There was an interesting article in the May 5th New York Times about yet another controversy surrounding professional cycling: Equipment Crackdown Brings More Turmoil to Cycling’s Time Trials.
At issue ... whether the current trend in exotic and aerodynamic time-trial bikes makes pro cycling unfair, especially to under-financed teams that can't afford all the new technology.
Personally, I kind of like current rhythm of bike races. The regular stages feature bikes that don't look that much different than ... well ... a regular bicycle. But then for the individual time trials it's a virtual free-for-all. Out come creatures from the bicycle-zoo's exotic animals exhibit. Weird alien-style helmets, wildly unstable bikes with strange curves and geometries -- all meant to cut through the air like a knife.
Forcing racers to use conventional bikes for time trials takes a lot of the techie, innovative fun out of the race. To me, the current system seems like a good balance. Keep firm standards in place for the regular team stages, but then let the time trials be open to experimentation. No one faults Greg Lemond for using an aero-helmet for the first time in the 80's. It was bold, brilliant ... and geeky and cool all at the same time.
Let's face it, bike riding is about the bike. Pro racing is esoteric and tradition-steeped enough as it is. Limiting technological advancement will just make it border on stodgy. Besides, the bike companies that are making money selling the new bikes that come out of the Tour aren't some giant corporations. Many are little, innovative companies that love biking as much as you and me. They deserve to be part of the process. And hey, just imagine if some great rider comes along using none of this new aerodynamical stuff and blows the competition out the water anyway. Now that's a story line worth telling ... and worth being given the chance to be told.