Two times cyclist Nairo Quintana has finished second to Brit Chris Froome in the Tour de France, so in an effort to make sure he finishes atop the podium next summer his team, Movistar, has decided to make a carbon copy of the Colombian rider.
Movistar and its clothing sponsor Endura are not cloning Quintana, but they are using a 3-D printer to construct a life-size replica of him – complete with moveable limbs – in an effort to improve his aerodynamics and time-trial performance.
Quintana, who like most Colombian cyclists excels when the Tour hits the steep mountain roads of Alps and Pyrenees, has struggled during the time stages – or solo races against the clock – which generally take place on flatter terrain and which are the stages that his rival Froome shines in most.
Besides focusing Quintana's training during the off-season to his time trail performance, Quintana and Movistar team used a 3-D laser scanner to record his physical data to try to create a sleeker, more aerodynamic fit on his time-trail bike. Those specialized bikes generally feature a disc rear wheel, specialty handlebars and a paired-down frame meant to cut down on drag.
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"It gives us a virtual form of each of the riders that we can work with and access throughout the season – because you have to remember that once the season starts, it can be quite hard to get time with the riders," Jim McFarlane of Endura told CyclingNews.
He added, "Our software maps the 2-D patterns that we cut from the fabric, and it virtually stitches it over a 3-D avatar. It shows us tension maps across the body, using specific fabrics with known stretch characteristics. It looks like a heat map, but it shows the amount of stretch across the body, and it means that we can essentially refine each of the rider's garments to fit them more accurately."
To create the clone Quintana, the cyclist was scanned once standing up, once on his normal road bike and will be scanned again while on his time-trail bike.
"It's been one of the major processes that we've been involved in, and of course the team's very encouraging," McFarlane said. "It's one of the few places that we can make a really noticeable performance difference to the team that is measured in seconds."
And seconds are exactly what Quintana needs when it comes to winning the Tour de France.
Quintana finished second in the 2013 Tour, with Froome beating him by 4:20. Eliminating the individual time trials would have meant that Quintana would have lost by only 41 seconds.
In the 2015 race, the gap was even narrower. The Colombian finished only 72 seconds behind Froome overall, with 21 of those seconds coming at the race's single time trial.