UAE Tour top tech: New time trial equipment in the WorldTour peloton

GCN's Alex Paton scours the WorldTour peloton at the UAE Tour to see what interesting new time trial tech he can discover

Clock14:00, Saturday 24th February 2024

While riders enjoy some respite from racing over the off-season, the world of tech still operates in full motion behind the scenes. Teams continue to hone their equipment in the hunt for any marginal gains, whether it be through adapting current equipment or adding brand new components to their line-ups.

These changes then break cover during the opening throes of a new season. The dawn of the 2024 season has been no different except, rather than road bikes, most of the tech focus has been on time trial bikes which appear to have undergone lots of changes since the end of 2023.

GCN’s Alex Paton wanted to get close up with this tech, so we headed out to the UAE Tour to see what we could discover. From larger chainrings to custom components, here’s a selection of what caught Alex's eye from the teach in the UAE.

Colnago weight-shedding approach paying dividends

Colnago had one aim for its TT1 time trial bike heading into 2024: shed grams. We’re not just talking a few grams either. The Italian brand wanted to lose a massive 1kg from the overall weight of the bike. For a bike that weighed less than 10kg to start with, that was a huge task, but one Colnago tackled head on with the help of its technical partners.

Among those technical partners is Carbon-Ti, whose lightweight chainrings and disc brake rotors adorn the bike instead of the stock Shimano options. These additions achieve nearly 30% of the intended weight cut, shaving around 300g. As an added bonus, they’re more aerodynamic too.

Elsewhere, Alex has heard rumours that wheel sponsors ENVE is working to reduce the weight of its time trial wheels. That’s an area of the bike that could lead to big weight savings.

If Colnago needed any assurance that its weight-shedding approach was the right path to take, it received it in abundance in the time trial at the UAE Tour. Brandon McNulty’s victory would have been pleasing enough but the team went two better by securing a clean sweep of the podium, Jay Vine taking second and Mikkel Bjerg third.

Even derailleurs are becoming aero

Considering the amount of testing that goes into designing a time trial bike, it’s not too surprising that virtually every part of a bike is aero optimised. Components often receive the same treatment and teams are even adopting aero covers for their derailleurs. We can’t imagine they lead to massive aero gains, but every little helps in a time trial.

The first we spotted was the SLF Aero carbon cage used on the Wilier Turbine SLR, belonging to Astana Qazaqstan’s Mark Cavendish. EF Education-EasyPost and Israel-Premier Tech used similar tech from CeramicSpeed for their Cannondale SuperSlice and Factor Hanzo bikes, respectively.

Large chainrings just got even bigger on the Pinarello Bolide

Chainrings have gradually been getting larger over recent years, in some cases going up to 64t, although that was only on rare occasions.

Ineos Grenadiers’ Tobias Foss blew that out of the water with the 68t chainring on his Pinarello Bolide. That’s seriously big; so big that it belongs to Digirit’s track range of chainrings. Contrary to some beliefs, large chainrings aren’t being used to provide large gears and their selection is all down to efficiency, as we recently explored in the article below.

Suspicious stickers and new cockpits at Bora-Hansgrohe

Bora-Hansgrohe’s Specialized Shiv time trial bike was headlined by Speedbar custom aero extensions. These are made from a mix of carbon fibre for the elbow rests and 3D-printed titanium to help optimise the bar for each rider.

Further down the bike, there were carefully placed stickers on the SRAM crankset. The team moved to SRAM groupsets from Shimano for 2024, so these are new to the team. Alex also thinks that the stickers could be hiding the fact that it is a new, unreleased SRAM chainring.

Decathlon AG2R La Mondiale sporting new Van Rysel bike

AG2R’s off-season was characterised by upheaval, as Decathlon hopped aboard as title sponsors. In a blow to the team’s former bike sponsors BMC, who will be absent from WorldTour level in 2024, the French brand also brought its top-tier Van Rysel bikes to the team.

Decathlon bikes have been ridden at cycling’s highest tier in the past, but it’s the first time that Van Rysel has made an appearance.

For time trialling this will be the XCR pro which sports a typical time trial silhouette, including one of the deepest head tubes we’ve seen.

Sometimes the simple solutions are the best

As the major groupset manufacturers don’t always have large enough or time trial-optimised chainrings, teams will often turn to other brands. Cofidis’ solution is Kronos chainrings, used on their Look 796 Monoblade RS bike. These are aluminium and the one we encountered was a 58t chainring. That was made obvious by the digits written onto the chainring in marker pen.

This could simply be because the chainrings don’t have marks on them to help distinguish between the sizes or, as Alex suspects, it’s a one-off or custom prototype component.

Rim brakes aren’t dead, according to Jayco AlUla

Jayco AlUla win the time trial weight stakes in the WorldTour peloton. Not because they’re using fancy tech on their Scott Trinity Advanced - in fact, it’s the complete opposite: rim brakes.

Rim brakes are all but dead in the WorldTour peloton, except on Jacyo’s time trial bike which provides one last haven. We don’t suspect that will last for too much longer as the team’s mechanics told us that a disc brake version of the bike should arrive this year, although that will likely arrive with a heftier weight.

Check out more of Alex’s top finds in the video at the top of this page.

Keep up to date with the latest tech news, features and pro bikes on the GCN website, linked here.

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