The 2018 season kicked off at the 20th edition of the Tour Down Under last week. Mitchelton-Scott’s Daryl Impey won a closely contested race, finishing on the same time as last year’s winner Richie Porte but taking the ochre jersey on countback.
The race is also a chance for teams to show off new kit designs and test new sponsors’ products in race conditions, and for new signings to get acquainted with their new team bikes and kit.
Specialized made headlines in the days leading up to the race with a new power meter, shoes and aerodynamic helmet all spotted in the build-up to the WorldTour event.
New season, new frames
Although new products are generally aligned with calendar years, the biggest cycling brands launch these in the previous year’s summer at the biggest race of the year, the Tour de France. So while we are now seeing 2018 models in 2018 livery, many of the products were first seen during the build-up to, or at, the 2017 Tour de France.
Some of the key products that fall into these categories are the Specialized Tarmac SL6, Lapierre’s Aircode, Merida’s Reacto, BMC’s Teammachine SLR01 and the Trek Emonda.
Along with the 2018 frames, new sponsorship deals and partnerships see teams switching finishing kit providers and can in turn also provoke colour or design changes.
More teams are moving away from plain black bikes and Bora-Hansgrohe and Quick-Step Floors have both added splashes of colour to their otherwise black bikes.
Movistar Team’s complete team colours overhaul sees the Spanish squad switch from the navy blue and green that has become emblematic of the squad in recent years, to a lighter and brighter blue with an attractive fade to navy blue on the jersey, bikes and even the team issue Fizik shoes.
Hot, hot heat
In the cycling heartland of Europe January is in the depths of winter, but in the Southern Hemisphere Australia is enjoying the peak of its summer. On two stages during the Tour Down Under, temperatures rose into the mid-forties Celsius and riders used ice in stockings, ice packs, slathered on sun screen and consumed vast amounts of water in an attempt to beat dehydration or heat stroke.
A few riders succumbed to the heat, with Nathan Haas being the biggest name victim, losing significant time and his GC hopes on Norton Summit during stage 4 of the race.
Shoes, helmets and glasses
The race is also an opportunity to take a closer look at the rider’s shoes, helmets and accessories from the season opener. In the dry summer, white shoes are a common trend and the pro riders regularly get wet wipes out for a final clean of the shoes as a pre-race ritual.
Eyewear sponsors offer riders some of their casual or lifestyle designs to accompany the cycling specific sunglasses and plenty of riders utilised these for the short period during sign on for each stage.
Along with the new aerodynamic helmet model from Specialized, Kask also launched a similarly styled lid with Team Sky. Lotto-Soudal sported HJC helmets for the first time, and Katusha-Alpecin and Team Dimension Data are wearing the new line of helmets from Oakley.
Take a look at the extensive gallery above from the Tour Down Under with the latest products and trends from the 2018 WorldTour peloton.