Kelly Benefit Strategies is stepping things up in 2010 with new gear from Contour, Orbea, Mavic, SRAM, Lazer and others.
The biggest change is the switch to Orbea bikes. Last season the team rode Gary Fisher Cronus race bikes, which are sometimes viewed as “race utility” bikes for their taller head tubes and optional hidden fender mounts. Orbea, from the Basque country of Spain, is supplying the team with the Orca, a pure race bike, first and foremost.
At the Kelly team camp this month, team mechanic Eric Jellum said that they have no problem getting bike weight down to the UCI legal minimum. New this year, the Orca incorporates a BB30 bottom bracket and its attendant added stiffness. As is the current trend in frame design, the Orca also uses a tapered 1.5-inch lower, 1 1/8-inch upper head tube, which is said to improve front end stiffness.
The trick for any professional team is finding a bike that is stiff enough to keep the sprinters happy yet light enough to silence complaints from climbers. Within the KBS Team, the Orca seems to fit that balance. With the weight as low as the UCI legal minimum, the climbers are happy, but recent Beijing World Cup track winner, Zach Bell, is a good judge of frame stiffness.
After a several city-limit sprints, I asked Bell what he thought about the frame. His first response was that it was a good thing the chain didn’t fall off during the first two or three pedal strokes, which he said has happened in the past on lesser frames.
“When I opened up in the sprints today, it was light enough that it gets going really quick and there were no issues with the chain line or anything,” said Bell. “I think any time you can get on a frame that is race proven — the Orbea has a good pedigree — you know what they are doing is working for a lot of guys. For sprinters and their equipment it’s all about confidence — it’s either working or it’s not. To have that kind of confidence with how the frame works with the component group, it’s crucial. It takes away any hesitation.”
KBS is getting the complete package from Mavic for 2010, everything from pedals and shoes to wheels and tires. Their primary race wheels are the full-carbon Cosmic Carbone Ultimate and the Cosmic Carbone SLR wheelsets. For training they’ll be on the Mavic Ksyrium wheels, which use durable, bladed Zicral alloy spokes. For time trials riders will be using the Comete disc rear wheel and the iO five-spoke front wheel. Finally, the team is using the Mavic Race SL Ti pedals to go with their yellow Mavic road shoes.
Returning sponsor Contour builds electronic stimulation devices. They’re typically marketed to the masses as machines that will tone flabby abs and arms without stepping foot into a gym. But the Contour Sport is more than just an ab toner – it’s equipped with programs that are designed specifically to speed the recovery of tired muscles.
Time trial wizard and avid user of the Contour Sport Scott Zwizanski says he used the recovery program after almost every race last year.
“The one thing we have tried it for is the active recovery program,” said Zwizanksi. “Last year I used it exclusively for recovery. I pretty much used it about every race day — the evening after each race. I think my teammates might use it more now that they know how much I was using it. It’s especially useful on the days you can’t get massage. Some of my teammates have used it on airplanes to prevent that bloated leg feeling.”
The Contour Sport requires just four AAA batteries, which means the Kelly Benefit Strategies riders can use it wherever and whenever without the need of an electrical socket.
Last year Lazer sponsored the BMC team, but now Kelly Benefit Strategies is the only pro road team in the U.S. riding with the Belgium-based helmet sponsor. The team is currently using the Genesis helmet, which is unchanged from last year, but Lazer is getting ready to release their new Helium model in June.
Lazer owner Sean Van Waes said it’s hard to improve the 280-gram Genesis, but the Helium is expected to be about 20 percent lighter. The Helium has silky-soft chin straps and carbon fiber layering similar to the Giro Ionos. Much of the anticipated weight savings is attributed to two varying layers of padding density.