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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Thursday, March 12, 2020

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2019 Tour de France | 2019 Giro d'Italia

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Paris-Nice stage four news

We posted the race organizer's report with the results.

Here's the report from stage winner Søren Kragh Andersen's Team Sunweb:

Today’s action at Paris-Nice saw the peloton take on a 15.1 kilometre long route, starting and finishing in the town of Saint-Amand-Montrond. With a rolling parcours in the opening half of the route which featured several short climbs, followed by a faster and flatter second half; it was set to be a day that had a bit of something for everyone.

Solid early times were set by Chris Hamilton and Nils Eekhoff who both made the provisional top ten when crossing the line, but both would slide down the order as more riders finished their efforts.

It was the duo of Michael Matthews and Søren Kragh Andersen that lit up the timing sheets for the team as the final 50 riders started their time trials. Kragh Andersen paced his ride well, moving into a provisional second place at the intermediate split, only two seconds behind the leader at that point.

At the finish, Matthews stopped the clock in 19 minutes and nine seconds, a time that saw him take fifth place in the provisional standings. Yet, he wouldn’t be there for long as Kragh Andersen was the next rider on the road and he trumped his teammate’s time with an effort of 18 minutes and 51 seconds. A phenomenal effort that saw him beat previous leader Asgreen’s time by 12 seconds.

Soren Kragh Andersen

Andersen turning in a terrific ride.

In the GC battle, Tiesj Benoot delivered a really strong effort out on the difficult course, gaining time on some of his GC rivals, finishing with a time of 19 minutes and 27 seconds.

Kragh Andersen’s time saw him have a nervous wait in the hot seat but it was good enough to take the stage win; his first professional TT victory upon his Cervélo P5. As a result, he moves into second place on GC with Benoot not too far behind in seventh place.

“To be honest it’s a big relief, I finally got my TT victory so I’m really happy,” beamed Kragh Andersen at the finish. “I almost can’t believe it but I was really aiming for it today. I did my best and my legs felt good, so I’m really happy with the outcome. I don’t like really straight TTs; I also want some hills, technical parts and tempo shifts so it was a super good parcours for me.”

Team Sunweb coach Matt Winston added: “We’re really happy with the overall, all-round performance from the whole team. To get three guys in the top 15 today is a really good result. It was a special performance from Søren. He paced himself well on the climb, thought about his race and really went full gas on the run in to the finish. He was absolutely flying to take the victory. It’s a really nice result today, the whole team are happy with Søren’s win but we’re happy with the overall general way of working and performance from the team too.”

GC leader Max Schachmann's Bora-hansgrohe team sent me this:

A short course can make a big difference, and today’s 15.1km Individual Time Trial gave riders an opportunity to put the pedal to the metal and try to take either a stage win or some time in the GC standings. The parcours presented riders with enough twists and turns to make the day challenging, as well as a climb at the halfway point.

The last-placed riders in the overall standings went out first, with the time to beat starting at twenty minutes, before dropping as the day went on to sub-nineteen minutes. For the BORA-hansgrohe riders, the aim was to get through the day without any issues, with Felix Großschartner posting the team’s best time of 19:27. This was until Maximilian Schachmann hit the road in the all-yellow skinsuit of race leader, eager to keep hold of the yellow jersey for another day.

At the intermediate split, the German rider was leading, and with his GC rivals posting slower times, it was clear not only was he going to keep hold of the jersey, but also to extend his lead. Crossing the line in 18:57, Maximilian took second place on the stage and upped his lead to 58 seconds in the overall standings, while Felix’s excellent performance saw the Austrian jump to third in the GC.

Max Schachmann

Max Schachmann will start stage five in yellow.

From the Finish Line:
"It was a bit of a day of mixed feelings – the satisfaction of extending my overall lead and the slight disappointment in missing the stage win. At the top, I could see I was leading. I wanted to improve on my performance in Algarve two weeks ago, where I kept a steady pace throughout the stage, while here I went all-in on the climbs. I think Kragh was excellent today – really fast – and I was very close, so I'm satisfied. I extended my overall lead but I will fight until the end, as much as I can in order to defend the yellow jersey. I have already checked the climbs, I know what lies ahead, it will be hard but I think there is a chance." – Maximilian Schachmann

“I'm happy with my performance today because I’m now third overall. But I will continue to support Max, with the plan being to protect him over the next stages and to try to defend his jersey. He is in very good shape and has a lead of almost one minute. There are certainly many difficult stages ahead of us, and there are also many strong riders in attendance here, but we have a good chance now.” – Felix Grossschartner

“The time trial went very well and now we’re looking ahead to how we can keep the yellow jersey until Nice. We're in a good position to achieve this, but this means that we now have to concentrate on defending the lead every day, which will not necessarily be easy. Felix is also third overall after this stage, thanks to his very good time trial performance. So, we now have two options with which we can vary our tactics. But we have to see what we can do, from day to day. There are four stages left before Nice and it won't be an easy feat.” – Steffen Radochla, Sports Director

And here's the report from third-place Kasper Asgreen's Deceuninck-Quick Step team:

Kasper Asgreen continued to impress, less than two weeks after winning Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, taking a strong third in the 15.1km-long individual time trial held around Saint-Amand-Montrond, the hometown of Julian Alaphilippe and the place where our team produced an unforgettable masterpiece at the 2013 Tour de France, when we split the peloton in the crosswinds and won the stage.

Featuring two short climbs, a sharp descent and a long flat section, Wednesday’s test against the clock was the first major test for the GC contenders, but presented also a nice opportunity for Asgreen, and the Danish Champion didn’t disappoint. Having started long before the yellow jersey favourites, the 25-year-old put in a strong turn of legs on the uphill part of the stage, caught his minute-man and continued to produce a fine ride, which propelled him into the hot seat at the finish, after improving the provisional time by one second.

His result – 19:03 – was bested by just two riders by the end of the stage, and Kasper notched up his first podium at World Tour level in an individual time trial, a result that he hadn’t expected at the start of the day: “I prepared mostly for the Classics so far this year, so I haven’t spent so much time on the TT bike and I didn’t know where I found myself. I wasn’t as good as I had hoped, but better than I had feared, so overall, I can be pretty satisfied with my result and ride. With more training I am sure I will be back at a high level in this discipline for the second part of the season, once I conclude my Classics campaign.”

The stage was special also for another Deceuninck – Quick-Step Julian Alaphilippe, who got to ride on the roads he knows so well. In front of his family, friends and many other fans who cheered him on during the time trial, the Velo d’Or recipient gave absolutely everything and posted at the finish a solid time which helped him make a jump of four places in the standings with four stages left.

“I knew I wasn’t going to win, but this didn’t stop me from pushing really hard on this course which suited me and where it was nice to be today, with the fans yelling my name. That motivated me and I did my best. I had a good rhythm, but not the best feeling, and it was very hard with the headwind in the last two kilometers. I want to thank everyone for their support and tell them I will keep fighting until Nice”, Julian said at the finish.

Yes, you will go faster with shaved legs

You'll find this essay in interesting:

Is shaving your legs a matter of fashion or function for cyclists? When Oregon-based triathlete Jesse Thomas forgot to shave before a wind-tunnel testing session, he realized that he had a rare opportunity for a before-and-after test to find out.

“It honestly was a total joke,” he says. “None of us expected [shaving] to make much of a difference.”

Instead, the reduction in aerodynamic drag was so significant that even the researchers running the test didn’t initially believe it. Even more confounding was that the results contradicted earlier findings, raising a familiar question in science that goes beyond shaving or not shaving: When researchers are rewarded for originality and previous work is seldom replicated to test veracity – and doing so is often formally verboten – how do we know which study results we can trust?

Leg shaving in cycling dates back more than a century, since before women started routinely doing so, by some accounts. The original reasons are murky, but conventional wisdom holds that shaved legs recover more quickly from road rash after crashes and hurt less during massage. And of course, everyone else in the peloton does it.

“It was the fashion when I raced,” as former Tour de France stage-winner Davis Phinney said in magazine interview. “It’s the fashion now. Real bike riders shave their legs.”

Julian Alaphilippe

Smoother is faster. Sirotti photo

The aerodynamic benefits were generally considered a minor side-effect, more of a placebo than anything else.

The most widely cited test was a 1987 study for Bicycling magazine by engineering professor Chester Kyle, one of the pioneers of cycling aerodynamics. He found that leg-shaving reduced drag by 0.6%, enough to save about 5 seconds over the course of one hour at the brisk speed of 37 kilometres per hour. At slower speeds, the savings would be less.

Given that meagre benefit, along with the fact that wind-tunnel testing generally costs at least $500 per hour, it’s not surprising that no one felt the need for further leg-hair testing. But Thomas was lucky enough to have access to a brand-new wind tunnel in California built by one of his sponsors, Specialized Bicycles, which was specifically designed for the size and speed of bikes rather than cars.

The tests showed that shaving his legs reduced Thomas’s drag by about 7%, allowing him to exert 15 watts less power and still go at the same speed. In theory, that translates to a 79-second advantage over a 40-kilometre time trial that takes about one hour.

In comparison, the other fancy components and techniques that Thomas had flown to California to test seemed relatively minor. A new helmet saved him 2–3 watts, his unorthodox “praying mantis” arm position saved 5 watts and a new long-sleeved racing suit saved another 8 watts.

You can read the entire essay here.

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