorships on the women’s side, such as team Canyon-SRAM, which are using SRAM’s AXS power meters. Keep in mind again that not all these teams are UCI WorldTour teams, so the ones that lack power meters are in some cases also not UCI WorldTour teams but lower-level teams at this event.

There’s also likely a case or two here where a single rider may not be indicative of the entire team’s power meter choice. In fact, I note one or two of these where I saw them. It’s less of a situation in 2019/2020 where most teams have their power meters covered by sponsors, but it can still happen. Due to the challenges of inventorying the women’s field (not having access to see all bikes from a given team at the same time), it’s plausible that happens here.

In any case, here’s the run-down of power meters of the women’s field:

Agolico BMC: Stages left-only
Ale BTC Ljubljana: No power meters
Astana Women’s Team: No power meters
BePink: No power meters
Canyon-SRAM: SRAM RED AXS (Quarq)
FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope: Shimano R9100P
Mitchelton-SCOTT: 4iiii Precision Pro (Dual) & SRM*
Rally Cycling: SRAM FORCE AXS (Quarq)
Roxsolt Attaquer: SRAM RED AXS (Quarq)
Specialized Women’s Racing: No apparent power meters
Team Sunweb: Shimano R9100P (on most bikes, some no power at all)
Team TIBCO-Silicon Valley Bank: 4iiii Precision Pro (Dual)
Team UniSA-Australia: Mixed [Composite team]
Trek-Segafredo: SRAM RED AXS (Quarq)
Vantage New Zealand National Team: Mixed [Composite team]

*So, this one is a funny one. Mitchelton-SCOTT is one of two UCI WorldTour women’s teams sponsored by Shimano, yet, on all the bikes I saw there were only SRM & 4iiii power meters. This may just be a case of not quite having the gear this early in the season. Which often happens. Still, notable.

Also, I was surprised to see that the Specialized Women’s team didn’t have power meters on at least three bikes (with riders) that I saw. Perhaps others did have them, but that was notable in my mind.  Also note that both the New Zealand and UniSA teams are composite teams for the purpose of the Tour Down Under, and thus didn’t have any team-wide equipment sponsorships for power meters.

Here’s a quick gallery of them all:

And here’s the break-out by brand:

SRAM:

Canyon-SRAM: SRAM RED AXS (Quarq)
Rally Cycling: SRAM FORCE AXS (Quarq)
Trek-Segafredo: SRAM RED AXS (Quarq)
Roxsolt Attaquer: SRAM RED AXS (Quarq)

Shimano:

FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope: Shimano R9100P
Team Sunweb: Shimano R9100P

4iiii

Team TIBCO-Silicon Valley Bank: 4iiii Precision Pro (Dual)
Mitchelton-SCOTT: 4iiii Precision Pro (Dual) & SRM (supposed to be Shimano R9100P)

SRM:

Mitchelton-SCOTT: 4iiii Precision Pro (Dual) & SRM (supposed to be Shimano R9100P)

Stages:

Agolico BMC: Stages left-only

Got all that? Good. Note that I could have put the Mitchelton-SCOTT team in like three categories (since officially they were supposed to be Shimano). But I decided to go with what they actually had, versus what they were supposed to have.

Mounts & Bike Computer Bits:

As always, I find mounts interesting. Here’s the run-down of what companies were using. By and large, with the Wahoo BOLT teams, and one SIGMA Team (Sunweb), almost everyone else was on some variety of Garmins. It ranged from Edge 520’s to Edge 530 and 830 units, even a couple Edge 1030’s on Rally. Given the timing, it was super difficult to take an accurate inventory of head units.

That’s because just like the men, the women don’t tend to put their bike computers on their handlebars until the moment they jump on the bike. So the time frame to catch that is super slim. In any case, here’s the mounts, along with a few other notes in there.

Agolico BMC: Looked like Bontrager mount with Garmin Edge 520/820 units
Ale BTC Ljubljana: Wahoo BOLT stock mount
Canyon-SRAM: Integrated aero bar out-front mount (Canyon)
FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope: Blend of Garmin & Wahoo units/mounts
Mitchelton-SCOTT: SYNCROS Foil Stem Garmin Mount
Rally Cycling: Garmin out-front stock mount
Specialized Women’s Racing: Wahoo BOLT stock mount
Team Sunweb: K-Edge Splayed Race Mount with SIGMA ROX 12’s
Team TIBCO-Silicon Valley Bank: Garmin out-front stock mount (with Edge 530)
Trek-Segafredo: Bontrager mount

Here’s a random gallery of some mounts. Not all of them, but a few that were worthwhile noting:

As noted the unique one here was Team Sunweb which is sponsored by Sigma for their SIGMA ROX 12. In fact, earlier this morning (a few days after the race), I was climbing up in the hills with Team Sunweb for a number of kilometers. You can clearly see their kitted-out ROX 12’s with the special red face plates. Also, while nearly impossible to see, is the Shimano R9100P power meters.

IMG_4061

Good stuff, and really good to see women’s teams getting not just power meter sponsorships, but also head unit completeness too.

Wrap-Up:

Overall-pretty

Now you may remember the men’s post a day or so ago, and in that I noted that the pro peloton has never been on as inaccurate a group of power meters as the UCI WorldTour teams for 2020 are. However, with the women, they’re actually on a much better bunch of units (%-wise anyway). So hey – that’s positive!

What’s also positive is seeing as much standardization as we did this year. If we rewind to just a few years ago here at the Tour Down Under, really only 2-3 teams had a standard power meter across the board, let alone things like standard head units and bike computer mounts. This is great progress forward.

With that – thanks for reading, and stay tuned for more sports tech goodness here from the Tour Down Under!

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23 Comments

  1. Dellinspiron52

    post is very nice thanks for sharing

  2. Andy Naylor

    Remember being the first race, and none of the pro tour teams with there service course nearby, most of the equipment won’t be transported due to logistics. Quite a few retired Pro’s that live in Oz, even help outs as Swannies during this time.
    No flash team buses, and I believe the organisers arrange all the vehicles.

    I was going to mention this on your Pro Men’s post, and I’m sure you meant to mention it somewhere (and probably did)

    • Sorta.

      It’s true for big equipment (cars, buses, and even trainers). But is rarely true for bikes at the TDU. Either they’re riding their sponsored bikes, or not. But the teams bring a lot of staff down here, less so for the women’s teams. And the TDU provides all vehicles.

      In the case of the men, all were riding things as specified. Two ROTOR teams will likely switch over to updated gear this spring, but that wasn’t so much to do with TDU logistics as purely product availability.

      With the women, the only exception was Mitchelton-Scott, which honestly makes no sense given the team is Australian to begin with. Or the fact that none of the gear they were supposed to be on is ‘new’, it’s been out 2+ years now.

      My general ‘acceptability’ test is: Can I get a unit as DCR, and was that at least 45 days prior to TDU? If so – then the men and women pro tour teams should absolutely be riding that (especially given how early in the season it is – obviously this doesn’t apply later in the season).

  3. Andrew M

    Hey Ray,

    Thanks for continuing to shine a lot on this issue, and for highlighting the progress that is being made.

    Not sure whether it is shaming sub-par teams, or whether your coverage actually helps teams make their pitch to equipment sponsors. Either way, it does seem to be working.

  4. Björn

    The mount on the Mitchelton-SCOTT bike looks more like a Syncros Foil Stem Mount.

  5. Rolka

    At last, the high definition photos 😉

  6. Tim B

    You missed Roxsolt Attaquer

    PB Liv/SRAM
    PS they were riding SRAM Red ASX power meters

    • Yeah, I tried finding them that afternoon but they had either parked themselves somewhere else, or there were no bikes at the car. Same was true of Doltcini-Van Eyck Sport.

      Good to know though – I’ll add them in up above. Thanks!

  7. Kelly

    Yes! Having watched at least some parts of the women’s TDU for several years now, it really looked to me like the standard had kicked up a notch this year. Good to see that the women’s teams are better equipped, or maybe negotiating better sponsorship deals, than even a couple of years ago.

  8. Aar

    I wish Pioneer would spend on sponsorships. I love their power meters and would like to see them do better in the marketplace.

    • To be fair, Pioneer was spending equal if not more on women’s teams in terms of power meters and head units in recent years than even SRAM. It was impressive. Plus the men’s teams.

      They also did a great job of having competitive women’s riders in their booths at all their trade show events, and every one of the women they selected knew their tech stuff too. Super cool.

      But Pioneer has largely pulled back from not just pro sponsorships at the UCI WorldTour level (none this year).

    • Aar

      Thanks for the extra bit on Pioneer. After years of annual power meter hardware upgrades, I was a bit disappointed at none this fall. Any word on Pioneer’s direction in the power meter market?

      I’m debating about upgrading to their SGX-CA600 head unit but would prefer their vector mapping on my Garmin 1080. For now, I’m using the old Pioneer SGX-CA500 beside the 1080 for the vector mapping and ANT+ power relay to the 1080 and I don’t like all that gunk on my handlebars (I know that’s just a fraction of your bike’s usual dashboard but I’m a minimalist). Any commentary on performance of the SGX-CA600 with newer firmware/software? I can’t get anything definitive from the comments on your in depth review.

  9. Marc

    So would you say this is a step up from last year when you were tweeting Garmin Italy about one of the racers still using a cracked Edge 520 unit?

    • I think so. I actually asked Garmin for a complete list of mens and women’s partnerships, and they were in the middle of wrapping that list up. So it’ll be interesting to see what those numbers look like.

  10. Confused

    I think it’s unfair to expect sponsors to give the same level of support to the women as they do the men when no one really watches the womens race. Instead of forcing people to sponsor it, like everyone seems to think is the best way of doing it. Why not try get people to support and watch womens sport, start with women (who would almost all rather watch mens sport).

    And the women race 4 stages and the men 6, and the prize money is the same. Makes zero sense.

    • Weiwen Ng

      And if the industry takes this stance, then women’s races will forever be behind the men’s. You say that women would rather watch men’s sport – if this is true, chances are the women’s races are less exciting because there are fewer resources and less talent discovery.

    • Glen Turner

      Being one of the South Australian taxpayers who both pay the prize money and attend the Tour Down Under, we’ve no problem with paying the same prize money for men and women. The point of sponsoring the TDU is to promote South Australia to the world. We want to show the world who we are and what we aspire to, and to invite them to spend some time with us. One of our aspirations is equality for all — women’s rights have long been pioneered in South Australia; our colony wouldn’t join the Federation of Australia until women’s votes were assured in the new nation. Paying men and women the same for the TDU is a demonstration that this aspiration lives on.

      What would be great in future years of the Women’s Tour Down Under is if we could also offer women the iconic finish of the mens’ race: Willunga Hill on Australia Day (roughly equivalent to the US’s 4 July). That’s a trickier logistical task than providing equal prizes.

      (I’d also like to thank the many TDU competitors and attendees who contributed money to the bushfire appeals. It’s been a tough time in Adelaide and in many other places in Australia and your thoughts and cash are both profoundly welcome.)

  11. Kevin in De Pijp

    Interesting stuff, thanks! This year I watched all four stages of the women’s TDU from start to finish (with about a six hour delay). Really great racing! Every stage was exciting, the commentary was first class, and the coverage excellent. I enjoyed it more than the men’s race, which I end up just watching the last 15-20 km.

  12. Jackson Cheng

    Great write up. Nice to see some attention/coverage.

  13. Weiwen Ng

    So, if you’re on this site, I bet you’d agree that pro cyclists need power meters. So, it seems inexplicable that some teams would be totally without power meters. How do they do intervals without them? How do their coaches monitor progress without them?

    With the Ale team, you could at least say that they’re on Campy Super Record, so their selection is more limited and more expensive.

    With Astana, the women’s team on Ultegra Di2. The sponsor couldn’t even be bothered to get them bikes that match their jerseys. And no power meters. That is a disgrace. Should team management be committing the Kazakh equivalent of seppuku, or was Shimano was too stingy to sponsor the team with (albeit inaccurate) power meters?

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