Galveston Gear: Digging Deeper

 Apr 4, 2012 article & images by Nick Salazar

Lance Armstrong riding in Galveston

I'll admit that I'm very excited to see Lance Armstrong competing as a pro triathlete. Whether you're a Lance fan or not, his presence is like a shot in the arm to the sport. More people are paying attention to the sport, and that's good all around. While I was in Galveston, it was easy to find people who knew Lance was doing a tri there, and were genuinely interested in it, but these same people wouldn't know the difference between an aerobar and a seat post.

Of course, gear is what TriRig is all about. I obsess over it. And so I'm very interested in what all the athletes are doing with their rigs, especially Lance, who is paradoxically a newbie and a veteran at the same time. I decided to dip into my image archive from the race, and enlarge some of the details that many athletes are curious about - how are the riders hydrating? How are they taking nutrition? What particular gear quirks are showing up these days? This piece will present a small look at those topics, at least as they were represented at the Lonestar 70.3 in Galveston last weekend.

Lance's Setup

Lance's only hydration was kept in teo frame-mounted bottles. Maybe he should try out an aerobar-mounted solution, which encourages more frequent drinking.

Up first, we'll be looking at a few details of Lance Armstrong's rig. We saw a replica of his bike earlier in the week, so this will focus on his race-day setup, and how he's fueling, etc. The TdF legend is known for his obsession with having the finest gear available, and he continues to ride some of the best equipment in the triathlon world.

Starting at the front end, we see Lance using a single-bend carbon extension with a roughly 30-degrees of rise. Lance has all his race nutrition stored here - a couple of gels taped to the extensions, and a small flask with what is probably a concentrated fluid mix that's velcroed onto his stem cover. Chris Lieto keeps an identical flask on his Speed Concept, and perhaps Lance took the cue from him on this one.

However, what's interesting is that Lance doesn't run a BTA bottle. He just had two standard bottle cages on the down tube and seat tube, and used them both for water only. That's funny, because Lance complained that he had hydration problems during the race. He didn't elaborate on that, but I speculate that one problem might be that he wasn't drinking frequently enough, and that's precisely one of the benefits that a BTA setup offers. Maybe if he set up something like a Speedfil A2 or a Torhans Aero20 he'd find some improvement. There are very few pros who aren't running some kind of aerobar-mounted hydration, and with good reason.

Oh yeah, and one more thing - you know the checkerboard pattern we noticed on his racing suit? It's actually black and white versions of the same flag icon that's on his disc wheel. Pretty slick.


Tim O'Donnell's front end setup.

Of course, Lance wasn't the only one racing in Texas. There were a few others out there at the time. Maybe you've heard of a guy named Tim O'Donnell? He's pretty good. And in fact, Tim has been at the pro tri game a little longer than Lance. So maybe we should take a look at his setup too.

Tim keeps things relatively simple: he has a couple gels taped to his top tube, a BTA bottle up front, and a reserve bottle on the down tube. For a small aero improvement, he could stick that down tube bottle behind the saddle, Lieto-style, but maybe he prefers the DT location for ergonomic reasons, or perhaps he's had bad experience with bottle launches.

Also of note is the Profile Design aerobar Tim is using on the Argon 18. Officially, you're not supposed to use anything on that bike except its integrated bar. But the stem clamp is round, so the only question is whether the clamping diameter is correct, or whether custom shims are necessary to make everything fit. In any event, Tim's bike seems to be holding up just fine.

TJ's Toys

Tollakson's newly-refined aerobar setup.

Finally, we've hit the deep end. TJ Tollakson is known as a tinkerer. He's always doing something radical that draws attention, and his aerobar setup is this year's marquis example. It's the same general setup he's been riding for over a year, with the mantis-like high arms position. But where he used to have shin guards and jock cups to support his elbows, he now has a custom-molded one-piece solution that is much more elegant, and looks very comfortable as well. Perhaps the Iowa native has plans to sell them at some point in the future, and although I'm not planning to adopt his high-arms position any time soon, I can definitely appreciate the entrepreneurial spirit.

There are more photos and info in the gallery below. Thanks for reading!

  • Up first, we'll be looking at a few details of Lance Armstrong's rig.
  • Before we get going on the bike, how cool is this?  Lance's racing suit is custom-printed with a tiny checkerboard of black and white versions of his flag icon. That same icon appears on his disc wheel.
  • Lance's front end has a single-bend extension with 30-degrees of rise, a couple gels taped to the bars, and a flask for concentrated liquid nutrition.  No BTA bottle though.  Personally, we recommend all athletes use a BTA bottle - they're simple, convenient, and a great way to remind you to hydrate.  Funny enough, Lance complained that his hydration was insufficient at the Lonestar 70.3 - maybe he needs to get a BTA bottle going!
  • Lance rode a custom-painted Giro Selector helmet and Oakley Radar XL shades.
  • In this shot, you can see the telltale spoke pattern of Lance's Carbonsports Lightweight disc.
  • Stephane Poulat was still on his P4, despite being one of the few athletes at Cervelo's launch to be shown riding a P5.  Here he's riding the old, discontinued Easton Attack TT bar (one of my favorite bars).  It's tough to see, but he has a standard bottle and cage tucked neatly between his arms, and uses the P4's integrated bottle for extra fluid.  Nice choice!
  • Here's a full shot of Poulat's setup.  Not too shabby.
  • Of course, it would be wrong not to feature the setup of race winner and All-American Hero Tim O'Donnell.  Tim has two bottles - one on the downtube, and a BTA bottle up front.  Personally, I think he should move the downtube bottle, maybe put it behind the saddle, Lieto-style.
  • Now this is quite interesting. Tim's E-118 has an integrated aerobar setup, but he's running a standard aerobar in there instead.  Argon's official word is that you aren't supposed to use anything but the integrated bar, but I don't know if they had to make Tim some custom hardware, or if the E-118's existing hardware will actually work, and Argon's prohibition is merely precatory.  Overall, the E-118 is a decent machine, but I really dislike the nasty loop of exposed cable on the integrated brake, and wish manufacturers would steer clear of doing that, especially on integrated components where it can't be changed.
  • Scott had a couple athletes riding its new Split helmet, including Sebastian Kienle, who rode it to the fastest bike split in the Split. Marino Vanhoenacker rode the Split as well, but took off the integrated visor so he could wear his Oakleys.  Visors are unequivocally the better option, as they provide unfettered visibility and won't slide down your nose no matter how sweaty you get.  Many athletes will continue to wear shades, however, especially when sponsorship dollars are involved.
  • The always-interesting TJ Tollakson seems to be refining his aerobar setup.  His elbow supports, which used to be a combination of a jock cup and soccer shin guards, now appear to be a single-piece of custom-molded carbon fiber.  They're bolted onto some standard P-clamps made by Profile Design. Given the size of these things, I'll bet they're very comfortable to ride in.
  • TJ also looks to be using a custom BTA bottle.  The thing appears to be refillable, and has a straw.  It probably functions similarly to the Speedfil A2, although I think its refill mechanism is a little more rudimentary (pop lid off, fill bottle, replace lid).

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