Team Sky partners with NTNU on ultra-fast time trial suit

This July, Team Sky rider Chris Froome will try for his fourth victory in the Tour de France. The aerodynamic clothing he’ll likely wear during time trials is being developed at NTNU.

To the untrained eye it may look like there’s a vibrantly alive Chris Froome leaning over his time trial bike in a shipping container-sized wind tunnel at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU).

A 3D mannequin of Chris Froome sits on the Tour de France champion's own bicycle. Photo: Øyvind Buljo/NTNU

A 3D mannequin of Chris Froome sits on the Tour de France champion’s own bicycle. Photo: Øyvind Buljo/NTNU

But unfortunately for NTNU’s Tour de France fans, Froome is currently in South Africa. The “guy” on the bike is a 3D printed version of the athlete.

The bike, however, is the original. It says “Froome” in tiny letters next to a small British flag.

The mannequin works for now

One year ago, NTNU signed an agreement with Team Sky and their technology sponsor Castelli to develop new and better suits for the team.

“Since then, we’ve tested a number of different materials and new technologies that have led to the prototype that has been tested in NTNU wind tunnel,” says Luca Oggiano, a researcher at the Department of Energy and Process Engineering and at the Centre for Sports and Technology (SIAT), both at NTNU.

Luca Oggiano. Photo: NTNU

Luca Oggiano. Photo: NTNU

Simon Jones, who is Head of Innovation for Team Sky, explained that the 3D scan and print of Froome’s “double” was done in England, and that the model was transported in a box to Norway.

“At this stage of the testing, it works pretty well for us to use the mannequin,” Jones said.

Luca Oggiano og Lars Morten Bardal sammen med Chris Froome-modellen i NTNUs vindtunnel. Foto: Øyvind Buljo/NTNU

Luca Oggiano and Lars Morten Bardal with the Chris Froome mannequin in NTNU’s wind tunnel. Photo: Øyvind Buljo/NTNU

“Chris Froome is a busy man. We’ll do a number of tests, involving some level of trial and error. It probably won’t be until June that Froome personally tests the suit,” Jones said. The time and place for the test will depend on the Froome’s calendar.

NTNU researcher best choice in the world

After careful review of aerodynamics research, Team Sky decided to contact NTNU researcher Luca Oggiano, based on his knowledge and expertise.

“We found that there were five leading experts worldwide in this area, and Oggiano was perfect,” says Jones.

Nevertheless, it’s not always easy to assemble a cyclist mannequin to wear a tight-fitting body suit. Simon Jones posted a short video on Twitter of NTNU PhD candidate Lars Morten Bardal trying to dress the mannequin.

The plan is to develop the suit for Chris Froome’s upcoming time trials, possibly in the Giro d’Italia.