• Sofia Schugar

Maximal Effort, Marginal Gains

Teams had an entire year to make adjustments to equipment in the hopes of solving aerodynamics once and for all, and securing the gold in the team pursuit. We tell you how that all played out.

Day one of team pursuit heats presented viewers with a GLARINGLY OBVIOUS mishap (we'll use mishap to keep the blog PG, but we all know what it really was...), when Alex Porter’s bars snapped during the team pursuit first qualifying round. However, we are not going to talk about the mishaps in this event, we're going to cover something SO much more important, something that is approximately 2-3% more important, especially in track cycling.


MARGINAL GAINS

Some simple, expensive ways to scratch off milliseconds.


The BARS

You don't see cyclists snapping handlebars every day. Theres got to be something odd going on in the Australian's cockpit.

The team uses frames from Argon18. However, the handlebars and stems are made by an Australian manufacturer, Bastion. The company is up and coming in Australia most notably for using 3D printing to create their parts with extreme precision.

The “sprint stem” printed for the Olympic Team’s track bike is priced at $2,040AU, that's approximately $1,500 USD.

UCI rules state that “For track races, any equipment used at the Olympic Games must have been commercially available – in accordance with article 1.3.006 – at the latest on January 1st of the year of the Olympic Games”.

That means you can pick yourself up a $1,500 stem!!!! Just what your bike needed! But, you only imagine the price of the aero bars that snapped on Porter. They have now been removed from the Bastion website.


The BULGE

All you need to know is: Team New Zealand is wearing $2,100 LATEX skin suits… thank god track events are relatively short.


The BIKES

The athletes are quite fast and some of the gains quite marginal, so sometimes you miss the bike tech upgrades, but not this one. The British track team’s insanely wide fork and completely new bicycle design definitely stand out at any speed.

GB track bike olympics
Straight off the set of Mad Max

Hope + Lotus have put the effort in to make this one of the most aerodynamic bikes on the track. They did this by considering the rider’s aerodynamic efficiency as they ride the bike. A bike designed without this in mind loses its aerodynamic capabilities once the rider sits on the bike.


This marginal gain weighs in at about a 2-3% aerodynamic advantage as compared to a bike without the rider in mind during the design process. The wide fork is meant to create air flow around the athletes legs.

Another upgrade to this bike that you might not be able to see is the monocoque (fancy) wheel. Moulding the wheel as a single unit allows for greater accuracy when designing the bike.

Well known for its mountain bikes, we think that Hope is taking some big strides into the world of track and road cycling, but we're not sure if these aerodynamic gains are as important to mountain biking just yet.


The BENDING (of the rules)

Most of us are familiar with some pretty silly rules imposed by the UCI ie. no super tuck, fines for littering and everyone's favorite the SOCK HEIGHT RULE.


Article 1.3.033, states: “Socks and overshoes used in competition may not rise above the height defined by half the distance between the middle of the lateral malleolus and the middle of the fibula head.”

To some it may have looked like the Danish team was all suffering the same shin injury, but to others… their competitors...it was an obvious manipulation of the sock-height loophole. We could only hope that this shin tape had the same marginal benefit as team GB’s bikes from the future.


HOWEVER

all the tape-aided marginal gains in the world could not stop Frederik Madsen of Denmark from riding directly into the wheel of Britain’s Charlie Tanfield during the team pursuit. (Maybe having knee height socks is more dangerous than we all thought, thank you for looking out for the riders UCI).

Though there were complaints from GB about the Danes’ shin tape, and complaints from the Danish about some of GB’s equipment not being for sale on exactly January 1st , it was not until this crash that officials had to step in.

After the measurement of sock height and the review of race footage (to ensure no littering or supertucking on the track), it was announced that the Danish team would proceed to the gold medal final while Great Britain was relegated to the race for 7th or 8th place. Simply because Tanfield had fallen off the back of his team pursuit train and had not yet exited the track.


WERE THE GAINS WORTH GOING ALL IN?

The geek in us did not get to see the true outcome of ANY of these marginal gains. Australia floated to the 3rd place podium spot when a NZ rider crossed wheels and hit the boards in their final heat... destroying their smooth latex suit!


Hopefully the next time we see these teams they are spending more time testing their marginal gains than testing the strength of wooden floorboards.


If you think that team Great Britain should’ve been able to defend their Pursuit title and the Danes with shin splints are to blame, then come yell at us on Instagram.

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