Skip to main content

Pro bike: Alberto Contador's Astana Specialized S-Works Tarmac SL3

Image 1 of 24

Alberto Contador (Astana) is hoping this custom painted - and immaculately prepared - Specialized S-Works Tarmac SL3 will carry him to his third Tour de France victory.

Alberto Contador (Astana) is hoping this custom painted - and immaculately prepared - Specialized S-Works Tarmac SL3 will carry him to his third Tour de France victory.
(Image credit: James Huang)
Image 2 of 24

Custom painted frames are nothing new at the Tour de France but Contador's are consistently one of our favourites.

Custom painted frames are nothing new at the Tour de France but Contador's are consistently one of our favourites.
(Image credit: James Huang)
Image 3 of 24

Check out the metallic glimmer in Contador's custom paint. Munoz uses sealed Gore Ride-On cables but juices them up with trick segmented aluminum housing.

Check out the metallic glimmer in Contador's custom paint. Munoz uses sealed Gore Ride-On cables but juices them up with trick segmented aluminum housing.
(Image credit: James Huang)
Image 4 of 24

The stout head tube houses a tapered 1 1/8"-to-1 1/2" carbon fiber steerer.

The stout head tube houses a tapered 1 1/8"-to-1 1/2" carbon fiber steerer.
(Image credit: James Huang)
Image 5 of 24

Fitted to the Zipp rear wheel is a SRAM Red cassette.

Fitted to the Zipp rear wheel is a SRAM Red cassette.
(Image credit: James Huang)
Image 6 of 24

As we've noticed in the past, Munoz prefers to cross the derailleur lines around each other to keep them more neatly tied together.

As we've noticed in the past, Munoz prefers to cross the derailleur lines around each other to keep them more neatly tied together.
(Image credit: James Huang)
Image 7 of 24

Contador is using Look's latest K

Contador is using Look's latest K
(Image credit: James Huang)
Image 8 of 24

Selle Italia provides Contador with a custom SLR saddle.

Selle Italia provides Contador with a custom SLR saddle.
(Image credit: James Huang)
Image 9 of 24

No need for a separate name decal on the top tube - there's little question as to the owner of this machine.

No need for a separate name decal on the top tube - there's little question as to the owner of this machine.
(Image credit: James Huang)
Image 10 of 24

FSA gets into the game, too, with a custom finished K-Force Light seatpost (there are matching yellow, pink and red accents on the front).

FSA gets into the game, too, with a custom finished K-Force Light seatpost (there are matching yellow, pink and red accents on the front).
(Image credit: James Huang)
Image 11 of 24

A tiny lever secures the wheels on to the frame and fork.

A tiny lever secures the wheels on to the frame and fork.
(Image credit: James Huang)
Image 12 of 24

Veloflex Carbon tyres - and tires that are badged otherwise but look like suspiciously like Veloflex Carbon ones - are a popular choice in the peloton.

Veloflex Carbon tyres - and tires that are badged otherwise but look like suspiciously like Veloflex Carbon ones - are a popular choice in the peloton.
(Image credit: James Huang)
Image 13 of 24

Notice the black anodising and especially fine thread pitch on the skewer shaft? That's because it's aluminum, not titanium or steel.

Notice the black anodising and especially fine thread pitch on the skewer shaft? That's because it's aluminum, not titanium or steel.
(Image credit: James Huang)
Image 14 of 24

Contador is using Specialized's latest S-Works Tarmac SL3 fork, which has been recently oversized for even better steering precision.

Contador is using Specialized's latest S-Works Tarmac SL3 fork, which has been recently oversized for even better steering precision.
(Image credit: James Huang)
Image 15 of 24

Contador prefers a semi-anatomic bar bend wrapped with what are consistently some of the finest tape jobs in the business, courtesy of team mechanic Faustino Munoz.

Contador prefers a semi-anatomic bar bend wrapped with what are consistently some of the finest tape jobs in the business, courtesy of team mechanic Faustino Munoz.
(Image credit: James Huang)
Image 16 of 24

Contador's white bar tape is immaculate prior to the start of stage six.

Contador's white bar tape is immaculate prior to the start of stage six.
(Image credit: James Huang)
Image 17 of 24

SRAM supplies Contador with its Red LTE group as a two-time Tour de France champion.

SRAM supplies Contador with its Red LTE group as a two-time Tour de France champion.
(Image credit: James Huang)
Image 18 of 24

Contador's SRAM Red rear derailleur is hopped up with a Berner carbon fiber cage and oversized pulleys.

Contador's SRAM Red rear derailleur is hopped up with a Berner carbon fiber cage and oversized pulleys.
(Image credit: James Huang)
Image 19 of 24

Tacx Tao Carbon cages keep Contador's bidons at the ready.

Tacx Tao Carbon cages keep Contador's bidons at the ready.
(Image credit: James Huang)
Image 20 of 24

Contador's signature pistols fire away on the bars and stem. An SRM PowerControl 7 computer head is attached even though there's no power meter installed.

Contador's signature pistols fire away on the bars and stem. An SRM PowerControl 7 computer head is attached even though there's no power meter installed.
(Image credit: James Huang)
Image 21 of 24

Specialized's ultralight carbon fibre crankarms include stub bottom bracket axles that bolt together at the centreline of the bike.

Specialized's ultralight carbon fibre crankarms include stub bottom bracket axles that bolt together at the centreline of the bike.
(Image credit: James Huang)
Image 22 of 24

The custom derailleur cage attaches to the original cage's hacked-off stub.

The custom derailleur cage attaches to the original cage's hacked-off stub.
(Image credit: James Huang)
Image 23 of 24

Unlike most SRAM Red-equipped riders in the peloton, Contador sticks with the stock titanium front derailleur cage. Plus there's no chain watcher, either.

Unlike most SRAM Red-equipped riders in the peloton, Contador sticks with the stock titanium front derailleur cage. Plus there's no chain watcher, either.
(Image credit: James Huang)
Image 24 of 24

Contador's signature pistol salute is here transformed into more of a butterfly.

Contador's signature pistol salute is here transformed into more of a butterfly.
(Image credit: James Huang)

Astana's Alberto Contador is seeking his third Tour de France victory this year but this time not on the Trek Madone he used the first two times around but rather Specialized's S-Works Tarmac SL3.

Although it's obviously a wholly different machine, Contador's new Tarmac is no slouch in its own right with all of the design and engineering features we've come to expect out of the latest carbon superbikes.

Included in the list is a tapered 1 1/8"-to-1 1/2" front end for accurate steering and solidity under hard braking, an integrated and oversized bottom bracket, giant asymmetrical chain stays matched to much smaller seat stays, clever internal stiffening ribs in critical areas, trick box-section alloy dropouts, and carbon fibre bottom bracket and headset bearing cups.

In total, Specialized says the new Tarmac SL3 'module' weighs just 2,047g - 153g less than its already light predecessor - and is also nearly a fifth more rigid in the front triangle for improved overall responsiveness.

Still, it's essentially no different from the SL3 any average consumer can pick up off the shelf so what makes this so special?

As usual (and aside from the obvious answer - the rider), the difference lies in the custom aesthetic and mechanical touches that have been applied plus the manner to which it's prepared by Contador's master mechanic, Faustino Munoz.

First and foremost is the eye-catching paint package, which is applied almost throughout the entire bike and builds on last year's hand pistol (Contador's signature victory salute) theme with a new black metallic base coat and similar yellow, pink and red 'fingers' to indicate his victories in all three Grand Tours.

New for this current version, too, is a fetching new graphic with back-to-back pistols atop both the top tube and custom saddle.

For those of you wondering, Specialized has mentioned to us that Contador's special paint job - plus those of Saxo Bank's Fabian Cancellara, Andy and Fränk Schleck - will be offered in limited quantities this fall.

Contador's rig is awash in a few notable component upgrades as well. SRAM already provides the two-time Tour de France winner with its new Red LTE group but the rear derailleur is further augmented with a specially fitted Berner oversized carbon fibre cage and pulley wheels for lower drivetrain friction - or at least, so says the theory.

Additional hop-ups include the dramatically minimalist quick-release skewers (the front uses an aluminum shaft!) and polished aluminum segmented housing to supplement the Gore Ride-On cables and liners.

Rounding out Contador's impressive build kit are a pair of Zipp 202 carbon tubulars wrapped with Veloflex Carbon tyres, Specialized's own carbon fibre crankset and angle-adjustable stem, an FSA semi-anatomic alloy bar and carbon fibre seatpost (both custom finished), Look KéO Blade pedals, a pair of Tacx Tao Carbon cages and an SRM PowerControl 7 computer head.

Not to go overlooked is the manner in which Munoz puts this all together. As we've noticed in years past, Contador's drivetrain is among the smoothest and drag-free we've ever encountered, likely helped along by a full ceramic bearing package (Munoz has used Enduro as a supplier before but we're unsure what's included here) and his 'secret sauce' chain lube mix that first uses a coating of light oil that's then sealed in with a layer of grease on the outer surfaces.

An even closer inspection reveals not a single speck of dirt or debris, impeccably clipped and capped cables, an impossibly clean glue job on the tyres, and what is undoubtedly one of the most consistently superb handlebar tape applications on the circuit.

Quoted weight is exactly 6.8kg and while Munoz wouldn't let us weigh the bike ourselves (or take our full battery of measurements), prior experience with Contador's 6 Series Madone gives us no reason to suspect otherwise as that bike was 6.8kg on the nose as well.

Now all Contador needs at this point is the legs.

Complete bike specifications

Frame: Specialized S-Works Tarmac SL3, size 52cm
Fork: Specialized S-Works Tarmac SL3
Headset: Cane Creek
Stem: Specialized S-Works Pro-Set, 120mm x -8°
Handlebars: FSA Wing Pro Compact, 42cm (c-c)
Tape/grips: FSA cork
Front brake: SRAM Red LTE w/ carbon-specific pads
Rear brake: SRAM Red LTE w/ carbon-specific pads
Brake levers: SRAM Red LTE DoubleTap
Front derailleur: SRAM Red LTE
Rear derailleur: SRAM Red LTE w/ Berner cage and pulleys
Shift levers: SRAM Red LTE DoubleTap
Cassette: SRAM PG-1090, 11-26T
Chain: SRAM PC-1091R
Crankset: Specialized S-Works, 172.5mm, 53/39T
Bottom bracket: Specialized integrated
Pedals: Look KéO Blade
Wheelset: Zipp 202 tubular
Front tyre: Veloflex Carbon tubular, 22mm
Rear tyre: Veloflex Carbon tubular, 22mm
Saddle: Selle Italia SLR Team Edition
Seat post: FSA K-Force Light SB25
Bottle cages: Tacx Tao Carbon (2x)
Computer: SRM PowerControl 7
Other accessories: Alligator iLINK housing, Gore Ride-On cables and liner, ultralight skewers

Critical measurements

Rider's height: 1.77m (5' 10")
Rider's weight: 62kg (137lb)
Saddle height, from BB (c-t): 748mm
Seat tube length, c-t: 490mm
Head tube length: 120mm
Top tube length: 537mm
Total bicycle weight: 6.80kg (14.99lb)