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The spring classics are often happy hunting grounds for scooping new bikes and equipment during the final testing phase before being released to the world, and in Belgium, for the first cobbled races of the spring, a prototype Lapierre aero bike was hiding in plain sight atop the Groupama-FDJ team car, draped in a conspicuous all-white paint finish with UCI decals simply stuck to the frame and fork.
We can reasonably expect this to be a new version of the company’s Aircode aero road bike, likely to be released in the next few months as a 2021 model. The sleek new shape looks much more modern than the outgoing version, with wide Kammtail-like profiles throughout that suggest a more nuanced blend of low weight and aerodynamic efficiency similar to the current Specialized Tarmac and Scott Addict RC — and with the increased tire clearances all of these bikes now offer (at least in disc-brake form), there’s a good chance we’ll see this in use at the upcoming cobbled classics, too.
Bucking the current trend for dropped seatstays, Lapierre has adapted a design from its Pulsum endurance bike, with the seatstays bypassing the seat tube completely and connecting directly to the top tube. It’s a strategy also employed by GT on its Grade gravel bike, with likely the same desired outcome of more seat tube flex and improved rider comfort on bigger impacts.
Integration is another key design element. Although the team bike was fitted with a sponsor-correct PRO stem, the aero headset spacers clearly suggest that Lapierre has developed its own stem or one-piece cockpit. But even with the standard stem, the cables and hoses are neatly routed from the handlebar into the front of the head tube, closely hugging the underside of the stem to help minimise disruption to air flow.
Given how the head tube is extended to the front of the frame, it seems likely that Lapierrre has stuck to a conventional round-profile steerer tube, with the lines routed similar to Cannondale’s SystemSix aero road bike.
This team bike is built with disc brakes, including 12mm thru-axles and flat-mount calipers. It’s unclear at this point if there will be a rim brake version, but given the way the market is going at the moment, it seems unlikely. That said, there’s still a lot of love for rim brakes in the cycling community, and Groupama-FDJ has clearly demonstrated a preference to have both on hand, at least based on what we saw in the pits at the recent Santos Tour Down Under.
We’ve contacted Lapierre for comment and we’ll update this article as soon as we get a reply, but for now, we’ll continue to keep our eyes (and ears) open for more.