Tag Archives: Electric Bikes

Cyclocross (With added Electric Bikes)

This weekend, from a sporting point of view, is one of my favourites. The European road cycling season gets itself underway with Le Grand Prix Cycliste la Marseillaise (L’Ouverture), although this year the Challenge Mallorca series has been underway since Thursday. The World Cyclocross Championships also take place. This year they are being held at Zolder in Belgium.

Saturday 30/01/2016

The day started off with the race for Junior (under 18) Men which was won by Jens Dekker of the Netherlands, Highlights below;

But Saturday was Ladies Day with the Women’s Elite race as well as the inaugural Women’s under-23 race. Both were excellent races in different ways. The under-23 race being won by the British rider Evie Richards  in an almost race long breakaway. She had the disadvantage of starring on the third row of the grid, because as she said at the finish this was the first time she had raced cyclocross outside of the UK (and therefore didn’t have the results that would have given her a better start position). By half way round lap one she had worked her way to the front, took the lead and immediately built a race winning gap.

The highlights of the race are below.


If you want to watch the full race this link will take you to the video.

Following on from that a hour or so later we had the Women’s Elite race. There were two British women Helen Wyman and Nikki Harris who had a reasonable chance of ending the day in a Rainbow Jersey. This race worked itself out differently from either the Junior Men or the Under-23 Women both of which were won “easily” by long range attacks. For most of the race it looked as if one of four women, Sanne Cant (Belgium), Caroline Mani (France),Nikki Harris (Great Britain) or Sophie De Boer (Netherlands) would be the eventual winner. However we had reckoned without Thalita De Jong (Netherlands).

Last weekend at her home cyclocross in Hoogerheide she showed that she was in good form. This week she recovered from a bad start that left her in about 20th place half way round the first lap, but by about a lap and half to go she had made it up to the lead group. She bided her time and made her decisive attack with about half a lap to go.
Highlights below;


For a replay of the full race follow this link.

A couple of tweets about the race;



Electric bikes

Unfortunately everything was slightly overshadowed by the first proven instance of “mechanical doping”. An electric motor was found in the frame of a bike apparently owned by Under 23 rider Femke Van den Driessche who started as the favourite for the race, but abandoned before the start of the final lap with, ironically, a mechanical problem. She has denied that it is her bike and claims that it belonged to a friend. (Well blaming it on a dodgy steak wouldn’t have worked would it?) She also denies using it during the race. Which may well be the case. I suspect that the plan was to use it for the final lap. It is possibly worth noting that her brother Niels is currently suspended for “ordinary” doping.

Last summer I posted concerning the accusation (unfounded) that Ryder Hesjedal and Alberto Contador had used electric assisted bikes at the Giro d’Italia. I basically poo pooed the idea, saying that I didn’t think that it would help that much because the power boost that you could get from a motor hidden in the down tube would be fairly small and because of the limitations on the size, the battery wouldn’t last all that long. I would still stand by that as regards road racing though not with the level of certainty I had last June.

However cyclocross is a different tactical situation. The races are much shorter, in the case of Under-23 Women, forty to forty five minutes, and the riders swap bikes on a regular basis throughout the race. So consider, it is the last lap of the race, everyone’s legs are hurting. You come into the pits and change your bike for the one with the electric motor. The battery is good for ten or twelve minutes, it will last the lap. It will give you say a 100 watt power boost; not huge but it will probably mean that you can ride that hill that everyone else has to run, and if it comes down to a sprint that extra 100 watts should be enough to give you the edge.

Because bad news always beats good news to the headlines it was sort of forgotten that Jens Dekker, Evie Richards and Thalita De Jong all produced magnificent rides to pull on their respective Rainbow Jerseys. Let’s remember that and not what a talented but insecure young Belgian girl did, possibly under the influence of someone who from the little I have read (and mainly in Dutch) seems to be a very controlling father.

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Electric Bikes at the Giro????

It’s the stupidest thing. It’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard of.

 
This is what Ryder Hesjedal said after officials seized his bike at the finish line of today’s stage of the Giro d’Italia to check for any hidden electric motors. The full story can be found here at Velonews.

There have been rumors of some riders using electrically assisted bikes for a while. I think it started after the 2010 Ronde van Vlaanderen when Fabian Cancellara rode away from Tom Boonen on the Kapelmuur. (round about 2:40 on the video clip)

Strangely this is not the first time that Ryder has been suspected of having a motor in his bike

Electric assisted bikes exist. My wife Grace has one, and it works well. It also weighs 22 kg, of which the battery accounts for about 3 kg and the motor probably about another 3 kg. In other words the motor and the battery weigh about as much as the average pro’s race bike.The maximum power boost is probably about 120 to 150 watts, using it at that level the battery would last about two hours.

An Electric Bike
A Cannondale Race bike as ridden by Ryder Hesjedal

I think the important part of the bike to focus on is the bottom bracket area (where the cranks are) If you look closely at the E-Bike you will see a grey rhomboid shape just in front and above the front chainring. This is the motor housing. Do you see anything remotely like this on the Cannondale – no. Electric motors produce power roughly in proportion to their size, so to get a significant power boost you need a reasonably sized motor, something which I don’t think could be hidden in the seat tube. Another thing worth noticing is that grey box on the lower tier of the rack, that is the battery. It is conceivable that you could fashion a battery that would fit into the down tube, but I’m not quite sure how you get it in and out without cutting the frame nor can I see how you would charge the thing without leaving evidence of a charging port. Also note the wires everywhere on the E-bike and not so much on the Cannondale.

On top of that why would a professional cyclist want the penalty of the extra weight of a battery and motor on a mountain stage for a five or ten minute boost?

However some professional cyclists, in particular the Dutch female rider Marjin de Vries think that all electric bikes, especially the type ridden by my wife should be banned completely.

A similar incident last summer was even more traumatic. I was training in Zuid-Limburg, in the Dutch hills, doing efforts on a climb. Efforts mean riding up a hill as fast as possible. Again. And again and again. When I did the effort for the fifth time, gasping for oxygen and with legs about to explode, I suddenly saw an aged couple two corners above me. They were pedaling up as well.I should have realised immediately that only Super Granny would be capable of riding up a climb like that. For ordinary-aged people it was far too hard. But doing efforts blurs ones vision. I could just notice that this aged couple’s pace was pretty high. Actually, they seemed to be flying up. I was giving it all and I hardly came any closer. WTF?, I thought. WTF, OMG, BBQ?!?! I squeezed out every bit of energy I had left in my body and found myself back in the slipstream of the couple. And there I saw what I should have realised minutes before: electric bikes.

 
Having tried to follow Grace in full boost mode up a hill, I tend to agree with her.