This is the Specialized SL4 of Saxo-Tinkoff’s Chris Anker Sørensen. The team, as we covered in our WorldTour 2013 bikes roundup, continues to be sponsored by Specialized (one of three teams to get the Big S’s backing).
The 28-year-old Danish cyclist has ridden for the Bjarne Riis run team since joining the then CSC squad in 2007, the year he turned professional. He's an aggressive rider with good all-round capability, and has often been talked about as a potential Grand Tour winner - he finished 12th in the Vuelta in 2011 and 14th in the Tour de France last year.
He uses the SL4 over the more aero Venge as his bike of choice, a common trend with those riders with sights set on overall victory and not sprint finishes. Both frames share the same geometry so switching between the two is easy enough.
The Tarmac series of bikes were first introduced in 2005 and have been steadily evolved over the years. This latest incarnation is the lightest yet, at about 950g. It’s made from the company’s own FACT IS 11r carbon fibre. FACT refers to the ability to be particular about the lay-up of each layer of carbon, so the designers can adjust the directional stiffness and vibration absorption of a frame for a given requirement.
It’s used to construct a frame that is significantly stiffer than its predecessor. It has a tapered head tube with 1-3/8in lower bearing (down from 1-1/2in on the SL3), which does go against the grain of most other manufacturers, but has been done to save weight. The bottom bracket and chainstays have been moulded as one-piece, leading to the impressive stiffness the frame exhibits when you stand on the pedals. Details like the dropouts, and those on the forks, are carbon too. Like most modern high-performance frames, all the cables are routed internally. The gear cables pop out briefly at the bottom.
As in 2012, the team enjoy the backing of SRAM so there’s the full complement of SRAM Red. SRAM offer coloured replacement hoods and the entire team have switched to blue hoods, to match the colour of their title sponsor. Specialized’s own S-Works carbon crankset breaks up the Red vibe.
SRAM own Zipp and so it’s Zipp wheels all round. Pictured here are the newly introduced shallow 202s, with 32mm rims. The team also have the deeper 404 to hand for flatter stages where weight isn't so critical.
And it’s the same story for the handlebars, stem and seatpost, which come from the Zipp range. In typical PRO fashion, there’s a lengthy stem fitted to the steerer tube, in this case it appears to be at least 13cm, possibly 14cm. Where’s a tape measure when you need one...
Riders are usually fussy about saddle choice - well, you would be if it’s your job to sit on one for 6-hours a day - and Chris opts for a flat Prologo Nago.
Is an SL4 replacement due? Well, the SL4 was introduced in 2011 and with the release of the Roubaix SL4 last year, we could see an SL5 being launched at some point this year.
Thanks to www.sram.com for the photos.
David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.