Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank) hasn’t changed allegiances from last year to this one in spite of a new team name, new colors and new kit. The team is still run by Bjarne Riis and most of the old Team CSC-Saxo Bank infrastructure is still in place but Cancellara has found himself with a new frameset and now even a whole different set of componentry for 2009 nonetheless.
Specialized have stepped in as the team sponsor this year and Cancellara tackled this past Sunday’s Ronde van Vlaanderen aboard the company’s flagship S-Works Tarmac SL2. Though obviously differing in design philosophy from his old primary machine, the Cervélo SLC-SL, it does share some similar cues with his old R3 cobble-fighter.
Like that R3, the Tarmac SL2’s seat tube starts out round up top before transitioning to a more rectangular profile down by the bottom bracket and matches extra-tall and chunky chain stays to relatively slender seat stays to provide stout drivetrain response but also good comfort – undoubtedly a valued asset on Belgian cobbles.
The Specialized otherwise strays significantly though with a tapered head tube that flares from a standard 1 1/8” up top to a giant 1 1/2" at the fork crown to provide surer steering and braking. As a side benefit, it also provides more real estate for the substantial down tube, which measures roughly 65mm in diameter from end to end to prevent unwanted flex. In contrast, the bowed top tube is fairly slender and flat to allow for some counteracting vertical movement.
Down below, the bottom bracket shell is filled with integrated press-fit bearings and Specialized’s own S-Works carbon crank. Essentially identical to the now-open BB30 standard, the larger diameter shell allows for larger bearings for improved durability, a bigger spindle for increased rigidity, plus more heel clearance for Cancellara’s ankles.
Frame modifications specifically for ‘De Ronde’ were seemingly nonexistent as Cancellara retained the stock ‘Pro’-version geometry with its shorter head tube – which is now offered to consumers after a team-only run last season. We weren’t able to check for any additional carbon plies to further bolster the frame though given the Swiss rider’s considerable power we wouldn’t be surprised. As with other ProTour-level Specialized bikes we’ve seen in the past, the stock replaceable rear derailleur hanger has been traded for a non-replaceable solid unit for snappier shift performance.
Saxo Bank started out the year on Shimano Dura-Ace components but recently made a switch to SRAM’s top-end Red package including their quick-action DoubleTap shift/brake levers, ceramic bearing-equipped rear derailleur, ultralight PowerDome cassette and PC-1090 chain. Cancellara apparently prefers the front derailleur from the second-tier Force group for its stiffer steel cage, however, and after that unfortunate – and very public – mishap on the Koppenberg, Saxo Bank mechanics were seen swapping the team bikes to Dura-Ace 7900 chains the following Monday.
Cancellara is at least on familiar Zipp wheels this season, though only in name in the case of their versatile 303 model. Zipp have developed a new prototype 303 that boasts a substantially wider – about 27mm at their midsection – toroidal profile that is said to be much more resistant to impact and presumably more aerodynamic than before. The team-only prototypes currently fly without Zipp’s trademark dimples but production versions will surely be equipped once they eventually hit the marketplace.
Capping off the package are Speedplay Zero Titanium pedals, a Prologo Scratch Pro TR saddle, Veloflex tubulars (with badges conspicuously penned over), a seatpost, stem and handlebar package from FSA, a pair of Tacx Tao cages, and a Sigma 1106 computer.
Total weight as seen here is 7.51kg (16.56lb).
Sunday’s Ronde may not have gone as expected but given his early exit that day, Cancellara is at least rested for Gent-Wevelgem where he’ll take his Tarmac SL2 for another run at the top podium step. According to team mechanics, Paris-Roubaix will bring a slightly modified S-Works Roubaix SL2 to replace the Tarmac though we’ll have to wait a bit to catch a glimpse at that one. Bring on the cobbles!