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Saxo Bank's special machines for Cancellara and the Schleck brothers

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Specialized was of course waiting in the wings with a bright yellow frameset in case one of its riders was in yellow. It didn't have to wait long, either, after Fabian Cancellara assumed the role as race leader after winning the prologue.

Specialized was of course waiting in the wings with a bright yellow frameset in case one of its riders was in yellow. It didn't have to wait long, either, after Fabian Cancellara assumed the role as race leader after winning the prologue.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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(Image credit: James Huang)
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The Luxembourg flag's red lion gets translated in black here but it's striking nonetheless.

The Luxembourg flag's red lion gets translated in black here but it's striking nonetheless.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Saxo Bank is using Specialized's angle-adjustable S-Works Pro-Set stem.

Saxo Bank is using Specialized's angle-adjustable S-Works Pro-Set stem.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Saxo Bank riders have a wide range of Zipp wheels to choose from to suit the day's conditions and weather.

Saxo Bank riders have a wide range of Zipp wheels to choose from to suit the day's conditions and weather.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Lots of carbon fiber and Specialized's oversized bottom bracket system help yellow jersey wearer Fabian Cancellara put the power down.

Lots of carbon fiber and Specialized's oversized bottom bracket system help yellow jersey wearer Fabian Cancellara put the power down.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Check out the SRAM Red LTE group's yellow accents and the gold chainring bolts (and pedal end caps!) on Fabian Cancellara's Specialized S-Works Tarmac SL3.

Check out the SRAM Red LTE group's yellow accents and the gold chainring bolts (and pedal end caps!) on Fabian Cancellara's Specialized S-Works Tarmac SL3.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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SRAM's Red LTE group features lots of black anodizing accented with yellow highlights. Only top riders in the Tour de France can get it at the moment but consumers will be able to buy their own later this fall.

SRAM's Red LTE group features lots of black anodizing accented with yellow highlights. Only top riders in the Tour de France can get it at the moment but consumers will be able to buy their own later this fall.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Saxo Bank team mechanic Roger Theel swaps out Cancellara's white brake hoods for yellow ones prior to setting off on Stage 1.

Saxo Bank team mechanic Roger Theel swaps out Cancellara's white brake hoods for yellow ones prior to setting off on Stage 1.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Two hoods off, two hoods on: team mechanic Roger Theel had more fitting yellow hoods on Cancellara's rig in less than three minutes.

Two hoods off, two hoods on: team mechanic Roger Theel had more fitting yellow hoods on Cancellara's rig in less than three minutes.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Yellow accents adorn Cancellara's SRAM Red LTE DoubleTap lever but shortly after this shot was taken, the hoods were swapped with yellow ones, too.

Yellow accents adorn Cancellara's SRAM Red LTE DoubleTap lever but shortly after this shot was taken, the hoods were swapped with yellow ones, too.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Fabian Cancellara is our first rider in yellow after a convincing prologue win.

Fabian Cancellara is our first rider in yellow after a convincing prologue win.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Cancellara's Roman-inspired shield adorns the top tube as usual.

Cancellara's Roman-inspired shield adorns the top tube as usual.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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The custom painted frames gleam almost like they're metal but they're definitely carbon fiber.

The custom painted frames gleam almost like they're metal but they're definitely carbon fiber.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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The giant 1 1/8"-to-1 1/2" tapered front end leaves lots of design room on Andy Schleck's custom painted bike.

The giant 1 1/8"-to-1 1/2" tapered front end leaves lots of design room on Andy Schleck's custom painted bike.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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The team's Zipp wheels receive a bit of color with blue hub caps.

The team's Zipp wheels receive a bit of color with blue hub caps.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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(Image credit: James Huang)
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(Image credit: James Huang)
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(Image credit: James Huang)
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(Image credit: James Huang)
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Saxo Bank riders have their choice of FSA bar types. Here Andy Schleck goes for a traditional bend.

Saxo Bank riders have their choice of FSA bar types. Here Andy Schleck goes for a traditional bend.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Saxo Bank hardman Jens Voight prefers FSA's semi-anatomic curve. All of the team's bars are wrapped with grippy Specialized Roubaix tape.

Saxo Bank hardman Jens Voight prefers FSA's semi-anatomic curve. All of the team's bars are wrapped with grippy Specialized Roubaix tape.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Saxo Bank's Specialized S-Works Tarmac SL3 machines wait patiently before the start of Stage 2.

Saxo Bank's Specialized S-Works Tarmac SL3 machines wait patiently before the start of Stage 2.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Details, details: most Saxo Bank bikes get silver cable end caps, Nicki Sorensen gets red ones, and the Schlecks' are blue.

Details, details: most Saxo Bank bikes get silver cable end caps, Nicki Sorensen gets red ones, and the Schlecks' are blue.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Cancellara is currently riding atop a bright all-yellow machine to mark his status as GC leader but even his standard bike is special with gold-accented SRAM Red components to celebrate his Olympic gold medal.

Cancellara is currently riding atop a bright all-yellow machine to mark his status as GC leader but even his standard bike is special with gold-accented SRAM Red components to celebrate his Olympic gold medal.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Gold accents are also on Cancellara's SRAM Red DoubleTap levers while his bars get finished with Swiss flag tape.

Gold accents are also on Cancellara's SRAM Red DoubleTap levers while his bars get finished with Swiss flag tape.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Even with the fully standard gearing, chain watchers are deemed worth the weight to provide insurance against a dropped chain.

Even with the fully standard gearing, chain watchers are deemed worth the weight to provide insurance against a dropped chain.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Saxo Bank's standard paint job essentially carries over from last season.

Saxo Bank's standard paint job essentially carries over from last season.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Zipp gets into the game, too, with yellow decals on the 404 carbon tubular wheels.

Zipp gets into the game, too, with yellow decals on the 404 carbon tubular wheels.
(Image credit: James Huang)

Saxo Bank riders are keeping team sponsor Specialized awfully busy at this year's Tour de France. While many teams have perhaps just one or two riders aboard custom painted machines (if any at all), Saxo Bank has three – early race leader Fabian Cancellara and general classification contenders Andy and Fränk Schleck – and don't forget about the spares, either.

Cancellara's S-Works Tarmac SL3 is fairly straightforward being finished in a monotone bright yellow. Adding to the theme are Zipp wheels with matching yellow decals, SRAM's special Red LTE (Limited Tour Edition) transmission and brakes with black anodized aluminum bits and yellow graphics, and yellow brake hoods that were swapped in literally minutes before the start of Stage 1.

Otherwise, it's his standard race machine including the Specialized S-Works Pro-Set stem, FSA bar and seatpost, Prologo saddle, Speedplay Zero pedals, Veloflex tires, Specialized carbon crank with integrated SRM power meter, Tacx bottle cages, and of course, his Roman-inspired shield on the top tube inspired by his 'Spartacus' nickname.

Cancellara would be riding a special machine if he wasn't in yellow, though, as even his standard team-issue bike still sports subtle accents to commemorate his status as Olympic time trial champion. Gold graphics decorate his SRAM Red rear derailleur and DoubleTap levers, chainring bolts and Nokon aluminum housing bits are anodized gold, Prologo provides a gold-accented Scratch TR saddle, and Speedplay even gets in the game with gold pedal end caps.

All things considered, Cancellara's yellow Tarmac was fairly easy to get together as Specialized supplies each of its teams with a collection of appropriately painted framesets to build up as the need arises. The far more ornate finish of the Schleck brothers' bikes took a bit more work, though.

Both identically painted Schleck bikes proudly display the brothers' Luxembourg heritage with a gleaming dark chrome-like base coat plus lion-theme graphics similar to what's found on their national flag. Finishing things off are a few touches of red, white and light blue, blue cable end caps, and the custom Prologo Scratch TR saddles made for the brothers last year.

Finally, all three riders also share a propensity for Wolfgang Berner's unique rear derailleur modification, which comprises a longer pulley cage and oversized 13T/15T upper/lower pulley wheels spliced on to an otherwise standard SRAM Red rear derailleur (the Schlecks use it on their road bikes; Cancellara only uses it for time trials along with Team Radioshack's Lance Armstrong).

Why the fuss?

The theory is that the larger pulleys require the chain to bend less as it makes its S-shaped path back up to the cogs, thus creating less friction. SRAM road sports manager Alex Wassmann admits that the company is looking into the possibility of using the concept in production somehow but also that instrumented testing thus far has been inconclusive – guess that means we'll have to wait and see but we wouldn't be surprised to see it as part of a 'Super Red' group we've heard rumblings about for 2012.