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By Andrew Juskaitis, VeloNews technical editor
While following the sporting phenomenon that is the Tour, make sure to keep one thing in mind: It’s all one big advertisement. Sure, there’s plenty of heated racing drama to be had, but remember, the reason the race exists is to promote the goods and services of a countless number of businesses.
And while the majority of us aren’t particularly interested in European cement products (Fassa Bortolo) or the French national lottery (fdjeux.com), we can’t wait to see the torrent of new bicycle technology unveiled throughout the race.
Most manufacturers get awfully tight-lipped about exactly what they will debut, and when, but they’re willing to tempt us with sneak peeks. Some are new-from-the-ground-up products we’ve never seen, while some are of the special-graphics-on-products-we’re-already-riding type. In either case, here’s a look at some of the products you’ll see unveiled throughout the race.
Trek aims for new heights with Madone
Waterloo has been particularly tight-lipped about its latest high-end road racer, which will replace the 5900 Superlight. Lucky for us, information has just leaked out on the bike that Lance (and possibly his teammates) will race on in certain stages of the Tour. Here’s the scoop:
The new bike, to be called the Madone 5.9, features a radically aero’ OCLV tubeset – one that pushes the UCI envelope regarding aerodynamics. Both the top and down tubes are radically flared, while the seat tube also sees heavy shaping to reduce windage from the rear wheel. The frame also incorporates an “A-Stay” seat-stay cluster for added lateral stability. The company says the Madone 5.9 is the “culmination of Trek’s decade-long knowledge of working with carbon technology.” It is claimed to be the lightest, most streamlined frame ever produced by Trek while keeping in mind the proven geometry and the ride characteristics of the 5900 USPS Superlight.
2000 Superlight vs. 2003 Madone
Frame: 1145g (2.52lb)
Fork: 345g (0.76lb)
Total: 1490g (3.28lb)
And, in case you were wondering where the name came from and its significance, Armstrong himself explains: “The Col de la Madone is a 12km climb that starts in the French village of Menton. It rises from close to sea level to 927 meters. Cyclists have long used it to test themselves. Having lived in Nice for four years, I rode it many times as well. The record of 31:30 stood for many years, until in 1999 when I broke it with a 30:47. For me, the Madone is the ultimate test. It always tells me if I’m ready – ready to ride fast and ultimately, win the Tour de France. It never fails.”
Under development for only eight months, the Madone was produced on a schedule to allow it to be officially debuted at this year’s centennial Tour de France. Here’s a look at its production lifecycle:
October 2002: Talked to Armstrong about the new concept and began initial designs
January 2003: Preliminary drawings were completed
March 2003: Digital engineering drawings were completed
April 2003: First prototype was built and raced at Liége-Bastogne–Liége
June 2003: First win under command of Armstrong at Criterium du Dauphiné Libéré
July 2003: Approved for Tour assault
How do they keep track of all those miles?
In this year’s Tour, U.S. Postal will use CicloSport computers to monitor distance, speed and a host of other variables as well. The limited-edition USPS HAC 4 ($320) has all the same functions of the Standard HAC 4 – that’s 57 total functions.A few key functions are: Measures power wattage output
Measures rate of descent/ascent
Is compatible for both road and mountain biking
Capable of storing 64 hours of ride time
“This is the unit that Lance and the boys will use in France, and we have worked with CicloSport on its development,” said CicloSport spokesperson Melissa Popovich. “We went with a white casing so the unit will ‘pop’ off the handlebar in images.”
There’s more to the Tour than just Trek
The Spanish manufacturer Orbea is offering its updated 2003 1/2 year product line, which includes a very limited “Tour Edition” Euskaltel-Euskadi replica bike.
Since only 50 are being made, they are certain to go fast, but if can get your hands on one, you’ll get a full 2003 Dura-Ace group, Mavic SCC SL “Tour Centenary Limited Edition” wheels, and ITM cockpit components.
No word on price, but expect to pay a premium. Here’s a look at both the bike which the team will be riding this year and the bike you can buy.
Some people want to know whether Botero can be tops in the time trials, or whether Simoni can drop Lance in the Alps – but we know that what’s really important is not how you ride, but what you ride. Want to know something about a Tour toy? Send your queries to us at WebLetters@7dogs.com.