Used and abused: How the bikes of the smaller teams fared this year

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At the start of each WorldTour season, at the Tour Down Under, we take a good look at the bikes of the pro peloton to see what’s new and who’s riding what. Today, at the other end of the season, CyclingTips reporter Dave Everett takes a look at the bikes of some of the smaller teams at Paris-Tours to see what sort of damage that’s been done throughout the year.

Paris-Tours is a single-day race and the last real battleground of the European season. It’s the race where many of the big guns, especially the sprinters, normally have their final outing for the year. This season though, with the sprinter-friendly world championships being held later than normal in Doha, Paris-Tours is a crucial lead-in race.

The race attracts many of the WorldTour teams and, as you’d expect, their bikes arrive well-presented and looked after, thanks to big sponsorship deals that supply vast amounts of equipment. It’s the teams further down the food chain that we’ll take a closer look at here though; teams that function on a fraction of the budget the WorldTour teams do. A season’s worth of racing scars can be seen on these bikes.

Race organisers ASO obviously like to fill the startlist of French races with as many French teams as possible, and it was no different at Paris-Tours. Alongside Cofidis, Direct Energie and Fortuneo-Vital Concept were the smaller French teams of Delko Marseille Provence KTM, Roubaix Lille Métropole, HP BTP-Auber93 and Equipe Cycliste Armée de Terre.

Equipe Cycliste Armée de Terre

Equipe Cycliste Armée de Terre is a UCI Continental set up, run by the French Army and comprised of professional soldiers. Unlike many French teams, the French army team doesn’t have a French bike sponsor; instead they’ve jumped the border into Italy with frames supplied by Cipollini.

The bikes had a mixed bag when it came to running components. Most had full Campagnolo Chorus groupsets while a few deviated with Record or Bora alternatives. Cipollini has done a stunning job producing a camouflage paint scheme, not just matching the bikes to the team kit (made by Ale) but also the team’s work clothes.

Of all the equipment from lower-tier teams on the start line, the Cipollini Bond team bikes were easily in the best condition, often looking as pristine as the WorldTour bikes.

It’s not all new

While the WorldTour teams’ sponsorship deals allow their mechanics to keep bikes running well and looking great, smaller French teams like HP BTP-Auber93 and Delko-Marseille Provence-KTM clearly show it’s not the same in the lower leagues. It also, in some ways, gives us an insight into the French racing scene at this moment in time.

It’s been stated that the French cycling culture and especially the racing scene isn’t as well supported or as affluent as it has been in the past. Do these well used and abused bikes with a season full of action and thousands of kilometres under them tell us a bigger story?

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