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Pro Bike: Mark Cavendish’s HTC Specialized McLaren Venge

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Mark Cavendish's purpose built HTC McLaren Venge

Mark Cavendish's purpose built HTC McLaren Venge
(Image credit: Matt Pacocha, Bikeradar.com)
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The head tube tapers from 1 1/8in to 1 3/8in to offer better aerodynamics than the more common 1 1/5in lower standard

The head tube tapers from 1 1/8in to 1 3/8in to offer better aerodynamics than the more common 1 1/5in lower standard
(Image credit: Matt Pacocha, Bikeradar.com)
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Cavendish orients his shifters high on the bars and adjusts the levers inward to offset the angle

Cavendish orients his shifters high on the bars and adjusts the levers inward to offset the angle
(Image credit: Matt Pacocha, Bikeradar.com)
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His inward adjustment is greater than most, as evidenced by the top of the lever

His inward adjustment is greater than most, as evidenced by the top of the lever
(Image credit: Matt Pacocha, Bikeradar.com)
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Shimano's SW-7972 sprint shifter

Shimano's SW-7972 sprint shifter
(Image credit: Matt Pacocha, Bikeradar.com)
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Brake boss mounted number hangers are the most prevalent attachment in the peloton

Brake boss mounted number hangers are the most prevalent attachment in the peloton
(Image credit: Matt Pacocha, Bikeradar.com)
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HTC mechanics fixed a special Shimano made Di2 battery inside the Venge's seat post; Cavendish is one of the few with it mounted internally

HTC mechanics fixed a special Shimano made Di2 battery inside the Venge's seat post; Cavendish is one of the few with it mounted internally
(Image credit: Matt Pacocha, Bikeradar.com)
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Cavendish rides Fi'zi:k's Arione CX saddle

Cavendish rides Fi'zi:k's Arione CX saddle
(Image credit: Matt Pacocha, Bikeradar.com)
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The Venge's sharp paint scheme calls for matte black on the outer surfaces and red on the inside

The Venge's sharp paint scheme calls for matte black on the outer surfaces and red on the inside
(Image credit: Matt Pacocha, Bikeradar.com)
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The timing chip is zip tied to the chainstay then taped over

The timing chip is zip tied to the chainstay then taped over
(Image credit: Matt Pacocha, Bikeradar.com)
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Cavendish's custom wheelset uses thick, round, butted spokes from Sapim

Cavendish's custom wheelset uses thick, round, butted spokes from Sapim
(Image credit: Matt Pacocha, Bikeradar.com)
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The front wheel is laced radially with 18 spokes

The front wheel is laced radially with 18 spokes
(Image credit: Matt Pacocha, Bikeradar.com)
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Cavendish also chose Shimano's standard Dura-Ace 7900 hubs

Cavendish also chose Shimano's standard Dura-Ace 7900 hubs
(Image credit: Matt Pacocha, Bikeradar.com)
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Cavendish's custom wide spindle Shimano Carbon pedals

Cavendish's custom wide spindle Shimano Carbon pedals
(Image credit: Matt Pacocha, Bikeradar.com)
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Shimano's blue carbon specific brake pads

Shimano's blue carbon specific brake pads
(Image credit: Matt Pacocha, Bikeradar.com)
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The back end of the aero bike

The back end of the aero bike
(Image credit: Matt Pacocha, Bikeradar.com)
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Cavendish was one of the first riders on the new Venge bike

Cavendish was one of the first riders on the new Venge bike
(Image credit: Matt Pacocha, Bikeradar.com)
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The new bike, especially the McLaren designed model, is stiff (though claimed less so than Tarmac SL3), light (950g, claimed) and very aerodynamic, according to Specialized

The new bike, especially the McLaren designed model, is stiff (though claimed less so than Tarmac SL3), light (950g, claimed) and very aerodynamic, according to Specialized
(Image credit: Matt Pacocha, Bikeradar.com)
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Cavendish records the day's effort on SRM's Power Control 7 computer

Cavendish records the day's effort on SRM's Power Control 7 computer
(Image credit: Matt Pacocha, Bikeradar.com)
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PRO's Vibe Sprint handlebar is very stiff, but not presumably all that light

PRO's Vibe Sprint handlebar is very stiff, but not presumably all that light
(Image credit: Matt Pacocha, Bikeradar.com)
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PRO's big carbon Vibe Sprint stem, Cavendish rides a 135mm length

PRO's big carbon Vibe Sprint stem, Cavendish rides a 135mm length
(Image credit: Matt Pacocha, Bikeradar.com)
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Cavendish has been riding different iterations of PRO's Vibe track stem for a handful of years, now he has a signature model adapted for the road

Cavendish has been riding different iterations of PRO's Vibe track stem for a handful of years, now he has a signature model adapted for the road
(Image credit: Matt Pacocha, Bikeradar.com)
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The 7000-series handlebars are also emblazoned with Cavendish's autograph, as a signature component

The 7000-series handlebars are also emblazoned with Cavendish's autograph, as a signature component
(Image credit: Matt Pacocha, Bikeradar.com)
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Another look at the massive Cavendish Star Series PRO stem

Another look at the massive Cavendish Star Series PRO stem
(Image credit: Matt Pacocha, Bikeradar.com)
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Continental's 22mm Pro Limited Competition tires are glued to the custom built wheelset

Continental's 22mm Pro Limited Competition tires are glued to the custom built wheelset
(Image credit: Matt Pacocha, Bikeradar.com)
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Cavendish uses a 7900 compatible SRM power meter on almost all of the stages he races

Cavendish uses a 7900 compatible SRM power meter on almost all of the stages he races
(Image credit: Matt Pacocha, Bikeradar.com)
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Shimano's Di2 front derailleur and K-Edge chain watcher

Shimano's Di2 front derailleur and K-Edge chain watcher
(Image credit: Matt Pacocha, Bikeradar.com)
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Elite's fiberglass bottle cages

Elite's fiberglass bottle cages
(Image credit: Matt Pacocha, Bikeradar.com)
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The Di2 transmission's wires are internally routed

The Di2 transmission's wires are internally routed
(Image credit: Matt Pacocha, Bikeradar.com)
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A look at the extra-girth of the custom axles

A look at the extra-girth of the custom axles
(Image credit: Matt Pacocha, Bikeradar.com)

Mark Cavendish (HTC-Highroad) received his Specialized McLaren Venge just before Milan-San Remo and in the past two months it's become his bike of choice. On stage 2 of the Giro d'Italia, he finished second to Alessandro Petacchi of the Lampre-ISD outfit on it.

While the McLaren engineered, Specialized built frame and fork are standard and available for purchase — albeit at a high price and in limited quantities — it’s the build that sets Cavendish's bike apart from that of a non-sprinter. Everything is purposefully chosen for stiffness and power transfer in the final meters of racing.

Cavendish’s bike is heavy at 16.86lb (7.65kg), especially when other racers are adding upwards of a pound to their bikes just so they meet the 6.8kg UCI weight limit, but it’s the choice that he makes in single-minded pursuit of sprint victories.

This focus is most obvious at the front end of the bike. Here Cavendish opts for a stout looking PRO Vibe Sprint carbon stem that's been adapted for his signature line from PRO’s Vibe carbon track stem. The 7000-series handlebar is also built to be stiff, without great concern for weight; PRO’s Vibe Sprint uses internal reinforcing to reduce flex, so much so that the tops are double wrapped with handlebar tape to offer some comfort.

The sprinter also adds a bit of weight to the already hefty Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 group by adding on the SW-7972 ‘Sprint’ satellite shifters, which allow lightning fast shifts at 50kph with just the flick of his thumb. He also makes good use of the Di2 levers' reach adjustment, dialing them in considerably — offsetting the natural angle of the levers when mounted so high on the handlebar — so that they’re always at his fingertips.

A Shimano-armed SRM power meter is also part of the drivetrain, and is fitted with a chainring spider to mount — and match — Shimano's super-stiff 53-tooth Dura-Ace 7900 hollow outer chainring. For climbing, Cavendish uses the standard 7900 39-tooth inner ring. Cavendish turns over the crankarms with a custom set of Shimano PD-7900 pedals made with special longer axles that add roughly 2cm to the overall Q-factor of the bike. Optimal Q-factor is dependant on a rider’s body; Cavendish feels his natural stance is wider than that of the standard crank and pedal system, and that he can create more power with the wider stance.

Another modification to Cavendish’s Venge is the use of a custom Shimano made battery for the Di2 groupset that's fitted within the bike’s seatpost; other riders on the team have batteries mounted to the down tube of the Venge, just forward of its bottom bracket. Speaking of the seatpost, Cavendish has lowered his seat height by roughly 2cm since he started riding the new bike. Gary Blem, one of HTC’s mechanics at the Giro, didn’t have an explanation for the drastic drop, other than: "He’s always changing his position. He may even change it again before the stage.”

The final customization to this sprinter's Venge is the wheelset, which has been built to be above all things, stiff. Starting with Shimano’s 7900 Dura-Ace hubs, team mechanics lace Sapim’s thick, round-butted Race spokes – 18 front and 24 rear – using radial and two-cross patterns to a set of Zipp 360 rims, as used on the popular 404 wheelset. The heavy gauge spokes, stout hub axles and angular contact bearings make for a base that’s both stiff and durable, according to mechanics. In the end though, the components are what Cavendish personally requested his wheels be built from.

For stage 2, the sprinter chose an 11-25-tooth cassette to deal with a short, but sharp climb 30km before the finish and with the hopes of keeping his legs as fresh as possible for the final flat run into the finish. Once the mountains start, HTC mechanics said that most of the team will switch to compact cranks and, on the steepest stages, will use 12-28T cassettes. In contrast, many SRAM equipped riders are expected to use WiFLi long cage derailleurs (Rival level, but branded as non-series components with just a SRAM logo) and cassettes with low ranges up to 32-teeth.

This article first appeared on Bikeradar.

Complete bike specifications

* Frame: Specialized Venge McLaren
* Fork: Specialized Venge McLaren
* Headset: Integrated, Specialized Venge top cap
* Stem: PRO Vibe Sprint, Mark Cavendish Pro Series, 135mm, -10deg
* Handlebar: PRO Vibe Sprint, Mark Cavendish Pro Series, 42cm
* Tape: PRO Smart Silicon w/ double wrapped tops
* Front brake: Shimano Dura-Ace 7900, blue pads for carbon rims
* Rear brake: Shimano Dura-Ace 7900, blue pads for carbon rims
* Brake levers: Shimano Dura-Ace 7970 Di2
* Front derailleur: Shimano Dura-Ace 7900 Di2
* Rear derailleur: Shimano Dura-Ace 7970 Di2
* Shift levers: Shimano Dura-Ace 7970 Di2 with SW-7972 Sprint shifter
* Cassette: Shimano Dura-Ace 7900, 11-25T
* Chain: Shimano Dura-Ace 7900
* Crankset: Shimano SRM with 7900 chainring spider, 170mm, 39/53T
* Bottom bracket: Specialized oversized BB30 custom adapted for Shimano 24mm spindle
* Pedals: Shimano PD-7900, custom 'wide' spindles add rougly 2cm to Q-factor
* Wheelset: Custom Shimano/Zipp 404
* Rims: Zipp 360 tubular
* Front hub: Shimano Dura-Ace 7900
* Rear hub: Shimano Dura-Ace 7900
* Spokes: Sapim 2.0 butted Race
* Front tire: Continental Pro Limited Competition, 22mm
* Rear tire: Continental Pro Limited Competition, 22mm
* Saddle: Fi'zi:k Arione CX, braided carbon rails
* Seatpost: Specialized Venge, with integrated internal Shimano Di2 battery
* Bottle cages: Elite SRL custom race fiberglass
bSRM Power Control 7

Critical measurements

* Rider's height: 1.75m/ 5ft 9in
* Rider's weight: 69kg/152lb
* Saddle height, from BB (c-t): 680mm
* Saddle setback: 30mm
* Seat tube length, c-t: 485mm
* Seat tube length, c-c: 44mm
* Tip of saddle nose to C of bars (next to stem): 545mm
* Saddle-to-bar drop (vertical): 90mm
* Head tube length: 120mm
* Top tube length: 53.5mm
* Total bicycle weight: 7.65kg/16.86lb