It has long been noted that the Tour de France is a much more than a mean feat. Stretching the length of 21 stages with usually only two or three rest days thrown in to temporarily relieve the pain. Last week, it was officially announced that the UCI had been investigating the race format and had presented a board of officials with options regarding suggested changes and improvements. Among these were mentions of a KERS (kinetic energy recovery system) being used on bikes to both alleviate any prolonged period of time without rest, and to also drive favourites away from an easy shot at the podium.
Kinetic energy recovery systems allow kinetic energy to be stored, so if energy is lost on cornering, braking or shifting gears, the rider can utilise it at a later time. Historically, this energy would be lost completely, but with this new development, it can be redeemed.
These suggestions, stated the UCI, will bring a greater sense of equality for all riders, opening up the platform to a new style of racing. A unnamed governing health body has also expressed their support for the introduction of KERS in the tour, claiming it will also aim to reduce any long-term health effects of chronic endurance racing, such as enlarged heart and increased internal scar tissue.
How will cyclists be using KERS in the Tour de France?
At this moment in time, it is not clear whether the UCI wish to introduce the use of KERS for the entire tour, or if it will brought in to be used only in the tougher sections such as hilly stages. It is thought that the KERS systems will be modelled off a design produced by the EPA (United States Environmental Protection Agency) and the University of Michigan: the RBLA (Regenerative Brake Launch Assist).
The system is still in development, and details are largely unknown, but what we do know is that it is more than likely to contain some sort of flywheel device, that will allow it to store up to 20% of the kinetic energy built up in the bike’s components. No pictures of the design have yet been released, but it is though it will look similar to the photograph below:
This diagram also shows the mechanical sections of a flywheel in more detail: