We've seen the scarves and the man pretending to be a zebra, now we've got our first pictures of the business end of Leopard Trek's operation - their bikes.
So, it's Treks all round but not just any Treks, standard team issue is the Madone 6.9 SSL the latest incarnation of the Madone. Trek describe the 6.9 SSL as "The world's most technologically advanced bicycle" and if it isn't it's got to be pretty damn close.
The Madone 6.9 SSL's frame is made from HexSL carbon which is exclusive to Trek and is defence grade apparently. No doubt it's capable of being fired at high velocity the Leopard Trek Madones will certainly be doing a lot of high velocity work with the likes of Fabian Cancellara and Jens Voigt on board. Beyond the marketing blurb though HexSL is clever and interesting stuff, a completely different grade of carbon fibre from the usual high modulus carbon used on high end bikes. Trek say that it combines equal levels of stiffness and strength, with no trade off between the two – unlike high modulus carbon which is stiffer than HexSL, but much less strong. We can take it as a given that it's light too.
The other thing that sets the Madone SSL apart is that Trek have worked with Shimano to integrate Di2 in to the frame. There's also the small matter of the Madone having 9 Tour de France victories to its name. Okay, it is to the name rather than this particular bike as the Madone has gone through a number of evolutions since that first win, but maybe that's the point, it's kept evolving and it's kept winning. Of course it helps that its had the best riders on board too.
For time trial duties Leopard Trek will be on board the Trek Speed Concept, another formidable piece of kit right up there with the Specialized Shiv and Cervelo P4 at the cutting edge of aerodynamic bike design - it's fully UCI legal too.
Trek certainly believe in their baby describing it as the "most aerodynamic, most fully integrated, best fitting, best handling bike in the world. We look forward to seeing what Fabian Cancellara can achieve on one, but it may well be that those handling characteristics prove of most value to the Schleck brothers. Although Andy Schleck has improved considerably as a time trialler it's still the chink in his armour and whether he ends up facing Alberto Contador and his Shiv in this year's Tour or not a time trial bike that handles well might just give him some crucial extra seconds. We'll find out soon enough.
The new team have confirmed that they’ll be using Bontrager wheels and accessories throughout the 2011 season – not surprising given that Bontrager is one of Treks in-house brands.
Included in the mix of products that Bontrager will be providing are wheels, handlebars, stems, waterbottles, and waterbottle cages. Bontrager will provide technical direction ranging from race day wheel and component selection to fit and sizing guidance on the team’s Madone road bikes and Speed Concept time trial bikes.
The team will use a variety of wheels from Bontrager, a brand that has carried riders to more Grand Tour victories than any other. Bontrager’s Aeolus collection or aerodynamic wheels (ranging from the 50mm tall 5.0 to the 90mm tall 9.0) and Race XXX Lite wheels will become the race-to-race workhorse wheels while much of the teams’ training time will be spent on the more affordable Bontrager Classics. The Leopard Trek riders will be helping Bontrager with prototype development throughout the year too.
“One of the most valuable assets our teams and riders provide us with is unparalleled feedback about the products they compete with,” said Trek’s Joe Vadeboncoeur. “These guys ride more than perhaps anybody else on the planet and have so much invested in the performance of the product. If it can work for them, we know it will work for just about anybody.”
The team’s road bikes will be fitted with Bontrager Race X Lite and carbon Race XXX Lite bars and stems, while their TT bikes will use Bontrager SC (Speed Concept) aero components.
Team Leopard Trek will be deviating from the Bontrager lineup for their tyres though, opting for Schwalbe instead.
Plucked from the obscurity of his London commute back in the mid-Nineties to live in Bath and edit bike mags our man made the jump to the interweb back in 2006 as launch editor of a large cycling website somewhat confusingly named after a piece of navigational equipment. He came up with the idea for road.cc mainly to avoid being told what to do… Oh dear, issues there then. Tony tries to ride his bike every day and if he doesn't he gets grumpy, he likes carbon, but owns steel, and wants titanium. When not on his bike or eating cake Tony spends his time looking for new ways to annoy the road.cc team. He's remarkably good at it.