Using aero bars in gravel racing has been a highly-debated, hot-button matter lately, with skilled racers weighing a spread of issues versus advantages throughout a few of the largest occasions in the USA.
A new rule banning them within the elite classes at Unbound Gravel might have triggered one other uproar, however Cyclingnews came upon that most of the self-discipline’s key contenders within the professional ranks are shifting away from what has been one in all many traditions and used for consolation in ultra-distance gravel driving, and are actually in settlement with the rule for the elite fields.
The riders have cited a few of the principal benefits of banning aero bars, which embrace lighter bikes, elevated security, clearer boundaries, much less confusion and rigidity, fairer racing, and even “trying cooler” or “much less foolish” as a few of the causes to say good riddance to aero bars among the many elites at Unbound.
Unbound Gravel organizers’ new rule that removes aero bars from the elite classes stipulates, “No aero bars, bar extensions, or clip-on attachments of any varieties can be permitted.”
The 2 most shocking riders who’re in settlement with the brand new ban on aero bars on the occasion within the elite classes are defending champions Ivar Slik and Sofía Gómez Villafañe. Each riders used aero bars once they received the lads’s and girls’s titles, respectively, in final 12 months’s version of Unbound Gravel 200.
“I’m pleased with the ban on aero bars for the professional riders at this 12 months’s Unbound. Final 12 months, I rode Certainly with aero bars, however I do not assume the result would change if I rode with out them. I am completely happy that the principles are actually clear, and I do not assume it would have an effect on the best way the occasion can be raced this 12 months as a result of it is the identical for everybody,” Slik instructed Cyclingnews.
“In fact, it provides you a big aerodynamic benefit should you’re within the time trial place and at some elements of the course, it is extra comfy. Then again, it has some disadvantages like extra weight, and it is much less aerodynamic when you may have aero bars, however you aren’t utilizing them, and in final 12 months’s race, I used them for about 15% of the race, as a result of I used to be by no means in a gaggle of fewer than 4 riders, and so then you do not trip a lot within the time trial place.”
As well as, final 12 months, Slik received the race on a sponsored Wilier Rave SLR with a one-piece Filante SLR cockpit and 3D-printed customized mounts to permit for Profile Design aero bars to be fitted to the aero handlebars.
He instructed Cyclingnews that he selected to make use of aero bars final 12 months as a result of, in earlier years, the occasion was extra of a solo effort with bigger time gaps in consequence. Nonetheless, he mentioned the favored and fast-growing off-road self-discipline now sees extra teams driving collectively, particularly among the many elites.
“Final 12 months, and in addition this 12 months, the extent of the riders discipline has elevated, and it is extra degree, so teams keep longer collectively, and it is arduous to interrupt away. Ten days earlier than final 12 months’s race, there was a dialogue between riders to trip with out aero bars, however I spoke out clearly that I’d trip with aero bars as a result of Wilier and I invested plenty of time in creating and producing customized aero bars and in my view, you possibly can’t change guidelines on such a brief time period,” Slik mentioned.
“I do not agree with the argument that aero bars are extra harmful when driving in a gaggle as a result of you aren’t within the time trial place when driving in a gaggle, and we will all deal with our bikes. With the argument that aero bars are usually not trying cool, I partly agree. For me, it is also trying lame to trip with aero bars however driving with a CamelBak additionally seems not cool, however you must in such a protracted and difficult race like Unbound.”
‘Not a key part’ says Gómez Villafañe
The dialogue reached a boiling level final 12 months when favourites among the many elite males’s class tried to succeed in a collective settlement for these planning on driving within the entrance pack to not use aero bars.
Gómez Villafañe mentioned that she now agrees with the brand new rule for elites to not use aero bars at Unbound Gravel. Nonetheless, she reiterated that the method to the dialog taken amongst a handful of racers within the males’s class, in what she known as a ‘gentleman’s settlement,’ might have been dealt with higher as a result of they did not hear the voices, issues or opinions of the ladies who had been competing.
“I’m excited that the organizers are usually not permitting the professionals to make use of aero bars, as I do assume that our bikes appeared extraordinarily foolish final 12 months. The aero bars weren’t essentially a key part of my efficiency final 12 months, however I did take pleasure in utilizing them as I truly discovered them to be fairly comfy,” Gómez Villafañe mentioned.
“I used to be extraordinarily upset final 12 months on the males for making an attempt to ban them for your entire professional discipline within the few days main as much as the occasion as a result of; you don’t attempt to change the principles this near the beginning line and, most significantly, they failed to incorporate the ladies of their dialog, which is what actually ticked me off.
“The lads play such a key position in how the ladies’s race performs out, and it bothered me that they’d attempt to impose a rule into our race with out together with us within the dialog.”
Gómez Villafañe mentioned that she join with organisers, Life Time, instantly a few potential ban on aero bars for the elites and to assist them collect info from the skilled discipline with which to decide on the brand new guidelines. She mentioned she additionally spoke with the organisers about her issues concerning the media at gravel occasions, course markings, and prize purses.
‘Smart move’ says Nauman
Amanda Nauman, a two-time winner of Unbound Gravel 200 in 2015 and 2016, instructed Cyclingnews that final 12 months that security was a significant concern of hers when it got here to the usage of aero bars within the 100-mile and 200-mile occasions.
She felt that, at the moment, the choice for the lads to attempt to “self-police” wasn’t going to work as a result of the principles wanted to return from somebody who has authority. Subsequently, she was relieved to be taught that organizers have banned them among the many elites, calling it a “good move.”
“Final 12 months, I noticed photographs of some girls racing of their aero bars early on within the race, in a gaggle setting, which made me cringe, as a result of that’s the reason why organizers would ban this as a result of they aren’t secure driving in teams. I believe they realized that the danger versus reward, particularly for the elite discipline, was too excessive,” Nauman mentioned, who has additionally raced the 350-mile XL occasion and this 12 months will race within the 100-mile occasion.
She additionally famous the organizers’ choice to begin the elite women and men riders individually and with earlier begins from the mass of beginner riders.
“There have been so many tales of individuals crashing early on within the race final 12 months that additionally in all probability influenced the choice to unfold out the beginning occasions and ban the aero bars. Eliminating these two issues, from a security place, the hectic-ness, it is higher. They prioritized the protection angle this 12 months, which is good,” Nauman mentioned.
“Two races on the entrance have completely different requirements, now, so as soon as Unbound and Lifetime made the choice to simply accept the truth that they’ve an elite race inside this occasion, then they had been OK with giving it its personal guidelines.”
Nauman additionally believes that, when it comes proper all the way down to the difficulty of benefit, aero bars weren’t the deciding issue.
“How lengthy you spend at a checkpoint might be a much bigger distinction than whether or not you utilize aero bars,” she mentioned. “When it comes all the way down to physics, certain, they provide a bonus, however will they decide the result? I do not assume so, I believe they’re only one a part of the bigger puzzle of racing for 200 miles in Kansas.”
Lauren De Crescenzo, winner of Unbound Gravel 200 in 2021, mentioned she was additionally completely happy that she will not be utilizing aero bars in the course of the lengthy journey within the Flint Hills this 12 months.
“Aero bar clip-ons on a gravel bike are probably the most uncomfortable option to trip over tough gravel terrain. Aero bars make the bike deal with in a different way, climb sluggishly, and it’s more durable on the decrease again when driving such lengthy distances. I’m trying ahead to driving Unbound in a extra comfy place this 12 months.”
Likewise, Ian Boswell, winner of Unbound Gravel 200 in 2021, mentioned, “I by no means cherished driving a time trial bike, so once I left the highway, I wasn’t going to trip a time trial bike, so why add bars to my gravel bike? Plus, I do not assume it is clever to do group driving in time trial bars. As a lot as folks need no guidelines in gravel, guidelines assist make issues clear. Once you lack consensus, pointers assist.”
‘A collective sigh of aid’ says Stetina
Peter Stetina instructed Cyclingnews that the final consensus among the many elite women and men racers was a collective sigh of aid coming into the racing season the place Unbound Gravel is among the largest occasions on the calendar.
“A call is made for us so we will give attention to the race and have clear boundaries to play inside,” Stetina mentioned.
He mentioned he understood the usage of aero bars from a historic perspective of Unbound Gravel, which was rooted in lengthy 15-hour-plus driving, whereby athletes spent nearly all of that point alone, and so they supplied each consolation and assist whereas driving towards the weather.
“Now you take a look at the entrance pack, and there is a group of fifty [riders] rolling late into the day, and it’s predominantly highway race ways. We, within the entrance, do not want the assistance of aero bars. I believe it is pointless, and I believe it simply makes it for a greater sporting occasion [not to have aero bars],” Stetina mentioned.
“I actually applaud that the organizers made that decision as a result of there would all the time be infighting inside the professionals. So, I am glad that there is a change.”
Stetina mentioned he believes aero bars do supply an energy-saving profit to riders due to the sheer distance of the occasions supplied at Unbound Gravel. Nonetheless, he felt that advantages had been pointless, and so they ended up inflicting tensions among the many riders within the race, and that many organizers are actually disposing of conventional guidelines and banning aero bars.
“It isn’t extraordinarily hilly, so the load penalty is minimal. And, yeah, it’s a profit. However I believe it is an pointless profit. And what was taking place was it was changing into an arms race on who had probably the most technical time trial cockpit in a mass-start race. It simply doesn’t match,” he mentioned.
“I used aero bars in two of my three Unbounds. I need, as a lot as anybody, only a honest struggle and a superb gravel race, and Unbound is a part of that. I do not assume it’s a controversy now that the rule is there. I believe that was a giant ‘factor’ as a result of there was infighting as a result of there was no rule. And there have been so many very sturdy opinions on which I have been on each side through the years.
“I believe the most important takeaway from the rule change is that it was an enormous sigh of aid amongst all of the professionals that with that is the rule, you do not have to fret about it anymore, we’ve got a set of requirements. I applaud Life Time for that,” Stetina added.
“It’s actually simply a few of the extra conventional Midwest races the place that custom nonetheless lives on. I’d say 80% of the races I do now, aero bars are usually not allowed.”