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High Tech Tour de France 221

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the still-waiting-for-cybernetic-implants dept.
jefu writes "As you may know, the 2006 Tour de France finished yesterday with an American, Floyd Landis, the overall winner. This years Tour had a very nice live website, including frequent news postings and a flash interface that showed the gaps between the lead riders updated every couple of minutes. The site was taking up to 35,000 hits per minute. There is lots of technology involved in this race, including carbon fiber bikes, serious aerodynamic studies to improve the bikes, the helmets and even the riders. There are also bike transponders, GPS trackers , fancy radio systems to connect the riders to the team cars, online database access to race statistics, and probably lots more."
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High Tech Tour de France

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  • Oh.. nice.. (Score:3, Funny)

    by joshier (957448) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @02:29AM (#15774419)
    Yeah, brilliant.. Tell us now!.. you know, when it's over.
    • > AMD went to work right away to support our common goal - winning the Tour de France.

      I'm glad that worked out so well for Team Discovery, especially without Amstrong.
  • by walnutmon (988223) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @02:33AM (#15774433)
    I got this from their online log...

    17:28 - Hushovd Crashes! Hushovd has crashed in the finale. He is bleeding profusely from the right elbow and appears to be in a terrible state...
    17:32 - No Crash For Hushovd Hushovd did not crash as reported earlier but he did sustain an injury in the final straight when his right elbow was caught on something held over the barriers by a spectator.

    Umm... Oops?
    • by McWilde (643703) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @02:46AM (#15774473) Homepage
      This was one of the first days of the Tour, I think. It ended, as the first week's stages usually do, in a mass sprint. The sprinters ride upwards of 60 km/h at the finish. His arm actually caught on an oversized, cardboard hand that one of the sponsors distributed. That was one nasty paper cut.
      Hushovd did recover though; he won the final stage in Paris.
    • For one thing, look at the times. That is news created live in an extremely chaotic situation. That's how it goes, mistakes happen.

      For another, he was bleeding profusely after being hit by a bit of merchandise held by a stupid spectator while cycling 60+ km/h, he was in a terrible state (needed lots of stitches), but he did not actually crash, he managed to stay on his bike. It's easy to see how that little confusion happened.

    • by Jerk City Troll (661616) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @06:43AM (#15775081) Homepage

      I love Le Tour, but the spectators are fucking retards. I remember watching a video (cannot find it now) where Lance was coming through the home stretch and the crowd was parting as he approached, not more than a meter in front of him. (Then getting in the way of other riders, causing them to have to slow or swerve.) Imagine biking as fast as you can through a dense crowd of dense people, just hoping that nobody trips or does something else stupid. And for those not in the know, brakes on road bikes are not what you expect. Almost exactly the opposite of mountain bike brakes, they are not intended to stop you, just trim your speed. If you face an obstacle your only real option is to go around it. Also, you never just stop flat-out in a pack unless you want to become a third wheel for the guys behind you.

      • And what's with all the naked guys along the course? WTF... I don't want to see that.
      • It is true that the spectators have caused their share of crashes. The crowds on the slopes of the mountain stages are just ridiculous. In towns, they are usually kept behind barriers. Hushvod got cut jockeying for position in a mass sprint in a town.

        But you are wrong about the brakes. At anything like reasonable speeds, say below 40mph I can lock up the tires just fine in my 2004 Raleigh Grand Prix road bike with a good, hard squeeze. I'd skid out of control and take about half the life out of my $30

        • But you are wrong about the brakes. At anything like reasonable speeds, say below 40mph I can lock up the tires just fine in my 2004 Raleigh Grand Prix road bike with a good, hard squeeze. I'd skid out of control and take about half the life out of my $30 tires if I did so though. But stopping in an emergency is not a problem.

          I'd guess that he's probably right.

          If I'm right, your bike has rims branded as "Equation" that are made from alloy.

          A good number of the competitors in the Tour are using carbon

      • I take a little issue with some of the things you're saying (but not much.)
        There have always been massive, massive crowds showing up at the Tour. When the US Postal Office was trying to decide whether to sponsor a team, their research indicated more people go to a single day of the Tour than the total number of people who watch one or more NFL games (or AFL games, but not quite enough to say "more than watch football".) So it's pretty crowded. And for some reason, that whole filling-the-course behavior s
      • "Lance was coming through the home stretch and the crowd was parting as he approached, not more than a meter in front of him."

        The crowds on the mountains have always done that, since long before Lance knew how to ride a bicycle. As with most things in cycling, enthusiastic spectators are not a Lance creation. If you think that is crazy, you should see crowds do the exact same thing at rally races - that's with cars, not bicycles.

        When the tv video is shot from behind a rider from a motorcycle, the foreshorte
      • Wow, so a lot of replies and a whole lot of condescending with a dash of missing the point. Before I start, I apologize for being so acidic. First, I am not claiming that Lance somehow started or caused the crowd congestion at the race. I just stated I saw a video, with him, riding through a dense crowd to exemplify the situation. Second, at the risk of committing an argumentive fallacy [wikipedia.org], I will say that I race, I am sponsored, I ride a really expensive bike in a pack of expensive bikes on a daily basis.

  • by Don_dumb (927108) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @02:37AM (#15774451)
    There were some excellent advances in biochemistry and pharmaceutics if I remember correctly . . . http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/other_sports/cycli ng/5138306.stm [bbc.co.uk].
    • Yeah, that's why I ignored this year's Tour de France. It took some effort, since I check eurosport.com every day, but I was strong:) It is a pity, that doping is so deeply involved in the sport. And the coincidences, when all the doping scandals take place just before the race, during the race, or just after the race, strongly hints (at least for me) of a set up. And that means that everybody is doping, just that some unfortunate ones are told upon. Couple that with Leblanc's relentless hunt (dislike) of A
      • There was a tell all book written in the late 1980's by a more or less unknown pro rider about his use of performance enhancing drugs. (I cannot remember the riders name)

        The author went out of his way to not accuse Greg LeMond, Andy Hampsten, and Steve Bauer. That was his list of riders that he would not accuse of using.

        LeMond went out of his way to not associate with doctors that provided performance enhancing chemicals. That cannot be said for Armstrong. I suspect a lot of the anti-Armstrong sentiment is
  • by jkrise (535370) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @02:39AM (#15774457) Journal
    the 2006 Tour de France finished yesterday with an American , Floyd Landis, the overall winner

    I wonder how Americans always keep winning in France.. these last few years. To hell with all this fancy schmancy technology carbon fiber bikes, serious aerodynamic studies to improve the bikes, the helmets ... blah blah

    As Alistair McLean figured out with Vyland and Royale... Fear is the Key. Americans are plain scared in France, methinks!
    • (to the Weird Al's tune or Manson's one, whatever)

      We are stars now!
      In the dope show!
      We are stars now!
      In the dope show!
    • I wonder how Americans always keep winning in France..

      Zank you very much for helping with that icky nazi affair, m'sieur.

    • When I was a teenager I was (and still is) a Greg LeMond Fan. He was extremely popular (Landis seems to have the same profile).
      I even supported him when he won the tour against Fignon (French).
      See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greg_LeMond [wikipedia.org]

      Armstrong was quite different. He looked extremely arrogant in the interviews. Rumors say that he is a completly different person in private.

      My all time favorites are:
      - Merckx (Belgian)
      - LeMond (American)
      - Hinault (French)
  • by oostevo (736441) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @02:46AM (#15774477) Homepage
    I'm sure the coaches are loving all of this stuff.

    In the beginning, you just had the riders out on their own wits to guide them, then they got radios and the coaches got to keep them updated, then the coaches got live TV feeds in their cars to keep themselves updated, and now apparently "it is now possible to track the position and speed of each rider in the Tour de France in real-time thanks to the EGNOS European satellite positioning system."

    Being a coach sure got easier if they've got realtime tracking of all the other riders.

    • Having much more information may make it easier, but surely must make it more stressful!!

      Before you had to decide of one strategy, and let your guys fulfill it. Now you potentialy have to reevaluate your strategy each time you get new information.
  • Also mechanical tech (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Max Romantschuk (132276) <max@romantschuk.fi> on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @02:58AM (#15774509) Homepage
    One of the more intreresting aids I've seen some riders use are PowerCranks: http://www.powercranks.com/ [powercranks.com]

    From the site: (http://www.powercranks.com/about/concept.htm)

    PowerCranks(TM) integrates a one-way clutch in each crank-arm of your bicycle or stationary bike. This patented modification changes the cranks from being fixed to each other at 180 (as are regular cranks), to being independent from one another. Each leg can drive the bicycle but one leg cannot assist the other. Effectively, with PowerCranks(TM) the rider is doing one-legged pedaling with both legs simultaneously.


    So basically, they force riders to use all leg muscles and keep them from lifting one leg with the other, wasting energy. Simple, but very effective. It's a nice concept, and I'd love to get a pair even for my commute, but being a niche product they are rather expensive...
    • All the talk of innovation in bicycle design and yet they ban the use of recumbents [recumbentcyclistnews.com]. As I understand it, recumbents (or recumbants?) reduce the drag so massively decreasing the effort required to cycle (once you get the hang of balancing the contraption).

      Why are there no recumb[ea]nt races eh?

      • Actually, the "ban" on recumberents is more an issue of the nature of the sport. Basically they feel that a recumberent is not a bicycle in the traditional sense. But the wind resistance advantage is more or less nullified by the increased effort in climbing hills with recumberents. On a normal bike you can use your body weight to climb more efficiently, not so with a recumberent.

        I guess there are few (there are some) races because there are rather few riders as well.
        • by MichaelSmith (789609) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @04:15AM (#15774714) Homepage Journal
          On a normal bike you can use your body weight to climb more efficiently, not so with a recumberent.

          Recumbents are better aerodynamically, but worse mechanically. The torque from pedals to back wheel has to be transmitted over a longer distance and the frame has to be correspondingly heavier. The longer frame makes fighting gravity harder and adds to frame mass.

          Also I can imagine (but not prove) that the horizontal riding position makes it harder to make a good pedalling stroke with even torque around the stroke. The nose down and forward position is better for situational awareness. The recumbent position is better for looking at clouds (as in a sailplane).

          • "The nose down and forward position is better for situational awareness"

            Huh? Have you ever ridden a recumbent? Situational awareness is far better - you're not staring at your front wheel all the time. I can't count the number of times I've almost been mowed down by some roadie in an aero crouch who can't see more than five feet ahead of his wheel.

            As to your other points - true about the recumbent being worse mechanically. Long frames and long chainlines decrease efficiency slightly. However, there are a fe
            • Huh? Have you ever ridden a recumbent? Situational awareness is far better - you're not staring at your front wheel all the time. I can't count the number of times I've almost been mowed down by some roadie in an aero crouch who can't see more than five feet ahead of his wheel.

              Well, it's hard to see why recumbants haven't taken off...

              Seriously, how do you see around parked cars at a junction, or cars coming up behind either side of you on one of those things?

              • "Seriously, how do you see around parked cars at a junction, or cars coming up behind either side of you on one of those things?"

                How do you see around them when you're driving a car? I'm sitting at the same height on my recumbent as I am in my Honda. You just have to be a little more alert and cautious in those circumstances.
      • Why are there no recumb[ea]nt races eh?

        Get thee to IHPVA [ihpva.org].
    • While these look interesting I don't think I'd use them. Cycling is already rather efficent pedeling-wise in that we are clipped into the pedals and can give force with each part of the stroke. The downstroke is obvious, but being clipped in we can pull up against the shoe as well.
    • So basically, they force riders to use all leg muscles and keep them from lifting one leg with the other, wasting energy. Simple, but very effective. It's a nice concept, and I'd love to get a pair even for my commute, but being a niche product they are rather expensive...

      I'll be getting a set for _training_ but a differnet concept - rotor cranks [rotorcranksusa.com] - for racing (maybe). Nobody races with powercranks on.

      If you want the benefit on the cheap, just snap out of your pedal and do one-leggeds. They are VERY HARD a

    • Nobody rides the tour with PowerCranks -- a few have tried them during training to get variety. It's probably less useful than climbing 150,000+ feet a month with a CycleOps PowerTap for recording and monitoring output, which is what Floyd really does.

      -dB

    • So basically, they force riders to use all leg muscles and keep them from lifting one leg with the other, wasting energy. Simple, but very effective. It's a nice concept, and I'd love to get a pair even for my commute, but being a niche product they are rather expensive...

      You sir, have won my Karma for the day. This is EXACTLY the kind of tool needed to train riders in how to properly "pull up" on their pedaling strokes. I'm always finding myself explaining why the "piston" (down, down, down, down) acti

  • by walnutmon (988223) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @03:09AM (#15774532)
    I just want to know why people care so much about performance enhancing drugs. I would rather see a bunch of juiced up frenchmen flying at 200 MPH on a bike, crashing at the end and exploding, taking out 1500 spectators. Seriously, I watch sports for entertainment, period.
    • I know you were joking, but here's the reason that performance enhancing drugs are banned.

      When you add drugs into the equation then suddenly everyone needs them even to be competitive. Then, athletics becomes a race to see who's willing to shorten their life the most and shrink their testicles the most. That's not athleticism, it's a mass suicide.
      • it was partially true but it's not.

        Performance enhancing drugs have a long history in all kinds of sport. Cycling's history of abuse is at least as old as the sport.

        As much as sport organizations may not legitimately want the drugs in their sport, they start by making sure no one kills themselves with abuse first.

        Some years ago 20yr old semi-pro cyclists were dying of heart attacks because of too much EPO and probably a few other things... The UCI's solution was to set a red blood cell count limit. Now
  • by njh (24312) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @03:10AM (#15774540) Homepage
    There is lots of technology involved in this race, including carbon fiber bikes, serious aerodynamic studies to improve the bikes, the helmets and even the riders.

    I'm sorry Max, but we're going to take your arm off to reduce turbulence...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @03:18AM (#15774564)
    Actually the technology use on this race is still impressive.

    Example of 2005 configuration :

            * 300 peoples : journalist, cameramen, sound, directors, arangers, production teams, etc.
            * 2 Wescam helicopters : Images from the sky (landscape, monuments and peloton from the top / cool for sprints). The wescam ball is a robotized camera controled from the helicopter used since the 90s in the Tour.
            * 5 image motorbike : Inside the race, following the various groups, or team directors. They provide most of the race images.
            * 10 ground cameras : For TV show and Finish zooms.
            * 2 motos son : sound motorbike, 2 journalist are pushing live interviews of directors or live repports of race events (very usedfull in montains where lots of things can happen at the same time)
            * 2 relay planes + 2 relay helicopters : This is the hidden part of iceberg, since the 90, all the camera (wescam equiped helicopter and image motorbikes) are sending their image streams to those relays. The relays will then ensure all the streams will be received by the technical centre on the Finish city. This was the 90s revolution.

    Next year, after RollandGarros in 1080p FranceTelevision (the TV group having the license on the tour) has said they will go for HD Tour :)
    (This will put lot of pressure on the relay IMHO)

    But even with the onflight stream complex solution, sill problems about camera discontinous stream happen (for instance in tunnels or behind bridges) ... simple problem, but still complex solutions ! Let's hope a solution will be found .... one day ;-)

    My best congratulation to Floyd Landis, he was very very impresive and has the "panache" that the road spectators are looking for : bring surprise, passion and never give up !

    See ya next year Floyd ;-)

    (PS : spectators have never like "uber-champions" that win everything, simply because there is no surprise ... they always win and control the race from the 1sec to the last one. No passion = less interrest for viewers).
    • (PS : spectators have never like "uber-champions" that win everything, simply because there is no surprise ... they always win and control the race from the 1sec to the last one. No passion = less interrest for viewers).

      Domestic to the States, OLN viewership was down 52%. In Germany, after Ullrich got das boot (har har), ratings were down 43%. Even in France there were 23% fewer people watching on TV. (Source: http://www.pezcyclingnews.com/?pg=fullstory&id=421 4 [pezcyclingnews.com])

      Personally, I'm psyched that it was wi
  • The company that makes the bike transponders has a near-monopoly in radio control car timing systems. I wanted to write a free/open source timing software to manage our club races but the company requires developers to sign a non-disclosure agreement if they want to know the interface specs. Oh, and hello slashdot! (first post)
  • With all this technology maybe next time we can sponsor an overweight Slashdoter slob to race?

    With all these gadgets he may just finish!
  • Google Earth (Score:2, Interesting)

    by thelamecamel (561865)
    They also had maps of all the stages, with all the checkpoints, sprints, etc, available through Google Earth. You'd download the file, and suddenly a bunch of blue lines would appear on the pictures of France. As usual, you could then tilt the view, and the contours of the mountains would appear, i.e. mountains would rise either side of the blue line that people would be cycling down. You can then almost pretend you're flying down the valley along the course! Very nifty.
  • You can find the high tech version here [motogp.com], it's much more interesting.
  • by Digital_Quartz (75366) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @07:00AM (#15775133) Homepage
    I'm sorry, but Tour-de-France is the anti-technology race. Wired had a photo gallery listing many technologies that are banned from the tour:

    http://blog.wired.com/tourtechnology/ [wired.com]

    Any bicycle which is too light, or which has excessively good aerodynamics is outright banned. There is very little exciting aerodynamics research going on for Tour-de-France. Recumbents were banned by the Union Cycliste International way back in the 30s because they were way too fast. Every bicycle speed record currently held was taken with a recumbent.

    UCI basically felt that racing should be a test of the rider rather that of the technology, and so made the diamond frame the "standard". Since everyone else saw people winning races on diamond frame bikes, these bicycles were much more popular than many other technologically superior bikes, which is pretty much why recumbents are hard to find and overly expensive today.

    Even this nearly traditional looking Softride pivotless suspension bike (http://www.bronesbikeshop.com/Softride.jpg) was banned because it "could have an aerodynamic advantage".
    • Formula 1's rules include several things at least as anti-technology as the UCI weight limit and recumbent ban (that Wired article is a lot of repetition, but a good advert for Cannondale, Giant et al). But people don't insist that the cars they buy retail have open wheels, even though that's a massive aero penalty and an artifical rule. More interesting in cycling are some of the silly minor rules, such as the tri-bar angle squabble that caught Landis out on the first c-l-m this year.

      ian

    • by thesandbender (911391) on Tuesday July 25, 2006 @08:26AM (#15775523)
      There are several reasons for the technical limitations:

      1. Safety reasons... it just recently became possible to build a _safe_ bike under UCI weight limits. Prior to that people were using bikes of questionable structural integrity and even drilling holes in important components to shave weight (e.g. stems, cranks, etc.) Very, very nasty wrecks ensue when your bike fails on you.

      2. To level the playing field a bit. There are mega teams like Discovery, T-Mobile, etc. that can afford to throw money at a problem. There are smaller teams that can't. By imposing some limits on the technology it allows these smaller teams to compete.

      3. In Europe, cycling is very much a blue collar sport of the people and UCI felt it was important to get the teams riding bikes people can actually buy. Over the past decade most of the teams have gone from custom bikes to off the shelf bikes with the really hi-tech bits reserved for time trials and mountain stages. You can go buy the Trek that most of the Discovery riders use at your local Trek dealer.

      Drugs aside, I can throw on my old school Postal kit, jump on my Trek OCLV and pretend for a moment that I'm chasing down Floyd and that is part of the allure of the sport for most fans. You just don't get that with Football, NASCAR, etc. (Although I think it does translate well to baseball and soccer, which probably explains the popularity of the sports).

      Finally, for the post underneath this complaining about the quality of the coverage... stadiums are built with TV coverage in mind, they have broadcast booths and hardpoints for the cameras with all the wiring already run. Cycling coverage is done over a 150+ course, at 25+ mph and they can't prep the city because they move to different citites each day. The technology behind it is pretty cool and covering stadium sports is childs play compared to what they're doing.
    • Every bicycle speed record currently held was taken with a recumbent.

      You forgot to mention that the speed records that you mention are limited to mostly flat land, or in the words of the IHPVA, "one of the straightest, flattest, and smoothest surfaces in the world."

    • If you want to bike competitivly and leverage technology, you need to learn to swim and run, too, because it's traithlon (USAT) that lets you do pretty much anything.
  • A streaming helmet cam of the leader of the race would be cool.
  • I think it was IBM that made a big deal about putting together the site and it's "cutting edge" live text updates. Here we are 7 years later with...live text updates. The only thing that's changed is the flash doodad that shows the time gaps between the lead/chase groups, peloton, and gruppettos, and they don't tell you who's where, save for the specialty jerseys. If there's a GPS unit on each bike, it shouldn't be difficult to add that to the feed, maybe on mouseover to keep it clean, and lay the whole thi
    • I have to admit that while I especially didn't like Bob Roll at first, he's grown on me. He sure is goofy and fun to make fun of. "Tour Day FrAnce!" LOL! He absolutely butchers it every time!

      That said, Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwin are definitely great commentators and I wouldn't want anyone else commenting during the sages.
  • For people who don't have the background on this: Floyd Landis raced on Lance Armstrong's team while Lance was still racing. In one of Lance's books, he tells a great story about Floyd Landis -- I don't remember all the details, but it went something like this.

    Floyd was training for the Tour with Lance's team, but not really pulling his weight. He was unmotivated, or not taking it seriously -- something like that (like I said, my memory is sketchy). Anyway, Lance pulled him aside and basically said "WTF?
  • One of the more fantastic tools are the wattage graphs of human power output during the race. A human adult at rest outputs about a half watt per pound. Thats why they need to crank up air conditioning in auditoriums with the equivalent of an incandescent light in each chair. A trained athlete can sustain 200 watts for hours and peak twice that for minutes bursts.
    • In Tour, peak for sprinters is about 1800W (for sprints). Lance apparantly has a max power at VO2max of 600W, but more for sprints (non-oxygen). That is the power he can sustain for some time. Resting HR: 32bpm but average for the tour was something in the 56 or so.

      source: http://lancearmstrong.com/ [lancearmstrong.com]
  • Considering all the technological gee-whizzery that goes into all aspects of bike racing, and all the years that bike racing has been televised live, I'm hoping that soon we'll see a drastic improvement in signal quality from the motorcycle-video feeds. It is still very prone to garbled images and interruptions.

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