Paris-Roubaix is well known as a new product test lab. It’s a big stage, it’s a challenging stage, and it’s a legendary stage. Succeed here and cyclists will take notice. Despite the obvious challenge the cobbles present, the most recent focus has been on new aerodynamic products. The theory behind this is, make your move on the cobbles, and make it stick on the tarmac in between. This has been the recipe for victory in all recent runnings of the “Hell of the North.”
Castelli took notice of this and provided a unique new product for their riders, a road racing skin suit, called a SpeedSuit. VanSummeren and a few other Garmin-Cervelo riders choose the SpeedSuit for Roubaix, and when looking at the numbers, it may have played the key role in Van Summeren holding off the hard charging Cancellara for the victory.
Skin suits are obviously fast but aren’t practical for road racing for two reasons, no pockets and perhaps more importantly, it’s tough to take a nature break in a one. Castelli knew a skin suit could save up to 15 watts of precious energy at race pace, so they set about making the skin suit road race friendly. After endless samples and tests they had what they thought was the perfect answer.
They created a new and improved aero jersey with a full zip and new fabrics then stitched it to a set of Body Paints bibs, leaving only the front unstitched, but overlapped with the shorts, to give the rider coverage, while allowing for nature breaks. They also equipped this new SpeedSuit with three pockets.
The main aero benefit was the elimination of flapping side panels by the tension stitching them to the shorts creates. They were also able to remove the bib straps improving comfort and found the tension of the suit makes the pockets much more secure by eliminating any unwanted movement. With all these benefits Castelli was pretty sure the SpeedSuit was a winner. It took Johan Van Summeren to prove it.
Wearing the SpeedSuit he attacked with 15km to go. With it saving him 15 watts of energy on the dash to the line the numbers show those 15 watts could have been the difference. Assuming he rode at 400 watts the suit gave him an extra 0.37 mph, and saved roughly 12 seconds over that distance. He won by 19 seconds, without the SpeedSuit that’s a 7 second gap. Now factor in the energy savings over the entire race distance thanks to the suit and VanSummeren was able to hang on because of the Speed Suit.
Of course none of this factors in all those intangibles like emotion, passion, and determination, but with cycling becoming more and more technical, items like Castelli’s SpeedSuit will become more and more important.
What does this mean for you? Well, you can find out by ordering your own SpeedSuit which Castelli will make available though their Castelli Servizio Corse Teamwear program soon. Expect to pay around $400 for all that speed. Pricey, but a heck of a lot cheaper than some aero wheels that don’t save any more energy.