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For brands sponsoring the biggest teams in the world, the Tour de France is the most important showcase of the year. It’s not just a bike race — it’s an opportunity for world-wide exposure for their products.
Putting new items on the market while the Tour is on is the ideal way of reaching buyers quickly. But if you don’t have anything new to show the world, the tried and tested method of getting attention is by rolling out custom products.
Belgian frame manufacture Ridley currently has two very different custom frames on display outside the team bus of the team they sponsor, Lotto Soudal. Stage 5 saw Thomas De Gendt soak up enough mountain points while out on the attack to secure the polka dot jersey. On the start line of stage 6 was a Ridley Helium SL with red polka dots, waiting for De Gendt.
Team mechanics told us that the frame was sat in the back of the truck ready and waiting in the hope it would be needed. When quizzed about whether there may be other coloured frames hiding in the team mechanics’ truck, the short answer was “There very well may be”.
If another jersey is taken by the team at the Tour this year there’ll be no midnight spray-painting jobs at Ridleys HQ in Belgium and a frame rushed by courier to a stage finish, just as they did back in 2014 on stage 9 when Tony Gallopin took the yellow.
Being German National Champion for 2016 means that Andre Greipel has a custom bike of his own, the Ridley Noah SL — oddly the second-tier aero frame in Ridley’s range. The top model, the Noah FAST differs slightly to the Noah SL that Greipel is using, the main difference being that the SL version doesn’t have integrated brakes on the forks and rear stays.
Lotto Soudal mechanics told us that the frame turned up on Tuesday and was built that night, ready for Greipel to race the following day.