Tech Rolls With Tour de France

Lance Armstrong’s 2000 autobiography is titled “It’s Not About The Bike.”
It’s a clear reference to the fierce determination that helped him beat
testicular cancer and win the Tour de France six times.

But as he pedals through valleys and over mountains in pursuit of a record
seventh title, the Texan’s sponsors would like to remind sports fans that
the bike, and the technology that helped build it, play an important
supporting role.

Several companies with tech ties have joined Armstrong. The most visible is
chipmaker AMD , “the official technology sponsor” of
Armstrong’s Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team.

AMD inked Armstrong and the team (then the USPS Pro Cycling Team) in January
2004 and recently extended the relationship through 2007. Terms were not
disclosed, but AMD spokesman Travis Bullard said sports marketing makes good
business sense. The AMD corporate logo is visible on the team’s bikes and

“Global sponsorships allow AMD to further establish corporate brand value
and significantly increase brand awareness,” Bullard said. “However, these
are more than mere commercial agreements. AMD’s sponsorships are also true
technology partnerships.”

Compared to other Armstrong partners, like Nike and PowerBar, semiconductors
and cycling seem an odd match. But the company points to several areas
where its products have helped the team in the months preceding the Tour.

Its Opteron and Athlon processors power computers used by bicycle
manufacturer Trek. Back in 2000, Trek trashed its previous systems and
built a new workstation using AMD chips. The move slashed the total bike
completion time in half.

For the 2005 race, Trek designed a new bike for the uphill Alpe d time
trial. Designers narrowed Armstrong’s bike, cutting drag and weight, which are the primary enemies of competitive cyclists.

In addition, Armstrong and several teammates traveled to the Allied
Aerospace Low Speed Wind Tunnel to train. AMD-processor-powered systems at
the San Diego facility helped the riders learn proper positioning to limit
wind resistance.

AMD Wind Tunnel

The Allied Aerospace Low Speed Wind Tunnel

Source: AMD

Mathematical models show that aerodynamic changes can trim as much as 90
seconds off of an individual cyclist’s time over a 34-mile time trial, AMD
said. While that doesn’t sound like a lot, keep in mind that the Tour totals
2,241 miles and Armstrong won in 2003 by just 61 seconds.

AMD also provided a workstation, which serves as the tunnel’s bike computer,
displaying drag, rider heart rate, speed and cadence information.

Finally, AMD said Armstrong, his teammates and support staff use HP laptops
and personal workstations equipped with mobile AMD Athlon processors to
keep in touch while traveling.

Others on Lance’s corporate team include sunglasses maker Oakley, which
has designed the Oakley Thump, “digital music eyewear” for training. The
glasses with built-in MP3 player weigh only 1.8 ounces and have a USB
connection, so Lance can quickly download the Sheryl Crow catalog.

Some firms choose to sponsor the race itself. France Telecom/Orange provides
callers with updates, rankings and interviews and mobile users with Orange’s
video service can also download clips.

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