What's Cool In Road Cycling

Tour de PEZ: Dreams For Sale!

Roadside St.18: If you boil le Tour right down to the essence, the main purpose is to sell things – from sausages to washing powder by way of yoghurt, biscuits and newspapers. But the Tour also sells dreams – like being as cool as your favorite pro just by riding the same bike as him.

But Thibout Pinot on a Lapierre with his film star looks, stubble and tan is one thing – an old fatso like me is another. Ah, we can still dream . . .

At the stage 17 and 18 starts, PEZ bugged media guys, exchanged elbows with the best and infiltrated tight security cordons in a way Tom Cruise would be proud of, to bring you the low down on what the stars are riding in the 2012 Tour de France.

Tommy Voeckler’s Europcar had the purists shaking their heads when they decided to go with Colnago; “a French team should ride French bicycles, non?”

The Italian legend’s C50 model sticks with his tried and trusted formula of carbon tubes bonded into carbon lugs.

Rear fork ends are what us old timers used to call, ‘vertical drop outs.’

The package isn’t ‘aero’ but it’s attractive, strong and has taken the team to three stage wins; and Voeckler cannot now be beaten in the King of the Mountains competition.

Incidentally, we were chatting to one of our ‘insiders’ the other day – at breakfast one of his ‘amis’ said to Richard Virenque that Voeckler had taken over Richard’s mantle as most loved French rider.

Old Ricky wasn’t happy, ranting that he, Richard Virenque had won seven Kings of the Mountains to Voeckler’s one – ha!

The team has gone down the inevitable but gruesome (to some eyes) polka dot paint job route – which even includes the deep section Campagnolo Bora carbon rims.

Tommy sits on a Sella Italia Flite TT saddle supported by Colnago’s own brand carbon seat pillar.

Bars and stem are by Deda with the latter slammed down hard on the top race – as is the fashion.

In the ‘good old days’ a French team would have ridden Stronglight chainsets, Mafac brakes and Simplex gears.

Not these days; Italy is again the nation of choice for the groupsets.

Campagnolo provide braking and 11 speed transmission, albeit shifting is manual.

Campagnolo and Shimano equipped teams have to pay for their groupsets – at ‘cost’ prices, but nonetheless, money has to change hands. At retail prices there’s somewhere around 1,000 Euros difference in price between manual and electronic shifting. Multiply that by two dozen riders and three or four bikes and it adds up to a lot of money.

Europcar isn’t Sky – but then no one is. French manufacturers aren’t entirely left out in the cold – rubber is by Hutchinson and pedals from Look. And no SRM cranks for Tommy, he doesn’t ride on numbers – rather with his head and heart.

And if you read our piece yesterday, from Luchon, you’d have seen us repeat what the gas station attendant said to Sarah Connors at the end of the first Terminator film; ‘there’s a storm coming!’

‘I know,’ says Sarah, but the storm she’s referring to has nothing to do with the weather.

Neither does ours – it comes out of Slovakia and shows no respect any form of Tour life – sprinters, baroudeurs or climbers, they’re all victims.

It’s the Tourminator, aka Peter Sagan – ‘And he absolutely will not stop, ever!’

The Tour owes a big debt to the young Liquigas rider, his speed, grinta and sheer youthful joy of the moment added soul to the race. For all that Cannondale were aluminum pioneers, they’ve embraced carbon and Sagan rides their SuperSix EVO model.

The custom airbrush paint job is cool; especially the head tube – we got a cold shiver when we looked in there between the cables.

The Sagan posterior rests on a carbon railed Fizik saddle, but even the green jersey doesn’t get a new saddle for the sake of a scuff mark.

Fizik also supply the black ‘bar tape, set off with rather garish, green brake lever hoods – but this isn’t a subtle bike.

FSA supply the seat pillar, bars and extension.

The groupset is SRAM Red, but with Cannondale’s own chunky but light SL/SRM chainset.

The Pez himself reported that the front changer is a big improvement on the previous gruppo.

One of the reasons SRAM have grown so big, so quickly, is that unlike Shimano and Campagnolo, they were happy to give groupsets to pro teams.

The men who run pro teams are always keen to have a few more spare Euros in the kitty – free equipment was manna from heaven. Even if that meant being part of an accelerated learning curve to try and catch up with Campag’s 75 years, plus experience.

It was a mountain stage the day we were taking our photos so the cassette was toting some serious sprockets.

Mavic still use the SSC (Special Service Course) label on their Cosmic Carbone wheels; just like they’re super tough ‘Mavic Greys’ from the late 70’s.

We’re not sure why, but Sagan’s bike doesn’t run Liquigas team issue green Speedplays – their colour would have gone with the colour scheme.

After Sagan’s paint job, anything else is going to look conservative.

But whilst we’re all used to the lines of BMC’s these days, it’s easy to forget the stir the first models with their ‘exto skeleton’ lugs caused.

The lines are less extreme in 2012; but the ‘low level’ seat stays, ‘box girder’ chain stays and seat/top tube brace all give Tejay van Garderen’s BMC Team Machine SLR 01 a distinctive look.

On the subject of seat/top tube bracing, famous London frame builder, Monty Young of Condor Cycles once explained to me that despite designers’ fixation with strength around the bottom bracket, in his experience, strength at the seat cluster is just as important.

Apart from snow white handlebar tape, there’s no ‘bling’ to acknowledge the young Americans lead in the best young rider competition.

Fizik again supply the saddle, supported by BMC’s own brand seat pillar.

Tejay is one of the few riders who use ‘anatomic’ bars, mated to a huge ‘anonymous’ extension, tight down on the head race, giving an extreme position.

The groupset – including pedals – is from Shimano, electronic Di2 with the battery box under the down tube, beside the bottom bracket. It almost goes without saying that the cranks support the SRM system.

Red dots, green, white – there must be some other colour?

Oh yes, yellow . . .

The Wiggarello is a curvaceous beauty in gleaming black with yellow hi-lites to the frame and a matching Fizik saddle – the SRM display is ‘en jaune’ too.

The ‘B’ bike on the roof sports yellow handlebar tape – but today’s race bike has conservative black wrapping to the bars.

Pinarello supplied Indurain, Riis and Ulrich with their machines, so there’s little they can learn about building Tour-winning bicycles.

The groupset is from Shimano, Di2 – the battery is internal. It’s not really a ‘chatty’ vibe at the Sky bus, so we couldn’t ask about battery locations. But we know that on Matt Goss’s Scott there’s a smaller, custom battery inside the down tube, recharged through the rear derailleur command cable.

Brad’s Fizik sits atop a Pinarello seat post with bars and monstrous extension by PRO (Shimano) with the obligatory no spacer between stem and head race.

The handlebars run steeply ‘uphll’ to give the Wiggins paws a ‘flat’ transition between the tops and the brake levers.

And the Mod Father pushes hard on pedals by Speedplay.

But for all the ‘box ticking’ and marginal gains, is Brad as cool-looking on his Pinarello as Giovanni Battaglin was when he won the Vuelta and Giro on his stunning red steel Pinarello in 1981?

You decide!

– A demain

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