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In his latest instalment of Bikes of Le Tour, Dave Everett visits Europcar to check out the team’s fleet of Colnagos as used in this year’s Tour de France.
Everyone loves a Colnago; it’s hard not to. The classic lines and the history behind the company have a certain mystique about them.
Ernesto Colnago, the owner of the brand, is renowned for throwing huge amounts of passion at each and every model that the company produces. The philosophy at the company seems a world away from some of the other major competitors in the market. Where lightweight frames seem to be a selling point for others, Ernesto doesn’t value or hold this property as highly — ride quality, handling and a general balance in the bike’s performance are what the frames are famed for.
Colnago’s historical pedigree speaks volumes for the support they provide to some of the best riders and teams in history: Molteni, Del Tongo, Mapei and Rabobank are just a handful of the teams that have raced and help develop Colnago bikes.
French WorldTour team Europcar has a firm connection with Colnago. Unlike most teams Europcar doesn’t just stick to one or two models of the sponsor’s bikes — lining up at any day of the race will be a smattering of different frames from Colnago’s lusted-after collection. It’s clear that there is no singular bike that the whole team rides; each rider has a preferred model. An overall colour scheme doesn’t seem present either, with custom paint jobs for a few of the team.
At the start of each stage of the Tour de France the bikes get as many photos taken by fans as the riders that race them. The deep glossy carbon and flamboyant paint jobs stand out amongst some of the more drab bikes that several of the teams ride.
Amongst the team bikes is Colnago’s classic-looking (or as classic as a carbon frame can be) C60. This frame reared its head earlier this year and has slowly filtered its way in to Europcar’s arsenal of bikes. Though this is the Tour and you’d think every rider would be handed a C60, it’s surprising to see that many are still on the model that preceded the C60, the C59.
Though the bikes look very similar from the outset they are completely different beasts. Both stay true to Colnogo’s geometry and look of many of their past framesets. But the C60 adds a few new features; basically everything looks to have been beefed up.
An asymmetric seat tube, the new downtube that is “molto grande” and the new bottom bracket lug are all designed for maximum power transfer. One major difference, and one which is also in many ways reverting to older ideas with bottom brackets, is the fact that it is threaded — Colnago developed a new bottom bracket standard called the Threadfit82.5.
If you’ve ridden or owned a carbon bike with a press fit bottom bracket (PFBB) the likelihood that you’ve experienced creaking from the bottom bracket is pretty high. It’s a trait that PFBBs have which is why, combined with the reliability of a threaded BB, Colnago have produced a BB like this. I for one think this is a great idea and hope it is picked up and becomes more present in other frames, if Colnago allows this.
The lugs on the C60 help make this bike look slightly timeless — a bike like this easily differentiates itself from the hordes of monocoque frames out there. The lugs aren’t the most aero, nor are the huge tubes, but reports suggests the handling is exceptionally stable.
To make this bike a true Italian beauty you have to have Campagnolo on it, and that’s exactly what Europcar runs. As with the frame choices the groupset choice is not standard across the whole team. Some bikes run Super Record, others have the Super Record RS, the lighter-weight version that was released back in March.
The updated RS version has a few tweaks over the standard Super Record — new angles on the front mech and chainring pick ups are revised, all with the aim of making snappier gear changes.
Then there are the bikes that run EPS, Campagnolo’s electronic groupset. How mechanics cope with this variety of components on a daily basis I’m not sure — it must be a huge headache. There are a few teams that may have a sole rider on mechanical and the rest on electronic but the spread of mechanical to electronic is staggering at Europcar.
On two frames though sat Campag’s new 2015 Super Record groupset, the almost organic looking chainset looks a lot more appealing than the prototypes that appeared at the Giro in May.
The rear mech looks a world away from what Campagnolo have been producing previously and looks very different from what Shimano or SRAM are offering too. The official launch was this week so there should be news circulating now about how it performs.
The team’s wheels are from Campagnolo too. Bora Ultras and the new Bora Ultra 35mm are the wheel of choice with these wheels being shod with Hutchinson tubulars.
Pedals are by Look, and most seem to be using the Keo Blades with their leaf-spring design. A little German engineering filters into Europcar’s setup thanks to Sigma which supplies computers. Deda and Colnago seem to supply bars and stem, with a few riders using Colnago’s one piece bar and stem combo and others preferring Deda’s range of bars and stems.
Ferrari and Colnago have worked together on the second bike that a few of the Europcar riders are racing round the French roads. The new VR-1 is a world away from the C60. The slick-looking frame that’s been developed inside a wind tunnel is a stunner.
Ferrari and Colnago have worked together for many years, but the bikes don’t usually see much racing — they’re an item that sees more coffee shop action than race action. The VR-1 changes this, with its aero tubing shapes and, from what I’ve been told, a whole bunch of data thrown at the development of this frame.
The VR-1 might not look as savagely aero as say, a Giant Propel or a Felt AR, but it seems to be doing it’s intended job very well — Europcar hopeful Pierre Rolland is inside the top ten in the GC as I write this.
Even with the aero tube shapes, the rear brake under the rear chainstays, and a dual pivot-mounted brake up front, the Colnago VR-1 still has that classy Italian feel about it. The inclusion of the Ferrari stallion on the paintwork gives it that added appeal.
Next up in the Europcar line up is the CX Zero, yet another bike that steers away from the typical Colnago lugged frame. This bike falls in to the company’s endurance line of bikes. Don’t let this fool you though — Colnago has a racing heritage and it shines through in this model.
Like a lot of endurance bikes, such as Cannondale’s Synapse or even Trek’s Domane, this is a bike that soaks up a bit of extra road buzz and isn’t quite as aggressive with the angles of the seattube and steerer tube. This is why most of the team were seen using this on the cobbles of stage 5.
The slim seatstays paired with chainstays that have a slight kink in them as they approach the dropouts help with this endurance comfort sales pitch. This with a slightly higher head tube sits the riders in a slightly more upright position for taking the hits off the rough pave.
Last but not least are the M10 and the C59. Both have been superseded by newer bikes, but are still are seen in the team’s collection.
The M10 has seen several seasons worth of action and I’m guessing it is being phased out in favour of the VR-1. The slender looking C59 (compared to its big brother the C60) again has seen just as much action as the M10.
Both clearly do the job exceptionally well, after all the Tour de France is a showcase to the world for brands. If Mr Colnago didn’t think his bikes were up to scratch against the newer versions I’m sure you wouldn’t see them at this year’s Tour. They are here though and that speaks volumes for two frames that have newer versions looking down on them.