HTC-Columbia sprinter Mark Cavendish has replaced last year's 'Sprint Force' custom paint scheme with a more sinister Asian-inspired tone on his new Scott Project F01 aero road bike.
HTC team staff told us that Cavendish initially wanted "a ninja theme and requested a chrome bike to look like the blade of a sword – and perhaps a few drops of blood and sword slashes." Scott designers did a good job of lending a slightly more civilized feel by drawing on some classic Japanese artwork, and while the standard team issue rig's paint layout is generally retained with contrasting color panels to highlight the chopped-off aero profiles, Cav definitely got what he wanted.
As requested, the custom graphics include a sword-wielding samurai contrasted with an idyllic landscape – and lots and lots of blood spatter.
The build kit is little changed from star sprinter's previous Addict with a Shimano Dura-Ace mechanical group and pedals, SRM-equipped crankset, fi'zi:k Arione CX Carbon Braided saddle, Elite cages, and AceCo's increasingly popular K-Edge chain watcher – the latter even custom etched just for Cavendish. Pictured here are Zipp 404 carbon tubular rims laced to Shimano Dura-Ace hubs with Sapim CX-Ray spokes but HTC-Columbia typically has an unusually broad range of wheels at its disposal that also includes Shimano and HED.
Cavendish even gets his own signature line of cockpit components from PRO as well. His burly Vibe Sprint carbon stem – painted to match, of course – is similar to the blocky PRO model he's used in previous seasons and the corresponding Vibe Sprint bar is specially built for an extra-stout feel during rushes to the line.
Bar width remains the same as last year but stem length has gone up a tad to 135mm – saddle position has also slid forward but by a more substantial 15mm. In total, this now puts Cavendish further over the front of the bike than before but total reach has dropped 10mm so he's more compact than before, too.
One new equipment addition this year has no significant effect on his Cav's on-bike performance but does make it easier for staff (and the public) to see what he's doing at any given moment – at least when he's riding, that is.
The team recently unveiled a project undertaken with sponsor HTC (a major mobile phone manufacturer) and internet giant Google. Riders carry HTC Legend mobile phones with them during each stage (housed in a small bag beneath the saddle and weighing under 200g in total) and they're paired with each rider's SRM power meters and speed sensors via the ANT+ wireless protocol.
Cavendish's own PRO signature series stem was installed for Stages 2 and 3 but was swapped out for the older block-style model for Stage 4.
Assuming the riders are within range of a cell tower, this lets team staff track each rider's speed, cadence, power output, heart rate, and even exact position via the phone's on-board GPS in real time – thus aiding the team's ability to make tactical decisions while also providing a better snapshot of each rider's condition.
Still, what's the point?
"This project is a great opportunity for HTC, Google/Android and Highroad to prove a concept," said Google product manager Dylan Casey. "This project illustrates the power of the Android platform and its use of open standards like ANT+, and when coupled with applications like My Tracks, demonstrates what's possible.
"We're also excited about giving users access to data and in this case bringing live telemetry and GPS location data to users, developers and broadcasters," he continued. "The Tour de France is truly a global event and by enhancing the experience of being a fan we hope that the popularity of the race, and most importantly the teams and riders, will increase."