The Route du Sud is a small stage race in the south of France that not a lot of people are familiar with, but this year both Alberto Contador and Nairo Quintana boosted the profile, as they each used the race as final preparation for the upcoming Tour de France, which starts next weekend.
The race had a very local feel to it, providing great access to the stars, and bikes, and the crowds were out in force to see local man Bryan Coquard win the final stage. This isn't a big race so there weren't many WorldTour teams, so it providing an opportunity to see the equipment that some of the smaller teams use. Here are some photos of the bikes and equipment I spotted.
Crowds lining the final sprint, and no problems getting a good vantage point to see the peloton zoom past.
There was a tricky right hand turn inside the final 200 metres but everyone made it through cleanly, with Bryan Coquard sprinting to victory.
And here's the Colnago V1-r belonging to stage winner Bryan Coquard. This is the Italian company's latest road bike, and its first aero model, developed in partnership with Ferrair, hence the company's logo on the top tube.
The final stage wasn't the most technical, but plenty of bikes were still seen with maps and route details taped to the top tube or stem. Sprinter Bryan Coquard obviously likes to know where he's going and what is coming up.
Just in case there's any doubt about who this bike belongs to.
Bryan goes for a Deda one-piece bar and stem, and this one has seen some use. Looks like quite a short stem and the bar tape doesn't extend very far along the tops.
Italian company Wilier sponsor the Colombia team, a UCI Pro Continental squad that is one rung below the WorldTour team. Not only are they a smaller team on paper in terms of funding and resource, they also had one of the smallest camper vans at the race. This is Wilier's Zero7 race bike and the team uses Shimano Dura-Ace mechanical groupsets with FSA chainsets and Vision Metron 55 wheels.
Cult Energy Pro Cycling were one of the smaller teams taking part, and turned up with a fleet of Ridley Helium SL and older Helium road bikes. The bikes were built with Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 groupsets with Black Inc wheels and 3T finishing kit.
The Infocrank is a relatively new crank-based power meter from Verve, an Australian company. InfoCrank measures each leg independently.
The team were using Black Inc carbon fibre deep section wheels shod with new Schwalbe One 26mm tyres. The tyre is available in 22, 24 and 28mm widths as well.
We're seeing more teams go wider, even on a mostly flat and well surfaced route like the final stage of the Route du Sud. At the other extreme, Nairo Quintana was sporting a bike with 22mm tyres.
The Cult team also had some custom jockey wheels and natty gold chains as well.
Obviously the logo on this seatpost has been taped over to keep the team sponsors happy. You don't see this a lot this day, but it still goes on sometimes, especially if the rider isn't happy with the function or fit of the sponsored products.
Cipollini's Bond, in an eye-catching camo paint job. Camo is all the rage at the moment apparently. The Armée de Terre team is sponsored by the French Army and all the cyclists are professional soldiers.
The team has gone camo with its team vehicles as well. It's a bold look that's for sure.
Here's the cockpit of Alex Dowsett's Canyon Aeroad CF SLX. He uses the company's carbon fibre integrated bar and stem. He's using a Garmin Edge 810 with Canyon's integrated computer mount.
Despite it being a toasty 25°C, aerodynamics is still very important and Alex Dowsett was wearing his overshoes.
Here's Alberto Contador's Specialized Tarmac with a custom paint job that makes it easy to spot compared to the regular Tinkoff-Saxo team bikes. That and some customised graphics paying homage to his signature pistol victory salute.
This is how organised the boot of the team car is with bags full of spare kit for each rider in a Scicon kit bag.
Bretagne-Séché Environement is sponsored by French firm Look, and this is the company's distinctive 795 Aerolight. We had a first ride on this bike not so long ago, you can read our first impressions here. It features a skinny tapered head tube and NACA (National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics) frame tube profiles, and the Aerostem integrated into the head tube and top tube. It's the sort of design feature you see on time trial bikes, but is rare on a road bike.
Look are one of the few bike companies that makes its own crankset (along with Specialized and Cannondale) and this is the Zed 2 carbon chainset. The two halves of the crank, the axle and the spider are a single carbon component, Look claiming a weight of just 320g.
Europcar is still sponsored by Colnago this year, and I spotted a mix of C60 and V1-r aero road bikes on display. It's clear then that each rider is allowed to choose the road bike he favours for their style of riding or duty in the team. This is the C60.
And this is Colnago's latest creation, the V1-r, the first aero road bike from the Italian company.
A key feature of the V1-r are the use of direct mount brakes, here manufactured by Colnago because, being a Shimano standard, Campagnolo doesn't yet offer a direct mount brakes. The rear brake location also follows the trend for positioning it under the chainstays and behind the bottom bracket.
We brought you news of SRAM's wireless groupset the other day, and here is the Focus Izalco Max race bike with the new groupset fitted, as used by the Ag2R team. A few years ago SRAM supplied eight WorldTour teams with its groupsets, now it only claims one WorldTour team, quite a change of fortune. We don't know how much that decline is down to SRAM, or the teams turning away to other groupset manufacturers.
While Canyon's new Ultimate CF SLX was getting all the attention, the latest Aeroad, introduced last summer, is still a popular bike with many of the Movistar team. All bikes get the same build kit, the main difference is that the Aeroad comes fitted with Canyon's one-piece bar and stem cockpit.
You take it for granted that all professional race teams use the most expensive equipment, but that isn't always the case. Team Marseille 13-KTM, a French UCI Continental outfit, uses KTM carbon fibre race bikes equipped with Shimano Ultegra Di2 groupsets.
You usually only see Dura-Ace Di2 on team race bikes, but this team proves that you don't always have to use the most expensive equipment to race at the highest level. The weight penalty of Ultegra compared to Dura-Ace is pretty minimal so I doubt it'll hold them back much. Also one of the few teams using French Corima wheels.
Meanwhile, on the start line of the race, it was a very relaxed Tinkoff-Saxo team awaiting the off, with Michael Rogers centre of picture. Alberto Contador didn't turn up until the last possible moment, preferring to spend less time hanging around on the start line waiting for the flag to drop.
Ted King is in his last year as a professional, and looked rather contemplative at the start here. Or just bored and wanting the race to get underway.
Finally, with moments to go, Alberto Contador arrived for the start. He looked very relaxed and at ease.
Here are the new Specialized S-Works 6 shoes that we told you about yesterday.
Contador doesn't ride an aero bike, but does go in for the Evade aero helmet and Sportful aero gloves here, with an elongated cuff.
One of the Tinkoff-Saxo riders had applied a small bit of tape to the SRM power meter display. Maybe he doesn't want to see his power output when racing?
You see some interesting little solutions to common problems on pro race bikes. Such as how to prevent water bottles randomly ejecting when riding over rough roads.
There's a big debate about tyre width at the moment. Most are agreed that wider is fast, but many are sticking to what they know, and this team is using Vittoria 23mm tyres.
One of the advantages of such a low-key race is you can get access like this. You definitely won't get this sort of access at the Tour de France. And this is one of the really appealing things about pro cycling, that you can get up close and personal with the team and riders, just moments after they've crossed the finish line of the race. Other sports can't rival this level of access.
While the riders get showered, the team mechanics get busy washing the bikes. Here's a row of Colnago bikes ready to be washed.
Even though it was a dry stage, and the bikes doubtless still very clean, each and every single bike gets thoroughly washed regardless.
There was a convoy of vintage cycling race vehicles following the Route du Sud around France, which is a nice reminder of just how far cycling, and car and bicycle design, has come in the last 50 years.
Souvenir hunters were out in force at the end of the stage, this young cyclist found a smart way of getting his new collection of water bottles home.
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.