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Outfitting the new team: Leopard-Trek gets down to business

Leopard-Trek gets geared up for the 2011 season.

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Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag- or at least a new paint job

Andy Schleck poses with his new Madone.
Andy Schleck poses with his new Madone.

It turns out that a $10,000 Trek Madone with Shimano Di2 and carbon wheels rides really nicely. But then we all knew that already. Team Leopard-Trek’s product launch in Mallorca wasn’t so much a product launch as it was a paint scheme launch.

The Schlecks and Co. will be riding Madone 6.9 SSL road bikes and Speed Concept time trial machines equipped with Shimano Di2 components, Bontrager wheels, cockpit and accessories. Again nothing new there.

Trek did unveil its new top-of-the-range Oracle helmet, and it’s actually pretty nice. The 27-vent, carbon skeleton helmet is a huge step forward in Trek’s otherwise underwhelming helmet lineup.

Trek has already had the Oracle in the wind tunnel and it is faster than its competitors especially when encountering wind at yaw angles. The fit and finish are exactly what you’d expect of a top tier helmet. It is similar in shape to a Lazer Genesis or a Giro Atmos. The new Headmaster retention system works well, even with one hand. The Oracle should appear in shops early summer this year. When it does, the $200 price will keep the Oracle in the running against Specialized’s and Giro’s top tier helmets.

Bontrager also has a new wheel in the works (which we reported on earlier). Ben Coates was tight-lipped about the new wheel, saying only “What you see is what you get. Both Radioshack and Leopard have them and they will begin racing them at Tour Down Under.”

No information regarding price or availability were given. We weren’t able to measure or weigh the wheel either.

Looking at the wheel though, a few things are clear. It is a departure from Bontrager’s current offerings. Most obvious is that the rim is much wider. Instead of a fairing bonded to a XXX Lite rim like on the Aeolus wheels, the new rim has external spoke nipples and is molded as one piece. The depth of the rim was approximately 40 millimeters, close to a HED Stinger 40. Leopard mechanics had also installed fairly large Schwalbe tubulars, 25 millimeters or so in width.

What may have been more interesting were the products Trek produces that Team Leopard-Trek will NOT be using, namely Northwave shoes, Schwalbe tires and Craft clothing. In a departure from Shimano, Leopard-Trek will use Speedplay pedals. Several riders were also spotted on saddles that were not Bontrager models.

It’s not uncommon for teams to mix and match manufacturers. Cash contracts can make certain specific sponsorships very lucrative for a team. Other times, a team will choose items to gain a competitive edge. When asked why Trek wasn’t handling shoe, tire and clothing duties, Ben Coates, Trek team liaison said, “In our negotiations with the team, we started with everything on the table and we went from there. We ended up with what we (Trek) really needed. We got everything that we wanted. You can only bite off so much sometimes.”

Kim Andersen added, “Trek cannot work on everything. Trek said ‘we want this one, this one and this one. And after that we will use our energy where we are good.’ With Craft I had a good connection and we will work together to develop the product. With Schwalbe it was not about the money. We wanted to try something new.”

Northwave got the nod for footwear partly because Bontrager didn’t feel its shoes were quite ready for the team. That said, Bontrager is working on a new racing shoe that is in prototype form now.

Andersen said the relationship with Trek has been very positive.

“From the first meeting we had with Trek, in Rotterdam before the Tour, I just liked working with them,” Andersen said. “Sometimes you have to look for the money, but most important is that they are very professional. Ben Coates, for instance, moved to Luxembourg to work with us more closely.”

With a three-year contract with Trek and an option for a fourth year, as well as a four-year bank guarantee, Team Leopard has showed that they mean business, literally and figuratively. As the world’s number one ranked team, all eyes are on them.

An American in France

What’s it like to be an American cyclist living in France? Watch to get professional road cyclist Joe Dombrowski’s view.