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Tour Tech: Barloworld on a roll

No one expected Barloworld to be in the Tour de France, let alone win a mountain stage in the Alps and field a contender for the points jersey. Indeed, the continental pro team’s season goal was merely to be invited to cycling’s biggest show. But when it found out it was the last team invited, its goals evolved. Riders and management alike promised to be on the attack everyday, until they won a stage. Now the team has won two. “The goal originally was to get into the Tour,” said Gary Blem, a mechanic with three years tenure at Barloworld and the first South African to spin wrenches for a

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By Matt Pacocha

Hunter’s new Super Six

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No one expected Barloworld to be in the Tour de France, let alone win a mountain stage in the Alps and field a contender for the points jersey.

Indeed, the continental pro team’s season goal was merely to be invited to cycling’s biggest show. But when it found out it was the last team invited, its goals evolved. Riders and management alike promised to be on the attack everyday, until they won a stage. Now the team has won two.

“The goal originally was to get into the Tour,” said Gary Blem, a mechanic with three years tenure at Barloworld and the first South African to spin wrenches for a team in the Tour de France, prior to the race’s start in London. “Now the first priority is to get a stage win; if we can get one then we’ll go for a second and a third.”

Barloworld relies on an aluminum FSA cockpit; Hunter uses an OS-115 stem and RD-200 bar.

Barloworld relies on an aluminum FSA cockpit; Hunter uses an OS-115 stem and RD-200 bar.

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Barloworld came to the Tour with most of its hopes pinned to Robbie Hunter. It was a good bet and the South African sprinter came close on numerous occasions placing fourth and fifth, until stage 4 when he was second by less than a bike length to Thor Hushovd. It was an achievement in itself and boosted team moral; it proved the team’s goal was attainable.

Winning a sprint is an accomplishment but to win one of the Tour’s hardest climbing stages in a solo breakaway will become the stuff of legend in Juan Mauricio Soler’s home country of Columbia. The third year pro accomplished the biggest win of his career on a Cannondale’s System Six road bike.

“I guess when your legs feel good, they feel good,” said Scott Struve, Cannondale’s global director of marketing. “I don’t think anybody on this end could have predicted this. We’re happy; we’ve got three wins on two different bikes. That’s two for the System Six and one on the Super Six.”

Liquigas’s Filippo Pozzato took Cannondale’s first stage win. He won in a sprint on stage 5 in the town of Autun aboard the new Super Six. Soler’s win gave both of Cannondale’s flagship bikes stage wins in this year’s Tour. Hunter’s victory today of stage 11, gives System Six its second win.

The rear uses Zicral spokes on the drive side and carbon on the non-drive side.

The rear uses Zicral spokes on the drive side and carbon on the non-drive side.

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“Today, Robbie rode a System Six,” said Rory Mason, Cannondale’s team sponsorship liaison. “He prefers it when he knows he’s going to contest a sprint; he likes its rigidity.”

The older System Six is easily recognized by its hulk-like headtube and svelte aluminum seatstays. It was introduced last year at the Tour of Georgia. Barloworld currently has a fleet of System Sixes, as well as a few of the new Super Six full carbon bikes; a model that was just introduced at the 2007 Giro d’Italia.

Soler is still on the System Six, despite having a style better suited to the Super Six because one doesn’t exist in his size yet. The bike is so new that Cannondale only has the smaller sizes in production and Soler, a tall lanky rider, needs a 60cm.

Cannondale did, however, make clear when launching the new Super Six all-carbon bike that it was not meant to replace the hybrid aluminum and carbon System Six. In fact the two bikes feature many of the same core design elements.

Vittoria provides the team with some special tires.

Vittoria provides the team with some special tires.

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A 1.125- to 1.5-inch upper and lower headset bearing, patented carbon layup processes, Hollowgram SL integrated crank and BB30 bottom bracket system. Not to mention that both models are made side by side in Cannondale’s Bedford, Pennsylvania factory.

“The mechanics tell me that when Robbie knows he’s going to contest a sprint, they don’t even ask him, they just put on a 54 tooth chainring,” said Mason.

Hunter had a 54 tooth ring mounted to his Hollowgram crank when he left the start in Marseille this morning.

The Barloworld team uses Campagnolo and FSA components along with Mavic wheels to finish its bikes. The team has one of the greatest quivers of wheels (in terms of variety) of any team in the Tour. Many teams only bring carbon wheels to the French race, but Barloworld brought two styles of aluminum wheels in addition to two styles of carbon wheels.

The team brought the older Cosmic Carbone wheels with both aluminum and carbon braking surfaces for the flat stages, plus the new Cosmic Carbone Ultimate wheels and R-SYS aluminum for the mountains. While the older Carbone wheels are straightforward and built conventionally, both the Ultimate and the R-SYS are brand new and packed with interesting technology.

Mavic’s Cosmic Carbone Ultimate.

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The R-SYS is a replacement of Ksyrium ES. It relies on 4mm hollow tubular uni-directional carbon fiber spokes, which are very stiff. In addition the new wheel utilizes a technology called Tracomp, in which the spokes are fixed to both the hub and rim so that they can perform in both traction [Tra-] and compression [-comp.] This way, less spoke tension is needed and it results in a 30-percent stiffer wheel than its predecessor the Ksyrium ES. The riders will choose this low profile model for its predictable braking and good manners when descending in crosswinds.

The Carbone Ultimate is positioned as Mavic’s best all-round race wheel.

“It’s designed to be the lightest aero wheel that we have for hardcore racing,” said Sean Sullivan, Mavic’s U.S. marketing director. “This is a totally new approach to wheels for us, it has carbon spokes, carbon rim and carbon hub. We’ve been working for a little over two years on this project with our racers and the technology is dialed in.”

The Ultimate’s rim is 40mm high and it’s molded from 12K carbon fiber. The most interesting aspect is that the wheel does not use a mechanical spoke attachment system. The spokes, also made from carbon fiber, are molded to the rim and the hub. The spokes on the front wheel actually continue from one side of the rim through the high flange hub to the opposite side of the rim. Mavic claims that the materials and construction method combine to form a wheel that is very stiff.

Soler won stage 9 using a front R-SYS and a rear Cosmic Carbone Ultimate. Hunter won stage 11 on a pair of Ultimates.

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