By Zack Vestal
Everyone, including riders, spectators, the media, and the industry, knows that all eyes are on the Tour de France come July. If ever there’s a time to do something special, be it a new product or a new paint job, now is the time.
For the most part, the bikes, hardware, and wheels in use at the Tour are seen in public prior to the event — it would be challenging at best and foolish at worst to present an untested new bike to a rider at the season’s most critical event. Often the warm-up races for the riders also serve as shakedown events for bicycle and equipment sponsors. For example, the head-turning new Trek time trial bike ridden by Alberto Contador at the Dauphine Libere has now appeared in Monaco dressed up for Lance and Levi as well.
So while it’s unlikely that entirely new bicycles will be unveiled at the Tour, new and highly customized graphics are a great way for bicycle and equipment brands to attract attention. Sponsors want the media attention, and they want the teams to feel important, while riders benefit from the psychological boost of having a new (but familiar) personalized frame, saddle, or wheelset.
With that in mind, have a look at some of the eye-catching graphic treatments we’ve seen in the pits the past few days. Among the more fun to look at:
- Team Columbia-HTC has a Scott Plasma3 with World Champion graphics, made just for reigning TT world champ Bert Grabsch.
- Trek has a number of one-off paint jobs, including two time trial bikes each for Armstrong, Leipheimer, and Contador, plus two road bikes for Armstrong
- Specialized has a new Shiv time trial bike for Fabian Cancellara, painted to honor his status as both Olympic gold medalist and Swiss champ
- Wilier has a World Champion painted road bike for Allessandro Ballan (not new for the Tour, but still noteworthy in the array of team bikes)
- Saddle maker Prologo made custom saddles for Cancellara and the Schleck brothers.
- Cervelo has R3 SL race bikes with yellow highlights for Carlos Sastre and his Test Team riders, and component company ROTOR made a crankset with yellow details, both in homage to the 2008 winner. We’re looking for a completely yellow-painted ROTOR 3D crankset in action, custom made for Sastre himself.
- French brand and team Cofidis sponsor LOOK created a special “Monte Carlo” bike for presentation to the Prince of Monaco.
We’ll have a closer look at all of these fine pieces and the stories behind them in the days to come. Look for time trial bikes and equipment to take center stage tomorrow, and we’ll circle back to road bikes and components as the race progresses. For now, enjoy the photos.