Tech feature: Lance Armstrong's Tour Down Under Trek Madone
Seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong will mark his official return to professional road racing with Johan Bruyneel's Astana team at the upcoming Tour Down Under aboard a one-off Trek Madone 6.9 draped in his trademark Livestrong livery.
In contrast to the blue and white rigs piloted by the rest of his teammates, Armstrong's bike is a decidedly more somber black and grey punctuated by a bright yellow 'Livestrong' logo and band on the top tube. Littered throughout the graphics are a number of "hidden messages" though we'll have to wait until the rest of the bike is unveiled in Australia to see exactly what they are. According to Trek road bike marketing manager Scott Daubert, lying beneath the custom finish is a fully standard 58cm Madone 6.9 frame pulled directly off the production line.
Daubert added that the special paint job required thirty hours of labor to complete – in spite of the complicated graphics, there are no decals and each detail was applied solely with careful paint and masking work. As a result, other production in Trek's Project One division was essentially shut down in the meantime as nearly the entire staff was involved, including graphic artist Mike Pfalzgraff, 'paint department maestro' Bob Seibel, and paint cell leader Brian Yuker among others.
Armstrong's frame still has a long journey ahead before it is complete, though. In the coming days, team liaison Ben Coates will reportedly fly to Trek headquarters in Wisconsin from Austin, Texas to take delivery of the one-of-a-kind creation. From there, he will then hand carry it directly to Australia where he will pass it on to Astana team mechanics for assembly.
According to Daubert, Armstrong will use the standard team build kit consisting of SRAM Red and Bontrager wheels and cockpit components. Almost assuredly, the bike will also be topped with Armstrong's signature Selle San Marco Concor Lite saddle.
Armstrong has stated on multiple occasions that the main purpose of his comeback was "to take the global epidemic of cancer really to a much bigger stage," and the bright finish, which should be easily distinguishable from others in the peloton, will undoubtedly draw attention to his cause. It is still unclear, though, what kit he will be wearing.
A similarly distinctive black-and-yellow kit would naturally draw even more attention but UCI rules clearly mandate that "Each team may have only a single design for clothing (colours and layout) which may not be altered for the duration of the calendar year," and that "Riders' clothing shall always be identical to the specimen lodged."
However, that hasn't stopped other riders in the past who have been more than willing to pay a hefty fine in order to don some special duds. For now, Daubert says the team has supplied Armstrong with official Astana kit though we'll have to wait a little longer to see what he actually uses.