Former Liège-Bastogne-Liège winner Dan Martin (Etixx-Quickstep) will race on Sunday atop a specially painted Tarmac dubbed the "Emerald Panda". The panda became the totem animal for the Irishman in 2013 when a fan dressed in a panda costume chased behind him as he battled Joaquim Rodriguez for the victory.
The panda craze caught on, and by the end of the year, Martin was mobbed by panda-themed fans at the Tour of Beijing. An ambassadorship for the World Wide Fund for Nature (formerly World Wildlife Fund) ensued, and the Emerald Panda scheme captures this with the organisation's signature logo on the top tube.
"The theme for the bike was a combinationof the 'Luck of the Irish' and his famous Liege-Bastogne-Liege Panda chase scene which happened in 2013,” said Ron Jones, Lead Road Designer at Specialized.
As a tribute the Emerald Isle, the bike also gets a special green pearl topcoat which, depending on the light, adds an emerald highlight to the frame's shape, and green shamrocks with orange accents to reflect Martin's Irish heritage and his national championship titles.
“I really like the design of the bike. It’s cool, the paint job is subtle but perfect," Martin said. "It reflects my commitment with WWF. The relationship with them started back in 2013 when I won the race and had a fan dressed as a panda bear chasing me up the final climb.
"Now I am ambassador for what is called Team Panda which is part of WWF UK. I help them raise money for their conservation efforts and it makes me truly proud.
"I was a bit surprised when I learned Specialized was making this bike. I am happy because it just brings me good memories. I am sure that during the entire race on Sunday I’ll be thinking of when I won. This time it’ll be me chasing the Panda.”