Project Tokyo 2020 — Part 3: PERFORM

There is an art to time trialing. It’s not a universal gift. Not every rider has the honed ability to gauge their effort with such accuracy that over any given distance they succeed in giving 100%, no more, no less. The secret to winning a time trial is, quite simply, to get to the finish line completely empty — and certainly not before the line. In cycling’s history there is a reel of names that have dominated this aspect of racing. Riders like Merckx, Indurain, and Cancellara.

Take that thought further to the first Team Time Trial you ever saw. Poetry in motion is how some describe it; the invisible bonds between the riders, the intuitive, most natural-seeming movements with one rider setting the pace, the turn-taking and subsquent pulling off. The prime example of a cycling team riding as one.

The Team Time Trial is the ultimate test of performance against the clock. Eight or nine riders in a formation, where differences between winning and being an also-ran come down to fractions of a second. But how can this be? The most major determining factors are the airflow within in the group of riders and the physiology of the team taking part. In terms of the airflow, riders on the back get less wind resistance while also being pushed along by the air hitting the riders behind them; this means that they save more energy compared to a standard time trial and can ride harder, making those gaps between positions that much closer.

In terms of physiology, if, for example, the team time trial is taking place in a stage race, then you have to plan on getting your less powerful mountain climbers to the finish at the same pace as your strong rouleurs. This is no mean feat because a rider like Stefan Küng is naturally more powerful than Richie Porte, which means that tactic about who rides where has to be adapted. But this formation then channels back to the aforementioned dynamic of aerodynamics—put simply, if you put Küng behind Porte, where would he get the wind protection from?

This is where experience and expertise on the part of the teams’ Directors come into play. After doing a reconnaissance of the course, it is their task to figure out the best formations, using the physiology, terrain and rider’s power output as the factors that determine this. At BMC Racing Team they have none other than ex-pro and time trial specialist Marco Pinotti on hand. A vital part of their performance team that focuses on racing against the clock, he understands better than most just how much revolves around science and how much of the success needs more than just facts and numbers. A Team Time Trial win also relies on the staff to instill confidence in the tactics, the riders themselves, their bikes and other equipment, which, in turn, lends them the mental edge.

That is exactly why the ASSOS textile technicians were on hand during the final time trial at the Tour de Suisse, to make sure that the cutting edge apparel that we’d designed for them was performing optimally, but also to show that we were there, as part of the team, to improve performance. And as the cliché goes, the proof is in the pudding: BMC Racing Team took home the wins at both the Team and Individual Time Trials at the Tour de Suisse, wearing the new Project Tokyo 2020 suit, and also another win at the much more highly contested Tour de France Team Time Trial. This decisive victory set up Greg Van Avermaet for eight days in yellow. Could one ask for more?

Another key moment in the creation of this piece of equipment is the World Time Trial Championships, and BMC Racing Team’s final team time trial. They’ve been World Champions in this discipline before and they’re certainly in with a shout for the same this year.