July 03, 2017 (France) – The 104th edition of the Tour de France is not yet a week old, and there is already controversy involving the powerhouse Team Sky, looking to secure a fourth title for team leader Chris Froome.
The British racing team placed four riders in the top eight at the opening 14km time trial on Stage 1 of this year’s Tour, including the winner Geraint Thomas, and Froome a solid sixth.
The British racing team and their new clothing partner Castelli developed the unique garment ahead of star rider Froome’s attempt at a fourth Tour title.
Fred Grappe, head of performance at FDJ pro cycling, commented on Twitter that the suits were in violation of the UCI regulations pertaining to the wearing of non-essential items and further cited a recent study into the efficacy of vortex generators which smooth the airflow around the body.
“It’s enhanced aerodynamics and the regulations forbid it,” Grappe told BBC.
The contention revolves around the supposed violation of UCI Article 1.3.033 was further argued by Bert Blocken a professor at Eindhoven University of Technology in Belgium who jumped in on social media saying that, “For small teams @UCI would sanction. Not for SKY. This is discrimination. Rules are clear: no modifications allowed.”
So is there a violation or not? It’s worth noting that UCI approved the new suits, and the race jury that examined the suits maintained there was no violation with the new Castelli creation.
“We examined the skinsuits and it [the vortex generator] is integrated into the fabric, so it’s not really a violation of the UCI rule,” said Philip Marien, head of the race jury, to Belgian broadcaster RTBF. “I can understand the rationale of other teams, but for the moment, we have no real way of forbidding it.”
Team Sky wonders about the fuss as the team already tested them out during competition at the Giro d’Italia with no complaint. Nicolas Portal, Sport Director at Team Sky, responded to the outcry during an interview with The Guardian.
“Everything is legal and the equipment was validated by the race commission,” he said. “We wouldn’t have taken the risk of losing the Tour from the first stage by cheating. We haven’t cheated. We’re not infringing the rules because the vortex isn’t added to the jersey, it’s part of it – that’s different.”
Castelli Canada’s GM, Pierre Perron, in an exclusive interview with Pedal Magazine, explained the level of research and work that went into the new gear and how it represents “the starting point of a new technology.”
“The suit was developed jointly by Castelli and Team Sky with the Norwegian University of Science and Technology with Luca Oggiano, one of the world’s leading experts in clothing aerodynamics,” Perron told Pedal.
“The suit is a totally new suit and is the result of a full year’s work that included a new theoretical basis of clothing aerodynamics, extensive material research and testing, inventing a new way of classifying roughness in fabrics, new test apparatus for analyzing data in new ways, hundreds of hours in the wind tunnel, a 3D scan and life size mannequin of Froome, along with new manufacturing techniques,” he commented. “Castelli spends about 4-5% of its turnover in R&D with the singular goal to make cyclists faster.”
Good news for those following along at home, the plan is for Castelli for further develop the technology before making it available to the public.
“The current suit is a high speed suit. If you can’t sustain 50 km/h then this new suit would be slower for you,” added Perron. “The underlying aerodynamic theoretical framework that led to this suit will later be applied to slower speed products that can help every cyclist.”