The choice of Campagnolo wheels and groupset could be the difference between victory and defeat at this year’s Tour.
Here, we focus on stage 20 and judgment day. The penultimate stage of the 2021 Tour de France – a 30.8km time-trial that weaves its way from Libourne to Saint-Émilion – could well decide this year’s winner.
It did, of course, in 2020 when UAE Team Emirates’ Tadej Pogacar, using groupset and wheels from Campagnolo, unleashed the time-trial of a lifetime to bypass current leader Primoz Roglic and win the yellow jersey. The time-trial’s forged a reputation as the race of truth.
There’s no hiding behind team-mates and conserving energy. It’s all about sustainable effort, digging deep and, of course, a wealth of cutting-edge, drag-reducing gear.
ALL ABOUT THE DISC
We won’t know for definite what time-trial set-up Pogacar will adopt on that 20th stage between Libourne to Saint-Émilion, but the parcours is almost pancake-flat, peaking at just 93m in Montagne
So, we can be confident that the Slovenian will replicate his stage-winning set-up of stage five. That means utilising Campagnolo’s Bora Ultra TT disc wheel outback. Lack of spokes means the sidewind’s smoothed out, reducing the choppy effect that creates tiny eddies and slows the rider down.
Less turbulence means less drag means more speed.
You only have to cast back to Pogacar’s stage-five exploits for evidence of that. Of course, aerodynamics is wasted if you’re leaching power through lack of rear-wheel stiffness. Reassuringly for Campag-using riders from not only UAE Team Emirates, but also AG2R Citroen Team and Lotto-Soudal the new Bora Ultra TT’s 8% stiffer than the stiffest competitor’s wheel.
What about weight? Historically, the aerodynamic advantage of discs was offset slightly by weight. Not anymore as Campag’s latest offering is 111g than the previous model. That’s important because physics dictates the heavier the wheel, the greater the rotating-weight penalty, which affects acceleration speed.
Keep it down and the likes of Pogacar can gain an accelerative advantage over their rivals, which is particularly beneficial over technical courses.
It’s not just the rear wheel, of course, that impacts speed – front-wheel selection’s also vital. That stage-five masterclass saw Pogacar and his mechanics go for Campagnolo’s Bora WTO 77. There’s every chance they’ll employ the same tactic on stage 20 and with good reason.
Not only does the 77m deep rim smooth out airflow for more speed, its unique design also improves handling and stability – both vital, especially so if the wind blows; in fact, the WTO 77s are designed for maximum aerodynamic benefits when the wind angle blows at a common 12-17°.
Its rim cross-section of 26.5mm also shaves grammes of drag. How? Two-fold.
Firstly, the use of 25mm tubulars results in a smoother transition from tyre to wheel. That has the effect of smoothing out airflow between the wheel and tyre, rather than creating that unwanted choppy effect if the tyre’s too thin. Rolling resistance is low, too, thanks to something called tyre deflection.
At the same tyre pressure, a wide and narrow tyre has the same contact area as a thinner tyre because while the wide tyre is flattened over its width, the narrower tyre flattens over its length. They’re also more comfortable than thinner tyres because of the greater volume of air between Pogacar and the road.
In short, they’re fast. Very fast.
Finally, Pogacar’s aerodynamic time-trial set-up wouldn’t be complete without Campagnolo’s Super Record groupset.
Not only does this revered groupset shift crisply and accurately each and every time, the design of the bar-end shifters allows optimal accessibility, ensuring the rider can remain as aerodynamic – and fast – as possible.
No discipline tests a Tour de France rider’s gear set-up like the time-trial. Come stage 20 of this year’s race, expect Tadej Pogacar to once again pass that test with flying colours.
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