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Tour De France Showcases Multitude Of Tech 427

whoda writes "When you think of a bicycle, you most likely think of 2 tires, a chain, some gearing of some sort, and other assorted mechanical bits. However, when Lance Armstrong, Jan Ullrich, and over 180 other riders get together to compete at the Tour de France every year, there is a lot of technology that comes along for the ride too. From Lance's Sunglass'/MP3 Player to the advanced use of composites seen on Tyler Hamilton's time trial bike, there are many examples of high technology making the racers faster through better training, materials and aerodynamics."
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Tour De France Showcases Multitude Of Tech

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  • Hmmm (Score:3, Funny)

    by OverlordQ ( 264228 ) * on Monday July 12, 2004 @04:19PM (#9678870) Journal
    Sunglasses with MP3 playback built in? I'd hate to see what this [] guy comes up with.
  • by g00bd0g ( 255836 ) on Monday July 12, 2004 @04:21PM (#9678892) Homepage
    The HPV world speed championships!

    Too bad there's not enough interest to really get some money into the development of these things.

    Check out my website...
  • Bio tech too! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by darth_MALL ( 657218 ) on Monday July 12, 2004 @04:21PM (#9678903)
    Look at Lance's amazing biochemistry! He wouldn't have made it to any of these races if it weren't for his body and iron will! []
    • rampant doping (Score:4, Interesting)

      by SuperBanana ( 662181 ) on Monday July 12, 2004 @05:45PM (#9680025)
      Look at Lance's amazing biochemistry!

      One does wonder what other sorts of biochemistry are going on with riders(I've always thought it was kind of ironic that Lance was sponsored by a major pharmaceutical, and yes, I am deeply suspicious that Lance's chemo and related drugs somehow altered his body to make him much stronger; I don't think he would be stupid enough to be doping himself), seeing as how doping is rampant in virtually all other sports- and the message to little kids has been nothing of zero tolerance but instead "I'm a good guy, I couldn't have been doing drugs, even though my trainer was caught twice before doping his runners and I failed a drug test" etc etc.

      Then there's the baseball players, who were TOLD AHEAD OF TIME they'd be tested. When they were tested- ONE QUARTER of them failed! Unbelievable! That's like telling everyone the answer to a one question quiz, and then having 25% fail!

      I forget which bike race it was, but police did a raid on the rider's barracks one night, and it was like a scene from animal house- they had riders leaping out of windows in their underwear, hiding in the bushes, running off, etc. They found dozens upon dozens of drug vials, needles, pills, you name it. It was absolutely pathetic.

  • by mlmitton ( 610008 ) on Monday July 12, 2004 @04:23PM (#9678943)
    Tyler Hamilton [] has a website too. I don't know why his wasn't included along with Armstrong's and Ullrich's. Personally, Tyler is my pick for the winner of the TDF this year. Riding with a broken collarbone last year (finishing 4th, and winning a stage!), and riding with a broken shoulder blade in the Tour of Italy the year before (finishing 2nd!), he has more tenacity than even Lance. And this year, Tyler has the form. Watch out Lance!
    • I doubt Tyler will take it this year. Heras might kill them on the Mtn TT, and Ulrich might kill them on the "final" TT day, ie not the roll into Paris. These are the two crux days. It will probably revolve around these two days. Some are worried about the central Massiff, Lance et alia didnt prep there, Tyler did. But, Lances team can control this I feel.
      I would say essentially three guys will be in the running going into the final TT. And, I dont think Tyler is there, it will be Lance, Heras and Ullrich.
    • by carambola5 ( 456983 ) on Monday July 12, 2004 @06:50PM (#9680795) Homepage
      Tenacity... yes. More than Lance? I really doubt it.

      -Brain Surgery
      -Testicular Surgery
      -Lungs full of tumors
      -Grosjean catheter
      -One round of BEP chemotherapy
      -Three rounds of VIP chemotherapy

      And after all that, he wins 5 TDFs in a row. I think that qualifies as tenacity.
  • They're not fast enough until you see spoilers fitted at the back of the bicycles!
    • And stickers. Don't forget the stickers.
  • by lothar97 ( 768215 ) * <owen@smi[ ] ['gel' in gap]> on Monday July 12, 2004 @04:24PM (#9678955) Homepage Journal
    Lance et al have spent a lot of time in wind tunnels reducing drag (see Trek []). I watched a bunch of the Lance Chronicles on OLN. One significant source of drag they discovered- the race numbers on their backs. All riders have their number attached to their jersey on their lower back, on both sides (as seen here []). They found that the number caused significant drag, and they were quite unhappy that there was no way to design a sharkskin suit or the like to include the number. Technology taken down by paper!
    • Wouldn't fitting the paper under a tight clear-plastic vest do the trick?
      • by brer_rabbit ( 195413 ) on Monday July 12, 2004 @04:33PM (#9679089) Journal
        Wouldn't fitting the paper under a tight clear-plastic vest do the trick?

        I'd have to assume, "if they could of, they would of." The Tour rules probably state the race number must be fixed to your back. Here's an excerpt from the Tour website:

        Article 2 - Riders' identification Riders must affix the number plates to the front of their bicycle frames and wear two riders' numbers (small format) exactly over their hips, one on the right and one on the left side.
    • Luckily, every competitor has to use numbers, so it is a zero sum game. Personally, I am much more interested in the athleticism than the gadgets.
    • I used to race (badly). The fact that numbers are a source of drag is pretty much common knowledge. I can't remember how the pros attach their numbers in big races, but for most USCF events, they are pinned on, and are pretty much sails on windy days.

      • I can't remember how the pros attach their numbers in big races

        They tend to be self-adhesive. You can see this when someone retires and they have their numbers removed from their jersey.
      • Re:Numbers (Score:2, Informative)

        by oostevo ( 736441 )
        Pins are for USCF racers only. International UCI races use stick-on numbers that are really big stickers (so they aren't really that drag-inducing). The only time UCI racers use pins is when they want to reuse numbers (sometimes they want to take a number or two home from the Tour for memory's sake).
  • Hah. (Score:3, Funny)

    by manseman ( 582150 ) on Monday July 12, 2004 @04:26PM (#9678975)
    So, this proves that anyone using the latest cool tech stuff is just trying to make up for something missing in their pants. One day I'll throw out this type-writer and get a computer.
  • by slutdot ( 207042 ) on Monday July 12, 2004 @04:29PM (#9679018)
    I know we're talking about the TDF and those guys are on a different plane of existence here but there's something I've got to say about some non-pro cyclists out there.

    While I agree that the use of technology is important in cycling, there's only so much one can do without having to rely on natural talent and training. Spending $180 for a 13 cm piece of metal [] in order to save 50 grams, is a problem. I see it with the guys I ride with. They'll spend a shit load of cash on a Litespeed titanium bike or a Trek 5200 [] but will still mow down a pizza after a ride and not think about the fact that they can get over those hills a little faster if they weren't carrying a anchor on their gut.
    • But think of the psychological advantage! Seriously, I seem to remember that the number one thing that beat me in a race was nerves and lack of confidence. If you panic, it takes a lot of power away from your muscles.
    • The ones I always get a kick out of are the people riding $2000 alumininum, fully suspended, knobby-tired mountain bikes down the street. Guys, you realize a $200 steel road bike would be much faster, right?
      • Nothing funnier than an inexperienced rider on a full-suspension bike standing up to stomp on the pedals.

        All that effort, and they just bounce around.

        Hell, just getting a pair of cheap rims with slicks would give those guys better street performance. But for some people, it's not about *actual* performance, it's about flash. Like those kids in civics with tri-level spoilers and coffee-can exhaust pipes. I suppose I shouldn't complain-- those folks are the ones who keep a steady supply of cheap, used hi
      • I have a $1000 Specialized FSR that I ride on the street sometimes. But that's because I'm a poor college student that can't afford another bike.

        It's all about perspective.
    • by shaka999 ( 335100 ) on Monday July 12, 2004 @04:42PM (#9679200)
      Cycling is just like any other hobby. Its fun to have nice toys. I've yet to hear of a computer that runs faster because it has a window and a light inside...
    • You could say the same thing about golf. But to say that you have to be in top condition to get any gain from these products is not true. It IS easier to ride a lighter bike, no matter how fit you are. Sure, your buddies could forego the pizza and shed pounds from the middle, and yeah, it would be easier to climb the next hill....or they can spend the cash and have an easier ride without the hassles of giving up pizza. This is a trend you see everywhere.
      • But to say that you have to be in top condition to get any gain from these products is not true.

        More correct would be that no sane person can justify spending $1000's for a improvements that are at best going to help by a few seconds over many miles, unless they're doing time trials and have someone else paying for them....

        they can spend the cash and have an easier ride without the hassles of giving up pizza.

        I suspect that, compared to having the bike adjusted and maintained well, any improvements tow

    • by raygundan ( 16760 ) on Monday July 12, 2004 @04:44PM (#9679230) Homepage
      Q: What's the cheapest way to shave 500g off your bike weight?

      A: Lose 500g.

      • Q: What's the cheapest way to shave 500g off your bike weight?

        A: Lose 500g.

        Additional eat fewer of the Powerbars:

        FUEL: PowerBar, $1.79
        To help replace the 110,000 calories (31 pounds!) Armstrong will burn during the race, he will nosh on some 105 PowerBars and 210 PowerGels. Yum.
      • Funny, sure, but I'm going to guess that raygundan is a biker of some sort and didn't post this as a joke as this is the truth. This should be modded insightful for making a piece of common-sense more common!

        Lets put it into real world terms:
        I am a cross-country mountain biker, and this season alone my weight has fluctuated anywhere from 170-185 pounds. (185 at the beginning of the season for sure, 170 after my last 24hr relay race, but regularly bouncing between 170 and 180)

        And lets say I want to buy a
    • That's not a 13 cm piece of metal, that's a 13 cm piece of carbon fiber composite. It may not have any actual performace advantage, but carbon fiber is much sexier than metal. ;-)
    • Even though I do it too, it kills me how me and many slashdoters love technology, but frown upon those that buy/use it.

      By spending $180 on a 13cm piece of metal that saves 50 grams does things. First, if it really does save 50 grams and this part is 180 grams, then the "normal" weight is 230 grams, or 27% lighter. 27% is significant. Think of a road bike that goes from 30 pounds to almost 20.

      Also, the pizza eating gearhead is promoting (keeping a job for) some other materials geek, whereas the guy that
    • Being an enthusiast bicyclist myself, with an old steel framed (though reinforced by various other materials) bike from 10 years ago, I'd have to agree with the following line:

      "there's only so much one can do without having to rely on natural talent and training"

      However, as I am also maintaining the bike myself, I can appreciate the more expensive parts of more expensive bikes, as they are often easier to clean, adjust and all in all maintain, than cheaper parts.

      And if you ever try and climb the hill/mou
    • by wwest4 ( 183559 ) on Monday July 12, 2004 @05:12PM (#9679622)
      100% agree.

      I was doing a norba race and once I finished I chilled out on the trail to watch some of the other heats. I saw a guy on a very sweet, expensive and light-looking XC bike carry over a 6-inch log.

      In the same race I finished just ahead of a guy I see often on the circuit. He rides on an old rigid bike, and he was hammering through the bony sections anyway. I've broken a rigid bike (stem failed) on the same trail. If had any suspension at all he probably would have toasted me.

      The moral ends up being that gear helps, but honing your skills on crappy gear helps you appreciate the pricier stuff even more. When coming up, skill and fitness are paramount - everything else is secondary, and it makes a lot of sense to save your money early on to make sure you like the sport and to get a fitness and skill base going.
  • by m.dillon ( 147925 ) on Monday July 12, 2004 @04:31PM (#9679048) Homepage
    Ok, I'm an old-timer now I guess. My current roadbike is the one I bought in highschool in the 80's. I recently decided I needed a new derailer so I brought it in to a shop.

    Of course, with a bike that old, they would have had to replace, well, just about everything in order to put in a new derailer. In fact it would be only slightly more to simply buy a new bycycle!

    So I started looking at bikes. I could get a nice road bike for $800 (US) that was far superior to my existing bike. Then I started looking at the carbon composite bikes, like the Roubaix series. I really didn't think I'd feel the difference until I test-rode one.

    Holy S*it! If the $800 bike was an order of magnitude better then my existing one, the Roubaix Comp (at $2600) was an order of magnitude better then the $800 bike. All carbon-composite construction, vibration dampening... the works. Unbelievably light, I could lift the whole bike with my pinky pretty much! Smooth ride, ultra smooth shifting, huge gearing range. The technology is really amazing.


    • Ok, I'm an old-timer now I guess. My current roadbike is the one I bought in highschool in the 80's. I recently decided I needed a new derailer so I brought it in to a shop. Of course, with a bike that old, they would have had to replace, well, just about everything in order to put in a new derailer.

      Of course?? I'm no expert, but I've never had trouble finding derailers for bikes from the 80's. I thought they were pretty standard. I'd shop around a little more if I were you....

      --Bruce Fields

  • by gphinch ( 722686 ) on Monday July 12, 2004 @04:32PM (#9679055) Homepage
    So 35 songs for 22 many times can you really listen to 'Eye of the Tiger'?
  • We've had stories on:

    F1 Racing Technologies []
    Tour de France Technologies, particularly Lance Armstrong

    To be expected:

    NASCAR Technologies
    Soap-box Derby Technologies

  • Plasters? (Score:3, Funny)

    by Skiron ( 735617 ) on Monday July 12, 2004 @04:35PM (#9679103) Homepage

    Still hurts when 50 'nodes' of the pelaton decide to crash all at the same time, in a cascade, rather like nodes on a M$ network. I wonder what this stuff was designed on...

    As an aside, these guys are the best athletes in any event the world over.

    • Not to knock the insane amount of pain and willpower in the tour, but a friend posted this to my lists the other day:

      Subject: TDF vs. GDR
      Date: Sat, 10 Jul 2004 17:38:49 -0400

      2107 miles
      23 days total: 1 prologue, 20 stages and 2 rest days
      11 flat stages
      6 mountain stages
      3 individual time trials
      1 team time trial
      21 nine-rider teams
      $3,687,619.22 total prize money
      $491,648.51 to the winner (winning team)

      Great Divide Race Fact She
  • Lest we forget:

    'course, you can just take any two cold cathode kits, cut the molex pin and splice a 9V battery connector, a 8xAA battery holder from Radio Shack, and a seat-bag to get a similar look for your bicycle.

    With one pack of 8 NiMH 1800mA AAs powering two CCs, I get over 4.5 hours of neon light.
  • This is probably not the safest bicycling accessory in existence. Trust me, when you're riding anywhere near traffic, being able to hear cars coming up from behind you is a good thing. Perhaps that's why they're not for sale just yet?
  • MP3 (Score:4, Interesting)

    by herrvinny ( 698679 ) on Monday July 12, 2004 @04:42PM (#9679199)
    From the Sunglasses/MP3 Player link []:

    We have a little addendum to our Tech from the Tour de France feature from a couple of weeks ago: this special pair of Oakley sunglasses with a built-in MP3 player that Lance Armstrong was spotted wearing []. No idea whether they're planning to ever sell these or not, but a little bit of research reveals that the sunglasses only have enough room on them for 35 songs, which makes us think that they probably have somewhere around 128MB of storage somwhere in there.

    True, but that doesn't mean Lance plays only 35 songs for the entire Tour. Does anyone know if the Tour rules prohibit changing electronic media and so forth? He could play a new set of 35 songs every day. At least that would be interesting trivia, what songs did Armstrong listen to every day of the Tour..
    • Re:MP3 (Score:2, Insightful)

      by wk633 ( 442820 )
      I see the sunglasses as being a better replacement to the current radio ear-bud.

      What I'd like to know more about is what kind of technology is in place to protect those radio conversations. You'd have to bet that Saiz, Godefroot and Riis would love to listen in on Bruyneel and Armstrong. (directors sportif for Heras, Ullrich, Hamilton and Armstrong)
    • Re:MP3 (Score:4, Informative)

      by ptomblin ( 1378 ) <> on Monday July 12, 2004 @04:57PM (#9679410) Homepage Journal
      He doesn't wear it in the race. Riding in a peleton takes every bit of concentration, and you have to be able to hear, feel, see and practically smell the other riders around you if you're going to avoid the crashes and not miss the breakaways. I've seen him training with an iPod, so maybe he's using this for training and warm-up rides.
    • Re:MP3 (Score:5, Funny)

      by funwithBSD ( 245349 ) on Monday July 12, 2004 @05:09PM (#9679567)
      35 songs is enough for the entire Cheryl Crow collection.

      That's all he needs.
  • I'm not on a first-name basis with "Lance".
  • by GillBates0 ( 664202 ) on Monday July 12, 2004 @04:49PM (#9679299) Homepage Journal
    When you think of a bicycle, you most likely think of 2 tires, a chain, some gearing of some sort, and other assorted mechanical bits.

    I would like to request that Slashdot drop it's discrimination/bias against unicyclists and tricyclists of the world. The poster assumes that everybody will think of two-wheeled "bicycles" when they think about cycles. This is not the case. I would also like to request all Girls to stop being biased against unicycle and tricycle riders. We are every bit as good as the so called "bicycle" riders.

    Please join the fight against even-wheeled cycle fanatics.

    Thank you.

  • by john_smith_45678 ( 607592 ) on Monday July 12, 2004 @05:01PM (#9679452) Journal
    If the cyclists are listening to mp3's, maybe their playlists look something like this:

    10. "The Cougar Fight Song": Nothing is quite as stirring as hearing the band break into "Rise and Shout" at the beginning of a sporting event.

    9. "Olé": No, this is not the Ricky Martin World Cup song. It's the chant soccer fans around the world have been singing far longer that consists of just that one word: "Olé, olé, olé, olé... olé, olé."

    8. "SportsCenter Theme": Every true sports fanatic now recognizes the familiar intro to a full hour of the best of the day's sports action. Most of us watch it two or three times a day.

    7. "Chariots of Fire" - Vangelis: This classic theme music has defined track songs for over twenty years. The Olympic team training on the beach idealizes the essences of pushing yourself to the limit.

    6. "The Hey Song": Who can resist the compelling, "duh-dun duh-dun duh-dun duh-dun duh-dun-dun . . . HEY!" during a game? We all know it . . . and we all yell just as loud when it's played.

    5. "Eye of the Tiger" - Survivor: The most compelling sports stories come from the underdogs, the little guys (see March Madness and every sports movie ever made). This song epitomizes fighting against the odds.

    4. "Take Me Out to the Ball Game": Any list on sports songs must include this classic. It conjures up images of lazy afternoons at the ballpark, of the seventh inning stretch, and of preserving the tradition and history of sports.

    3. "You All Ready For This?": Sports action must be on tap whenever you hear this familiar opening music. It gets the blood boiling and the vocal cords limber for the excitement to follow.

    2. "We Are the Champions" - Queen: Athletic competition means winners and losers, and no song better embodies that than this one. In extolling the journey, it honors the effort it takes to get to the top.

    1. "We Will Rock You" - Queen: Stomp, stomp, clap. Stomp, stomp, clap. Everyone steps up to the challenge when the greatest sports song of all time is played. It's played at every level in every sport, making it easily #1.

    Honorable Mention: "Sweet Georgia Brown" (Harlem Globetrotters theme), "Charge!", "Hey, Baby", "Jump Around."
  • Come on Armstrong! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by bobblebob ( 758047 )
    You can do it -make it 6
  • Trek 5200 (Score:3, Interesting)

    by GPLDAN ( 732269 ) on Monday July 12, 2004 @05:17PM (#9679686)
    I recently biught a Trek 5200. I could have easily gone with a Trek 2300 or smaller, because I am no power rider. I ride about 10-20 miles in the morning. Every other day. That's it. Many of you could destroy probably cream me on a $99 Huffy.

    But the bike is a joy to ride. I owned a crappy Schwinn most of my road bike riding days and so I splurged a bit and got some Sidi shoes and this bike. I enjoy riding it, esp. going up hills.

    Maybe I overspent, but I enjoy the bike. The OLCV Carbon is damn light. And if I enjoy riding, I'll ride more. I had my fill of heavy steel bikes, this really is a whole different league. I've read a few responses that mock people for spending too much on the bike. Most of those people have a iPod and a $500 video card just to play counterstrike.
  • by steveha ( 103154 ) on Monday July 12, 2004 @06:46PM (#9680758) Homepage
    The technology is neat, but the technology can't actually win the race. It's still about the riders.

    Lance has a cool bike, but all the Tour de France riders have good bikes. There is a limit to how much benefit you can get with a better bike, and all the tour guys have bikes that are close to this limit.

    The slowest of the Tour riders, on a bad day, could ride me into the ground on a 20-year-old piece-of-junk bike, even if I were on my good bike. Sure I could climb Alpe d'Huez, but it would take me at least a couple of hours, and the Tour guys race up it in 40 minutes or so, as just part of a 5 or 6 hour day of racing!

    The most important tech to Lance is the tech he uses in training. He trains and trains. They measure his power output in Watts, how many Calories he burns, how much wind drag he has on his time trial bike. It's his training that will win the race, his training and good tactics (both his and his team director, Johan Bruyneel).

    P.S. The Tour rules have a lower limit on how much a bike can weigh. I think this is a good idea. There is a point at which "light" becomes "stupid light"; where the too-light components aren't strong enough and things start to break. The minimum weight will keep the bikes from getting into a stupid-light arms race.

    The Tour rules also now require helmets, and the helmets have to actually be able to protect the riders' heads. Last year riders wore lightweight helmets for the time trial stages, and the lightweight helmets were basically just streamlined shells that wouldn't protect them at all in a crash. This year even the time trial helmets are required to meet crash safety standards. I'm in favor of the idea.

  • by Guernica Bill ( 777570 ) on Monday July 12, 2004 @06:53PM (#9680832)
    I'm actually most impressed by the technology involved in the television coverage. First, you've got about about 20 cameras on bicycles, showing images at race level (almost what the cyclists see themselves). They send the pictures to helicopters overhead, which in turn send the images to satellites. Let's also not forget the cameras on the helicopters themselves, and the beautiful display of flying and camera ability that brings gorgeous and rock-steady shots of 170 bicyclists zipping through fields of sunflowers.

    Add to that GPS transmitters on every bike, which brings instant results at the end of the race to the 100th of a second, and (this year on OLN) up-to-the-second time gaps among the groups on the road (this'll really shine when they hit the mountains).

    All this, plus entertaining commentary, live worldwide.

"Conversion, fastidious Goddess, loves blood better than brick, and feasts most subtly on the human will." -- Virginia Woolf, "Mrs. Dalloway"