LORIENT, France (VN) — When the rain comes down it makes life a little bit rougher for everyone at the Tour de France. Some racers revel in the foul elements, but they are a minority.
Tire pressures and chain lube by team
Chain lube: Morgan Blue oil and grease
Tire pressure: 109/116 psi (front/rear) on Aeolus 5.0/24mm Challenge
116/123 psi (front/rear) on XXXLite /22mm Challenge
130.5 psi (front and rear) for Brajkovic
Chain lube: Agip oil and grease
Tire pressure: 130.5 psi (front and rear) 22mm Continental Competition
Chain lube: Morgan Blue oil and Aquaproof Pasta (paste)
Tire pressure: 101.5/109 psi (front/rear) Vredestein Fortezza TriComp 23mm
116 psi for bigger guys
Chain lube: experimental natural-based oil
Tire pressure: 116 psi (front and rear) 23mm VeloFlex, normally run 130.5 psi in the dry
Chain lube: FinishLine Teflon spray and grease
Tire pressure: 116 psi max (front and rear) on Specialized 23mm, normally run 123-130.5 psi
Chain lube: Morgan blue oil and grease
Tire pressures: 109 psi (front and rear) 25mm Continental Competition
Chain lube: Motip oil (more than usual applied for wet conditions)
Tire pressure: 109/116 psi (front/rear) 23mm Vittoria Evo Corsa CX
Chain lube: Morgan Blue oil
Tire pressure: 116 psi (front and rear) on 23mm Vittoria Evo Corsa CX, normally 123 psi
For mechanics, the two biggest questions on wet days are tire pressure and chain lube. Stage 4 was not super long at 172.5 kilometers, but with a driving rain at the start and a nervous peloton, many riders were obsessing over equipment choices Tuesday morning.
The pressure’s on
RadioShack rolls on Challenge Forté 24mm tubulars to match the wide rim of Bontrager’s new version of the Aeolus 5.0. On Bontrager’s XXX Lite climbing wheel, which has a narrower rim, the team glues up 22mm tires. Tire width affects the mechanics’ pressure decisions. The wider the tire, the lower the pressure.
HTC-Highroad also uses wide tires, 25mm Continental Competitions on their HED rims. Perry Moarman, HTC team mechanic, said that normally the team will inflate to 8.0 bar (116 psi). Tuesday they dropped the pressure to 7.5 (109psi) and even less for a couple riders.
A well-oiled machine
Different teams have different takes on appropriate wet-weather chain lube. Astana’s Chris Van Roosbroeck uses FinishLine Teflon spray and then applies a layer of grease over that for all occasions. On the very hottest of days, he’ll switch to Teflon spray then a heavy oil.
Team Sky experimented on stage 4 with a new natural oil-based chain lube from Morgan Blue. Rajen Murugayen said that he and other Team Sky mechanics aren’t big fans of greasing chains. In the past they simply used a heavy wet-conditions oil. Tuesday’s test will see if Morgan Blue has a winning solution for wet conditions.
Thomas Voeckler, for one, swapped to his spare bike with aluminum rims just before the start. Jose Joaquin Rojas, stage 3′s third place finisher and animator in stage 4′s breakaway, also opted for the superior braking of aluminum wheels. Others like a shallower rim on wet days so they don’t have to fight with crosswinds as much on wet roads.
Small things can make a big difference on a wet day. Making sure you can see is a good start. Team Sky had a visit before the start from Oakley’s Steve Blick. He was there to apply Oakley’s Hydrophobic solution to their lenses.
The hardest part of a day raced in the wet for team staff is after the race. Soigneurs have their hands full trying to get kits caked in road grime clean and dry for the next day’s stage.
Bike washes take a little longer after a wet day, especially if the rain comes and goes. If the weather dries out, all the dirt from the earlier rain has a chance to dry and cake up on the bike. For mechanics it’s actually a bit easier if it rains all day.
Brake pads and tires take a beating on wet days. So they’ll be thoroughly inspected after a day like stage 4. But that’s all part of the job. And at the Tour, the world’s biggest bike race, motivation is always high. So surviving a few days in the rain is nothing too difficult.
What's that for?
It may look like Vaseline and the consistency is similar, but it's Morgan Blue AquaProof Paste. Vacansoleil mechanic Klas Johansson said he applies it over a layer of oil on wet days.
Yes, pros use 28-tooth cassettes too.
But for different reasons. Roman Feillu likes an 11-28 cassette on most days, but because he can stay in the big chainring longer on short climbs.
Feillu sticks with the older Noah
After an impressive second place on stage three, Roman Feillu is ready to keep attacking the sprints at the Tour, even in the rain.
Radioshack on fat tires
To match the wide profile of Bontrager's newest Aeolus 5.0, Radioshack mechanics glue up 24mm Challenge FortÃ© tubulars. This is more aerodynamic but also lets them run lower tire pressures.
No that's not water-resistant spaghetti. Morgan Blue makes a special grease for wet weather called AquaProof Pasta (paste) that Vacansoleil had on their chains at the start of stage 4.
White for now
Radioshack mechanics had a thick layer of white lithium grease over oil on their chains. It's white now, but it'll be black with grime later. As long as it keeps the oil inside the chain rollers though, it doesn't matter what color it is.
Glob it on!
HTC-Highroad mechanics applied a thick layer of Morgan Blue grease over oil on their bikes. Morgan Blue is a Belgian company that sponsors most of the pro peloton.
The Gorilla is ready
AndrÃ© Greipel looked happy about the wet conditions. He stuck with a vest while many others had on heavy long-sleeve rain jackets.
Does this stuff work in the rain?
Francisco Ventoso looks down at his Campagnolo Tech Lab electric group as he rolls through a puddle before the start. He has an 80mm rear wheel on, so that's some deep standing water!
Where did my rim go?
Jonathan Hivert heads to the soggy start on stage 4.
A wet start
Many Team Sky riders went with Shimano wheels for the wet day. It could be that they prefer the braking performance of the Shimano rims in the wet over the unbranded HED rims they often use in the dry.
No grease for Team Sky
Team mechanic Rajen Murugayen said that they were using a new natural-based oil from Morgan Blue. It was an experiment that he was eager to see play out.
There are plenty of lube brands used in Europe that aren't imported to the U.S. Motip sponsors Rabobank and the mechanics like their heavy oil for wet days. No need for grease on top.