Custom graphical treatments used to be a big deal in the Tour de France, reserved solely for the most elite of riders or for special situations such as when a rider was in a leader's jersey. But in this year's Tour, specially finished gear was far more common and it wasn't just limited to bikes.
In fact, there is so much personalized gear at the Tour that we need to split it all up into two installments: we bring you a partial collection of the bikes for now and will continue with the visual journey with more bikes and other gear soon thereafter.
Cadel Evans' Silence-Lotto Canyon Ultimate CF Pro
2008 Tour de France runner-up Cadel Evans sported one of the more recognizable paint jobs in the peloton with his brightly hued Canyon Ultimate CF Pro. Rather than go with a nationalistic theme to celebrate his Aussie background though Evans had his rolling canvas painted in red, blue and yellow – the colours of the Tibetan flag – to draw attention to the struggles of its people.
Evans is actually quite the activist for the 'Free Tibet' movement, having very publically expressed his support, openly promoting the use of his image wearing a 'Free Tibet' shirt and even sponsoring a child there with his wife, Chiara.
Evans hasn't completely ignored the people of Australia however (and their collective hopes for a first-ever Aussie Tour de France winner). The inside surfaces of the chain stays and fork blades both feature a slender image of the country's flag and, of course, there's also the obligatory kangaroo silhouette up front by the head tube.
Rainbow stripes for the current world champion
Alessandro Ballan (Lampre) is racing in this year's Tour with a beautifully finished black and white Wilier Triestina Cento 1 in contrast to the rest of his teammates' standard-issue white, blue and pink steeds. Rainbow stripes adorn the top tube, seat tube, down tube and fork blades to celebrate his current status as world road champion while touches of gold highlight the inside surfaces of the fork legs and chain stays.
Even the finishing kit gets into the act as well, such as the rainbow-accented Selle Italia SLR saddle and Look KeO pedals, and – what else – bright metallic gold bar tape. The fact that his Ritchey WCS stem, bar and seatpost stub just happens to already feature the world championship colours comes as nice bonus, too.
More high-fashion bikes for Lance Armstrong
As we've all now come to expect, Lance Armstrong (Astana) of course arrived to the Tour with not one custom finished bike, but four – all pure one-offs designed by prominent pop artists and painted in-house at Trek's Project One custom facility in Waterloo, Wisconsin. These aren't purely just to draw attention, though; after the race wraps up on July 26, all of the custom bikes Armstrong used during the season (including the ones from the Giro d'Italia in May) will be entered into an art exhibition called 'Stages' and then auctioned off for charity. The first stop is the Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin in Paris and the bikes will eventually make their way to the US this fall.
Armstrong's custom fleet comprises two Trek 6 Series Madone plus two of the company's latest Speed Concept time trial bikes. The more colourful of the latter pair features a yellow base coat punctuated by a wide variety of playful icons, including one of a little girl wearing boxing gloves.
Given the 'Livestrong' theme, it's easy to imagine what she's symbolically fighting against.