Team Saxo Bank’s Fabian Cancellara won the prologue of this year’s Tour de France on a Specialized Shiv and since then he's been riding aboard a specially put together yellow S-Works Tarmac SL3s - something he did at last year's Tour too. He won't be on it tomorrow though and not just because he effectively gave up the yellow jersey today. No for Stage 3 the Tour tackles the pave of Roubaix and for that Fabian will be on a very special bike indeed, Specilized's Project Black Roubaix SL3, we got talked around the bike in Rotterdam before the Grand Depart you can watch the video below.
He won't be alone there, all of Specialized's riders at Saxo Bank and Astana will be on Roubaix's, Cancellara's bike is special though, it the machine he won this year's Paris Roubaix on…yes, that's right it's the one with the motor*.
There will be four big sections of pavé – cobbles – over the last 30km of the stage from Wanze to Arenberg Porte du Hainaut, totalling 13.2km in all. Whatever the weather conditions, it’s going to make for some fascinating racing, and if it rains there could be carnage out there… just like on stages 1 and 2 then.
Cancellara will be tackling this stage on his Specialized Project Black Roubaix, the same bike that he piloted to victory over the pavé in Paris-Roubaix earlier this year. Project Black is the name that Specialized give to their division devoted to professional equipment development.
Specialized have been making their Roubaix bikes for years, blending performance with comfort by shortening the top tube slightly and lengthening the head tube compared to a standard road bike geometry to give a more upright ride position. Cancellara’s bike, though, is a new incarnation with a design built on Specialized’s ‘smoother is faster’ mantra.
So what has changed? For a start, Specialized have bulked up the head tube area with their Cobra shaping. They use a 1 1/8in upper headset bearing and 1 3/8in bearing at the bottom, but rather than the top tube and the down tube coming in flush with the head tube, they both bulge out to the sides which, they claim, improves the front end stiffness for increased precision.
The bottom bracket area is meaty too, having been half-inched directly from the top-line Tarmac SL3. That’s what allows the Project Black Roubaix to handle the kind of wattage that Cancellara dishes out without it going wandering.
Specialized have included Zertz elastomer inserts in many of their frames and forks previously to help dampen out road vibration but they’ve now had a redesign. Rather than going all the way through the seat stays and fork legs as before, they now sit in ‘pockets’ – little hollows – and they’re bolted through to the other side of the tube.
Cancellara will be using a full SRAM Red groupset, although we couldn’t tell you whether he’ll be giving his brand spanking new limited edition yellow version an outing. Somehow, over the cobbles, we doubt it – he needs to save that for best. He rode Zipp 303 tubulars in the Hell of the North so we’re expecting those to make a return appearance – why change a winning formula?
The new Roubaix will be available to the public from this autumn although we’ve no word yet on price.
Video coming soon.
* For those that believe in alien abductions and Santa Claus
Mat has worked for loads of bike magazines over the past 20 years, and been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. He's been road.cc technical editor for seven years, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a youthful 45-year-old Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a past winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer.