The new climbing bike was first spotted at Fleche-Wallonne in the spring and was officially presented in June and only Gesink and Steven Kruijswijk have the special bike for the decisive mountain stages of the Tour de France. Other riders are using the Oltre XR2 bikes. Cyclingnews was given special access to the bike before the start of stage 19 to La Toussuire and captured this photo gallery of the celeste coloured bike.
The Bianchi Specialissima has a new formulation of the patented Countervail technology secured from US composites group MSC. The Specialissima retains the damping qualities of the Bianchi Infinito’s Countervail composition used for the cobbles but increases stiffness, Bianchi says, to create a bike that’s all about handling prowess downhill, and reactive acceleration going up.
The key goals in the Specialissima's design were were reduction and rigidity. Bianchi tested a number of lightweight framesets and found that trading stability in favour of lightness can create a bike with nervous handling traits when descending. By using the Countervail material Bianchi still gets the weight down to a very respectable 780g (in a 55cm frame), with a matching Countervail-infused fork adding 340g. Bianchi claims the Countervail makes the Specialissima ascend with urgency but descend better than any comparable lightweight race machine.
A complete 57cm bike with Campagnolo Super Record EPS weighed 6.19kg, and the mechanical version just 6.08kg. Gesink uses the electronic version. He has to respect the UCI minimal weight of 6.8kg for racing and his Pioneeer power metre/computer help add the extra grammes.
The Specialissima frame has a cleaner, simpler look than the Italian brand's Oltre model. The tubes have a subtle diamond shaped cross-section. The top tube tapers and narrows where it meets the 27.2 seat post, the bottom bracket shell is built to accept a press fit 86.5 x 41 BB, and the sharply tapering chain stays flow into carbon dropouts with alloy inserts.
Up front, the tapered 1 1/8in-to-1 1/4in head tube borrows heavily from the aerodynamic lessons learnt from the Aquila, with the head tube showing a slight arrowhead shape and the flush-form fitting smooth integration of the fork adding another nod to cheating the wind.