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by James Huang
July 23, 2018
Photography by James Huang
Team Sky is once again asserting its dominance in this year’s Tour de France (although perhaps not quite in the way people expected). With one week remaining in this year’s edition, the final general classification looks to be a three-way race (or maybe four?) between Sky co-captains Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas, and Sunweb team leader Tom Dumoulin. Sadly, many of the other main protagonists are already out of the picture, including Rigoberto Uran, Richie Porte, and 2014 Tour de France winner Vincenzo Nibali.
Nibali’s Merida Reacto should have been the perfect machine to suit the Italian’s strengths, with its sculpted aero tube shapes and impressively low frame weight, made all the lighter by its mostly raw finish (paint is heavy), plus a trick spec highlighted by SRM’s top-end Origin carbon fiber power meter crankset and a few bits of feathery exotica from smaller boutique brands.
Actual weight is just 6.89kg, putting it bang on with the UCI’s minimum weight limit once the SRM PC8 computer head is removed.
A careless fan’s errant camera strap unfortunately brought Nibali’s dream to a hasty end on the upper slopes of l’Alpe d’Huez, leaving us to wonder how the former champion could have animated the race in its final few days.
Merida cleaved a heap of weight off the original Reacto when crafting the latest version. But the one belonging to Bahrain Merida team captain Vincenzo Nibali is even lighter yet, thanks to its raw finish. Actual weight as shown is 6.86kg (15.12lb), including the SRM PC8 computer.
Lots of dorsal fins are circling on the down tube (and top tube) for the Shark of Messina.
Bahrain’s entry into pro cycling certainly hasn’t been without its share of controversy.
Nibali’s bike is chock-full of lightweight goodies.
The SRM Origin power meter is based on a design from THM-Carbones, featuring ultralight carbon fiber arms and a carbon fiber spindle hidden inside the oversized bottom bracket shell.
Like most modern aero road bikes, Merida makes use of flat-backed tubes for the latest Reacto.
The 120mm-long FSA OS-99 stem sits atop a profiled headset cover.
Exposed cabling of any sort is rapidly beginning to look dated on aero road bikes.
The cutout on the back of the seatpost (and its elastomer filler) is designed to provide a bit of comfort.
Also rapidly becoming standard-issue on modern aero road bikes are wedge-type seatpost binders tucked into the top tube.
Fulcrum supplied Nibali with darker silver decals on these carbon tubular wheels to match the frame.
Disc brakes are slowing creeping into the pro peloton, but Nibali is sticking with lighter-weight rim brakes on his Merida Reacto.
Continental tubulars are the most popular choice amongst the pro peloton. 25mm-wide casings are now about the narrowest you’ll find, even on time trial bikes.
Sprint shifters are fitted to Nibali’s FSA K-Force handlebars.
Having a cool nickname affords all sorts of opportunities for neat personal logos. Note the Shimano direct-mount rear brake caliper mounted underneath the chainstays, too.
Given that the rear brake isn’t accessible from the saddle, Bahrain Merida mechanics have to fit an inline adjuster (with built-in quick-release) to the rear brake line.
Fitting in well with the lightweight theme are Elite’s Leggero carbon fiber bottle cages, which supposedly weigh just 15g apiece.
Quick-release skewers are notably minimal, but are roughly half the weight of more typical models.
The unpainted finish leaves nothing to hide (at least on the surface). Depending on the color and design, paint can often add a couple hundred grams of weight, so it makes sense to leave Nibali’s frame bare.
There’s still one week remaining in this year’s Tour de France but, sadly, Nibali won’t be involved.
That Taylor Phinney is at the Tour at all is something of a miracle in and of itself. At the 2014 US national road championship in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Phinney was forced to swerve around a race moto on the sinuous, high-speed descent of Lookout Mountain. He crashed heavily into a guardrail, suffering a compound fracture of his left lower leg and a severed patellar tendon.
But four years later, here he is — in his second consecutive Tour de France.
This time around, Phinney is aboard Cannondale’s new SystemSix, the company’s long awaited — and long overdue — aero road bike. Phinney’s bike isn’t nearly as light as Nibali’s however, in part due to the fact that the Coloradan is far taller than the former Italian champion, and rides a 60cm frame. Phinney’s bike also wears a lot more paint (again, paint is heavy), and the bright pink and fluorescent green finish is certainly much more visible.
The icing on the visual cake is the team-exclusive direct-mount rear derailleur hanger, which is not only stouter than the stock version with its burly CNC-machined aluminum construction, but also impossible to miss given the bright pink anodizing.
Taylor Phinney of EF-Education First Drapac p/b Cannondale is one of the tallest riders in the peloton at 1.9m (6ft 5in). Shown here is his new 60cm Cannondale SystemSix aero machine for this year’s Tour de France. Total weight without computer or bottles is 7.91kg (17.44lb).
It was only just in 2014, after a horrible crash at the US national road championships, that Phinney wasn’t even sure if he’d ever be able to ride again, let alone race. But here he is, back in prime form, at the Tour de France.
Cannondale’s new SystemSix uses flat-backed aero tube profiles. Note how the fork crown is blended into the surrounding frame shape.
The pink paint accentuates the shaping on the rear end of Phinney’s Cannondale SystemSix.
The down tube is obviously shaped with water bottles in mind.
The Shimano Di2 junction box is conveniently located in a dedicated spot inside the down tube.
Team bikes are equipped with special direct-mount rear derailleur hangers, whereas stock bikes come with standard hangers instead. The burly CNC-machined construction makes these stiffer than factory units, and the fin prevents chains from getting jammed in between the cassette and frame in the event of a missed shift. The pink anodized finish is a nice touch, too.
Cannondale and Shimano are the two last remaining major holdouts with their hollow aluminum crankarms. Independent third-party tests indicate there’s really little motivation for either company to switch over to carbon fiber, either.
Whereas the rest of the team places their hands on Vision’s Metron 5D one-piece aero carbon fiber cockpit, Phinney makes do with a separate aero carbon bar and machined aluminum stem since Vision doesn’t make a size to fit him.
Phinney’s standard Garmin computer mount is attached to the stem with a single o-ring.
No unusually high levers for Taylor Phinney.
150mm-long stems were once the realm of mountain bikes in the early 1990s and late 1980s. But they’re still fairly common among top road riders.
25mm-wide Vittoria Corsa tubulars and Vision carbon tubular wheels for Taylor Phinney.
The EF-Education First Drapac p/b Cannondale team will be sticking to disc brakes on its aero road bikes at this year’s Tour de France.
Phinney sets himself atop Prologo’s stubby NDR saddle.
Cannondale pioneered the BB30 press-fit bottom bracket format more than two decades ago, and continues to stick by it today.
Cannondale’s new SystemSix frame and fork are equipped with Mavic’s SpeedRelease thru-axle system. The double-lead thread design requires half as many turns as usual to remove the axle, which presumably makes for faster wheel changes.
The seat tube and chainstays closely follow the profile of the rear wheel.
So. Much. Room.
Race number holders are attached the back of the seatpost with a mix of silicone glue and zip-ties.
Matching pink bottles, of course.
Cannondale’s nosecone-like shaping on the front of the new SystemSix is a result of the company not wanting to run lines inside the upper headset bearing. Headsets take a beating in WorldTour racing given all the washing, and mechanics certainly aren’t happy if they have to remove all the lines completely to replace a single headset bearing.
Aerodynamics play an important role in road racing, but arguably more so for someone as tall as Taylor Phinney, whose body and bike punch a bigger hole in the air than usual.
Few things justify an elaborate custom paint job more than a national championship, and Michelton-Scott super domestique Daryl Impey is taking full advantage of the occasion with his Scott Foil Disc.
“For the artwork, I drew inspiration from the Ndebele people,” Impey said in an article on the team’s website in June. “I chose this artwork because nobody has done this before on a bike and it represents our rainbow nation of full color. Then we have some finer details, like the warrior logo on the handlebars because in Zulu, Impey means warrior.”
Keen-eyed fans will note that Impey wasn’t actually riding this particular machine when he was in the breakaway on Stage 14, though. Each Michelton-Scott rider has their choice of three bikes for any particular stage: the Foil Disc, the rim-brake Foil, and the rim-brake Addict. Impey went with the rim-brake Foil that day, likely due to the decidedly lumpy course profile. Or then again, maybe he just didn’t want to risk scratching that lovely finish.
Daryl Impey’s Scott Foil Disc is shown here, but each of the Michelton-Scott riders have their choice of three bikes at this year’s Tour de France: the Foil Disc, the rim-brake Foil, and the rim-brake Addict.
Impey is flying the colors of South Africa as that country’s current road champion.
Words of encouragement on the top tube for Daryl Impey.
More embellishment can be found on the inside of the chainstay.
The Michelton-Scott team is rolling on Pirelli tires this season.
This surely has to be the most visible component logo to ever appear on an integrated aero carbon cockpit to date.
The small extension behind the fork tip presumably helps smooth airflow over the front disc-brake caliper.
Yet more South African colors are featured on the fork.
Scott was the first major brand to embrace the PF86 press-fit bottom bracket format on the original Addict. Noteworthy here is the fact that the Michelton-Scott team is using bottom bracket cups that thread into each other to help keep creaking at bay.
Word around the team pits is that Shimano’s Dura-Ace disc rotors are in short supply, so most Shimano-equipped teams are using a mix of rotor models.
Saddles may be creeping forward for some riders in the pro peloton, but not for Daryl Impey.
The Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 rear derailleur is fitted to a direct-mount hanger. Note how the wire is fed through the hollowed-out center of the hanger.
Impey runs Shimano’s new dual-side Dura-Ace power meter.
Paper-thin bar tape for Michelton-Scott rider Daryl Impey.
Interestingly, Impey uses a standard stem mount for his Garmin computer instead of an out-front setup.
What’s especially interesting about that choice is the fact that his Syncros integrated aero carbon cockpit has dedicated holes for an out-front mount, too.