Six months of toil in labs and wind tunnels in the Midlands have gone into giving Chris Froome the ideal bike with which to win the Tour De France.
When Le Tour champion lines up to begin his defence on Saturday he will begin 21 days spent on the Pinarello Dogma F8 bicycle developed by Jaguar Land Rover in Gaydon.
Jon Darlington, who was head of aerodynamics at Jaguar Land Rover at the time, told the Post that the work was initiated at last year’s Tour De France and went on to use special Bradley Wiggins mannequins and hours in a wind tunnel.
“The bike has been engineered to work as a system,” he said.
“We thought about how it interacted with the rider, and had a mannequin made of Bradley Wiggins for the wind tunnel.
“He and Chris are a similar shape and ride a similar shaped bike.
“We were looking at how the whole bike system interacts – the flow of air over the legs and torso, so the whole system was as optimum as possible.
“If we had hidden the water bottle and in the process sent the full force of the air into the rider then we might as well have not bothered.”
Jaguar engineers were brought in as a result of an ongoing link with Team Sky.
Team Sky said processes brought about by huge advances in performance and wind tunnel tests show the new Dogma F8 was 26 per cent more aerodynamic than its predecessor and 6.4 per cent more aerodynamic when including a rider.
The work to improve the aerodynamics of the frame profiles and reduce the drag of every single component used similar geometry as with aerodynamically efficient cars.
Mr Darlington said from the off there were constraints, including regulations from the governing body the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) and Team Sky wanting to keep the same handling, brakes and water bottles.
Among the changes were down tubes developed to hide the water bottle.
Testing also identified that the breaks were not symmetrical, so the frame was developed slightly off centre to balance it out and avoid turbulent flow.
The upshot was using similar principles to a car – considering how the tubes interact in a similar way to how the aerodynamics of the grill impact on the screen of a car.
Mr Darlington added: “We basically worked on what was the most optimum shape of the tubes to generate the best aerodynamics.
“I’d say the difference between this bike and what was done before is we didn’t constrain ourselves. It is not about the tubes in isolation – it is about the head tubes working with the down tubes working with the top tubes working with the seat tubes.
“And it is a simple fact that if you set the air flow up badly at the start then you will never recover the aerodynamic energy.
“You have got to get it right on the front and make sure that goes through to the rear wheel.”
Mr Darlington, who is now a vehicle engineering manager at JLR, said the six-month period to develop, split into two months of scoping and concepting, two months of analysis and two months of engineering.
It is not the first time that Jaguar Land Rover engineers have used their aerodynamic expertise on products outside of automotive.
They have been called in to test footballs and rugby balls and boats in the past, but never before have they been involved from cradle to grave.