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By Lennard Zinn
Saxo Bank strongman Fabian “Spartacus” Cancellara wants an even faster bike on which to trounce into submission those mere mortals who do their best simply to survive a race against the clock.
Cancellara may now have the ideal weapon in the Specialized S-Works TTR, a sleek rig you will see raced for the first time in Saturday’s stage 1 team time trial at the Giro d’Italia.
Most distinctive is the TTR’s stem/nose cone, which extends straight forward from the top of the top tube, covers the head tube and front brake and is integrated with the aero bar.
The “R” in “TTR” stands for “Riis” – as in Bjarne Riis. The Saxo Bank team director was not only intimately involved in the bike’s development but was quite insistent on it, after the sponsorship change from inarguably fast bikes like the Cervelo P3 and P4. The TTR strongly resembles the Giant time trial bike that premiered last season, but there are critical differences, most notably in the brake calipers.
A nose cone like on the TTR can only pass UCI requirements if it is a structural member of the bike, and this one serves to anchor the brake. Specialized’s current time trial bike has little U-brakes with brake pivot bosses attached to the fork crown and under the chainstays. The TTR, on the other hand, uses similar-looking brakes, but only the rear has brake pivots integrated into the frame. The front brake’s pivots are built into the nose cone.
It’s the first front brake I’ve seen that is not attached to the fork. The pivots stick out of the nose cone back toward the fork, and the brake is mounted the opposite direction of normal, so its “front” faces the fork crown, even though you can only see the caliper from below, once you remove the front wheel. The stem is already always critical to a bike’s safety by being the connection between it and the handlebars, but on this bike it is also the anchor for the brake, a function nearly as important.
Rather than relying on straddle cables and yokes, both brakes on each of Spartacus’s bikes stop the cable housing with the top of one brake arm and route the cable directly across to the opposite arm. This eliminates the need for the tall guide/stop under the bottom bracket that comes on current models.
Specialized built two TTR frames for Cancellara; one sized medium, and the other large. Each took 48 hours to build up by team mechanics.
One bike has the nose cone’s trailing edges trimmed back enough that a credit card could be passes between it and the head tube, in case commissaries chose to interpret the rules that way; the other one’s nose cap wraps a bit around the sides of the head tube. Mechanics at the Saxo Bank Service Course in Luxembourg made their own modifications to make those parts that would not otherwise fit work with the design.
Speaking of rules, the aero bars integrated into this cool stem are not a 3-to-1 aspect ratio, like most carbon aero bars on the market. The rules are becoming more strict on this matter and will have a requirement of compliance by July 1, while the frames must comply by January 1, 2010. At that point, if teams fail to present a united front and succeed in challenging the rules, the impact could be significant. It might force sponsors to scrap molds and inventoried product, which in turn would cut into the resources available to teams and riders.
Former CSC rider-turned-assistant director Bobby Julich worked many hours with Specialized on the design. Julich was impressed with the company’s commitment not only to invest resources in a time trial bike for the team, but also its willingness to stray from the signature bump at the front of the top tube of its current TT bikes where the cable housings enter the frame, to a design with the top of the stem nose cone running flat into the top of the top tube.
The new, short Prologo TT saddle on the TTRs was built to Cancellara’s preferences. Its nose is broad, with thicker, softer padding than last year’s Prologo. Its most distinguishing feature, though, is the grippy urethane inserts bonded to the cover. No way would you slide around when riding on the nose of this baby!
Each of Cancellara’s TTR bikes weighs in at 8.1kg … complete. That includes the Specialized BB30 cranks, SRAM Red group, and Zipp ceramic-bearing ZedTech front 808 and rear disc wheels.
The rest of the Saxo Bank team is riding Specialized’s current TT bike. The company has also built, but has yet to deliver, a couple of these frames for Andy Schleck, who proved at Liège-Bastogne-Liège that, like Cancellara, he has the ability to ride alone and hold off a group of fast riders.