Race tech: Tour de France, July 10, 2008
Bell electrifies with new Volt helmet
Bell supplied the riders of CSC-Saxo Bank and Crédit Agricole with a brand-new Volt helmet just in time for this year's Tour de France. The new helmet builds on the company's previously range-topping Sweep R and clearly shares some technology with sister company Giro and its flagship Ionos.
Like many of its competitors, Bell has introduced a new (and partially visible) composite internal reinforcement structure for strength (and looks). Eleven frontal vents suck in cooling air while internal channels direct it towards the rear-facing exhaust ports. Like the Giro Ionos, the Volt uses antibacterial X-Static fabric on the sweat wicking pads to help keep them fresh.
Bell has also improved fit and comfort with the Volt with its next-generation retention system called Twin Axis Gear. The new setup adjusts the helmet circumference via a handy dial like the old GPS system but is now adjustable vertically, too. The Volt will also come with a detachable visor for off-road use (we also like visors for riding on the road in the rain) and plugs are included to seal up the mounting holes to maintain the helmet's clean lines. The medium-sized CSC-Saxo Bank version that we inspected weighed 302g.
Zabel's mysterious new Colnago
Milram legend Erik Zabel is riding his 14th Tour de France, and probably sadly his last. Nevertheless, the former German champion still seems to be living at the sharp end of bicycle development as we spotted him on a completely new Colnago frame this week. Colnago has yet to release any official details about this new "Extreme Power Super" but a few technical features are apparent just by inspection.
The new EPS closely resembles the current Extreme-C in appearance with its round carbon tubing and carbon lugs but apparently surpasses even the Extreme Power in its quest for ultimate rigidity. The oversized down tube maintains a constant oversized diameter throughout its length while the top tube now flares even bigger as it approaches the head tube; both are internally reinforced via Colnago's 3PRS system. The giant chain stays uses Colnago's familiar 'leaf'-shaped profile.
That head tube also now houses a tapered-and-oversized 1 1/8"-to-1 1/4" steerer tube on a brand-new fork. As on the recently introduced CX-1, the new EPS also makes use of a semi-integrated headset.
Despite appearing to be one of the most modern Colnagos yet, Zabel's EPS carries a distinctly retro livery, standing out from the black and white Extreme Powers of the rest of his Milram team (which is partly how we managed to spot it). Needless to say, we'll be keeping our ears very close to the ground on this one and will get more details as soon as they are available.
Campagolo and Shimano take their battle to the streets
After months of speculation, rumour and prototyping, both Campagnolo's new 11-speed Record and Shimano's new Dura-Ace 7900 production groupsets have found their way into the peloton... but just barely. A team of Shimano engineers delivered the bubble-wrapped packages to the Rabobank squad just before the start in Brest and the other sponsored teams were equipped not much earlier. A total of 60 kits were delivered and Shimano left it up to the teams to decide which of their riders would use them for the big show.
In contrast, Campagnolo has just seven riders the peloton aboard its latest Record 11-speed groupsets. Aussie sprinter Robbie McEwen was the designated guinea pig for Silence-Lotto and all three of his new Noah frames have been equipped. In addition to the one he is riding on any particular day, each team car will carry one up top just in case he gets a rear puncture, which suggests that the Mavic neutral service crews aren't equipped with the new cassettes just yet. The other six lucky riders are: Oscar Pereiro (Caisse d'Epargne), Manuel Quinziato (Liquigas), Alessandro Ballan (Lampre), Stijn Devolder (Quick Step), Laurent Lefevre (Bouyges Telecom) and Maxime Monfort (Cofidis).
Oakley at the races
It wouldn't be a Tour de France without some new eyewear from Oakley and Oakley Sports Marketing representative Steve Blick came through as always. Fabian Cancellara was donning a pair of bright orange Radars at the start in Brest but Oakley apparently has something very special (and very Swiss) in the works for his attempt at gold in Beijing.
Team Columbia's George Hincapie is just as easily recognizable by his long and lean frame as he is his signature Oakley Racing Jacket eyewear. While Hincapie switched to Oakley's new Radar last season, the American veteran (along with stage two winner Thor Hushovd) arrived in France with a prototype version of an all-new Racing Jacket.
Oakley says the new Racing Jacket has a 'floating' lens, meaning that it is held in place by a unique suspension system that exerts less pressure on the lens than usual. This, says Oakley, produces less distortion and makes for easier lens swapping via a unique quick- release system built into the pivoting nosepiece.
There is no news on when the new Racing Jacket will be available to the public but after Hushovd's stage win while wearing them and Hincapie reporting that "Glasses were money!!!!", it probably shouldn't be too long.
Prologo at CSC-Saxo Bank
Saddle company Prologo have presented a few limited edition versions of their saddles to the CSC-Saxo Bank team at this year's Tour. Fabian Cancellara has been riding a personal Scratch TR for a while, featuring rainbow stripes in the company's logo and the time from his world title victory on the side. Teammate Carlos Sastre has also been given the personal treatment now with his own version of the Choice Max TR.
As well as the Spanish GC contender's name on the side, the saddle nose features a dummy (pacifier) with the words "Papa Mejor" (the best daddy). It's a strange motif to have, but obviously harks back to his 2003 Tour stage win when he took one from his back pocket and crossed the line with it in his mouth to celebrate the birth of his daughter.
Garmin has the Edge (705)
Unsurprisingly, as it is the title sponsor, Garmin provides nothing but its best to the Garmin-Chipotle team. New for this year is the Edge 705 - provided in extremely limited edition team-liveried orange and blue. In addition to the Edge 705's usual array of GPS-powered functions and integrated heart rate monitor, it also now picks up signals from the team's newly ANT+Sport-compatible PowerTap rear hubs.
While this is certainly a cool feature, it more significantly means that all of each athlete's vital performance data can now be mixed with the GPS information and recorded, downloaded and analysed from a single widget.