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From the pages of Velo: In the Eye of the Tornado

A Tale of Two Bike Launches

Both Trek and Specialized launched new bikes in the week before Paris-Roubaix. Thanks to Tom Boonen’s incredible performances, we all know which bike was ridden to victory at the Tour of Flanders and the Hell of the North. And while it would be easy to praise Specialized for a superbly timed introduction for the new Roubaix (we at Velo did just that when the Specialized Venge was launched and a day later Matt Goss won the 2011 Milan-San Remo), if not for an errant water bottle, the outcome could have been much different.

With 63 kilometers to go at the Tour of Flanders, at the exit of a feedzone, Fabian Cancellara crashed heavily, breaking his collarbone in four places. He was aboard the new Trek Domane at the time, after having helped Trek develop the new machine; he won Strade Bianche on it earlier in the season.

The Domane is Trek’s first stab at endurance bikes like the Specialized Roubaix. The Domane has increased tire clearance, a longer wheelbase, lower bottom bracket, taller head tube and Trek’s new Iso-Speed frame de-coupler (which isolates the seat tube from the rest of the frame, allowing the seat tube to absorb more road vibration). The resulting bike puts the Roubaix squarely in its sights. Like the Roubaix, it’s a bike that will suit racers doing longer events (its bottom bracket stiffness is higher than the Madone, making it very efficient) and cycling’s growing demographic of older professionals who run higher handlebars and enjoy more predictable handling.

While the Domane signals Trek’s entry into the high-performance endurance bicycle segment, the Specialized is arguably the bike that started it all. Introduced in 2004, the Roubaix is the archetype for this genre and won VeloNews’ endurance bike test last year. Three of the past four winners of Paris-Roubaix have been aboard the model. The latest version includes new, larger Zertz inserts in the fork and seatstays and serves as the next step of refinement for the Roubaix.

With Specialized’s position as top dog in this category, it was Trek who had more to gain with the Domane, an entirely new model. And who would have bet against Cancellara? Many cycling pundits were certain that Cancellara would have won either Flanders or Roubaix, possibly both, had he not fallen. And with those victories, Trek would have collected huge bragging rights for its new bike.

While cycling fans may have been left a bit wanting, Trek was especially saddened, both for its fallen rider and for the major setback to the debut of the Domane. The attention garnered by winning a cobbled Monument would have guaranteed the new model’s success like little else could. And that’s a shame, since the bike displays how Trek has taken an amazing step forward. Oh, the difference a dropped bottle can make. — NICK LEGAN

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