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Tour Tech 2016: Fabian Cancellara’s specially painted Tour de France Trek Madone race bike

Trek delivers a very special paint job for Cancellara's last Tour de France

Fabian Cancellara will race the 2016 Tour de France aboard a custom painted Trek Madone that celebrates his 16 years as a professional cyclist and the impressive palmarès racked up during his long career, which includes seven stage wins in the Tour and 29 days in yellow. 

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The Madone frame features graphics based on the colours of the many teams he has raced for throughout his career, with his Spartacus nickname featured large on the down tube. The pearl white base paint has gold flecks that are said to sparkle in the sun, but the overcast weather when we photographed the bike on Friday before the Grand Depart didn’t show the bike in the best light.

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As well as the colours representing the teams he has raced for, from Mapei-Quick Step in 2004, through Fasso Bortolo, Team CSC, Leopard Trek and Trek-Segafredo, the frame lists his many victories, from Paris-Roubaix to Milan-San Remo, Olympic medals, multiple national and world championships along the top tube and rear stays.

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Now you might be thinking Cancellara normally rides and Domane, and you’d be right. We can only assume he has decided the Madone, with its aero properties and the same rear Isospeed decoupler as the Domane which he helped develop, is better suited to the route of the Tour de France with its smooth roads. The aero-shaped tubes certainly provide more real estate for the graphics that make this bike really stand out against the regular red paint jobs of the standard Trek-Segafredo team issue bikes. 

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There are some other features that are far from standard. Cancellara has a specially modified version of the one-piece carbon fibre aero handlebar that Trek developed for the Madone. Instead of the wide and flat top sections of the regular handlebar, Cancellara requested a smaller profile top section, which we’re told still provides an aerodynamic benefit, but enables Cancellara to maintain his desired reach. Handlebar width is 440m with an anatomic bend and a 140mm stem.

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Another custom bit of kit is the Bontrager saddle. It’s an old Team Issue saddle hat they make especially for Cancellara, with some extra firm padding, just the way he likes it. It’s as hard as a Belgian cobblestone! It’s also set very far back on the rails, suggesting Cancellara likes his position very stretched. 

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While the Bontrager Aeolus 5 wheels might appear standard, they, in fact, have a special carbon fibre layup developed specifically for the team, intended to save a bit of weight. How much lighter they are than the stock wheels, we don’t know. Visually they are different with a noticeably different carbon weave appearance when you look closer at them.

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Glued to the Bontrager rims are 25mm wide Veloflex Classic tubular tyres. The team now uses 25mm wide tyres on all its road bikes, with 23mm tyres only making an appearance on the time trial bikes, where aerodynamics is obviously a big concern still. Wider 25mm tyres have been gaining acceptance in the professional peloton every time we’ve visited the Tour de France, but this year really seems to be the tipping point at which pretty much every team is running them, save for a few exceptions. 

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He is one of a small handful of riders that prefers mechanical Dura-Ace to the electronic version. We’ve heard that it’s simply he prefers the function and performance of the cable actuated groupset. He’s using the current version of Shimano’s flagship groupset and not the new 9100 that was introduced a few days ago. The bike pictured is his spare bike so it doesn’t have the SRM power meter that his race bike is fitted with.

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Cancellara rides a stick 58cm Madone frame in H1 fit, the same as you can buy in the shops. You might expect a rider like Cancellara to have a custom geometry, as some top riders do, but that’s exactly the reason Trek developed the H1 geometry, which has a shorter head tube and longer top tube than regular frames in the Trek Madone range. No word on whether Trek will make this custom paint job available to the public through its Project One website yet.

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Will Cancellara bow out of his final participation in this race with a spell in the yellow jersey or stage win? That would certainly be a dream scenario for the Swiss rider. We couldn’t see any yellow frames hiding in the back of the Trek-Segafredo team truck.

David worked on the tech team from 2012-2020. Previously he was editor of 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, and you can now find him over on his own YouTube channel David Arthur - Just Ride Bikes

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