Tech features The aero tech and tricks behind Ben Healy’s 50 km solo Giro stage win
A closer look at Ben Healy's Cannondale SystemSix – because, "Aero, that's what I am all about."
For many, EF Education-EasyPost’s Ben Healy has been the surprise package of the 2023 season thus far. But for those who have followed his progression from the junior categories, his rise to the highest echelons of the sport is less a surprise and more a confirmation of his obvious talent.
Equally obvious to anyone tracking the progress of the Tour de l’Avenir’s youngest-ever stage winner is his attention to the aero details. When better to take a closer look at the setup of one of the peloton’s most aero riders than in the aftermath of Healy’s 50 km solo break to win stage 8 of the Giro d’Italia?
First things first: the frame. Healy is one of only a few riders at EF choosing the Cannondale SystemSix this season. With the introduction of the new SuperSix Evo, most of the team are now choosing that bike for every race. But Healy – despite being an all-rounder/climber type that might typically choose the lighter-do-it-all option – still opts for the aero-focused, but slightly heavier, SystemSix. Healy simply says, “Aero – that’s what I am all about,” when asked why he prefers the SystemSix over the new SuperSix. The team supplied these photos of Healy’s SystemSix, albeit with Vision’s SL60s rather than the 45 mm deep rims he won stage eight with. Healy opts for 38 cm wide Vision Trimax carbon aero bars with the levers angled in. Vittoria’s new Corsa Pro 28 mm tyres with, according to Healy, Vittoria’s inserts. 54:40 Chainrings are almost obligatory in the pro peloton these days. It’s not just an aero frame Healy opts for, though, with the former Irish champion also opting for Rapha’s latest time trial skinsuit in road races. The long sleeve suit was developed in partnership with Loughborough University and the Silverstone Sports Engineering Hub using new fabrics and constructions. Rapha claims the suit saves 12 watts at 50 kph and one degree of yaw over its previous time trial suit – which presumably is also faster than the typical road racing suit. It’s a suit designed for time trials but Healy repurposes it as a road racing suit. The time trial suit doesn’t offer any pocket storage, so Healy cut the top of the number pocket and repurposed it also as a makeshift nutrition pocket. Rider, position, bike, skinsuit, and overshoes combined make for one aero-looking package. “I like to get every advantage I can, so if there is an aero advantage, I’ll take it,” Healy told Escape Collective. Healy is another in the group of technologically-minded riders who now realise they can’t just rely on huge engines to deliver results. While we’ve seen the Irishman adopt the aero position at every opportunity, he might still have room for improvement. A busy race schedule and a broken wrist in February mean he hasn’t yet had a chance to test or fully optimise his road setup as of yet. For Healy, though, it’s not all style over substance. He has the engine to make his optimised system even more effective. If you’re aero and you know it clap your hands. If you’re aero and you know and you really want to show it … ride 50 km solo. Healy has delivered big results several times this year, but a 50 km solo ride en route to a stage win eight days into your Grand Tour debut is probably the pick of them so far. While clearly a “tech head,” Healy also admits equipment selection is not something he has huge control over. “Andreas Klier is in charge of the team equipment, and he is on it,” Healy says as he explains the confidence he has in the team to deliver the best equipment available. “[Klier] has to deliver the best he can for the entire team, not just one rider, and I totally trust the team will keep improving our equipment year on year.”
It’s a fast-moving sport with all the technology and new equipment, I think you need to be open-minded to that to keep up these days.
Ben Healy on his willingness to choose different equipment options. It’s not just on the road that Healy looks “dialled” – his TT position looks every bit as optimised. The current Irish time trial champion demonstrates exactly the kind of position that makes a POC Tempor look good and uses the same Rapha skinsuit, but this time with the green and white of the Irish champion. There are, of course, the almost obligatory overshoes also. But more interesting is what is underneath the overshoes. Is that a gel? Is this the latest aero hack loophole?
Beneath the overshoes and mysterious lump, Healy has a sleek pair of custom-painted Nimbl Feat Ultimate shoes. The shoes are painted by fellow Irishman and footwear artist, Shea Gribbon, aka, The Shoe Dr.
The shoes lean on the design of EF’s Giro-special kit, which uses fabric from Rapha’s “Excess Program”. There’s also a nod to home in the Irish tricolour, as requested by Healy. In line with the goals of the Rapha Excess program of reducing waste, the Shoe Dr hand-mixed the colours from paint in his workshop rather than buying new paint. A gold shamrock as well for the current Irish national time trial champion. As it’s Bens first grand tour, Gribbon included a note on the inside of the strap with the start and finish dates and on the side of each shoe. The shoes when they were still a work in progress – unlike Healy, who every day looks more and more like the finished article.
Ben Healy Giro d'Italia