Tour de France tech: Custom-painted frames for Pierre Rolland and Thibaut Pinot

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LE CAVERNE DE PONT, France (CT) – Like other manufacturers, Lapierre and Cannondale spent time in the weeks before the Tour de France getting custom bikes ready for their sponsored teams: FDJ and Cannondale-Drapac respectively. As a result, Thibaut Pinot of FDJ and Pierre Rolland of Cannondale-Drapac have been kitted out with some of the slickest looking bikes at this year’s race.

Thibaut Pinot’s Lapierre Xelium SL, the brand’s lightweight offering, stood out from the rest of the FDJ bikes with its eye-catching white, silver and blue paint scheme. The steed that Pinot was using (before he withdrew from the race after stage 12) looks pretty special in the occasional sunshine that France is providing for this year’s Tour. Beyond the fancy paintwork the bike features the same setup the rest of the FDJ team is using.

Shimano, a long-time sponsor of the team supplies a full Di2 groupset with a 9000 series SRM-equipped chainset. Direct-mount brakes do the stopping. Wheels are the ever-reliable Dura-Ace C50s with Continental Competition ProLTD tubulars in 25mm helping Pinot stick to the road (or not as the case might be on stage 11).

Bars, stem, seat posts and bar tape all come from Pro. One interesting point is the inclusion of a Garmin computer as opposed to an SRM head unit.

Pierre Rolland is another Frenchman on a custom bike. Rolland has two Tour stage wins to his name plus three top 10 finishes overall and this year he’s the leader of the US-registered Cannondale-Drapac squad. His 2016 Tour hasn’t quite according to plan so far — he currently sits in 17th place, 5:16 behind race leader Chris Froome.

Rolland’s daughters name, Jade, was the inspiration behind the paint scheme which was put together by Artech Design, an Italian-based custom paint shop. The couple that did the intricate airbrush work, Lara Cassanelli and Danilo Strafe, have a long history with Cannondale. The likes of Mario Cipollini, Ivan Basso, Vincenzo Nibali and more recently Peter Sagan have all had custom Cannondale frames from Artech.

Beyond the paint scheme, the most noticeable change to the bike is the inclusion of CeramicSpeed’s Oversized Pulley System and a UFO chain. Both these additions have been made in the hope of saving watts.

The Oversized Pulley System, with its 17-tooth jockey wheel reportedly helps reduce friction in the pulleys by 60% when compared to standard Shimano Dura-Ace jockey wheels. This apparently saves 2.4 watts. The lightweight cage is made from a polyamide with a carbon fibre finish while the jockey wheels are made of alloy and fitted with low-friction CeramicSpeed bearings.

Matched to this is CeramicSpeed’s UFO chain, a product that we’ve not seen on many normal road bikes. Previously it’s been an item reserved for time trial bikes. The “Ultra-Fast Optimised” chains have a very limited lifespan of only a few hundred kilometres.

The process of producing the UFO chain involves removing the manufacturer’s lube (be it a KMC or Shimano chain) then pre-wearing it in for a few hundred kilometres. From there a wax-like Teflon coating is applied.

The rest of the bike is pretty stock standard (if you can class a pro bike as “standard”). Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 shifting, Cannondale’s own SRM-equipped SISL chainset with FSA chainrings (39/53), Mavic’s ultralight and super stiff Cosmic carbon wheels, and a cockpit from FSA including compact bars and an SLK stem wrap up the package nicely.

The frame is Cannondale’s latest SuperSix Evo Hi Mod. It’s not glaringly obvious that it’s a new frame design but Cannondale has made changes to its latest top-level road bike. The frame and fork both have a slimmer profile, and are stiffer. The slimmer head tube helps with the all important limiting of frontal area. The carbon layup has also changed.

It’s a lovely bike but will we see Rolland do the machine proud once the Tour reaches the Alps, a stomping ground he’s found victory on previously?

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