By Matt Pacocha
When Caisse D’Epargne superstar Alejandro Valverde stormed past Columbia’s Kim Kircken in the last 200 meters of the opening stage of the 2008 Tour de France he did it on a brand new bike. The winning bike wasn’t new in the sense of a new design — it is the same bike as his teammates ride, a Pinarello Prince — but it was new to Valverde. In fact, it was his first ride on the new bike. The late switch was the result of the bike’s custom paint job commemorating Valverde’s Spanish national championship title, which he won less than a week before the 2008 Tour’s send off.
The Prince is the crown jewel of Pinarello’s line. The Caisse D’Epargne team has been on the bike since last year’s Tour, so its design isn’t all that new. It’s built with carbon from the well-respected carbon supplier, Toray. The carbon is a specific blend that Pinarello calls 50HM1K. The design incorporates Pinarello’s ONDA FPX wave into the fork and seatstays. The company claims that the waves increase the damping abilities of the frame and fork without sacrificing any lateral stiffness. Both the frame and fork feature carbon dropouts and the frame sports asymmetric chainstays. The Pinarello M.O.st bars and seatpost are made from the same 50HM1K carbon as the frame and fork.
Caisse D’Epargne mechanics received Valverde’s two custom painted frames and complementing
components on Friday, the day before the start of the race, and quickly built the bikes with standard (aside from the Record Red shifters) 2008 Campagnolo Record 10-speed groups and Bora Ultra deep section wheels. Despite the somewhat average professional build the new bikes were, by no means, boring. The highlight is the stunning Spanish National paint job, which stretches over the frame, fork and many of the parts including the M.O.st Talon LE one-piece bar-stem, and M.O.st Tail LE seatpost.
Maybe the most unusual custom items are the outer arms of Valverde’s Campy Record brake calipers. Both the front and rear were painted yellow to match the bike’s Spanish theme. The only items that didn’t match were Valverde’s signature saddles. They bore the mark of ‘Balaverde,’ one of Valverde’s nicknames — the Green Bullet.
Despite the fact that Valverde’s new bikes are technically the same as his previous Princes, albeit maybe a little heavier because of the extra paint, they’re special. For him to be able to come into a race where he is considered a favorite and to make a late charge in the sprint as he did for the win, it would be easy to credit his bike for something — confidence.
His Prince, in its special dress, gave him the bravado of a bullfighter’s costume, a traje de luces and you can argue that a confidence is the most important ingredient of success.