By Matt Pacocha
A day before the start of the Tour de France is almost too late to accomplish anything significant.
Nonetheless, it’s a frantic time for mechanics and support staff as clock ticks down to the start of the world’s biggest bicycle race. Teams build bikes up to the last minute, busses are stocked and there are always bikes, kits and cars to be washed and shined in last hours before the race kicks off. Instead of diving right into a single piece of equipment for this year’s race, let’s take a look at the frantic activity on the eve of the Tour.
At Credit Agricole the whole team received new bikes. Some of the guys found it quite novel and even stopped to snap a cell phone shot before throwing a leg over their new rides.
The team’s big guns, like Thor Hushovd, will start the race on the new 7900 Dura-Ace group. Shimano had a team of engineers from Japan, attending to each of the component maker’s sponsored teams to make sure that the installation of the new group went smoothly. We even spotted last minute changes to the preproduction group, as the Shimano crew switched the inner pulley cages on rear derailleurs with a stiffer version.
At Caisse D’Epargne Oscar Pereiro will be riding a new Campagnolo Record 11-speed group, and one rider, José Vicente Garcia will be using Campagnolo electric components with a new Ergonomic shifter shape. The rest of the team’s equipment remains relatively unchanged from what it started the year on; this seems to be much of the case across the board, with many teams and riders not wanting to make untested changes that could backfire when the pressure’s on.
Over at Silence-Lotto, Robbie McEwen was spotted putting his own finishing touches on his new Ridley Noah. The Noah is completely redesigned and features RFlow technology, an adaptation of Oval Concepts’ JetStream fork design. The frame is also said to be stiffer and lighter than earlier versions. I’ll report further on the bike and the team’s new Dean time trial bike as the Tour progresses.
At the Quick Step camp where was mostly a lot of cleaning going on, but we spotted a couple of unique items including custom painted yellow and green Lazer helmets, that offered a look at the team’s jersey aspirations.
Stijn Devolder’s bike was outfitted with Campy’s 11-speed Record group and it looked like he already had a few rides on it. The team also had a stack of custom Specialized branded tubulars from the custom French tire craftsman FMB. They’d yet to be glued and are reserved for key climbing stages and time trials.
In front of the Cofidis pit a gaggle of Time VXR ProTeam bikes, just back from the day’s training ride, were waiting for a wash. The riders train on the VXR ProTeam model, but race on the flagship VXRS UL Team WorldStar. The mechanics first gave the fleet a good dose of soap and then a power wash. On the periphery, odds and ends were attended to, one of which was to put the caravan decals on all of the team’s vehicles.
At the rebranded Columbia team, the bikes were clean and packed away. A lone mechanic worked on setting a rider’s cleats, while others spent their time detailing team cars. Like the bikes the cars get dirty quickly, due in no small part to the frequent showers in coastal Brittany.
It was much the same at Liquigas, one of the mechanics had a short list, but things seemed buttoned up tightly where the mechanics focused on making sure every thing sparkled. The bikes were washed using an interesting stand that clamped the bike by the front wheel’s quick release mount allowing the whole bike to be easily power washed.
Finishing touches, as things get ready to roll.