You have to give points to Team Columbia High Road. The squad weren’t actually staying on Venice’s main island, but to make it that little bit easier (and dare I say it, “more budget friendly”) to all of those who have come to write about and take pictures of them, they made the trip to meet the press and not the other way around.
While the unveiling of the new super-duper Scott TT prototype was a big part of the presentation, getting the chance to chat with the several of the riders expected to make big headlines in this Centenary Giro was the main drawcard of the event.
But, thanks to the super efficiency of one of the several hundred different brands of police force that operate here in Italy, the riders were delayed. It seems they had committed the heinous crime of putting 12 people on a mini-bus made for 11 and the cops wouldn’t let them get off.
The hotel where the presentation was taking place was just off Piazza San Marco and has its own fantastic landing stage, opening onto the Grand Canal. After a gaze at the passing water traffic, a quick trip to the buffet for some fruit (more points to the Team for that!) and a meet and greet with some fellow scribes, we were ushered back into the room. The police drama had been resolved and the riders had arrived.
As part of the introduction of the squad, Team Columbia High Road owner, Bob Stapleton addressed the group and put forward his opinion on the race as well as which team he thought might be a real favourite for tomorrow (can you guess?).
“It’s the 100th anniversary of this race and we have brought along a great line up of riders to honour the Giro d’Italia. On our Giro team we have three national time trial champions and we had 15 time trial wins last year. We have some ambitions for tomorrow.”
Then came the riders. Rather than the overblown fanfare of some team presentations where a speaker gives a full rundown of every win and result on a rider’s palmares, Stapleton introduced his crew with a simple, yet genuine couple of comments. He showed a real enthusiasm for his crew, just like (dare I say it) a proud uncle. He really believes in these guys and it’s clear in the way he talks about them.
After each member of the nine man squad was brought out, they headed back into the other room while the other guest of honour, the new Scott time trial bike was presented to the press.
Taking not-quite-centre stage throughout the proceedings was the new machine, propped up on top of a table and draped in a black cloth.
The bike is different to those being run by other teams in that its design was completely dictated by its performance in the wind tunnel. Using a process common in Formula 1, the parts for the development prototype are made in resin which means there can be an exceedingly short turn around for each and every change in design before it goes back to the wind tunnel.
As part of the development process Scott performed 300 wind tunnel tests and had nearly as many different interchangeable parts to trial along the way. Don’t think of their wind tunnel test “machine” as being a frame and a set of components, think of it as small parts (like a top section of a left-hand front fork-blade etc) that can be swapped or changed or paired with a different part to achieve a better result with airflow. Like making a bike you like out of Lego and then when you are happy with the design, saying “now make this”.
Note the control deck featuring Shimano electronic shifters on both the bar ends and the brake levers.
The result is a pretty impressive piece of machinery. Thanks to the partnership with PRO bike components and Shimano, who were involved with every step of production, the bike is a totally integrated machine that Scott say is “the most aerodynamic time trial bike ever seen”.
From the tip of the stem to the seat post there is a dead straight line that is not broken by cables. Thanks to IMP technology, the design team have been able to control the inside of the tube shape which has allowed them not only to incorporate the cabling inside the frame, but also to include the rear brake as part of the bottom bracket shell.
Scott only have two of their prototype bikes at the Giro and three times world time trial champion Mick Rogers will be on one and fellow Aussie Mark Renshaw will be on the other.
“We’ve got some time trial training on it this afternoon, and the position will be exactly the same as my regular time trial position, so it should be ok and I’m looking forward to it,” Renshaw said.
Renshaw’s main job at the Giro, however, will be to get the “other Mark” Mr. Cavendish, into position for the sprints.
“It’ll be a really good opportunity to work together with Mark ahead of the Tour de France. We’ve already done that, I think we’ve had four or five victories together; this just gives us a chance to work at a higher level. I think we’ll be targeting the second and third stages and then a few days later there’s another chance for the sprinters.”
The Team High Road presentation was a little bit like a mini version of what I expect this Giro to be. Mark Cavendish was at the centre of the press scrum (although in due deference to my colleaugues, it was a very polite scrum), while on the other side of the room there were more than a few riders hanging about waiting for someone to ask them a question.
Eroica winner, Thomas Lцvkvist is one of the men to watch in this year’s race. He has a job to do looking after the team’s GC interests, but don’t be surprised to see him on the hunt for his own stage win along the way.
“For my own ambitions I’ll support both the GC riders and Cavendish in the sprints, but I’d like to win a stage myself. I had a look yesterday in the race book and there’s a few that I think will suit me, but I don’t recall exactly the number.”
Or, maybe he does and doesn’t want to be specifically marked on a day he has chosen to be up for the win.
The team’s two directors for the Giro are Rolf Aldag and Allan Peiper. Speaking to PEZ over the buffet after the presentation, Peiper said that the time trial tomorrow will be a difficult one.
“The course has an out and back section where you only have half the road each way, divided by witches hats (that’s what us Aussies call traffic cones, by the way). With the wind likely to be strong, there isn’t enough room for the guys to ride in a full fan across the road if it is blowing from the side. It’s going to be a drag race, but a technical one.”
So with the some of the riders spoken to and the new bike seen to, all that was left to do was grab our free goodies bag (Team Columbia, more points!) and head off in search of lunch.
Look out for the new Team Columbia High Road jersey too, on the start line tomorrow. The Special Giro Strip sports Magila Rosa pink strips on the front and back as well as the Tricolore with a pink background on each of the sleeves.
With the new bike, the team they have chosen and the new jersey, I think it’s pretty clear that this is one squad who are ready and waiting for the Centenary Giro to get underway