Velo Tech Blunder of the Year: Specialized Prototype clinchers; Cursed Product Launch of the Year: Trek Domane

Specialized' Prototype clinchers are our Tech Blunder of the Year; the Trek Domane is our Cursed Product Launch of the Year

Editor’s note: The January 2013 issue of Velo magazine, which is on newsstands now, is our 25th annual awards issue. Our 2012 Cyclist of the Year was announced on November 29; we’ll be rolling out various other award winners throughout the month of December.

Tech Blunder of the Year: Specialized Prototype clinchers

Specialized’s ultra-low rolling resistance clincher tires may have earned a silver medal at the Olympics and two sets of rainbow stripes in a row, all under Tony Martin, but that’s not what they’ll be remembered for. The tires, developed with and ridden by the Omega Pharma-Quick Step rider, gained far more notoriety for their two high-profile failures at this year’s Tour de France.

Specialized’s hype machine was in full swing just prior to the Tour, and all eyes were on Martin — and his new tires — heading into the prologue. It was to be a battle for the ages between the reigning world time trial champion and perennial threat Fabian Cancellara.

Just minutes after rolling down the start ramp, the duel was cut short. Martin flatted his rear tire on the world stage, a small piece of glass slicing the thin casing. The flat cost him the race, and the first yellow jersey of the Tour. He finished 23 seconds down on Cancellara.

A rematch was scheduled for stage 9, though, and Specialized assured the world’s press that the first flat was nothing more than a fluke. But disaster struck again; another flat, and a new excuse from Specialized involving the use of a latex tube.

Never mind that the tires were successful before, and have been since. The two untimely flats turned what may have been a rapid clincher revolution in pro time trials into yet another piece of anecdotal evidence for the good old-fashioned tubular.

Cursed Product Launch of the Year: Trek Domane

The Trek Domane’s greatest victory to date came in the 2012 Strade Bianche, underneath Fabian Cancellara. The photo of Cancellara crossing the line, alone, hands raised, is used on much of the bike’s marketing material.

That victorious day, though, came a full week before the Domane was officially released to the public. Cancellara rode a jet-black frame with minimal decaling, and only a few keen-eyed tech writers caught that he was on a new bike at all.

Why, then, is that Strade finish line shot the center of Trek’s marketing? Quite simply: because the bike hasn’t won much since.

Manufacturers always hope that the big Saturday race following their Friday product launch will see the team hero take a victory. Trek’s plan was laid out months in advance: releasing the Domane just prior to the Tour of Flanders, with Cancellara on the squad, offered up pretty good odds. But it was not to be.

As Cancellara’s classics season came crashing down in a Flanders feed zone, so did the hopes of Trek’s marketing team. You only get one shot at a first impression, and the dream of a perfect launch for Trek busted into as many pieces as Cancellara’s collarbone.