3T switched production to carbon-fiber composite materials and in 2008 returned to pro cycling after several years' absence. For the 2008 season it sponsored the CSC team, which won the Tour de France. 3T sponsored three pro teams[which?] for the 2009 professional season.
The quest for light weight
3T is an Italian cycle sport firm, located in Bergamo, near Milano. It was originally known as 3TTT — Tecnologia del Tubo Torino (Turin Tube Technology). Many competitions have been won on 3T components, including the Tour de France, Olympic races, World Championships, and the World Hour record.
The firm was founded by Mario Dedioniggi in Torino in 1961. Dedioniggi was skilled at manipulating and bending steel tubes to fabricate the lightweight handlebars desired by racing cyclists, and Italian professional riders were among 3T’s first customers.
By 1970 3T handlebars and stems were in widespread use in the European professional peloton. In the quest for lighter weight, 3T switched production to aluminum alloy in place of steel. It was among the first to use aluminum for these components, where strength is critical to safety.
In 1975 it produced the Superleggera handlebar weighing 250 grammes — claimed to be the world's lightest drop handlebar. This bar was the first to be made of 7075 aluminium alloy, a material usually used in aerospace applications. The high strength-to-weight ratio of this alloy, also known as Ergal, found uses in other sports: 3T ski poles sold well for several seasons during the 1970s.
The firm worked closely with professional racers to refine the design of their handlebars. The various 'bends' took their name from the champions of the era — Merckx, Saronni, Moser, and Gimondi. In 1984 Francesco Moser used a newly developed 3T bar to capture the world hour record, breaking through the 50-kilometre barrier for the first time.
This new 'bullhorn' bar put the rider in a lower, more aerodynamic position for greater speed. Most riders in search of pure speed now use a similar position. In Moser's honor, 3T named the bar '51.151' — the distance Moser covered in kilometres (31.784 miles) at the Mexico City velodrome on January 23, 1984.
3T continued to develop new handlebar designs to assist riders reach their goal of greater speed. The growing power in world cycling, the United States, started to take notice. Scott USA commissioned 3T to create the first handlebars specific to triathlon use, and in a departure from its roots in road racing, 3T partnered with Salsa Cycles to create a range of mountain-bike components. Success was immediate: in 1994, Nicolas Vouilloz won the third of his many World Championship downhill titles in Vail (CO) on a 3T bar.
New technology drivers
Bicycle components underwent radical change in the 1990s. The traditional quill handlebar stem was rendered obsolete by the introduction of the threadless headset. 3T responded with the industry's first forged stem for this application, the ForgeAhead. Other manufacturers followed 3T's lead and switched to this technique, abandoning welded stems.
By the late 1990s, carbon-fiber composites were becoming the major driver of change. 3T, best known for its skill in aluminum alloy fabrication, took up the challenge of re-engineering to build components in composite materials. Race successes continued with Gold in the World Championships in 2000 and 2002 and a string of popular wins for Erik Zabel in the Italian home classic, Milan–San Remo, but it was not until 2008 that 3T again saw victory in a major tour.
Renewed race success
For the 2008 season, 3T sponsored Team CSC. The team debuted a new, all-composites aerofoil time-trial bar, the 3T Ventus. The team's World Champion time trialist, Fabian Cancellara, rode this to victory at the Prologue of the Amgen Tour of California. Moving on to the European season at the Giro d'Italia, CSC's youthful team narrowly failed to win the race's opening Team Time Trial.
Great success followed at the Tour de France. CSC captain Carlos Sastre won the Yellow Jersey of the Overall winner, his team mate Andy Schleck won the White Jersey for Best Young Rider, and CSC won Best Team. Race reports noted Sastre's outstanding performance in limiting his losses in the final weekend's Individual Time trial, where he was widely expected to lose the lead to his nearest rival, Cadel Evans.
Riding for Switzerland at the Beijing Olympics shortly after, Cancellara won Gold in the Men's Time Trial, beating his team mate Gustav Larsson, riding for Sweden, into second place, both riders using the Ventus bar. Their team captain Carlos Sastre animated the Men's Road Race, while Cancellara eventually placed third, one of three riders in the first five finishers riding 3T.