Thursday, February 5, 2015

Bikes And Equipment Of The 2015 Herald Sun Tour Commuter Cup Prologue

After the success of last year’s innovative Commuter Cup prologue time-trial, the Herald Sun Tour* began yesterday with a similar race through the busy peak-hour streets of Melbourne’s CBD. A prologue time-trial is always a great place to get behind the scenes with the professional teams for a sneaky look at their individual equipment choices. Riders can opt for very different strategies when it comes to posting the fastest time against the clock and the short length of the prologue course means that nosy spectators can get a good look at it all.

*With sponsorship such a key aspect of professional road cycling (thanks to the fact that it’s almost impossible to try and generate revenue through spectator admission fees), it’s important to make clear that this year’s race is actually called the Jayco Herald Sun Tour. The changes come in response to new Cycling Australia guidelines that grant road racing licenses only to organisers who can guarantee co-sponsorship by the caravan manufacturing giant at all events.

Nevertheless, some confusion still remains over the name with many cycling die-hards still referring to the race simply as the Sun Tour—after the event’s original naming rights sponsor and tabloid newspaper, The Sun. The name and sponsor remained as the race grew in popularity during the 1950s and through the 1980s, an era remembered fondly by many in the sport. It was a time when professional cycling was all about hard men spitting on each other and getting in to punch-ups. Then in 1990, with the merger of The Sun and The Herald (two of Melbourne’s most respected and credible tabloid newspapers), it became the Herald Sun Tour. Now it’s the Jayco Herald Sun Tour but let’s hope that this trend does not continue to the point where the title evolves in to one of those ridiculously difficult to remember hybrid names that seem to be littered so profusely through the European pro cycling world like “Caja Rural-Seguros RGA” or “IDRD-Bogota Humana-San Mateo-Solgar”.

So without further ado, here’s The Private Cyclist’s exclusive look at the bikes and equipment of the 2015 Jayco Herald Sun Tour Commuter Cup Prologue.

One of the big talking points in the pre-race pit area was whether or not an aerodynamic disc wheel would be beneficial on the tight, technical and rather blustery course. In the end, there was a good spread of riders opting for either a disc wheel or no disc wheel and some even made the rather unorthodox decision to instead run a disc brake.

To be fair, there were a lot of corners in the 2.1km Commuter Cup course.

The Commuter Cup is a diverse event with riders exhibiting many different preferences. While fast, this rider’s skinsuit and aero helmet (left) leaves skin around their neck exposed to harmful UV and does nothing to protect against magpies. However, a bandana and some zip ties can solve both of these problems (right). It must be said however, that in the case of the magpies, this equipment choice could only really hope to offer marginal gains in such a busy, urban, location.

This beautiful aluminium Team Issue Shogun was proudly on display, although it’s not clear exactly which team it had been issued to. However, if this is one of their riders, then they need to seriously consider hiring a new nutritionist.

Proper aerodynamic position on the bike can make a big difference to a rider’s speed on the fast sections of the course. While some opted to maximise aerodynamic benefit using a full time-trial tuck position, others were content to sit back in the rather leisurely rickshaw (or Tuc Tuc) position—letting someone else do all the hard work. 

With many popular commuter routes temporarily closed for the event, those riders looking to post a fast time would need to choose equipment that was not only aerodynamic and fast, but also versatile enough to cope with some of the more technical sections of the course. An easily portagable frame cannot be underestimated in a short race like this where only fractions of a second separate many of the top riders.

Although hailing from the rural town of Tawonga in Victoria’s alpine heartland, van der Ploeg brothers Paul and Neil are certainly no slouches when it comes to Commuter Cup racing, eventually finishing in 5th and 9th positions respectively. They both briefly held podium spots as the time-trial event played out despite their hometown having no traffic lights (and very little traffic). Obviously they both possess an uncanny knack for judging peak hour conditions.

The same could not be said for Neil’s Avanti Racing teammate Paddy Bevin, the New Zealander seen here frustratingly caught at a pedestrian crossing mid-race.

Melbourne’s iconic trams did not add to Kiwi Paddy Bevin’s tourist experience.

Forcing riders to navigate complications such as these certainly makes the racing interesting, however it can can also cause problems for out-of-towners who are not familiar with the traffic and pedestrian patterns of the local Commuter Cup. This image does make you wonder how Bevin might have fared if he’d had a better run with the lights, eventually finishing in 8th place just over two seconds behind eventual prologue winner Will Clarke of Drapac Professional Cycling.

Some riders often choose to forego the standard 53-tooth chainring in favour of a larger 54 or even 55-tooth monster for time-trial events. However, in the Commuter Cup, as has become the fashion these days, many now refuse to look past the ever-reliable single-speed fixed wheel.

“Business up front, party out the back”—the deep dish front wheel and shallow rear proves that the old adage still holds true, at least when it comes to aerodynamics.

The Commuter Cup prologue’s peak-hour timing means that the event is busy and well-attended, regardless of whether any of the spectators actually has any interest in cycling. With so many commuters in attendance, it was no surprise to find the boys from Big Hill Events out spruiking, obviously keen to add the commuter crowd the the growing list of cycling genres that their upcoming Dirty Grand Fondo race caters to. With this addition, expect some fireworks (and maybe some road rage) in the usually peaceful rural area of Wandong in May.

As the last rider headed off down the start ramp at Federation Square, along the bike path over the Yarra river and down the finishing straight at Southbank, The Private Cyclist was presented with one final chance at an exclusive scoop from inside the race. It was habitual cycling whistleblower Richard Read, one of many deployed out on course by race organisers.

If there was anybody willing to blow the lid off some new doping, corruption or personal scandal, then surely it would be this man. Unfortunately, after fact-checking all his exclusive inside information, much of it was found to be either relatively innaccurate, moderately uninteresting or just completely erroneous. However he did reliably inform The Private Cyclist that there was something significantly more calorific than just a banana and a couple of energy bars in Team Shogun’s musette feed bags at this year’s race. So at least that should give the tabloid newspapers something to write about.


  1. and your arrow should point to the more obvious small growler in the rear bottle holder, lol