Sunday Shorts

Nibali’s Aero Gains – Spanish Mussels – Oval Chainrings: Froome vs Wiggins – World Team Time Trial Championships FAQ – Uran’s Monaco move – Wiggins Descending

Vincenzo Nibali’s time trial surprised many but he’s been working hard on his time trial skills. The photo above shows him in the Montechiari velodrome and look and you can see the telemetry box under his saddle to beam data to trackside technicians. In fact La Gazzetta reports he’s surrounded himself with team of professionals.

Out-sideburning Wiggins

First is Jarno Trulli, the one-time Italian Formula 1 driver. He’s been joined by Gianni Sala, a telemetry specialist who has worked for the Ferrari Formula 1 team and Matteo Flamigli (pictured on the right above) who has worked with Valentino Rossi in Yamaha team in Moto GP. In addition there’s been input from riders Paxti Villa and Giampaolo Mondini, the 2003 Italian National Time Trial Championship plus there’s been input from bike sponsor Specialized for the fit and more. On top of this comes hours spent training on his time trial bike. Time trialling is a skill, both in pacing but also finding the right position and Nibali’s efforts over the winter have paid off. But for all the surprise with his ride, he’s had some good performances in the past, for example eighth in Stage 8 of the 2012 Tour de France, the 41km Arc-en-Senans-Besançon time trial.

The Giro rode into Florence today. The Italian city will be back on the cycling calendar in September as the host city of the 2013 World Championships and much has been made of their choice of a rainbow-striped Pinocchio. The Italian character is a local but for many he’s the symbol of a liar and in sport where deceit has made too many headlines the choice left many non-Italians scratching their heads. Not to be outdone, the 2013 Vuelta looks set to unveil a new mascot, a mussel.

Round Rings for Wiggins
Not the Olympics, but chainrings. I keep being asked why Wiggins isn’t using oval chainrings. He used the Osymmetric rings in the Tour de France last year but is back to round ones for the Giro. Did Shimano pay him a lot of money to ride on their equipment or were the gains not there? I don’t know.

What’s more certain is that the use of oval rings lends itself to longer distance linear efforts where steady pacing works. In other words they can be effective on a long and regular climb like you get to a ski station in the Tour de France, But on the winding tarmac that was once a goat path style of climb in the Giro they’re less use, more so when you’re changing pace to win sprints for time bonuses. So my hypothesis would be that these chainrings are more suitable for the Tour than the Giro and this is why Chris Froome continues to use them whilst Bradley Wiggins has stopped. Add to this the fact that Wiggins has dropped his chain a few times and the gains, if they exist, are small once you net off the risk of stalling because you’ve dropped your chain. Note it’s not just Sky, Europcar’s Pierre Rolland is using them and his slow grinding style is suited to this.

I still laugh at the tale of Astana’s Andrey Kasheckin who bought a pair and gave them to a mechanic to fit. Hours later the Kazakh went for a ride but didn’t like them at all. Only the mechanic had installed them the wrong way, rotating them 90° so rather than having more power on the downstroke Kasheckin was reduced to pedalling hard across the top and bottom of the revolution.

World Time Trial Championships
The other frequently asked question this week was why Omega Pharma-Quickstep didn’t wear rainbow jerseys in the team time trial stage. The simple answer is because they didn’t win them last year.

The “distinctive logo”

Yes they won the world championship team time trial race but this doesn’t come with rainbow jerseys. Instead there’s a medal on the day and then the following year the team gets a “distinctive logo” on the jersey. This is worn by all the team the following year. The photo above is of Mark Cavendish but he was with Sky last year and he didn’t ride the time trial either.

Monaco Extensions
Monaco is reclaiming part of the sea to build new housing. The tiny principality is popular with many cyclists because of its location, handy for Nice airport, a variety of roads and good weather so now there’s more room. Of course there is no income tax either. The latest resident will be Rigoberto Uran. There’s speculation that he’s going to be changing teams. It’s normal because Richie Porte has just renewed his contract and maybe there’s not enough room for the likes of Uran, or at least the Colombian can cash in by riding elsewhere.

Rest Day
Finally the Giro gets a rest day and after the first week, it needs it. But there’s a long transfer across Italy and tomorrow many riders will hold press conferences. Nibali will spend plenty of time with the home media whilst Wiggins should be a big draw too.

Wiggins loses ground on a bend

It’s hard to know what’s going wrong on the descents. His line is off at times and he’s obviously braking when others don’t. But what’s changed? He was fine in the Tour de France last summer when the Pyrenees offered thick fog as well cold rain. More recently he coped fine in the Tour of Catalonia. Is it the Italian roads which twist and turn far more than those in France or Tenerife? Maybe it was just the crash the other day but he seemed hesitant before that. Hopefully we’ll get some explanation tomorrow but once you’ve lost your Mojo, getting it back is never easy.

Multiple Italian world champion Gianni Bugno once suffered a “crisis” like this and spent the winter practising his descents whilst listening to Mozart on his Walkman (remember them?) because he found out he was too nervous. It’s hard to imagine Wiggins copying this but perhaps instead a phone call to former team manager Sean Yates could help. In his time Yates was one of those riders with the “best descender in the peloton” labels.

But if Wiggins is having problems, the race as a whole isn’t. We’re only one week in and there’s been plenty of action.

70 thoughts on “Sunday Shorts”

  1. In regard to Wiggins’ precarious descending, maybe he simply has an eye on Paris and is determined not to risk injury that would threaten the tour? Also, I didn’t believe Nibali’s statements about improving his TT – they seem to be true. If Wiggins has been training towards the explosive, short steep climbs like he and management have said (he was the 2nd quickest over the steep 3km climb at the end of the I.T.T) then with the use of Uran and Henao, Sky could be in a better with Wiggins to win than people seem to give him credit for.

  2. Cmon! Wiggins goes into the rest day 4th (1 sec from 3rd) – despite mechanicals crashes and supposed mojo misplacement! Keep the faith x

  3. I was lambasted for daring to mention Yates some short time ago. I don’t think there is anything wrong with Bradley, maybe reminded of the story of the Hare and the Tortoise. A certain defending champ was riding like a man posessed last Sunday and this Sunday, well.

  4. I think the issues of the oval chainrings came up on Eurosport a few days ago. I think Magnus Backsted called in to say that the oval chainrings weren’t yet compatible with Dura Ace 11 speed.

  5. Wiggins has no need to talk to Yates, talking will not solve his current problem concerning a lack of confidence, evidenced by his early breaking, wrong line and leaving gaps. He would be well advised to find a rider in whom he has the upmost confidence – maybe not one of the best, but someone who is never distanced on wet descents, and follow his wheel like a leech, same line and breaking points. In so doing he would ride nearer the front of the peloton, instead of being amongst other nervous descenders .

    The only other possibilities are confidence in tyre adhesion – there are significant differences between manufactures or his rims. As his Columbian team mates appear not to have any problems this would appear unlikely.

    If all fails he had better hope the sun returns !

  6. I wonder if Dr Steve Peters is on his way out to Italy tonight for a one-on-one with Brad during the rest day. He worked wonders with several members of the GB track team after all and is Brailsford’s not so secret weapon.

  7. Just adding a little to the excellent information about Nibali’s TT improvement project. Jarno Trulli’s first name doesn’t sound like an Italian name. In fact his first name comes from the Nordic countries after a great motorcycle road racing hero Jarno Saarinen who crashed fatally in Monza 20th of May in 1973. Almost exactly 40 years ago. Jarno Saarinen was a great star in Italy at the time and many young lads were named after him.

    • Well as an F1 fan for more years than I care to think, I wasn’t aware of that. Thnaks fot the tit-bit.

      I really feel for Brad, I lost my cornering nerve after a motor cycle accident 30 years ago and have never really go it back. I am, however, taking greater risks on my bike in the hope of again having the nerve to ride a motor bike properly again!

  8. well, confidence during cornering grows slowly and steadily until it suddenly and unexpectedly drops… 😛
    We’ve all been there.
    But I think Wiggins is not 100% there because he has an eye for July. He is riding well despites all his troubles but he doesn’t seem to be 100% focused on the Giro as he was last year on the Tour.

  9. Perhaps Wiggins needs to get out on a mountain bike to hone his descending skills. You look at Evans, who’s an ex-mountain biker, and his descending skills are superlative. I know TV makes the action appear slower, but watching Wiggins’ tentative descending on the weekend was incredible. How can a cyclist of his obvious ability look like a novice rider?

  10. Seems strange the UCI will not allow OPQ to wear a distinctive Rainbow Jersey for TTT’s. UCI wants to promote the event, make it important, yet they will not allow the team to show it. No wonder the TTT championships have trouble getting traction with the fans and the teams.

    A for Wiggo, he does appear to be wigging out on the descents and the rain has caused him so problems. In previous races this year he has not fared well in the mountains, losing time to his GC rivals. Yes, the balance of the parcourse does suit him. Long climbs and a lack of technical descents. I just don’t see him having the Mojo to pull it off. Perhaps too much time with technology, power meters, training blocks, etc. as opposed to racing and getting a “feel” for the stage and race as a whole has hampered him.

    WTF is going on with Ryder ? I have been pulling for him to pull off the first Giro repeat since 92-93 (Miguel Indurain). Losing big time in the ITT and todays stage makes him an outside shot at best. I just don’t see the 4 guys in front of him collapsing.

    • The World TTT is just odd to me. What is the reason for making it per team instead of country? I assumed it was so they could actually wear the jersey during the year. Not letting them wear a jersey seems very strange.

      On Ryder, maybe like Wiggo we are seeing just how hard it is to domcinate a GT these days? You have to be absolutely on it / have good luck / or both to compete now the drugs have stopped providing such an advantage.

    • When I first read that Ryder was going into this year’s Giro a couple of kgs lighter than last year I thought “Oh oh, I don’t like the sounds of that”. While I understand the power to weight ratio I just don’t think he has enough reserve in his body to sustain the huge effort over such a long race and especially so on the cold and wet days. Typically he gets stronger towards the end of grand tours but I’m not sure that will happen this year. Perhaps a lesson learned.

  11. Jarno Trulli is not a “one-time Italian Formula 1 driver” but rather a fifteen-year veteran of Formula 1 with one victory, the 2004 Monaco Grand Prix.

  12. I defer to the knowledgeable writer, but I am not so sure about differentiating uses of assymetric rings vs. round ones based on the steady-state nature of the effort – unless Ms. Vos is overcoming intentional self-handicap (in exchange for huge sponsorship compensation?) for such varying-pace disciplines as track, cyclocross and her winning sprint. Is she using them for mtb now as well? Mr. Wiggins once (in the beginning before the tide turned) ridiculed the Sky approach as overly scientific, but perhaps before he discovered the climbing monastery of Tenerife and the coaching/training approach that worked best for him. I would wonder whether he has made a change based on both sponsorship request and analysts’ suggestions which may not be appropriate for him after so much adaptation. If the latter, at least some commendation for going where the evidence points. Until it doesn’t.

  13. Interesting that in the past when all is good, Wiggins will “tolerate” the press but if something is wrong he dosen’t. And every DS knows it.

    • Hesjedal is obviously picking up tips from Wiggins. Now he is sulking and refusing to talk to the press, yet strangely no-one makes snide comments about that.

      • Hesjedal riding stage two like it was a three day! Millar driving on the front yesterday and Hesjedal with legs like lead. Made me laugh, strange tactics there. But then its all about SKY really isn’t it.

        • Indeed. Same old story really. Garmin riding to settle old scores, rather than focussing on Plan A. How many times have we seen that before?

          Assuming the explanations we are given for Hesjedal’s lack of vim are true, having Millar driving hard on the front was the most spectacularly pointless (indeed totally counter-productive) tactical exercise.

        • It seems to me that Millar was pulling at a time when Wiggins was trying to get back on. Maybe Millar was letting some legacy personal issues with Wiggins over-ride his team duties?

          • I doubt Millar was doing it out of animosity towards Wiggins. The two had a bit of a falling out but they to have genuinely mended the break given how they rode together amicably at the Worlds and Olympics. It seems more likely that Garmin got their wires crossed.

      • Ryder spoke at length with VeloNews about his difficulties on the stage and also feeling sore after the TT. He may have knocked back other requests ( I don’t know of any, just respecting your claim) but this interview was pretty straightforward.

  14. Regarding Q-ring, was Wiggo not on it whole year this year? or was it just the the Giro?

    I doubt it would be sponsorship money. If somebody like Shimano would like to pay Sky to ride their stuff, they’d make sure the whole team does it rather than just one rider (albeit the most famous one).

  15. Is some unknown Italian now the proud owner of a Bolide TT bike or does someone follow on just to collect the trash?

  16. It does seem that Nibali has improved his TT but maybe not as much as some believe. Nibali said himself that the first half could have been designed for him (maybe it was) and the ups and downs, twists and turns were always going to suit his style and interrupt Wiggins’ effort. Talk of Wiggo gaining 2-3 minutes was always well off and he and Sky must have known that. In the second half Wiggins took about 80 seconds out of Nibali. If you extrapolate, Nibali may have lost around 2min 40 sec for a straight flat TT of the same length, and would anyone have been talking about a dramatic improvement then?

    • Maybe that right. But Wiggins’ power expenditure for the first half must have been lower, so he was a bit fresher for the remaining part.

      • Estrin is bang on. Nibali gained time through technique in the first half, and lost time in the second half due to power. Wiggins power in the first half wouldn’t have been lower just because his time was slower. There was a very good screen split showing Nibali v Wiggins through the technical section, and the time difference was clearly due to Nibali’s bike handling, not power.

  17. I can’t help but feel that Wiggins’ issues with descending and Nibali’s improved time trialling don’t bode well for the rest of the race, at least from a GC point of view. With Nibali in the lead there is no incentive for him to ride aggressively and the next two riders on GC are diesels who can grind out tempo on the mountains but not likely to attack. I guess that leaves the onus on Gesink and Scarponi to mix it up.

    The case of Hejsedal is curious. It rather endorses Sean Kelly’s comments when he attacked on stage 3 that it was a waste of effort and not what a GC contender should have been doing. Did he know he wasn’t in shape to win the race so wanted to try and snatch the Maglia Rosa early on as a consolation?

  18. I actually think Sky are in a reasonable position if they use it…. they can attack Cuddles and Nibbles with Henao and Uran, which will require much energy shutting them down, then Wiggo can wheel suck until the death (assuming he’s still there of course) and look to grab some time back if possible.
    If on the other hand Wiggo refuses to let his Colombians off the leash in case one of them really does get away, then 3rd/4th is about the best he’s going to get… Sky must have known that Henao was a half decent time trialler, so I’m worried that the decision to have them wait for Wiggo means that they will continue to have their wings clipped…

    • Except why would Nibali and Evans care about Henao and Uran going up the road? They aren’t close enough to bother them now. Sky will continue the TDF plan of riding threshold to try and squeeze out Evans, Gesink and then isolate Nibali.

      • Isolating Nibali will apparently be a lot easier than expected. His team is surprisingly weak, only Kangert was with him yesterday. I don’t think Sky can benefit from that (Wiggo at Passo Cason di Lanza, that’ll be fun), but maybe Lampre. Scarponi is looking good, i expect big things from him in the mountains.

      • @ Anonymous, you’re kidding right? You think that if a rider who is just over 2 minutes down attacked at the bottom of the final climb in the mountains that Nibali wouldn’t have to chase him down? Uran is only a further 40 seconds down. If either Colombian goes off up the road in the mountains Astana will have to chase them which could be tricky given what we saw yesterday.

        I fear Sky won’t do that, preferring to try to ride everyone off with a high tempo, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a viable tactic.

        • There is a difference between attacking from the bottom of a climb and attacking in the final stages of a climb. If anyone within 5-10 minutes attacked from the bottom of a final major climb of course the other GC riders are going to respond.

          But, that wouldn’t necessarily benefit Wiggins any more than it will benefit anyone else. Each of BMC, Blanco and Astana would chase if Uran or Henao went at the bottom of a climb. None of Evans, Gesink, Nibali would do any more work than Wiggins – they would all follow the doms. If they went at the top of the climb, each of Evans, Gesink and Nibali would have to follow, but at that point there would be less impact as the time gain would be minimal. The end result would be an isolated pack of GC riders, but that wouldn’t necessarily be good for Wiggins, unless he can show his acceleration has improved.

          While it is a lot of work to defend GC, and Sky are certainly not far off, it is ridiculous to think they are in the prime position.

          • not sure I spotted anyone making the ridiculous suggestion that they are in the prime position….just not such a bad position

  19. Nibali’s position in the TT was very much akin to Contador’s TT style. He looked very strong and very compact. Always great to see a rider pinpoint an area of weakness and put the appropriate effort in to improve. Fair play to Nibali.

    • Agreed. I’ve always admired Nibali as a tough little climber with a huge will to win. It’s nice to see him work on becoming an all-around rider, one with serious GC potential. Wiggins now finds himself 1:16 behind one of the world’s premier climbers … and the road is heading uphill.

    • Joly old Sir Wiggo, always the Londoner.

      Wondering when would he cast for “East Ender”. Might be reason enough for me to give the King of British Soap Opera a go after so many years.

  20. Based on what I have seen, it must be a conscious choice on Wiggins’ part to not use the rings anymore. He has used them since his Garmin days so he obviously has a long history with them. I can’t see him being forced to change from them based on sponsorship pressures. If that were the case, I would imagine that pressure would have long ago been brought to bear. If they truly worked for him and he wanted to keep them, I can’t imagine Sky countenancing a forced change, knowing their history of using what they find to be the best equipment, largely despite sponsorship commitments where necessary.

    I have also heard he changed because they are not compatible with the new 4 arm shimano cranks and thus, the new SRM 9000 powermeter. I have seen him on that new PM but he continues to use the 7900 PM on his TT bikes, and they are compatible with the oval rings, so that theory is out.

    I have also heard that they are not being used because they are not compatible with 11sp shimano front shifting. But, if that’s the case, why is Froome still using them with an 11 sp Shimano setup?

    It could well be something to do with the nature of the climbs in the Giro, as has been suggested, and that he adopted the round rings early in the year to get his legs used to the differing sensation so that they wouldn’t be surprised if the round rings were bolted on a few days before the start of the Giro.

    It seems plain to me that Sky needs to put out a press release detailing the reasons behind the change, so that us folks know the deal!!

  21. I thought the reason Wiggins wasn’t using O’Symmetric rings was because they aren’t compatible with the new Dura Ace.

    The new 11 speed is a 4 bolt crankset instead of the previous 5 bolt crankset.

  22. I was under the impression that the egg-shaped chain rings were not available (can’t be made?) in small enough sizes for the super steep climbs. Wasn’t that blamed for problems some of the SKY boyz had at the Vuelta awhile back when they were dropped on the super steep stuff? Wiggo doesn’t seem to have any problem going UP or STRAIGHT…but sadly for him, the Giro has lots of twists, turns and descents..which in 2013 seem to be a big problem. As much as I would love to see Nibali win this thing, I want him to fight for it so c’mon Bradley, Cadel, Ryder and Michele (among others) – keep fighting all the way to Brescia…don’t forget last year’s race came down to the last couple of days.

  23. Curious if any of the pro teams have worked with a WSBK or MotoGP team/rider to help improve bike handling and descending skills. Seems like a natural fit in terms of learning how to feel the grip levels and building up trust in the tires. Having a motorcycle racing background myself has helped in descending, but my fear of injury causes me to spend more in brake pads than most folks…

  24. Almost hate to bring it up, but Wiggins was also reported to be recovering from some terrible saddle-sore (or worse?!) just before Giro started. Probably not related to descending, but all that rainy, dampness can’t be good for healing parts.

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