TTBikeFit Secretly Asked to Help Pro Tour Champ

mysteryThis is top secret. I can’t talk about it at all. So I’ll write about it!

I was contacted this Spring, out of the blue, by the Directeur Sportif of a major European Pro Tour Team. Seems his star athlete was having some major TT fit issues, and he hoped I could help them. Of course I was very excited to give this a shot. This guy is pretty famous, he may even have won a major tour or two – but I’m not at liberty to say…

They had a stage race coming up with some TT stages, and quickly sent me some videos of the rider in question on his trainer with his wall of trophies in the background. At the same time I was sworn to secrecy, as the team has bike and saddle sponsors, who have contracts with other folks etc etc, and them working with me was a no-no. So I agreed to keep it quiet with the understanding that they would do their best to make this public as soon as possible.

So I set about making several videos for them, reviewing the rider’s videos and doing comparison with all the top TT stars as well as with other riders of similar morphology. I even made a video for submission to the UCI as an exhibit in the Directeur’s ongoing battle with the UCI over the 5cm rule.

Quick summary on the 5cm rule:  it is against UCI rules to have the saddle nose less than 5cm behind the bottom bracket. A larger rider who sets the saddle 5cm back might have an effective seat angle of 76 degrees, while a small rider ‘s seat angle at this setting would only be 73 degrees (due to the different saddle heights).  Since pretty much all of these guys ride steep in TT’s (see my video on the home page) the smaller riders are really penalized – to get a 78 degree effective seat angle they need to sit way up on the saddle nose.

In accordance with this I arranged for 3 Adamo saddles to be sent to the Team hotel in Spain (where they were racing). They loved them. Because the Adamo is missing about 5cm of nose yet adds about 5cm of tail that you don’t use (to get past the UCI’s minimum saddle length of 24cm) an Adamo set 5cm back is equivalent to a conventional saddle set directly over the bottom bracket. Of course Pro Tour riders have long been sawing the noses off saddles for the same reason – to get more of the saddle under the rider when in a steep TT position in a UCI race.

I made many positioning suggestions in my videos, and really hoped that they could or would adopt them. The rider was clearly giving up free time in TTs to better-positioned competitors. No go. Sponsor commitments prevented the use of the Adamos, and prevented getting a proper fit on the TT bike.  So we’ll never know what would’ve happened if the manager and rider could’ve made the changes I hoped they’d make. The rider once again fared only moderately well in subsequent TTs even after showing excellent form in road stages.

So what did we learn here? Some of the best athletes in cycling are prevented from achieving optimal results by a mish-mash of sponsor contracts, UCI rules, superstition, reluctance to change tradition, etc etc. And to this day I still cannot talk about who I am writing about. I agreed to keep it on the DL until the coast was clear, and it apparently isn’t or may never be. And the truth of the matter is I didn’t do much of anything for them since they couldn’t do what I asked them to.

What about the UCI? Why do they stick to the 5cm rule, and other seemingly anachronistic rules? Well I was made privy to some communications with the honcho in charge of such things for the UCI, and it quickly became clear where they are coming from (or maybe I should say CAME from). He derisively referred to any technology beyond a round-tube steel frame road bike as “technological drift”. It was clear that they would be happy to have the bikes resemble pre-war specials, and “leave the competition to the riders”. The 5cm rule is derived from the fact that in a standard road position, even smaller riders typically don’t need the saddle further forward than 5cm back. In other words, they want no special considerations for time trial bikes.  If they had their way, TT’s would be contested on the same pre-war clunkers. Gotta love the French – it’s as if they are against any modern technology because it might weaken their “global domination”. Wake up and smell the silicon chips, mon frere – technology marches on, with or without the French “empire”.