There are 22 teams in the Tour de France this year, with 19 manufacturers supplying them with bikes. The full list of brands is Focus, Specialized, Pinarello, BMC, Giant, Cannondale, Orbea, Look, BH, Lapierre, Canyon, Cervelo, Ridley, Trek, Scott, Felt, Colnago, Merida and Bianchi. Specialized supply three teams (Omega-Pharma Quick Step, Saxo-Tinkoff and Astana) and Pinarello two teams (Sky and Movistar), the rest work with just the one team.
Just before the Tour started myself and road.cc's Tech Editor, Mat Brett, spent a couple of days in Corsica going round all the teams to look at their bikes and equipment. We managed to get pics of pretty much every road bike option the teams have at the Tour (we also looked at as many time trial bikes as we could find too and you can read our Tour Tech 2013: Time Trial bike guide here).
What follows though is all about the road bikes. 22 teams' worth of thoroughbred racing hardware - the complete round-up of all the road bikes you'll see in the 2013 Tour de France with links to galleries of pictures and more in-depth stories on individual bikes. IT was very hard work to do so you'd better enjoy it… no pressure.
Frame: Focus Izalco Team SL Carbon
Drivetain: Campagnolo Record EPS
The Team SL Carbon is the latest and lightest version of the long-running Izalco. The frame has never been the lightest, but it’s now under a kilo at 960g. Good news for the like of you and me buying one, but as we're going to be saying a lot in the course of this piece it doesn't really make that much difference to the pros because they all have to meet the UCI's 6.8Kg minimum weight limit. It’s built with Campagnolo Record (not Super Record) EPS 11-speed with Fulcrum wheels. They’re the only team to be using Fizik’s new Cyrano R3 handlebar and stem combo. The seat post is also from Fizik, but unlike the bar and stem it's carbon rather than aluminium. We saw the bars and stems a few weeks back at Fizik HQ where there was also an R1 carbon/alu combo on display, but that's obviously not ready yet. Saddles on the AG2R bikes are Fizik too… they're defiinitely not the only team on them.
Just as we turned up at the AG2r Bus so did Maxime Bouet back from a pre-dinner ride - sadly Maxime's race ended on stage 5 when he broke his arm in a crash at the finish. It really is a hard life being a pro cyclist. To see more pics of Maxime's bike visit our gallery here.
Astana Pro Team
Frame: Specialized Tarmac SL4
Drivetrain: Campagnolo Recod EPS
Components: Specialized (including cranks)
Astana have been on Specialized bikes for a while now and most riders will be racing the Tarmac SL4. A notable change is the switch from SRAM to Campagnolo for their drivetrain supplier. They, like almost every other team running Campagnolo, are using the Record EPS 11-speed groupset. As well as frames, they're using a mixture of FSA and Specialized branded components - our guess is that the latter are rebadged from FSA too. Certainly the bars, stem and seat posts are from FSA. They’re one of only two teams to roll on Corima wheels.
Maybe it was Tarmac SL4 day at Astana and all the Venge's were out, but we didn't see one of Specialized's aero machines by the Astana team truck: it was SL4s all the way. Thanks to the extremely helpful Astana team mechanics we got a very full set of pictures of Jakob Fugslang's bike (above) including some taken from the drive side for all you purists out there.
Belkin Pro Cycling
Frame: Giant Propel/TCR Advanced
Drivetrain: Shimano Di2 9070
Wheels: Shimano C-50
Blanco Pro Cycling announced a change of name and unveiled its new kit and new team colours as it prepared to take to the start of the Tour de France on Corsica on Saturday as Belkin Pro Cycling. They're still supported by Giant, and will be riding either the TCR Advanced SL (above) or the newer Propel, their first ever aero road bike, launched at the Tour Down Under this year. The Propel has a 950g frame weight and, according to their test data, impressive stiffness. Shimano continue to supply groupsets and it'll be the new Dura-Ace Di2 11-speed. Expect to see the new Pioneer power meter as well.
Belkin had a lot of bikes racked up in their service area - half in the old blue and black team colours and half in the new green, Belkin, version. Riders get to choose which model they want to ride - and basically it all comes down to personal preference - so you might think that a powerful rider like Lars Boom would go for the Propel, but he actually prefers the feel of the TCR Advanced, the Belkin mechanic told us. Belkin have the same policy when it comes to wheels and other equipment choices, so while most riders were going with the Shimano C50 not all of them were - some opting instead for the C35.
Want to see more pics of the Belkin bikes? You're in luck, we've got a full gallery here.
BMC Racing Team
Frame: TeamMachine SLR01 / TimeMachine TMR01/Impec
Drivetrain: Shimano Dura-Ace
Wheels: Shimano Dura-Ace
BMC have put their flagship TeamMachine SLR01 on a diet ahead of the Tour de France, where Cadel Evans will eyeing up a podium spot, and shaved the weight down to 790g for a size 56cm. That's a reduction from about 950g for the previous frame. For the sprinters and fast stages, there's the slippery TimeMachine which has many current aero features to help it reduce drag, although it's got to be said we were seeing more of the Swiss outfit's so-top-end-it's-practically-out-of-the-range Impec by the BMC truck.
The Impec was launched a few years back now with much hooplah and the big deal about it is that, in the words of BMC, it's handbuilt by robots in Switzerland. From a technical standpoint the big thing about it is the use of what BMC call their Shell Node Concept in its construction. They're what the rest of us would call lugs… but only when there's nobody from BMC around. Like lugs the benefit of BMC's Shell Nodes is that they allow very precise fine tuning of the tube profiles, which in the Impec's case includes the characteristics of the carbon weave. That means the Impec can be made very efficient - or as us mortals would say - 'stiff' which is something that pros like a lot, particularly as they don't have to pay for their bikes. Impecs aren't cheap.
That's Philippe Gilbert's BMC TeamMachine SLR01 above, painted with world champion stripes. The team use Shimano's latest Dura-Ace 9070 11-speed Di2 groupset and C50 tubular wheels, with Continental tyres and 3T bars and stem.
Cannondale Pro Cycling
Frame: Cannondale SuperSix Evo
Drivetrain: SRAM RED
Peter Sagan and co. will be riding the same SuperSix Evo they've been riding for the past couple of seasons. It's still one of the lightest and stiffest frames in the peloton, and there's an even lighter Nano version of the frame they could ride. But the UCI's weight limit means they will probably stick to the regular Hi-Mod model as they already have to add weights to that to make it race legal. They continue to use SRAM’s RED mechanical groupset (although not the new RED 22), the lightest on the market, and they’ve dropped Mavic wheels in favour of Vision. They’ve also a new tyre sponsor, Kenda, this season.
Peter Sagan, the lucky boy that he is, has been gifted a specially painted 'Hulk' frame, to celebrate the Hulk victory salute he pulled in the Tour last year. The rest of the team will be on the standard liveried bike - the one above belongs to Moreno Moser and you can see a full gallery of pics of it here.
Frame: Look 695 Aero Light
Look Cycles unveiled their brand new 695 Aero Light road bike ahead of the Tour de France. Changes focus on aerodynamics, the hot topic in road bicycle design this year, with integrated brakes, internal cable routing and a new aero stem The frames will be dressed with Mavic wheels and Shimano groupsets, and 3T finishing parts.
Spare bike for the team is the standard Look 695 without all the fancy integrated gubbins, by the looks of it, the Aero Light version is so new that Cofidis ony have one set - when we visited the team truck they were nowhere to be seen having already been sent down with the riders to the team presentation. We've got a whole gallery of up close and personal shots of the spare Look 695 here.
Frame: Orbea Orca
Drivetrain: Shimano Dura-Ace Di2
Wheels: Shimano C50
Orbea unveiled the lighter, stiffer and more aero Orca in the week before the Tour de France. The Orca was first conceived 10 years ago, and won a gold medal in the Beijing 2008 Olympics courtesy of Samuel Sánchez. It was the second version though that really got the world to sit up and notice - with a strong claim to being the most influential design of the decade with a number of other manufacturers paying 'homage' to it in their own top end road bikes. Orbea haven't rested on their laurels, working hard on evolving the design of the bike. It’s been through four further iterations in those years, and this new model represents, they reckon, a significant step forward. You can read more about it in this article and see a full set of pictures of the bike.
Francaise des Jeux
Frame: Lapierre Xelius EFI Ultimate Di2
Drivetrain: Shimano Di2
Wheels: Shimano wheels
French team FDJ are still on fellow French firm Lapierre’s bikes for 2013. The company has developed the new Xelius EFI Ultimate for the team, it’s the lightest (890g) and stiffest frame they’ve ever produced. Frames are fitted with Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 9070 11-speed groupsets, with the battery hidden in the seat post - in fact we're pretty sure this is the only bike in this year's peloton to have its battery in its new hidden location. There's a full gallery of pics you'll find here. It's also worth checking out the pic of the front brake - Lapierre haven't integrated their brake or stuck it behind the fork, but what they have done is to take a brake-shaped notch out of the fork and set the brake calliper in to that.
They’ve also shopped at Shimano for the components and wheels this year - Alexander Geniez has gone for a pro carbon stem matched to an aluminium bar a combo of cockpit materials heavily favoured by the pros. More unusually his bike sports two different wheels - a Shimano C50 at the back with a C35 up front, both on 25mm rubber though..
You can see a full gallery of what we reckon is one of the prettiest bike in the peloton here.
Frame: Cervelo S5/R5/RCA
Drivetrain: Shimano Di2 + Rotor cranks
At the time of writing, the Garmin-Sharp team rolls out on almost identical kit to last year. That means either the Cervélo R5 or S5, depending on rider preference and race profile, wrapped up with Shimano Dura-Ace Di2, Mavic wheels and Rotor chainsets.
The other bike in evidence at the back of the team truck was the new even-lighter-than-the-R5* Cervelo RCA, the 667g frame the Canadian manufacturer launched earlier this year. This seems to be the bike of choice for both Ryder Hesjedal and Christian Vande Velde - who rides his on a Fizik cyclocross saddle. Neither sported the 100th edition Tour paint job, but don't be surprised if they see some action during this year's race. Although given the fact that both the R5 and the RCA will need to have weights added to bring them up to the UCI weight limit aside from considerations of feel and handling it's a mystery as to why you would choose one rather than get even a slight aero edge courtesy of the S5.
Frame: Aeroad CF + Ultimate CF SLX
Drivetrain: Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 9070 11-speed
Katusha are supported by German manufacturer Canyon, and have the choice of two road bikes: the aero – as its name suggests – Aeroad CF; or the lighter Ultimate CF SLX which we reviewed a few weeks back. The latter is a 790g frame, for a size large, and is made from a ultra high modulus carbon fibre with details like the flattened top tube, bulged seat tube and slim seat stays, in many respects it looks more like like an aero bike than the Aeroad. That, as already mentioned is Canyon's aero road option and it's definitely from the more minimalist school of such bikes taking most of its' aero advantage we'd guess from that hourglass head tube - Canyon also drop the rear triangle, so the seat stays join the seat tube further down, which they also reckon confers an aero advantge. One particularly neat wrinkle on the Aeroroad is that you can adjust the rake via the front dropout to give the sort of ride characteristic that you prefer.
Looking at the bikes racked up for the mechanics to work on we'd say that team preferences were roughly split between the Aeroad and the Ultimate (below) with maybe just a slight favouring of the Aeroad. Certainly Joaquim Rodriguez rides one - when you might expect a man known for his climbing prowess to be on the Ultimate, maybe he's thinking about saving time on the descents. You can see a full gallery of Rodgriguez's and Alexander Kristoff's Canyon Aeroad CF team bikes here.
Frame: Merida Scultura SL
Drivetrain: Shimano Dura-Ace Di2
The Merida Scultura SL will be fitted with Shimano’s Dura-Ace Di2 groupset and FSA components. And here’s a pairing we don't’ see often, Fulcrum wheels on a Shimano equipped bike. Fulcrum wheels are made by Campagnolo, they’re essentially the same but they picked a neutral name that allows non-Campagnolo equipped bikes to use their wheels happily.
As you'd expect from a bike with 'SL' in its name the Scultura is light - we tested one earlier this year - read the review here - and that grazed the scales at a mere 14.2lb, so the team will be adding ballast to bring it up to the UCI's weight limit. The Scultura's front end is a particulary stiff unit making for extremely precise does-what-you-tell- it handling, even by the standards of top end performance bikes. One other thing that sets the Merida apart from the rest of the road bike pack is it's use of flax fibres in the lay-up of the rear triangle - the idea is that they reduce vibration. Flax has been around for a few years now as a frame material, or more accurately part of the frame material mix championed by Belgian outfit Museeuw - Merida are the first of the big name manufacturers to start using it.
Manipulating the layup of the carbon to reduce high frequence vibrations is very much the technology of the moment, both Cannondale with their latest Synapse and Bianchi with the new Infinito CV do something similar - although without using flax, and neither of those bikes are the out and out race machines of their respective marques - so the Scultura's distinctiveness goes a bit deeper than that lairy paint job.
Frame: Ridley Noah FAST / Helium SL
Drivetrain: Campagnolo Record EPS
The Lotto-Belisol team, headed by fearsome sprinter Andre Greipel, have the choice of two top-level race bikes. Above is the Noah FAST is their cutting-edge aero bike designed for the pursuit of speed. Below is the Helium SL, their superlight option. We rocked up to their hotel at exactly the same time as they did, and although we meant to go back we never got there - so the only shots we've got are bikes on team car roof racks - which the Lotto Belisol guys were more than happy for us to peer at.
What we can tell you is that Greipel is on a Noah FAST with a special gorilla paint job, but you knew that already cos we wrote about it a few day back. Ridley did the same thing for Greipel last year too, but that bike was black. The only other thing we can report from our totally unscientific roof rack observation (check the pics here) - was that the Noah Fast won the roof rack count (there was only one very lovely black Helium, but then the team truck was probably stuffed with quite a few more of the super-light numbers. And that is all we have to say on the matter. Next!
Frame: Pinarello Dogma 65.1 Think2
Drivetrain: Campagnolo Record EPS
Components: Pinarelloa MOST
Pinarello will be riding the same Dogma 65.1 Think2 as Team Sky. They dress their frames – finished with a discrete Movistar logo colour stripe on the inside of the front triangle, and white chainstay/seatstay insides – with a Campagnolo Record EPS electronic 11-speed groupset. Wheels are from the Italian company too, with the 50mm deep-section Bora’s the most likely choice - although not on Ivan Gutierrez's bike pictures above - although they could have been his training wheels. We had a look at a few of the Movistar Pinarello's and when it comes to tyre width they were definitely taking a more old school - narrow profile approach with most of their wheels sporting 22mm tubs. The other thing to note is that like nearly all of the teams riding Campagnolo Movistar are using Record EPS 11-spd rather than Super Record.
For a much closer nosey at Movistar's Pinarello's you can find a full gallery of shots here.
Omega Pharma-Quick Step
Frame: Specialized Tarmac and Venge
Drivetrain: SRAM RED
The team of Tom Boonen and Mark Cavendish is sponsored for another season by Specialized, and most of the team will be on the Venge, but they also have the Tarmac SL4 at the ready. Above is the Venge belonging to Cavendish, and he will be the first rider to use SRAM's brand new hydraulic rim brake setup, complete with redesigned shifter bodies incorporating the reservoir - there was a certain amount of scepticism amongst some Tour observers as to whether Cav started with those hydraulic brakes - although he was definitely on them by stage 2. Either way OPQS aren't the first team to rock up to the Tour with hydraulic brakes, as we reported last year Garmin Cervelo were running them on their P5 time trial bike - of which they are an integral part; and they popped up on their S5 road bikes too. Interestingly there was no sign of them on any of the S5 team bikes we saw at the Garmin truck this year.
In terms of power and modulation hydraulic rim brakes sit somewhere between standard cable-operated rim brakes and SRAM’s hydraulic disc brakes . The hydraulic disc brakes provide more power but they’re not race-legal. You can read more about his bike here AND here.
We were expecting some SRAM-sponsored riders to be on new SRAM Red 22 – the 2014 top level groupset – at the Tour de France, but we didn’t see it fitted to any team bikes we saw out in Corsica including Niki Terpstra's Specicalized Venge in standard team colours pictured above and in our full gallery of images here.
Of all the teams riding Specialized, OPQS was the one where the Venge was most in evidence - in fact it was in the majoritiy. Our theories on that? Well, OPQS are the most recent team to climb on board with Specialized and the Venge is Specialized's most recent model, but more likely is the simple fact that it's the bike best suited to their needs. OPQS are at the Tour to win sprint stages and the Venge is already a proven winner in the capable hands of Mark Cavendish who is, not surprisingly, a big fan of Specilized's point and shoot aero machine.
While the Venge suits OPQS's needs, Saxo-Tinkoff have ambitions to win the yellow jersey and the general classification - The Tarmac SL4 has won grand tours and Saxo's top man, Alberto Contador, has ridden it to notable successes on mountain stages. It's a bike that does everyting a pro wants over a three week Tour and its a machine the team know inside out because they've been riding it for three years now. Saxo take a pragmatic approach though, they're not all on Tarmacs whether it's out of personal preference or a perceived performance advantage Saxo's sprinter Daniele Benatti is on a Venge. Astana are here more to animate the race, get in breaks and maybe snatch a couple of stages - again the combination of performance and reliability and knowing what you're bike is capable of is crucial.
Frame: Scott Foil/Addict
Drivetrain: Shimano Dura-Ace Di2
Wheels: Shimano wheels,
The Australian team retain Scott as bike supplier, and the Foil aero bike, which has been around for a couple of years, is their bike of choice. Expect to see a lot of the team on the new Addict (below), which was offically launched at the Tour this week and according to Scott pretty much the entire team are on it. If that's the case it's already notched it's first stage win, under Simon Gerrans on Monday and we'd guess he was riding the race on a nice new yellow one for stage 6. Orica Green Edge were all out when we called in to visit last week at the Tour - although they did leave their coach behind, so we didn't really see and of the road bikes. No matter, we already spotted it being tested at Paris-Roubaix earlier this year, where the team were putting it through its paces.
Essentially the Addict is to the Venge what the Cervelo R5 is to the S5 - it's the lightweight option for those that don't want to go the aero road route. Although, at the risk of sounding like a broken record - there isn't going to be that much of a lightness advantage for the pros because they all have to add weights to their bikes to make them race legal. The new Addict is, as you'd expect both lighter and stiffer than the old version. So more weights to add before scrutineering. The pros never complain about any extra stiffness and Scott must surely be doing something right if the Addict's winning start is anything to go by.
Frame: Trek Domane 6.9 and Madone 7.9
Drivetrain: Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 9070
Wheels: Bontrager Aelous
Radioshack team riders have a choice of bikes, the bump-taming Domane (as ridden by Fabian Cancellara to much success in the classics) or the brand new Madone 7 Series, announced just before the Tour de France started. Trek have shaved another 25g of weight from the carbon layup, it's now 725g, and they've also massively beefed up the chainstays to produce a stiffer platform. As we pointed out over the weekend, Andy Schleck has taken the Domane option, as far as we could see nosing round the bikes on the team truck he was the only one of Radioshack's Tour team to do so, all the rest seem to be on the new Madone.
The Madone 7-series is Trek's first attempt at an all-out aero bike (the previous 6 Series - now the 5 Series did have some aero features too though). Trek take a somewhat different approach to the concept than from such benchmark examples as the Cervelo S5. Instead of lots of wide, thin tube profiles, Trek put their faith in the KammTail technology first seen on their Speed Concept TT bike to shape the tubes, and repositions the rear brake under the chainstays to make it slip through air cleaner and more quickly.
Frame: BH Bikes G6 and Ultralight
Drivetain: Shimano Dura Ace Di2, Rotor chainrings
Spanish manufacturer BH Bikes may not be one of the best known names on these shores, but they’ve been producing bikes for over a 100 years. Like Orbea – their great Basque rival – they started out making guns. They’ve been in and out of the pro peloton in that time, winning the Tour of Spain and several stages in the Tour de France, and this year they’ll be hoping to replicate that success, partnering with the Sojasun outfit. The team will have two bikes at their disposal, the regular G6 and the Ultralight 9.9 a 750g frameset, developed using BH's own carbon moulding process. The G6 is sub-900g, with a tapered head tube, BB386 PressFit bottom bracket, internal cable routing and carbon dropouts.
They are another team riding Corima wheels (and brake pads), matched up to a Shimano Di2 drivetrain and FSA finishing parts. Actually not all of the drivetrain is Shimano as Sojasun have carried the Spanish theme on by using Rotor chainrings (incorporating an SRM) with Rotor cranks - interestingly though, almost all of the riders had opted for the round rings rather than the oval ones. They're also the only team on Panaracer tyres, and none of your new-fanlged 25mms on the bikes we saw.
Looking at the bikes they had out to prep before the team presentation we'd have to say that pretty much all of the team seemed to be on the Ultralight 9.9 rather than the aero G6. For a more in-depth look at Sojasun's BH Ultralight take a gander at our gallery of shots of Brice Feillu's bike.
Frame: Felt F1
Drivetrain: Shimano Dura-Ace Di2
Wheels: Shimano C-50 wheels
For 2013 Felt have upped their carbon fibre manufacturing process and are using a new TeXtreme woven carbon fiber fabric to construct the frame.This TeXtreme is produced by a Swedish company, oXeon, who supply Formula 1 teams. It's advanced stuff, it has woven fibre piles that are very thin and means less material is needed for the same level of stiffness. So the new frames are the same the stiffness department, but lighter. Plus ça change.
Felt also produce the AR1, a slippery aero bike that was one of the first of this new breed of race bikes, when it launched a good few years ago. It has been changed for 2013, and drops a bit of weight due to a new InsideOut moulding process for the bottom bracket, head tube and seat stays. Basically it leaves the insides fo the tubes cleaner and the walls thinner. It’s now boasting a frame weight of 1,050g (down from 1,400g).
To be honest though we didn't spot many/any ARs on our recce of the Argo Shimano technical area - although that could have been because a fair chunk of the bikes had gone off with the team to the presentation ceremony by the time we got there. It was the new Felt F1 FRD as far as they eye could see. These were maninly the second choice bikes, although wheels apart the mechanics said they were exactly the same as the first choice bikes - in a big Tour it's pretty likely a rider will ride both his bikes, indeed it's pretty standard practice to have two spare bikes - the third bike usually being last year's model.
You can read a more in-depth look at the Argos Shimano F1 FRD and see a full set of pics in our Tour tech piece here
Frame: Colnago C59
The 100th edition of the Tour de France wouldn't have seemed quite right without a Colnago so luckily Europcar got their now traditional wild card entry. They'll be riding the race on the Colnago C59 Italia. And to celebrate they've given it a special 100th edition of the Tour de France paint job, you can read more about that, and the bike, here. Would've been embarrassing if they hadn't got a wild card and had to turn up to the Tour of Austria on 'em, but luckily that didn't happen.
The C59 is the company’s flagship bike with a 950g frame weight handbuilt in Italy. Unusually these days, it isa lugged carbon construction rather than a moncoque - the only other bike in the peloton with a similar method of construction is the BMC Impec though BMC have a rather fancier name for their lugs. The undeniable benefit of making a carbon bike this way is that it makes it much easier to tune the bike the the rider in terms of geometry, tube stiffness and strength which makes it a good choice for a pro.
Europcar combine the frame with a full Campagnolo Record groupset and Campagnolo Bora wheels; this bike was wearing the 80th anniversary groupset.
Frame: Specialized Venge and Tarmac SL4
Drivetrain: SRAM RED
Specialized support three WorldTour teams, Astana, OPQS, and Saxo-Tinkoff, headed by Alberto Contador. Like the other two teams Saxo will have the pick of the aero Venge or the light and stiff Tarmac SL4. We got to the back of their bus not long after the team had arrived on Corsica, so there wasn't much built up but it was interesting to note the split of bikes on the three Specialized teams. At Saxo-Tinkoff the majority had gone with Tarmac SL4. Stick with what you know - Saxo Bank have been on Specialized for years now and on the SL4 since its Tour debut three years ago. It's a race proven bike and Specialized cleary feel that they got it right first time in terms of weight, handling, and the all important one for pros, stiffness because it hasn't really changed that much since.
In fact the only Venge we spotted belonged to Daniele Bennati - check out that stem too, you can get a closer look at it in our gallery of shots from Saxo - Tinkoff - it's a whopper!
The preferred wheel amongst the Saxo riders would appear to be the Zipp 303 - although they have the full range of rim depths to choose from - and we would fully expect them to break out the 404s on more than a few stages.
Team SKY Procycling
Frame Pinarello Dogma 65.1 Think2
Drivetrain: Shimano Dura-Ace Di2
The Dogma 65.1, with its curved seat stays and fork legs, is one of the most distinctive bikes in the peloton, and also the most successful last year. The frame is made from 65-ton Torayca 65HM1K Nanoalloy Carbon (see where the 65 in the name comes from now?) which leads to a stiffer frameset, and it's lighter than the Dogma Wiggo used at the Tour last year. Pictured above is Geraint Thomas' Dogma, which you can read about in this article hopefully it didn't get too bashed about in the crash at the end of stage one in which Thomas chipped his pelvis. Ouch!
Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team
Frame: Bianchi Oltre XR2
Drivetrain: Campagnolo Super Record EPS + FSA chainset
Wheels: FFWD wheels
Vacansoleil should be riding the new Bianchi Oltre XR2. The new Oltre XR2 frame is made from UMS40 and CN60 ultra high modulus carbon fibres and the weight is a claimed 895g (that's for the 55cm version). It has a BB386 bottom bracket, tapered head tube (1 1/8in to 1 1/2in) and is designed to be compatible with both mechanical and electronic systems. The UTSS (ultra thin seatstays) are designed to give a bit of the ever-sought vertical compliance. We'd both ridden the new Oltre at its official launch a couple of weeks back and can confirm that as well as being a very satisfying point-and-shoot performance bike, it is also fairly comfortable too. In fact on the post recce drive to the airport it was the bike in the peloton we both agreed would be the one we'd be most likely to buy… in the unlikely event we ever had that sort of money.
In terms of eqiuipment what sets the Vacansoleil Bianchi apart from the other Campag toting bikes in the peloton is that it's the only one to be running Campagnolo Super Record rather than plain old Record. The one above belongs to Thomas De Gendt and was used to good effect to animate the break of Stage 5 to Marseille and we'll expect to see some more of it when the race hits the mountains.
So, what did we learn?
1. Corsica is a very lovely place well worth a visit if you ever get the chance…
2. The UCI's 6.8Kg minimum weight limit is completely out of date - you could lop 800g off it tomorrow and the only difference it would make is that teams would add less weight to their bikes. Indeed the fact all the bikes racing have a UCI approved sticker on the frame and all of those frames are easily built in to bikes way below the UCI weight limit does rather suggest that the stickers are nothing more than a money making exercise for the UCI and a convenient marketing tool for bike companies, but moving on…
3. Tour bikes are still at the cutting edge of bike technology - despite the deadening influence of the UCI rule bike - and despite what Graeme Obree may think Tour bikes are not all the same, it's just that the innovation has moved below the surface as maunfacturers attempt to manipulate carbon composites in ever more sophisticated ways to enhance ride performance and handling.
4. Aero road bikes are here to stay, but the current generation of pros are not rushing out to adopt them en masse just yet - except sprinters.
5. Despite all the commercial pressures, they hype and the marketing, what pros and teams like is race proven stuff that works and that doesn't necessarily mean using the newest bike or the very top of the range component - the preponderance of Campagnolo Record over Super Record being a good example and the preference for the Tarmac SL4 or the TCR Advanced SL over the Venge or the Propel being another. Teams and riders want bikes and kit they think will give them an edge - sometimes that will simply be stuff they know or like, but if there is an innovation they think will give a performance gain they won't be slow to adopt it - hence the upsurge in 25mm tyres.
Additional words by that Dave Arthur
Tony has been editing cycling magazines and websites since 1997 starting out as production editor and then deputy editor of Total Bike, acting editor of Total Mountain Bike and then seven years as editor of Cycling Plus. He launched his first cycling website - the Cycling Plus Forum at the turn of the century. In 2006 he left C+ to head up the launch team for Bike Radar which he edited until 2008, when he co-launched the multi-award winning road.cc - which he continues to edit today. His favourite ride is his ‘commute’ - which he does most days inc weekends and he’s been cycle-commuting since 1994. His favourite bikes are titanium and have disc brakes.