Have you ever wanted to have a mooch around the much-vaunted Team Sky bus? I know I did, and thanks to Jaguar, along with some lucky competition winners, we got that very chance whilst the Death Star sat awaiting its star charges during the final stage of the Tour of Britain.
For a race like the Tour of Britain, Team Sky send the team bus and a big service truck – the service truck has a kitchen and laundry at the front, and bike storage and a workshop at the back. The workshop is empty because the team are out on stage, safely shepherding Sir Brad’s run to the gold jersey.
Visiting the team bus while the riders were away was the cycling equivalent to stepping aboard the deserted Marie Celeste where the coffee pot on the stove was still hot. Bernie Eisel’s spare helmet waits patiently for the call to arms.
The bus was designed and built solely to transport nine riders from the hotel to the start line in as comfortable a fashion as possible. The first vehicle to be built so uncompromisingly, other teams have since followed suit.
Team Sky advise that their riders become attached to particular seats – this seat, the second row on the right hand side, is the one that Chris Froome favoured during his Tour de France triumph.
The seat behind the Froome chair is the one that David Lopez occupied during the Tour of Britain, and his newspaper, recovery bar and phones await his return. Team Sky were fantastically open-handed about allowing us access.
Wiggo’s seat, predictably enough, is in the front row, right behind the driver – some goon who really doesn’t like having his picture taken poses with the jersey that Sir Bradley picked up at the end of the Guildford stage the day before. The helmet weighs nothing.
Sir Bradley’s shades and his Guildford trophy. The seats are exquisitely comfortable.
The rules according to Team Sky.
At the back of the bus, past the showers, is a little meeting room where the world’s supply of energy bars, gels and powders are stored. We were invited to go and have a look around, but I felt too guilty intruding on someone’s workspace to go any further.
How much do you want to try a bottle of this?
Even from the outside, I’ve always been appreciative of what Team Sky have done for the sport in the UK, purely in terms of results and the associated boosting of the profile of racing. But it was a privilege to have a chance to have a look on the inside – even in the closing stages of a fairly important stage race in which they had a vested interest, they took the time to offer the chance to have a mosey around to four randoms that they didn’t know from Adam. And not just a faceless guided whizz around – we had a guide, of course, but Rob could not have been more open and friendly. It was remarkable – all their riders’ personal kit was there, any questions could be asked, photos were encouraged and nothing was off limits. British Cycling Head Coach Shane Sutton was on and off the bus doing his thing whilst we were there, and he was perfectly happy to answer questions as he worked.
It was a fantastic treat, for any cycling fan, and a real privilege to have had the chance – massive “thank you thank you thank you!” thanks to Fran Millar of Team Sky and Claire Boakes of Jaguar for allowing Cycling Shorts this window into such a fascinating world. #ToB2013 #ridelikeapro @TeamSky @JaguarUK @Sportbrake
Did you go? Were you there? In case you left the country for a couple of weeks, you would have struggled to avoid seeing that the Tour of Britain hit the streets of this great cycling nation, and even with the inevitable inclemency of the weather, it appeared to be a great success. Cycling Shorts were lucky enough to be invited to London by Jaguar to see how the final stage all panned out, and did we ever pick a good day to go…
The first thought that occurred, when we arrived for the Johnson Health Tech Westminster Grand Prix was how busy the circuit was, even at half ten on a Sunday morning. The sizeable crowd was treated to the spectacle of the pack trying to attack Hannah Barnes for the best part of an hour, but their efforts were fruitless, the national crit champion relentlessly driving the bunch to cover chase after chase, with a final, full-blooded effort by Lydia Boylan and Nicola Juniper failing to stick after putting a big chunk of time on the peloton. The pack was all together for the finale and there was only going to be one winner in the sprint to the line, Barnes taking the win to popular delight. Two observations occurred – firstly, even when you have a standout favourite like Barnes, the racing can still be fantastic. And secondly, if you have any questions over the popularity of women’s racing, put them to one side – this race was massively popular.
The next event was the IG Gentleman’s TT, over one lap of the full 8.8km course, where pairs consisting of a pro “pacer” and a celebrity “gentleman” teamed together with the gentleman’s time over the line being the one that counted. Honours went to Andrew Griffiths and Francis Jackson with a respectable 11:47, tonking second placed Olly Stephens and Alex Stephenson by 47 seconds, with Gavin Morton and Steve Carter Smith another 7 seconds further back in third. I’ll be honest with you – I thought it was a really cool concept, but with very few exceptions (Lee Dixon, Dermot Murnaghen, Ned Boulting), I didn’t know who the celebrities were, although that may say more about me than anything else… A good idea, though – maybe next year get Boris and Ken to get involved, add a bit of local colour and create a budding sporting rivalry.
But the main event was always going to be the final stage of the Tour of Britain. On a pan-flat stage, no-one was likely to make a race-winning break big enough to take the gold jersey, but that didn’t mean it was a dull affair, Pete Williams and Angel Madrazo joining a six man break in a frenzied battle to take the points jersey, the Spaniard taking it to add to his mountains jersey when Williams was DQ’d from a sprint for some overly lively riding. Inevitably however, the pack hunted them down and despite a late and valiant dash for glory from Alex Dowsett, it was all about the sprint, and there was only ever going to be one winner there, Mark Cavendish rocketing to his third stage victory. With Sir Bradley following him safely home to seal the overall, Whitehall went nuts in celebration – which is not a phrase you’ll hear often!
It’s hard to see the tour in general and stage 8 in particular as anything other than an unparalleled success. Certainly, all day long the crowds were both full and vocally happy, whilst the results were what everyone wanted. But more than just being a showcase for the extraordinary talents of two of Britain’s brightest stars, riders who fly comparatively lower on the radar than Cav and Sir Brad also received rapturous welcomes, riders like Alex Dowsett, Dan Martin and Nairo Quintana. It was great to see that, not only were they recognised and their names known, people were genuinely happy to see them, regardless of nationality. A year on from the Olympics, it’s clear that cycling has as firm a place in the heart of the sporting nation as it has had for many years, and all the signs show that it’s here to stay. Happy days…
Huge thanks to Claire and all at Jaguar UK for their hospitality on a fantastic day #ToB2013 #ridelikeapro @JaguarUK
CJ takes another – Bidon practice – Image ©Paul Harris / Cycling Shorts
When you’re growing up, everyone wants to be the hero –PM, astronaut, fighter pilot, racing driver – but nothing achieved in any of those roles ever happens without a vast latticework of support. Cycling is not immune; indeed, when Wiggo thrust cycling into the faces of an otherwise unknowing public last July, the nuances of the support network around him must have been hard to spot for the casual viewer. Sir Bradley had his nine-man squad on the road, of course, and everything that Team Sky could think of in the way of shiny kit and qualified personnel. And on the road, out of the spotlight but orchestrating every aspect of every race in their beautiful black and blue Jaguars were the Sports Directors.
In the never-ending pursuit of the aggregation of marginal gains, for 2013 Team Sky took the opportunity to despatch two of their Sports Directors to the MIRA proving ground at Nuneaton to learn more about handling the Jaguar XF Sportbrake. Marcus Ljungqvist and Dan Hunt both have experience from within the car during races, but neither had previously received specific driver training – under the auspices of Nigel, one of MIRA’s exceedingly capable instructors, Team Sky’s DS’s put themselves to the sword in one of their 2013 cars, merrily sliding and spinning their way around MIRA’s watered, variable grip circuits with some chap called Martin Brundle also on hand to offer the occasional word of advice.
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Click SL (slideshow) or FS (fullscreen)
All Images ©Paul Harris / CyclingShorts.
“So what does the pedal on the right do, again?” Martin Brundle one of the finest racing drivers on earth – maybe the only thing he does better is present programmes about it. ©Paul Harris / Cycling Shorts
The point was not to train Marcus and Dan how to drive like racing drivers, Martin explained as Nigel sped us around to demonstrate, it’s about teaching them how the car reacts so they know what to do if a situation occurs during a race that pushes the car over the limit. “You might think that, as racing drivers, we throw the car around wildly,” explains the former Le Mans winner and World Sportscar Champion, arguably the best Formula One driver not to win a Grand Prix. “In reality it’s all about being smooth and gentle with the car.” The limiting factor is the tyre –it transmits inputs from acceleration, braking and steering, but if you try and throw too many things at it at once, that’s when things go pear-shaped. Being smooth with the inputs not only allows you to run closer to the ultimate limit, it also means that you’re less likely to go skating wildly over it and the car will be more easily controlled.
For Marcus and Dan, the day was about learning to recognise and respond when that limit is approached, and if Nigel’s teaching is anything like his driving, the roads of ProTour cycle races will be the safer for the improvements in their competence – the Sportbrake proved itself amazingly capable, with eyeball-popping go, stop-on-a-dime brakes and a taut agility that’s just wrong in a car that size. In Nigel’s hands, it happily ran sideways on the low-grip track, then flung us around the capacious rear with gay abandon on the dry handling circuit – if the demonstration was anything to go by, it doesn’t seem likely that Marcus and Dan will often be called upon to push the big cat to the limit!
What’s clear throughout the whole process is that Jaguar and Team Sky have an exceedingly warm and productive relationship. With an engineer on hand with a view to improving the car still further for the peculiar needs of bike racing, it’s obvious that, while the cars look like a standard Sportbrake with livery and a bespoke rack, they have already been modified to suit the job (to cite one example, the rear windows in the Sportbrake didn’t quite go all the way down– now they do), and the process is ongoing with discussions taking place on improved information technology and amended wing mirrors. When it comes to marginal gains, nothing is off limits – Team Sky even went to the lengths of putting a rider on hand to practice the interactions between rider and car, Chris Sutton setting what just might be a record for the number of bidons stowed on a single rider.
Marcus Ljungqvist and Dan Hunt – better drivers. – Images ©Paul Harris / Cycling Shorts
So – a useful day? Dan is positive. “It’s great to be able to test the car in a safe environment and being allowed to fail without the risk of consequences.”
“We went on three different surfaces,” adds Marcus. “ Slippery, super slippery, and super-super-slippery! – and we took the car to the limit to learn how it would react. The good thing here is we can do it over and over again, in a really relaxed environment, so we can remember what we did – in a race maybe something happens but you don’t remember actually how you managed to control it.”
“It’s a core component of what we do, we SHOULD be good at it.” says Dan. “At Sky, we always want to be better at everything we do, and driving’s a critical part – getting guys like Martin and Nigel from MIRA, it’s fantastic for us.”
Marcus nods. “A lot of times it’s former bike riders, you’re supposed to be a good sport director but you have no driving experience at all – you think you’re (just) driving thirty K’s an hour behind the peloton but sometimes it’s really crazy back there.”
“Marginal gains doesn’t stop with the riders, every member of staff has a responsibility to do their job better tomorrow than they did today,” says Dan emphatically. “That’s what marginal gains is about, doing things a little bit better, all of the time –for us today it’s about improving our driving skills, tomorrow it might be involve better tactical skills. For the riders it’s about fitness, about improving their race times. Marginal gains isn’t just equipment or an empty philosophy, it’s about getting better at what you do every day, trying to be the best in the world at what we do.”
This day, as with every other day, Team Sky just got that little bit better.
Hopefully this will add something to the great article written by Tony here.
Last week was tough for cycling, hitting the national headlines for all the wrong reasons. Yet help was at hand with the start of the pro tour season in Australia and Argentina and perhaps even more exciting; 4 days of the London Bike Show to cheer even the most cynical of fans.
Bradleys Wiggins’ Pinarello Dogma in Malliot Jaune Livery
Having never been to an event like this before, the first thing that struck me was the sheer number of people in attendance. OK, tickets included entry to three additional shows within the Excel but the exhibition centre was positively throbbing. As the glitz and glamour of Wiggo mania wanes it was heartening to see continued excitement surrounding cycle sport in general.
Kudos goes to the new Madison Genesis team, managed by ex Garmin-Cervelo rider Roger Hammond, who held their team presentation on the Saturday of the show. Hosted by the delightful Ant McCrossan it was a chance to see some of the team’s extremely youthful looking riders like Alex Peters and Brendan Townshend which have combined with elder more experienced riders like Dean Downing, Ian Bibby and Andy Tennant.
The Madison-Genesis Continental Team being presented on stage
Arguably the most interesting aspect of this team is their promotion of the Steel framed Genesis Volare bike. Equipped with a Shimano Dura Ace and Pro finishing kit, the team bike is a delight aesthetically. Extremely classical, yet with modern touches. The downtube is wider than traditional steel bikes pandering to the modern trend for oversized tubing.Indeed the team is making a big deal out of the specially developed Reynolds tubing made in Birmingham.
The prevelance of Carbon Fibre as the go to material for high end road bikes may yet be challenged and as Genesis themselves argue; they have looked to banish those 80’s misconceptions that Steel frames are heavy flexible steeds. Instead, suggesting that they have combined the durability and comfort that is usually associated with a steel frame, with the race weight and stiffness of modern bikes.
Bibby, Downing, Jack Pullar, Chris Snook and Sebastian Baylis proved the bike was no slouch when they took part in the Elite Men’s Criterium after the presentation. The speed of the peloton around the tight, twisting 500 metre indoor circuit was astonishing to watch. With Bibby coming out on top beating UK circuit regular teams likes IG-Sigma Sport and Hope Factory Racing Team it was the perfect start for the new team. The folding bicycle race was also great to watch as a prelude to the main criterium. The ‘Le Mans’ style start meant that riders had to unfold their bicycles before setting off. Keith Henderson’s huge, race winning attack on the penultimate lap was very impressive. The Animal Bike Tour with Martyn Ashton, Blake Samson, Luke Madigan and Billy Atkins was also a joy to watch. Whilst Ashton was undoubtedly superb, Billy Atkins at the age of 17 pulled off some outrageous tricks on a scooter.
Elsewhere at the show you could not move for visual delights. Cervelo, Pinarello, Willier and Specialized all in attendance. Yet what struck me in
Stealthy looking Wilier
particular was the range of bike brands on offer. Canyon, Team and Time amongst others. Canyon in particular were exhibiting a range of road and MTB frames all at varying price brackets. The Ultimate CF was a particular delight with perfect geometry and presence at a great price, along with Joaquim Rodigruez’s Giro d’Italia customised Aeroad CF lavishly decorated with pink decals to match the Maglia Rosa he spectacularly lost to Ryder Hesjedal in 2012. This spectrum of bikes although dizzyingly confusing can only be a good thing for the continuation of top end cycle sport. And with the news that Pinarello is looking to stock frames at selected Halfords stores, we are now more than ever, spoilt for choice.
Amongst other products on show, Nanoprotech was perhaps the most innovative, like nothing I’ve seen before. Whilst Sportful where exhibiting an extremely lightweight waterproof jacket. Hope continue to produce beautifully engineered bike products, contact points and accessories whilst Schwalbe’s extensive range of tyres was mind boggling. Last word goes to Clif Bar whose Builders Bar was very tasty in a variety of flavours along with their electrolyte shot in Citrus and double espresso was easy on the palette.
Stranger in the night – dipping a toe into the dark
There’s a lot of buzz about night riding at the minute – what with the massive national increase in cycling since the summer of Wiggo and the Olympics, participation has skyrocketed both on and off road. With our balmy, breezy summer evenings, cycling through August, September and even October is perfectly do-able, but the switch to Greenwich Mean Time rather spoils the party unless you’re somewhere lit. That’s where quality lights come in – but quality can be pretty pricey. If you’ve never done it before, how are you going to know whether it works for you without taking a punt on a bunch of expensive kit. What you need is an understanding shop and an agreeable light manufacturer.
Luckily for me, I live not too far from such a shop. Run And Ride at Hednesford are literally right on the doorstep of Cannock Chase, which gives them access to miles of trails, and they took it upon themselves to hook up with Exposure Lights to put on a tryout evening – the incredibly accommodating Exposure sent along a massive crate of their finest off road light sets, and Run And Ride invited the world to pop up to Cannock one chilly November evening, where they would strap on some serious lighting kit and lead you on a night foray.
I chucked the bike in the back and packed some cycling kit in the car that morning, and headed straight up there after work. Even early on there was a decent turnout, and it was simplicity itself to get signed up. As a nightriding newbie, I put myself at their mercy as to what to try out, and was both startled and pleased to be given a Six Pack to try, a self-contained handlebar mounted light that lit up the trail not unlike a police helicopter search light. I was impressed.
Once everyone was sorted, we were split into fast and steady groups and set out for a trawl around the Chase. Having not ridden off road at night before, it was a fascinating experience – the nature of the visibility makes you hyper-focused on the spread of light before you, and it all seems much, much quicker, the flickering of shadows on uneven ground keeping you on your toes the whole time. I loved it – I can definitely do the winter cycling thing, which has opened up another six months of riding for me. Happy days.
Six Pack is an incredible bit of kit – a single unit with the battery included, on full power it’ll kick out 1800 lumens for about three hours, with medium (up to 10 hours), low (up to 24 hours) and flash settings, the indicator on the back will change colour to indicate the remaining charge, and it’ll drop itself down through the modes as it reaches the end of the battery to make sure there’s always a bit of get-you-home light in there. Riding with the Six Pack alone was great on straight or flowing tracks, with the beam plenty wide for most occasions, but when we got into the nadgery stuff, very tight and twisty, I found myself turning into corners blind, my eyes tracking the path round the next corner before I needed to turn the bars. If you only ever rode on fast, open trails, the Six Pack would be great on its own, but if you’re likely to face any tighter turns, I think you’d have to go for a helmet-mounted light as well.
I learned a lot that night – I had a great 12 mile ride out on a Thursday evening, and I found out that riding needn’t stop because the light goes. I even found a great new shop – it must have taken a lot of time and effort to organise, and thankfully they had a good turnout to reward their efforts. The staff were friendly and approachable and incredibly helpful (one poor chap in front of me had his chain snap when he got out of the saddle at speed, resulting in a big swap one way, then a big swap the other way, ending in an oddly graceful flying W into the ferns – thankfully he was fine and one of the Run And Ride crew had the chain back together, (oooo, I’m going to say about 90 seconds after the crash happened, impressive stuff), and there was no hint of a hard sell afterwards, just good banter and useful advice. There’s a reason why people are both proud and protective of their local bike shop – that’s another thing I learned, too.
Massive thanks to Run And Ride and Exposure Lights for a great evening and an extra six months riding a year!
Also available from:
Bicycling Science, 3rd Edition
Everything you wanted to know about the bicycle but were too afraid to ask
David Gordon Wilson is British born Professor of Mechanical Engineering Emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is the co-author of the first two editions of Bicycling Science and was the editor of the journal Human Power from 1994 to 2002.
This book covers the history of human powered vehicles and, as the title suggests, focuses firmly on the bicycle. It is a text in three parts: I Human Power, II Some Bicycle Physics and III Human-Powered vehicles and machines. Each of which can read independently of the others.
The third edition’s (2004) first section, I, ‘Human Power’ opens with a very informative and myth-dispelling addition to the growing canon covering the history of the bicycle. It is a short but authoritative supplement with diagrams and photographs smartly selected and well positioned to support the text. Rather refreshingly all claims, throughout the book, are fully referenced to allow the reader to delve deeper should they so wish along with a recommended reading suggestion here and there (is that a ‘get a life, Dey’ I hear from my ever loving partner!) For the more evangelical bicycle advocate there is a brief but telling list of ‘new’ technologies born from bicycle design, engineering and use; leading the way is the mass production and use of ball bearings with the oft-neglected good-roads movement also getting a mention – topical as the latter is today. Chapter one also covers, in sufficient detail for all but the expert, Human Power Generation. This encapsulates bicycle focused physiology (how energy gets to the muscles of a rider), biomechanics (how the muscle produce power at the pedals) and should, the author states, ‘allow the reader to feel qualified to absorb the main conclusions of the research papers in this area.’ It is essentially a well written literature review and I for one felt a little daunted at times but quickly discovered my research reading skills were revving back up to speed. The counter-intuitive description of ‘the timing and direction of foot force, choice of crank length, the effect of saddle height and gear ratio, and where to stand up or ‘bounce’ the upper body’ are all treated in depth and supported by evidence based research, with the tradition of the philosophical ever present. For the more competitive cyclist there is a very useful treatment covering the measurements of human power output, how to describe pedalling performance quantitatively and a very useful presentation into critical power using power-duration curves along with detailed pedal-force data and graphs. Non-round chainwheels also receive useful coverage, another highly topical debate in the age of Wiggo. There is a closing piece on the thermal effects of cycling. Again one only needs to observe the top riders and teams to see this science trickling in and, not before time, replacing much erroneous traditional methods. The conclusion to the chapter reads like a British Cycling ‘marginal gains’ to do list and the eight pages of academic references tell you all you need to know about the diligence of the author.
Section II ‘Some Bicycling Physics’ is the where I began my reading. For want of getting carried away, as I often do when physics takes centre stage, I shall be brief. Building on the power-duration data from the previous chapter the author presents a quantitative treatment of cycling specific physics. Anyone with an interest in physics, a little patience and, most usefully, a head full of positive secondary school memories, will be amply rewarded for their efforts. The main protagonists are all covered namely propulsive force, air resistance and rolling resistance. The author then takes it a step further; what happens when bumps are encountered – of vital interest to the classics riders out there. The concept of vibration frequencies is simply presented and should allow the reader to filter the engineering and physics from the marketing hype the next time a high-end bike is purchased. A lot of paper is devoted to the relationship between power and speed and this alone makes this book a must-read for anyone venturing into the world of the power meter. Bicycle aerodynamics is covered with the usual simple physics formula, text, graphs and some very eye-catching photographs to emphasise the points and aid the understanding of the concepts – all the while retaining a strong link to the context of the bicycle. Rolling resistance, with a focus on wheels tires and bearings ramps up the physics a wee bit but is well worth devoting time to, especially if, like me, you are considering taking the hand-built wheel route. A brief but detailed design, engineering and physics of braking, in differing weather conditions, brings to a close this very informative and rewarding chapter.
The final section, III, Human-Powered Vehicles and Machines, is where the author diverges from the bicycle as we know it. It is the authors stated aim to ‘… expand your experience, and perhaps to make you want to use, or even to design and make, some interesting human-powered vehicles other than bicycles.’ In it he takes a more utilitarian approach and differentiates between the developed and developing world, all the while suggesting that the more bicycling the better; ‘… Even in large countries, like the United States, over half the daily “person-trips” by automobile are of under 8 km (5 miles), a distance most people can easily cover on a bicycle in most weather conditions.’ This chapter contains varied examples of human-powered tools and of record breaking and other interesting vehicles – other than the standard bicycle. It concludes with a thought-provoking piece on Human-Powered Vehicles in the Future; one for all you light weight junkies, aero wheel obsessives and mono-blade maniacs. The piece on the hydraulic disc brake, coming as does so soon after a brief summary of governing body regulations and incentives, is somewhat prescient. The question hangs in the air, what drives the industry; science and performance or marketing? If it is indeed the latter then we are living in a dark age of delusion.
Overview, from the back cover
The bicycle is almost unique among human-powered machines in that it uses human muscles in a near-optimum way. This new edition of the bible of bicycle builders and bicyclists provides just about everything you could want to know about the history of bicycles, how human beings propel them, what makes them go faster, and what keeps them from going even faster. The scientific and engineering information is of interest not only to designers and builders of bicycles and other human-powered vehicles but also to competitive cyclists, bicycle commuters, and recreational cyclists.
The third edition begins with a brief history of bicycles and bicycling that demolishes many widespread myths. This edition includes information on recent experiments and achievements in human-powered transportation, including the “ultimate human- powered vehicle,” in which a supine rider in a streamlined enclosure steers by looking at a television screen connected to a small camera in the nose, reaching speeds of around 80 miles per hour. It contains completely new chapters on aerodynamics, unusual human-powered machines for use on land and in water and air, human physiology, and the future of bicycling. This edition also provides updated information on rolling drag, transmission of power from rider to wheels, braking, heat management, steering and stability, power and speed, and materials. It contains many new illustrations.
Bicycling Science – Everything you wanted to know about the bicycle but were too afraid to ask
David Gordon Wilson
MIT Press; 3rd Revised edition edition
Available in Paperback
RRP £19.95 (Paperback)