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As with any Grand Tour, the team leaders at the Tour de France like to have a little bit of bling, be that a custom helmet, a jazzed up pair of shoes or, for several of the big guns, a custom painted bike. Obviously the team bike sponsors love to get as much coverage as possible, and if they make a bike frame stand out and get some good coverage within the peloton, then their job is done.
In this first of a series about the team bikes at this year’s Tour de France, Dave Everett takes a look at Vincenzo Nibali’s Specialized Tarmac and the limited edition McLaren Tarmac.
As you might know, the new Tarmac was revealed to much fanfare from the public during the early part of this year’s Giro d’Italia. Nibali’s frame is a stock standard version, exactly the same as is available in store. Like all the frames in the Tarmac line-up its geometry is designed to be size specific.
Even though Nibali won the Italian national championship road race last Sunday, there is no sign of the Italian flag on the bike — clearly this bike was built up well before he took the win. Instead the guys at Specialized have produced a pretty spectacular looking shark design, a revamped and updated version of last year’s bike.
I asked the Specialised representative at the Astana team truck who’s idea the colour scheme was. He stated that when they asked Nibali what he wanted from a custom bike for the Tour, his response was “more shark”. And this is exactly what he got.
The origin of the design comes from Nibali’s nickname. The deep blue glistens and is a lot deeper in colour than last year’s version, the specs of glitter under the paint pop the paint job off the frame in the sun. With trident accents on the seat stays and the shark head on the head tube it has a real seafaring feel to it. Pink detailing finishes the scheme off.
Standard team issue stock kit graces the frame. Barring the chainset the Campagnolo Super Record RS Groupset is the group set of choice. There’s no EPS electronic on any of the bikes in Astana’s line up. Deviating from this groupset is the Specialised S-Works chainset, this is a custom-made piece. The chainset has an SRM power meter built in, and is 135 BCD — this is Campagnolos chainring bolt pattern. This is what makes the chain-set custom, usually the Specialized chainsets are Shimano compatible.
Bars, stem and seat post are all supplied by FSA; all items are the same as you could buy in store — there are no one-off, made to measure stems here. The wheels again are team issue Corima Viva S, shod with tyres from Veloflex. Keeping him clipped in are the Look Keo Blade pedals.
The saddle was clearly from Fizik, with the logos taped over. Astana was clearly trying to keep the official saddle sponsor happy while at the same time keeping Nibali comfortable.
The other bike gracing the Astana parking lot was the all new McLaren Tarmac. This is a limited edition frame set produced in conjunction with the leading motor racing company. Where this frame differs from the normal Tarmac is in the carbon used. The team at McLaren have used the same mould as a standard Tarmac yet applied their own carbon and layering technique to it. With this process it produces a frame that is 10% lighter than the standard Tarmac.
The paint work is again a job that has been carried out in house by the McLaren team, in the same paintshop that they spray the road-legal P1 and the F1 cars. The colour used has even been developed by McLaren and has its own name: Tarmac Black. The glossy chrome stripe running along the top tube is a delicate Maylar teflon material — this is extremely hard to apply and is the same as used on McLaren’s F1 cars. The orange used on the bike is also the same orange that is a company colour.
Only 250 of these frames will be produced and at £16,000 (AUD $29,300) pockets will have to be deep if you want to own one. The rep from Specialized seemed very confident that most would be sold by the time the Tour hits the cobbles of Belgium. For your hard earned £16,000 you get two sets of wheels, a custom helmet and shoes, and a display stand to showcase your new steed to your mates. A full Specialized body fit is included within the price so that the bike and your kit fits your perfectly.
Only three riders on the Tour this year will be seen using this bike: Jakob Fuglsang of Astana, Nicolas Roche of Tinkoff-Saxo and Michal Kwiatkowski of Omega Pharma-QuickStep. For Fuglsang his bike was kitted out in the usual team sponsored products, including Campagnolo Record. There was no RS version of the groupset for him as the lighter weight of it would bring the bike in under the UCI minimum weight limit of 6.8kg. Corima Viva S wheels, FSA finishing kit and a Specialized Romin saddle sat atop the FSA K-Force seat post to finish a very fast-looking bike.
Astana do have a second bike waiting in the team truck for a future stage, but I’ll reveal what they have in store in a later article. For now these two stunning racing machines will have to keep you salivating.