When Tony Martin speeds off the launch ramp for the kickoff time trial of this year’s Tour de France on Saturday afternoon, two people at the roadside will be extremely excited and conduct some style studies – Björn Geesmann of STAPS and Daniel Schade of gebioMized. They are the creators of Tony Martin’s aerodynamic position that is supposed to enable him to ride at high speed and win the Yellow Jersey. Geesmann and Schade have been working with Tony Martin for years, but the project „Winning the Tour“ in Düsseldorf is nevertheless something unique. Already past autumn, after the World Championship in Doha, the team went on the track and optimized Martin’s position. “The big challenge was that Tony Martin got completely new equipment after joining Katusha Alpecin“, explains Geesmann. Not only the time trial bike was of another make – he moved from Specialized Shiv to Canyon Speedmax –; but also parts like handlebars or saddle as well as all accessories like clothes and helmet changed due to the equipment agreements of his new team. “We literally had to start from zero“, Björn Geesmann says. “We even questioned the frame size and assembled a model in size S as well as one in M“, Geesmann explains.
Before going on the track looking for aero potential, however, a so-called pre-fitting was made, as a biomechanical check-up is the basis for an efficient riding position. First, the stability of the pelvis on the saddle and the power transfer from foot to pedal are examined. . “Only if the rider sits in a stable position, a loss-free power transfer is possible“, explains Daniel Schade. An instable i.e. less optimal position can be identified by looking at the so-called shifts – this is the technical term for tiny back and forth movements on the saddle – as well as by looking at the chart of the pressure mat on the saddle. Which areas are depicted in green color, which in yellow or even red; and how high is the pressure on only a few square centimeters? “The answers to these questions are essential, especially in time trials over longer distances. The rider has to be able to hold the position over the whole duration of the race“, explains Schade. “If we discover that there is an extremely high pressure in the saddle nose area, this will be a clear sign that we have to adjust the position or change the saddle model“, Schade adds. Whether the riding position is close to the optimum can also be seen directly from measuring the performance via pressure sensor mats in the shoes. “If only little power is transferred or if the power transfer is irregular, we have to evaluate this“, explains Schade. Only when these two contact points are set, the real aerodynamic testing begins and the magic triangle of power transfer on the pedal and stability on the saddle is complemented by the aerodynamics in the cockpit.
The challenge with Tony Martin was to find a fitting saddle model in the range of his new sponsor and to position him in combination with seat height and horizontal position of the saddle in a way that enables him to sit in a stable, yet comfortable position on the saddle. “It was quite convenient for us that he did not get another shoe model, too, as this meant one thing less to worry about“, says Daniel Schade.
“Formerly, there used to be a huge emphasis on aerodynamics while the rider’s feeling was considered sufficiently reliable with regard to the position on the saddle and the power transfer to the pedal“, says Björn Geesmann. These times are over. Nowadays everything can be made visible – in real time. Therefore, also in aerodynamics not only the current air resistance is determined, but also to what extent the biomechanical data on the saddle and on the foot soles changes is checked continuously. „We can bring a rider in a radical, very low position, but then have to take the risk that he can hold the position only for a very short time i.e. his power output is reduced by this extreme position“, explains Geesmann. You always have to consider what is essential for competition – comfort, stability or aerodynamics? “Especially for sprinters prologue positions are constructed that really hurt, but are incredibly aerodynamic“, explains Schade. The rider will in this case happily accept the exertions, however, in order to gain the important seconds and score a top ranking.
When STAPS and gebioMized conduct aerodynamic tests on the track, these strongly ressemble formula-1 tests. The men behind the laptops get informed about any changes in air resistance (CdA) in real time. This is possible due to modern Alphamantis technology that records performance data, speed as well as cadence and transfers it via WIFI to the computer. The software then determines the aero value considering parameters like track geometry, curve inclination and current air density, by which prognoses can be made what effects the adjustments will have on a previously defined course. “We already can tell what adjustment bears which effects while the rider is still on the track“, explains Björn Geesmann. In the case of Tony Martin, not only the bike’s set-up was carefully examined and moderately adjusted; also various helmet- and time trial models as well as shoe covers and aero socks were put to an aerodynamic test. A successful endeavor as the wattage could be lowered considerably – power that does not have to be spend on overcoming air resistance on Saturday, but can be translated directly into propulsion – go for “Yellow“!
By the way: Tony Martin is not the only Tour the France participant who got fitted by Björn Geesmann and Daniel Schade. Also Equipe Movistar young German rider Jasha Sütterlin who has the chance to finish the time trial among the top five and win the White Jersey of the best young rider, was supported by them as well as some riders of team Katusha Alpecin. Geesmann and Schade thus will have a lot of style studies to conduct.
Photo: Saron Duchardt | saronduchardt.de
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