Gallery: Julian Alaphilippe’s symbolic Specialized S-Works Tarmac SL7

Specialized designer says the paint reflects persistence "through the darkness to find light, joy, and celebration."

In a normal year, winning a world championship would result in a straightforward rainbow-themed bike and gear.

2020 was not a normal year.

Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) experienced a rainbow of emotion last year. He lost his father Jo Alaphilippe in June, and then in August he attacked his way into the yellow jersey of the Tour de France with a stage win — on clincher tires.

Then, at the world championships in Imola, Italy, Alaphilippe attacked with his trademark panache and held off an elite group of chasers to take his first world title. He dedicated the win to his dad.

Specialized concept designer Elena Aker lead the design on Alaphilippe’s S-Works Tarmac SL7 bike, which incorporates the rainbow theme but balanced against a somber black.

“I wanted to create something impactful that conveyed the emotions of elation and celebration surrounding his world championship victory while in the midst of a global crisis,” Aker said. “The message of perseverance is especially important in such a chaotic time for the world and heavily influenced the visual look of the world champ bike.”

“The colors in the gradient are pulled from the UCI world championship rainbow itself, but the choice of a gradient or fade treatment of the colors was inspired by the flickering glow a flame gives off in the dark, a metaphor for hope during a challenging time. The merging of the colors in such a gradient also represents unity. The brilliant world championship colors almost shine as they push against the black base, a symbol of how Julian, his team, and the cycling community, persisted through the darkness to find light, joy, and celebration.”

Other touches on the bike include the literal mention of his 2020 world title, and a treble clef and musical notes in gold foil. Alaphilippe’s father was a musician, and drumming was the world champion’s first love.

Beyond the aesthetics, Alaphilippe played a role in the construction of the new Tarmac itself. Alaphilippe was a long holdout against dedicated aero bikes, preferring the feel of straight-ahead race machines.

“Julian’s riding style and desires largely shaped the direction of the Tarmac SL7 and we considered his stamp of approval a requirement before moving to production,” said Stewart Thompson, Specialized’s road bike leader. “In the past, he prioritized the weight, handling, and ride feel of the Tarmac SL6 over the aero benefits of the Venge. As he and others began to truly understand the impact of aero, the need for the Tarmac SL7 and a no-compromise bike took shape. This launch video for the Tarmac SL7 does a pretty good job telling the development story and highlighting how valuable the team feedback and validation is in our process.”

Ingmar Jungnickel, principle investigator at Specialized’s Futures Group, said he had worked with Alaphilippe more than five years ago, and tried (in vain at the time) to “get him onto the aero gear.”

“He won worlds wearing an Evade and riding a legitimately aero optimized bike,” Jungnickel said. “Made me happy.”

Alaphilippe is racing this weekend at the Tour de la Provence, where he opened his season with a long-distance attack on the very first stage.

“I had some fun,” he said. “I made an effort.”

And when the pack caught him, he went back to work, helping lead out his teammate Davide Ballerini for the win.

James Startt is following the Tour de la Provence, where he captured the following images of Alaphilippe’s bike.