Points race contender Mehdi Sohrabi, the only rider in the field on the 3T SPHINX bar, rode all comers off his wheel…even a puncture in the final laps didn't stop him claiming a podium position
Mehdi Sohrabi (IRI) rode the entire field off his wheel in the Points race at the 2010 Asian Games
held recently in Guangzhou, China.
Sohrabi, alone among the contenders, was riding the radical 3T SPHINX bar, created for exactly
this type of endurance event. He had already lapped the main group as the race reached its
closing stages and, barring mishaps, was assured of Gold.
But a mishap did befall him - unusually for a track event, he suffered a puncture. Despite this
setback, usually terminal to medal hopes in such a high-speed, closely-contested event, he was
able to recover to claim Bronze behind eventual winner Vladimir Tuychiev (UZB) and runner-up
Kam Po Wong (HKG).
It's another convincing win for the 3T SPHINX and a demonstration that this unusual bar meets all
applicable regulations. Rumors had been circulating that the UCI technical commission had
disqualified SPHINX from competitions held under UCI rules.
"The rumors are wrong," states 3T Technical Director Richard McAinsh. "They started on
Australian online forums and that caused several riders who had planned to use them at the next
big UCI track event, the Commonwealth Games, to switch back to conventional equipment.
"We heard about this when we were in Hawaii for the Ironman World Championships and
contacted the UCI right away. They promptly asked their people on the ground in Delhi to go and
look for themselves. Technological coordinator Julien Carron scrutinized the SPHINX very
thoroughly and concluded that it is, in his words, 'totally regulatory'.
"The issue was that some riders had set the SPHINX up on too long of a stem. A long-established
rule1 stipulates that the rider's handhold on the bars should be no more than 50 mm ahead of the
front wheel's axle. This is to stop riders adopting a radically forward, 'Superman'-style position,
which is clearly unstable.
"SPHINX has a forward extension of 162 mm - about 70 mm more than a modern drop bar like our
ERGOSUM. So if you mount it on your usual stem of, say, 120 mm, you risk putting the bar ahead
of the 50-mm line. That's why some of the riders at the Commonwealth Games were sanctioned,
not because the bar doesn't comply with the rules.
"Correctly set up, SPHINX is entirely within the rules and offers a significant edge to top-class track
riders in endurance events combining level high-speed racing with bursts of sprinting. Sohrabi's
performance at the Asian Games was not a fluke. At this level, the differences between
competitors are small, and a technical edge can really make the difference between winning a
medal and ending up among the also-rans. It was a pity for him that the puncture deprived him of
the Gold he would likely have won.
"SPHINX is a technically advanced product and requires careful setting up. It does bump up
against the rules, but if there is one thing I learned from my career with the Ferrari F1 team, it is
that you have to be willing and able to push the technical boundaries if you are committed to
"It's really up to the riders and their team managers to know where to push the envelope. And in
this case it's not so hard. The UCI publishes guidelines, and its advice could not be clearer. All the
equipment you need to set the bike up within the rules is a plumbline and a ruler.
"It also helps to put aside any preconceptions about how long your stem should be. So what if it
comes out at 70 mm? Other things being equal, the shorter the stem, the stiffer it is."