Mark Cavendish was back on the track this week as the Manx Missile and his Omega Pharma-Quickstep team-mates headed to Valencia’s velodrome.
Working closely with Specialized, the world team time trial champions were bidding to continue their success against the clock by working on optimising time trial bike positions.
Former world madison champion Cavendish is of course no stranger to the track – although his ambition to return to the boards in the near future is opposed by OPQS team boss, Patrick Lefevere.
But he was able to tackle the boards in Valencia, with sport & development manager Rolf Aldag insisting the team will not be resting on its laurels, despite recent time trialling success.
“You can never say you are done and we don’t have to do this anymore,” Aldag said. “There is always something more to improve on and work with.”
On the work done in Valencia, he added: “It’s not only comfort, but the ability to use all of your physical performance while also trying to be aerodynamic.
“For example, we talked about hip angles. If you close the angle too much, the muscles won’t really perform.
“Details like that make it really interesting because you have to find a way to make each rider super fast, but also put them into a position that is rideable. Sometimes one makes the other impossible.
“This is where we need a lot of expertise and to learn, you need the kind of support we get from Specialized and its Body Geometry Fit experience.”
Although not known for his time trialling ability, Cavendish has proved his credentials against the clock before – not least with a top ten finish on the 10-mile, stage three test at this year’s Tour of Britain.
He was also part of the OPQS team which won the team time trial on the opening stage of this year’s Tirreno-Adriatico – a victory that put Cavendish in the blue jersey of race leader.
Aldag, perhaps taking a leaf out of Team Sky’s book, added: “It’s a lot of work for small gains, but it’s definitely worth it to do these kinds of tests.
“It’s also important for guys like Cavendish. He’s been on the track before and tested on aerodynamics, but you still can work on the details and try to understand where you can lower some drag and get some better numbers for him.
“[For] some of these guys, it’s as simple as them not being flexible enough to get more aerodynamic.
“But we can train that, so it is better to find that out now, find their limitations, and train where their needs are so we can come back and find a more aerodynamic position for them in the future.”
He concluded: “In 2012, we won by about three seconds in the UCI TTT Championship. In 2013 the difference was less than a second.
“So, with those fractions of time differences, we can be happy this kind of stuff is done. We don’t have to do all of this hard work on our own and start from scratch with our riders in the time trial. We have experienced people to help us and it really helps give us a bit of an edge.”