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You can imagine the frustration, the anger, and the panic that must have gone through the Trek-Segafredo camp. Course recon was done, riders were rested and ready, and everything was in place for the WorldTour restart at Strade Bianche later that day. Except that the team was now without a handful of its race bikes.
The mechanic’s truck containing the six bikes had been parked in the race hotel carpark the night before. The men’s team’s mechanic’s truck was there as well, so too the men’s and women’s team buses. At some point during the night, thieves cut through the roof of the women’s team’s truck and fished out the bikes.
“We were somewhat fortunate that only six bikes were stolen,” team mechanic Mike Jenner told CyclingTips. “Five race bikes and one of our sports director’s bikes. My colleague Francisco Jr and myself worked super hard from 7.30am race morning until leaving for the race at 10am to sort out the situation.”
Jenner told CyclingTips that all of the riders’ spare bikes are the same as their race bikes, which made the mechanics’ jobs a little easier.
“Components, frame, wheels, tyres, gearing, measurements all match exactly,” he said. “The reason for this is so that if we need a bike change during a race the athlete can jump on and feel no difference. Our biggest problem was Ellen van Dijk who wanted to use a new Emonda.”
Van Dijk’s spare bike was a Trek Madone, which meant the mechanics had to find an Emonda in the right size, and quickly. Thankfully, they had one close to hand.
“As luck would have it, the men’s team were with us and we were able to borrow Koen de Kort’s Emonda for the race,” Jenner said. “We made a few component changes to get the fit correct and two hours later Ellen was in one of the breakaways.”
So @ellenvdijk is racing on my @TrekBikes in Strade Bianche. Please don't get any power records on that bike I can't break anymore. Also, good luck, that bike deserves a victory! @TrekSegafredo https://t.co/Q7eqqnoMCr
— Koen de Kort (@koendekort) August 1, 2020
With race bikes sorted, there was still the issue of spare bikes to sort out. At a race like Strade Bianche, where the gravel roads mean a higher chance of punctures, spare bikes are even more important than usual. Thankfully, finding spare bikes proved a little easier than it might have been.
“Elisa Longo Borghini’s race bike was spared by the robbers so she was OK as we had two bikes for her,” Jenner explained. “Ellen was sorted with Koen’s Emonda and her Madone on the roof. Ruth Winder and Tayler Wiles had home bikes (again, exactly the same as their race bikes) with us, so we put them on the roof.
“This left Lucinda Brand and Lizzie Deignan to sort out. Fortunately we had just done a team camp so we had two other rider’s bikes we put on the roof with measurements adjusted.
“In the end we had all new race bikes and a spare bike for each rider. All correctly specced and with the preferred tyre choice. Although we were unlucky to be robbed, we were able to find a solution and race properly.”
Longo Borghini went on to be the team’s best finisher on the day, the 2017 winner taking fifth, 2:11 behind solo winner Annemiek van Vleuten (Mitchelton-Scott). While the team got through the race fine, the impact of the theft continues to be felt.
“I was supposed to go to a training camp with the women’s team,” Jenner said, “but instead we travelled back from Siena to the service course in Belgium and in the next couple of days we will be building replacement bikes so that by the end of the week our arsenal of bikes will be fully replenished.”
Thankfully, the team has two weeks until its next race — plenty of time to get things sorted. Fortunately, too, nothing besides the six bikes was stolen. “Importantly neither Francisco Jr or my tools were stolen,” Jenner said. “Sadly there was a lot of damage done to the truck, but we are getting this repaired.”
Sadly, the theft of bikes from race hotels happens all too often and this certainly won’t be the last time a team is targeted. For the thieves in this case, though, a few distinctive features could make the Trek Emondas harder than usual to sell without arousing suspicion.
“These are all brand new 2021 Trek Emondas in the striking paint job of the women’s team,” Jenner explained. “All bikes have race number holders on the rear of the seat tube. We had one bike of each size stolen – 50, 52, 54, 56 and 58. Ellen’s bike (58) has the seat mast fitted in reverse.
“All bikes had Bontrager Aeolus 4 deep wheels with 28 mm Pirelli tyres fitted. The 28 mm is identified by a white dot on the tyre above the valve. These are team-issue wheels only and easily identified by a Trek dealer.
“There is one other major feature: on the brake lever blades the word ‘SRAM’ is written. These blades were only made for sponsored teams. Retail levers have the word ‘RED’ written on them. We also have a special identifier within the [rear derailleur]. The team or SRAM can identify if this component is team issue or retail.”
It goes without saying that if you spot one of these bikes for sale, please contact the team.