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      News

      The Best of the Best, When They're at Their Best

      The Best of the Best, When They're at Their Best

      “Yo Yo Yo” Sam Long is mature beyond his years

      Sam Long, the young triathlon star from Boulder, Colorado known for his “Yo Yo Yo” salutations, his unblushing “Big Unit” nickname, and his public and positive rivalry with Lionel Sanders qualified for this year’s Ironman World Championships way back in 2019 when he won Ironman Chattanooga, but between May and June of this year, he almost decided to turn down his slot. “I sat down with my coach and said ‘I would rather skip Kona entirely and focus on St. George with what just happened at Tulsa,’ and that’s how Coeur d’Alene was born. I needed to prove to myself that I can compete at an Ironman.” For anyone unfamiliar with triathlon news coverage, Long proved that and more on an historically hot day in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho in late June, riding away from Sanders and then dropping the Canadian again on the run, as he went on to record his second Ironman victory and validate (in his own mind) his place at the top of long-distance triathlon.

      An Off Day in Tulsa

      Tulsa, to wind the clock back a little bit to late May, certainly hadn’t gone badly, but the 13th place finish—even in a championship field—stood out from Long’s consistent climb to the top of results over the past three seasons. “I had a great swim,” Long recalls, “probably my best swim yet in, like, low 52 or something, and I still ran 2:56. Lots of people said things like ‘Sam had a terrible day, but it was still an 8:08 on an off-day in a strong field.” Long had focused on Tulsa, though, as a chance to see where he would finish against athletes he would likely see in Hawaii, and the result shook his confidence.

      Long spent most of the day leading a chase pack of almost 20 athletes, surging many times in an effort to bridge across to the front group, and by the time he came to the run he had spent a few too many bullets. “I was frustrated, but ultimately what I took out of Tulsa is that it was my own fault for how I raced. I let the race play out the way it did rather than put my own stamp on it. To be honest, what I would do now would be just climb off my bike, let that group go, and then just do my own thing.”

      Tweaking for Coeur d’Alene

      Between Tulsa and Coeur d’Alene, Long and his coach, Ryan Bolton, sat down to discuss the race and to plan some changes. Bolton assured his charge that he would compete at Kona, but Long wanted to know. “‘You don’t have to race an Ironman,’ my coach told me,” Long says. “‘I’ve seen your numbers, I know what you can do,’ but I was like ‘I don’t really care.’ I need to know it in my heart and in my feelings, not just that I’ve had good Ironman races in the past and that my fat burning numbers are good. That stuff, to an emotional athlete, doesn’t mean anything.” Long’s first change between Tulsa and CDA was his mental approach. As a big, brash, loud American, many don’t associate an intellectual and emotionally intelligent approach with Long, but he has done extensive mental training with his mother, Bette Long, psychologist and Ph.D., and on his own. As Long has improved, he’s discovered that he needs to address his mental game in parallel with his physical training. “When I get better in performance, I’ve found that I need to make sure I also level up in mindset. If I don’t do that, my next race is usually a bad one. Expectations change, there’s more attention from age groupers and the media, and being aware of that and preparing for it makes me better when the gun goes off.”

      In addition to his mindset, Long addressed a strength limitation that held him back at Tulsa, a painful lower back. “I’d been arching my back while swimming, and I was in a lot of pain by the time the run came around, so I shifted from traditional weight training to 20 minutes of core work each day, and I think that helped quite a bit.” Finally, he and Bolton shifted the nature of Long’s taper to more accurately reflect the demands of an Ironman. As a Big Unit with a significant amount of muscle mass, Long can mobilize large anaerobic reserves in his training and racing. That ability dumps rocket fuel on his short- and middle-distance racing, but can hobble him late in an Ironman. “Instead of 3x20’ at 370 watts where I’m taking in lots of carbohydrates, we’ll make it 3x20’ at 300 watts with limited carbohydrate intake,” he describes.

      Sam Long holding finishing tape as he wins Coeur d’Alene triathlon

      The result? Long “paced, paced, paced” himself to a patient Coeur d’Alene where he put Sanders on the ropes, forcing the Canadian to chase for the first nine miles of the run. “I was running 6:07/mile, and he had to run 5:54 in 100° heat for nine miles to catch me. Lo and behold, what happened? He started to struggle with GI distress.” Long went on to set the course record in those extreme temperatures, a testament to his racing maturity.

      An Off-Road Holiday

      After Coeur d’Alene, Long went on a short holiday to Crested Butte, Colorado, where he...swam and biked and ran. When you love your job, why not do it on your breaks? “There was no training plan at all. I rode my mountain bike every day, did some trail running, and swam in this high-altitude lake at 10,000 feet.” Long’s first entrée into endurance sport was on the mountain bike, which surprises those who don’t know him. “When I was ten years old, I didn’t really like riding my bike,” Long remembers. “I liked going fast downhill, so I would ride like a maniac to get the uphills done as fast as possible. Turns out I was training pretty well for a 10-year-old!” That holiday led directly into Xterra Beaver Creek, one of the oldest off-road races on the North American circuit, and one that sat conveniently in Long’s backyard of the Colorado Rockies. What happened? Well, he didn’t win, but he did come in second, along Xterra royalty Sam Osbourne and 7-time Beaver Creek champion Josiah Middaugh. Long raced with his dad, Big Unit, Sr., saying “Truthfully, it makes me feel like everybody else out there. The result was great, but I was there to love racing and feel the love for triathlon.” Next up, Long has the double World Championship schedule, with 70.3 Worlds next month and then Kona after that. His 2021 season thus far? “It’s been going well. I’ve seen that I can compete on the world stage and really be up there with the best of the best when they’re at the best of their best.” It’s been 19 years since an American last stood atop the podium in Hawaii, but a confident Sam Long wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility.

      sam's go long gear

      Rudy Project Teams Double Up at Nats

      Rudy Project Teams Double Up at Nats

      TIBCO-SVB Women’s Pro Cycling’s Lauren Stephens and Rally Cycling’s Joey Rosskopf claim jerseys at USA Cycling National Championships

      Cyclists often say that pain is temporary, but glory is forever. To extend that saying, glory fades, but a champion’s jersey hangs on one’s wall forever, a palpable reminder of the effort expended and a great victory claimed. Larger wins abound than a country’s national championships, but to riders of that particular country, no other result will carry as much weight as pulling on a jersey adorned with the colors of their flag. Last month, two Rudy Project teams claimed the top step at the USA Cycling National Championships, capping two races of near-perfect execution.

      Lauren Stephens Crushes the Competition

      In the women’s race, Team TIBCO-SVB played their cards perfectly, putting USA cyclocross champion Clara Honsinger in the early breakaway. Honsinger had countered the initial attack of another TIBCO-SVB rider, Emily Newsom, at the close of the third lap. Four other riders joined Honsinger and maintained a lead of almost two minutes until the waning kilometers of the race, when the breakaway, punished by the heat of Knoxville and the circuit’s unrelenting hills, began to come apart with three laps to go. Honsinger remained at the front with one other rider, while Stephens launched a bid to cross the gap. “I looked back and saw that Lauren was coming across,” Honsinger recalls. “I sat up until she arrived and then drove it as hard as I could to the final climb. From there she crushed it on her own and stayed away to the line.” Three other riders (Kristen Faulkner, Honsinger, and Newsom) stayed inside the top twenty, making the race a true team success along with Stephens’ solo victory.

      “We were amazing today,” Stephens says. “We had Clara [Honsinger] in the break from the beginning and we just made the race hard. I came across to Clara and she held me into that final climb. And then I just unleashed.”

      Joey Rosskopf Counters in Closing Kilometers

      On the men’s side, Rally Cycling’s Joey Rosskopf claimed the iconic team’s first national championship with a late attack from a rapidly dwindling field. Rosskopf’s victory, like Stephens’ on the women’s side, was set up by a true team effort, as Kyle Murphy attacked early and stayed off the front until the final few laps of the 13 kilometer circuit. Murphy’s heroics allowed Rally’s other contenders Rosskopf, Gavin Mannion, and Nathan Brown to sit and wait for their moment. The field in Knoxville was one of the largest and deepest ever assembled, with 146 riders on the start line, hailing from some of the biggest teams in the world. Team Bike Exchange, Education First-Nippo, and Team DSM (WorldTour teams all) placed riders in the top ten, but weren’t able to defeat Rally’s team tactics. “We had guys up front all day long,” recalls Rosskopf. “Every time a move went one of us was in it. I can’t believe Kyle’s race—to be off the front all day long and still finish third—that’s just unbelievable.” The pace of the race was unrelenting, with only 28 riders making it to the finish line.

      “Sometimes, when there is a decisive feature on a lapped course everyone is afraid of it, which can neutralize the race,” says Robin Carpenter, “fresh” off his 6th place finish at Unbound 200 in early June. “That didn’t happen in this race—the hill was the main focal point of the race. So we played a numbers game, trying to have as many strong riders represented at the front all day long. National championships races are unpredictable, so we didn’t have one leader—we had three or four guys saving themselves for the end of race: me, Joey, Ben, and Gavin. Everyone else was playing the numbers game, and they did a great job of staying out front, not feeling asleep, and making all of the splits.”

      An early move saw Rally well represented, with Colin Joyce and Magnus Sheffield making the selection. Murphy launched his all-day affair after Joyce and Sheffield were brought to heel with 138 kilometers to go, and when Education First-Nippo brought the gap down to under a minute, Rally helped shatter the peloton, allowing Rosskopf and Mannion to bridge the gap and join Murphy. With just over a lap to go, Rosskopf made his first move, attempting to solo home for the win. After ten kilometers off the front the breakaway reeled him in, and it looked like the responsibility would fall to Mannion or Murphy to defeat the other riders.

      Rosskopf has won two other jerseys before, in the time trial in 2017 and 2018. The plan had been for him to win solo all along, but when he was brought back to the group he wasn’t sure he’d have the legs. “He saw the other leaders looking at each other with 6.5k to go and decided to attack again,” said Clark Sheehan, Rally’s DS. “They didn’t follow. It was crisp and clean.”

      Rally Cycling has “been trying to win this race for 15 years,” says Jonas Carney, the team’s performance director. “We finally did it. The guys rode a superb race. Kyle Murphy was an absolute animal, and we couldn’t have done it without his amazing ride.”

      Rosskopf and Stephens will now wear their stars-and-bars jerseys in road races for the next year. Rudy Project congratulates the two riders and teams on their victories, proud to support athletes at the highest levels of the sport.

      Choices of Champions

      Robin Carpenter Goes Big with his Gravel Debut

      Robin Carpenter Goes Big with his Gravel Debut

      “The first five hours of Unbound were similar to any one-day race I’ve done in Europe,” Robin Carpenter says. “And then we kept riding—and riding hard—for another five hours.” New pursuits challenge anyone, of course, but when your normal pursuit means racing a bicycle at the highest level in the world, a rough doubling of that effort would surprise anyone. Robin Carpenter rides for Rally Cycling, the most successful domestic pro cycling team here in the United States, and on June 5th he intended to be in Northern France, at the strangely named Quatre Jours de Dunkerque (“four days of Dunkirk,” strange because it’s normally raced over six days). The COVID-19 pandemic cancelled that event in 2021, and Carpenter found himself stateside in late April with fitness to spare and an empty weekend. Just getting into Unbound, of course, posed a challenge, and a friend went to work trying to transfer his entry to Carpenter. That endeavor took until May 20th, so Carpenter knew he would race with only two weeks to spare. “I’d be getting ready anyway,” he says. “Doing my research, trying different hydration packs. I only went on one really big ride: a 150-mile round trip of Mauna Loa on the Big Island in Hawaii. It was hot, hard, and humid, and my numbers were pretty good. I was pleased with that.”

      Carpenter, to anyone who follows cycling in the United States, is a well-known name. He’s been on the podium twice at our national road championships. He’s won or placed at many of the big races on this side of the Atlantic. Since 2014 (when he graduated from the prestigious liberal arts college Swarthmore after only seven semesters) he’s also raced in Europe, slowly building a portfolio of results and experience. Up until June 5th, 2021, however, none of those palmares included a gravel race of any kind. “I picked the brains of everyone I knew who had done the event,” he says. “I know Lachlan Morton from way back on our Garmin Development Squad days, and Alex Howes from just riding around. Lachlan’s advice was to baby the bike as much as possible, treat it more like a road bike than a mountain bike, and try to avoid slamming it into the sharp sections of gravel. Obviously avoiding flats and mechanicals is important, but he stressed that if you can stay clean in the first half of the race, you’re more likely to make the front group in the second half of the race, which is more or less what happened.”

      A Hard Start

      “We raced the start so much harder than I thought we would,” Carpenter recalls. Accustomed to hard starts in Europe, he took it philosophically and treated the early selections as small tests. As he passed each test he’d tell himself “OK, that was awesome, nice work, you passed that one,” but the pace surprised him. The lead group would drop some riders at each selection and then...just keep riding hard. Carpenter asked himself why the pace was staying high when he knew the gap would stay open even at fifty watts lower. “I realized just how seriously the gravel pros take this race, and that’s something I’ll remember for next time. They do not mess around, and this is obviously how they make their living.” Carpenter survived the first 65 miles in the lead group, arriving at Aid Station One with the rest of the contenders. The aid stations at Unbound Gravel, for those who haven’t had the pleasure, occupy whole towns in the Kansas countryside. Rather than a stretch of ten-by-ten tents and a handful of volunteers, whole sections of each aid station town are designated as different zones, and riders are assigned to certain zones. The end result is one of impressive, nearly overwhelming chaos. Support crews shout for their riders, almost inaudible over the shaking cowbells and the whining vuvuzelas. Toss in early-race nerves without the late-race fatigue, and you have the recipe for a few pit area mishaps. Carpenter rolled up to his mechanic and began switching out his hydration pack, thinking that his mechanic had the bike in hand. His mechanic, on the other hand, thought Carpenter had the bike so he could lube the chain. The bike toppled over, cracking the hood clamp to one of Carpenter’s shifters. “We worked on it for about 40 seconds,” he recalls, “but the leaders were in and out of there in less than a minute, and we didn’t have the time to fix it. That was probably my low point: realizing I wouldn’t be able to be on the hoods for the rest of the day, plus having to get back to the leaders after leaving the aid station.” No stranger to long, difficult chases, Carpenter got to work. He could see the leaders up the road, moving up a long grade just outside of town. He put in a strong ten-minute solo effort and bridged the gap, rejoining the group around the 70-mile mark.

      Robin Carpenter racing Unbound Gravel in Emporia, Kansas wearing Rudy Project Cutline sunglasses

      The Selection

      Just as it did two years ago when the Unbound course headed north, the rough, shattered section of ranch land about 100 miles into the race provided the final selection of riders, and Carpenter was there to watch it. “Little Egypt” is a series of ravines, criss-crossed by trails that someone decided were roads. The section is littered with the aspirations of riders at this event, and culminates in a steep, loose section pockmarked by sharp rocks. “I was riding the downhills with a little more speed, maybe,” Carpenter remembers, “but when we climbed out Pete [Stetina] attacked and I lost contact. I knew I couldn’t go as deep as their effort would require, so I managed it as best I could, hoping I’d be able to get back on at the top. But when they went over the top they got together right away and started to work. I could tell they were basically trying to get rid of guys like me.” After getting dropped, Carpenter settled into a gravel experience most of us are familiar with: racing one’s self and avoiding mishaps. He did eventually flat, around the 115-mile mark, and spent about eight minutes fixing the issue, rejoining the second group on the road when they came past. “I knew that I’d be racing myself after around 100 miles, so I mostly focused on being my best and not giving up. You know everyone is going to have some problems, so when my CO2 inflator exploded I just tried to be patient, maintain a good attitude, and not freak out.”

      Robin Carpenter racing Unbound Gravel in Emporia, Kansas wearing Rudy Project Cutline sunglasses

      The Finish

      Carpenter returned to Emporia in a depleted group of three: the mountain bike great Jeremiah Bishop and Dutch road cyclist Dennis Van Winden. Carpenter probed his riding partners for their sprinting appetite, with Bishop suggesting rock, paper, scissors to decide it, and Van Winden offering stoic European silence. “I opened up the sprint a long way out,” Carpenter says. “Probably around 300 meters, actually, and I was happy to hold it and win my little group.” Following the race, there was little time for recovery—Carpenter and his wife (a decorated geneticist) were moving across the country from San Diego to Boston, where she’ll start a research fellowship at Harvard Medical School (the couple doesn’t lack for star power on either side of the partnership). When I reached him on the phone, he was taking a break from moving boxes into a large panel truck outside their California home. “I’m definitely not doing what I should be after a race like that,” he says. “But we’re moving after road nationals on June 18th and that’ll take the rest of the month. Then it’s back to training and I’ll probably head to BWR [the Belgian Waffle Ride] in the middle of July, depending on what’s happening with the team.” I asked Carpenter if he’d return to Unbound, to which he offered an enthusiastic yes. Ever the successful bike racer, he began unpacking his plans for the next Unbound, only 360 days away. “I think my fitness was where it needed to be,” he says. “My regular training gives me the volume and intensity I need for that race, so I think next time I’ll focus more on equipment and tire pressures and staying quick with less stress. I think I wasted a lot of energy ensuring that I stayed at the front of the group, and I think that cost me when the final selection was made. But mostly I was happy to see a lot of faces I haven’t seen in a while, both because of the pandemic and because racing in Europe is like going to another planet. It made me feel really good to see all those people, and yeah—I’d like to do that again.”

      Rally cycling sunglasses

      Rally Cycling Teams Up with Rudy Project

      Rally Cycling Teams Up with Rudy Project

      Top American professional cycling team encourages performance beyond results

      “High quality optics that actually stay on your face,” says Tom Soladay, Communications Director at Rally Cycling, the most successful domestic professional cycling team in the United States. I’ve just asked him what Rally Cycling values in a partner in general, and in Rudy Project in particular. “If you’ve got all the watts in the world but can’t see where you’re going, those watts don’t matter.” Soladay’s answer echoes many of the points he makes during our conversation about Rally Cycling and their parent organization, Rally Health: the best approach to a puzzle is an individual-focused, practical solution that leads to the best possible outcome.

      The cycling team’s mission is a simple one: “Rally brings to the world of cycling the same creativity, passion, and commitment it brings to the pursuit of its mission to put health in the hands of the individual,” the team’s website says, and Soladay’s description of the team’s values mirror that mission: “We want to encourage people to live healthier lives,” he says. “Most of the time you’re not getting on the podium in professional cycling, so we also focus on the larger picture of how cycling can encourage people everywhere to eat better and to take care of themselves.”

      Rally Cycling first appeared as Kelly Benefit Strategies/Medifast in 2007, and has spent the better part of a decade-and-a-half at the top of domestic professional cycling. In the last ten years the organization completed its program by adding a women’s team in 2012, and now makes forays across the Atlantic Ocean to race at the highest level, in Europe. Soladay, now part of the team management structure, contributed as an athlete for seven years of his ten-year career. “Once I was here I didn’t really want to go anywhere else,” Soladay says. He majored in economics at the University of Maryland and then moved to the West with his wife, so they could both pursue their dreams (she is an actor).

      After a few years with other outfits, Soladay joined Rally and contributed to many of the team's big wins: several US Professional Criterium National Championships, dozens of victories at National Racing Calendar events across the country. “One race that stands out is the downtown crit at the Cascade Classic in Bend, Oregon. We’d missed the main move of the race and a strong breakaway had gone up the road. We had no other choice but to put the entire team on the front to bring the break back, and I was part of that effort.

      We went on to win that particular race, and I think that day really says a lot about who Rally Cycling is as a team and an organization: we look for riders that want to be a part of something larger than themselves—we don’t hire influencers or salespeople—and that sacrifice for the success of the team was a really special day for me as a rider.”

      A Natural Fit

      Rudy Project joins a veritable sea of Rally Cycling partners, all of whom share the mission and goals of the team. “In five years, we hope to have both our men’s and women’s teams in the WorldTour,” Soladay says. The team already competes at many of the WorldTour level UCI events around the world, with both men’s and women’s sides picking up results this spring in Europe. Ben King, an American cycling household name, reported on what it’s like to actually ride a WorldTour stage race. Short answer? It’s really hard.

      On the women’s side, the team wrapped up double classification wins at the Setmana Ciclista Valenciana, with Krista Doebel-Kickok taking the iconic polka-dotted climber’s jersey, and fast woman Heidi Franz wearing the pink sprinter’s jersey at the close of the competition. “During the pandemic Franz was one of those riders who rediscovered her love of riding,” Soladay says.

      The constant grind of two-continent racing sounds glamorous, but professional cycling takes a lot out of a person. Franz spent most of the past year doing unstructured riding, finding that joy of simply taking two wheels for a spin. “The past year was really hard on the riders,” Soladay tells me, something he sees first-person in his role of communicating with athletes and writing stories about their experiences. “Some of our riders found excitement and purpose through Zwift and other outlets, and some simply took some time off. That’s something you don’t often get to do as a pro, and I think we’re seeing that forced downtime pay dividends this spring.”

      Lofty Goals

      “Moving to the WorldTour is primarily a financial hurdle,” Soladay tells me. “We have the infrastructure in place to support a WorldTour team—now we’re seeking that partner that can make our goal a reality.” Just what does that infrastructure consist of? Hang on, because you’re probably about to be impressed. The riders account for only about half of the team personnel, in the first place (28 riders across the men’s and women’s squads). After the athletes, more than 30 employees make Rally Cycling tick, with Soladay an integral cog in the media company that promotes its efforts to the world. Two service courses, in Golden, Colorado and Girona, Spain, keep the wheels literally turning, manned by mechanics, soigneurs, sports directors (similar to a manager or coach in United States sports terminology), accountants, and all the other roles to keep a robust small business afloat.

      “When you think about what has to happen to support the athletes at a race,” Soladay explains, “it’s fairly mind-boggling. Making sure that, at the beginning of the stage each rider has a bike, a jacket, someone to give that jacket to, bottles, food and fluid on course, then a recovery drink at the end, then to make sure their bag makes it from hotel to hotel, and finally for all of that equipment, all of the cars, to make it back to the service course on that particular continent—the logistical challenges are significant and require all of us not racing to function with the same cohesion as the riders on the road.”

      The fact that Rally Cycling has persevered for almost fifteen years, and through a global pandemic to boot, speaks to the health of the organization. Betting against their WorldTour aspirations seems like a bad bet.

      Growing Together

      “I’m primarily excited that we all get to keep doing our jobs,” says Soladay. Although he never trained for his role as communications director, when he retired from the sport the position within the team management opened up. “I basically learned how to do this on the job,” he says, but adds that he received substantial help learning the ropes from Chief Creative Director Sam Wiebe.

      As communications director, he manages much of the discussion between the team and its partners, working to promote partners one side and to provide feedback and requests from the riders. “Being aligned is crucial,” he says. “Knowing what we want out of the partnership and having a shared goal. Whether that goal is reaching a larger audience, building quality content, or the mere fact of being associated with each other when it feels natural, making sure both sides agree is probably the most important aspect of the relationship.” Soladay returns to an earlier theme, talking about the types of riders and employees that Rally Cycling and Rally Health value: team players who hope to grow together.

      “One benefit of our partnership with Rudy Project,” Soladay says, “is that the riders look and feel fast, along with being able to see where they are going, of course. In return we’re able to associate Rudy with a team and an organization that sees something bigger than results—we want to help people everywhere live healthier, more successful, and more fulfilling lives.”

      RALLY CYCLING SUNGLASSES

      Cutline

      defender

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      Rudy Project Wing: From Concept to Complete Speed (Part 2)

      Rudy Project Wing: From Concept to Complete Speed (Part 2)

      From Part 1: ...A handful of prototypes from those contenders were created, which would be packed and travel from Treviso to Immenstaad for the next phase: prototype testing.

      PROTOTYPE TUNNEL TESTING

      In this round of testing, variations of a new helmet were placed on a headform (and torso) within the Immenstaad wind tunnel in Germany. The helmets were tested in four yaw sweeps out to 20 degrees, gathering both aerodynamic data, but also that all-important cooling data.

      “It was truly unique to be able to measure both drag forces and cooling effects across a range of yaw angles,” Ballard said. “We were able to gather a lot of fantastic data, calculating both the speed of the helmet with the frontal vent plug in and out, as well as quantifying cooling in a measure of watts with the vent plug out. It’s a mix of data we’d never seen before, but made for data that helped the Rudy Project team in their design considerations, to make it fast, but provide a significant level of cooling that wasn’t a detriment to the speed of the helmet.”

      With this data, we were able to finally narrow to the final design for the Wing. It was done: a helmet that could tolerate a wide variety of riding styles and parameters with speed, comfort, adjustability and a high degree of cooling demanded by today’s athlete. The Wing had taken flight.

      LIVE WIND TUNNEL TESTING

      After a nine-month timeline, we went into production for a few test units for one final confirmation in the wind tunnel—with Andreas Dreitz himself. It would be the final chance at proof of concept. It performed as we expected: beautifully.

      “We asked him to ride in his normal position, as well as others—we had him look down, look back, to test typical age group dynamics and positions,” Ballard said. “We had him in and within a 10th of a watt, we could repeat the performance improvements versus the Wing 57 he had previously been riding.” We were very happy—we made Andreas faster, but more importantly, we proved the Wing would be faster for a wide range of athletes, in different positions. It’s a helmet designed—and proven—to be fast for everyone.”

      Andi Dreitz was first off the bike at the Florida IM 70.3 in 2021 Photo: @higgybaby001

      IT'S NOT JUST US: INDEPENDENT REAL-WORLD TESTING BY ERO SPORTS

      Rudy Project was grateful to learn that ERO Sports, a bicycle and athlete aerodynamics testing company based in the Los Angeles area, took a keen interest in the Wing helmet upon launch.

      Given his testing experience, ERO Sports manager Jim Manton saw the Rudy Project Wing on its launch as something that might prove to be fast. So, he bought one helmet to serve as his testing unit, and took it upon himself to find out. “Helmets have been going through a lot of changes over the last few years,” Manton said. “The shorter-tail helmets are where a lot of companies are going, as they’re consistent among a wide range of athletes. I saw the Wing and thought it’s not too wide, not too long, and looked like it had a great shape.”

      “But looking fast is one thing,” Manton added. “Performing is another.”

      Manton’s testing is unique in that it takes place not in a wind tunnel or velodrome, but outdoors—on open roads, while riding. Using a highly-sensitive AeroLab AeroPro Outdoor Aero Sensor affixed to the front of a bike, a rider in a repeatable position then makes several passes on a flat stretch of road, each pass capturing wind speed and importantly, wind yaw, simultaneously. With athlete and bike tared out of the equation, and the consideration of not just wind speed but also the angle at which it’s experienced, the aero sensor is capable of capturing and collecting numbers that best represent true real-world, normal conditions testing.

      Manton brought four athletes to the test along the Santa Ana River trail in Yorba Linda, Calif., and was intent on bringing a representative range of athletes. Three were Hawaii Ironman triathlon qualifiers. Two were females, two were males. One was a middle-of-pack triathlete, riding a road bike with clip-on aerobars. It was a truly wide range of levels and experiences. Each athlete conducted three one-kilometer out-and-back runs, riding in two positions: a standard position, and a head tucked “turtle” position, and every rider was told to wear the helmet in the position they felt most comfortable, so as to yield authentic data with the helmet in a naturally-acquired position. All testing passes were with the Wing visor locked in place, and with the vent hole uncovered. With each pass, Manton grabbed data from the aero sensor, zeroed it out, and sent the athletes back out for another test run.

      Empirical Findings

      ERO Sports laid out its findings in a white sheet, showing that indeed, the Wing tested fastest overall, and tested fastest on all but one rider. “The Rudy Project Wing did great—on all but one athlete it was the fastest helmet,” Manton said. “It was really impressive.”

      INTANGIBLE FINDING

      While the data was favorable, Manton said it was the intangible feedback that he found quite interesting: the Rudy Project Wing was the most comfortable helmet among all tested. “We didn’t solicit any of the feedback, but a lot of them said it was their favorite helmet because it stayed in place, or loved the dial and accessibility. He also said riders said their field of view was also greater with the Rudy Project Wing. “The riders all said they would try to glance up the road through the vent holes at the top of the Giro and POC helmet, which blocked their visibility, but had no such problem with the Rudy Project helmet,” Manton said.

      The riders also found cooling to be a significant advantage on the Wing. “Neither the Giro Aerohead Ultimate nor the POC Cerebel have vent holes, and our testers told us that lack of cooling was something they noticed,” Manton said. “We tested with the Wing helmet’s plug out, and the riders all said they found it more comfortable than the others with air moving through it.”


      SEE THE WING