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Specialized unveils new Project Black machine for Saxo Bank

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Specialized has provided Stuart O'Grady (Saxo Bank) with this development mule called Project Black - which will almost certainly become the next-generation S-Works Roubaix SL3.

Specialized has provided Stuart O'Grady (Saxo Bank) with this development mule called Project Black - which will almost certainly become the next-generation S-Works Roubaix SL3.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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It's not entirely clear how the cable is guided up into the rear section of housing but Specialized director of research and development Chris D'Alusio says it's a smooth run.

It's not entirely clear how the cable is guided up into the rear section of housing but Specialized director of research and development Chris D'Alusio says it's a smooth run.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Seat stays on the new Project Black frame take a straighter path towards the dropouts when viewed from the rear as compared to the Roubaix SL2.

Seat stays on the new Project Black frame take a straighter path towards the dropouts when viewed from the rear as compared to the Roubaix SL2.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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The Project Black's seat tube is more abruptly squared-off towards the bottom and necks down a bit in the middle as compared to the Roubaix SL2.

The Project Black's seat tube is more abruptly squared-off towards the bottom and necks down a bit in the middle as compared to the Roubaix SL2.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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The Project Black's seat tube is more abruptly squared-off towards the bottom and necks down a bit in the middle as compared to the Roubaix SL2.

The Project Black's seat tube is more abruptly squared-off towards the bottom and necks down a bit in the middle as compared to the Roubaix SL2.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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There's a noticeable bulge in the seat tube on the Project Black frame that doesn't appear on the Roubaix SL2.

There's a noticeable bulge in the seat tube on the Project Black frame that doesn't appear on the Roubaix SL2.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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There's a noticeable bulge in the seat tube on the Project Black frame that doesn't appear on the Roubaix SL2.

There's a noticeable bulge in the seat tube on the Project Black frame that doesn't appear on the Roubaix SL2.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Saxo Bank's Stuart O'Grady looks to be the only rider on the team who will run Specialized's latest Project Black machine.

Saxo Bank's Stuart O'Grady looks to be the only rider on the team who will run Specialized's latest Project Black machine.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Stuart O'Grady's (Saxo Bank) bars are wrapped with but a single layer of Specialized's Roubaix tape.

Stuart O'Grady's (Saxo Bank) bars are wrapped with but a single layer of Specialized's Roubaix tape.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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These giant 27mm-wide Paris-Roubaix tires may be badged as Specialized but the stamps are telltale signs they're made by FMB.

These giant 27mm-wide Paris-Roubaix tires may be badged as Specialized but the stamps are telltale signs they're made by FMB.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Cables are mostly run internally but are exposed down by the bottom bracket guide for easier servicing and maintenance.

Cables are mostly run internally but are exposed down by the bottom bracket guide for easier servicing and maintenance.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Derailleur and rear brake lines are routed internally on the Project Black frame.

Derailleur and rear brake lines are routed internally on the Project Black frame.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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The rear housing stop unbolts from the frame for easier routing of the cable.

The rear housing stop unbolts from the frame for easier routing of the cable.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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The Project Black frame looks to use the same 1 1/8"-to-1 3/8" tapered front end as on the current Specialized Roubaix SL2.

The Project Black frame looks to use the same 1 1/8"-to-1 3/8" tapered front end as on the current Specialized Roubaix SL2.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Seat stays on the new Project Black frame take a straighter path towards the dropouts when viewed from the rear as compared to the Roubaix SL2.

Seat stays on the new Project Black frame take a straighter path towards the dropouts when viewed from the rear as compared to the Roubaix SL2.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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As compared to the current Specialized Roubaix SL2, the Zertz elastomeric inserts on the Project Black are absolutely huge.

As compared to the current Specialized Roubaix SL2, the Zertz elastomeric inserts on the Project Black are absolutely huge.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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As compared to the current Specialized Roubaix SL2, the Zertz elastomeric inserts on the Project Black are absolutely huge.

As compared to the current Specialized Roubaix SL2, the Zertz elastomeric inserts on the Project Black are absolutely huge.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Chain stays on the new Project Black frame are suitably enormous.

Chain stays on the new Project Black frame are suitably enormous.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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The down tube and chain stays on Specialized's Project Black frame join the bottom bracket lower than on the current Roubaix SL2.

The down tube and chain stays on Specialized's Project Black frame join the bottom bracket lower than on the current Roubaix SL2.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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The down tube and chain stays on Specialized's Project Black frame join the bottom bracket lower than on the current Roubaix SL2.

The down tube and chain stays on Specialized's Project Black frame join the bottom bracket lower than on the current Roubaix SL2.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Chain stays are joined to the bottom bracket shell in a smoother fashion on the Project Black frame relative to the current Roubaix SL2.

Chain stays are joined to the bottom bracket shell in a smoother fashion on the Project Black frame relative to the current Roubaix SL2.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Chain stays are joined to the bottom bracket shell in a smoother fashion on the Project Black frame relative to the current Roubaix SL2.

Chain stays are joined to the bottom bracket shell in a smoother fashion on the Project Black frame relative to the current Roubaix SL2.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Dropouts on the Specialized Project Black frame are aluminum, presumably hollow as on the Tarmac SL3.

Dropouts on the Specialized Project Black frame are aluminum, presumably hollow as on the Tarmac SL3.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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The Project Black fork blades are more curvaceous and look to be a tad deeper front to back than the 2010 Specialized Roubaix SL2.

The Project Black fork blades are more curvaceous and look to be a tad deeper front to back than the 2010 Specialized Roubaix SL2.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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The Project Black fork blades are more curvaceous and look to be a tad deeper front to back than the 2010 Specialized Roubaix SL2.

The Project Black fork blades are more curvaceous and look to be a tad deeper front to back than the 2010 Specialized Roubaix SL2.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Fork blades on the Specialized Project Bike development frameset look to taper a bit less as they approach the dropouts versus the existing Roubaix SL2.

Fork blades on the Specialized Project Bike development frameset look to taper a bit less as they approach the dropouts versus the existing Roubaix SL2.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Fork blades on the Specialized Project Bike development frameset look to taper a bit less as they approach the dropouts versus the existing Roubaix SL2.

Fork blades on the Specialized Project Bike development frameset look to taper a bit less as they approach the dropouts versus the existing Roubaix SL2.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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The Zertz inserts are notably larger on the Project Black frame than on the Roubaix SL2.

The Zertz inserts are notably larger on the Project Black frame than on the Roubaix SL2.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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The Zertz inserts are notably larger on the Project Black frame than on the Roubaix SL2.

The Zertz inserts are notably larger on the Project Black frame than on the Roubaix SL2.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Seat stays on the new Specialized Project Black are even slimmer up top than on the Roubaix SL2.

Seat stays on the new Specialized Project Black are even slimmer up top than on the Roubaix SL2.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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A bit of grip tape on the brake levers will provide a more secure purchase on the rough cobbles of Paris-Roubaix.

A bit of grip tape on the brake levers will provide a more secure purchase on the rough cobbles of Paris-Roubaix.
(Image credit: James Huang)

Saxo Bank team sponsor Specialized has provided a few of its riders with its latest 'Project Black' machine for this Sunday's Paris-Roubaix. Based on prior experience with an earlier Project Black bike it first tested under Tom Boonen that eventually became the S-Works Roubaix SL2, this new rig is almost certainly a thinly veiled preview of an upcoming S-Works Roubaix SL3.

Overall design cues are fairly similar with a giant down tube, a slightly smaller and notably bowed top tube, a tapered 1 1/8"-to-1 3/8" front end, and enormous chain stays matched to dramatically smaller seat stays, all damped by Specialized's trademark Zertz elastomeric inserts in the seat stays and fork blades. As compared to the current Roubaix SL2, though, this new SL3 takes most of those concepts and pushes them even further.

First off, the Zertz inserts are now significantly larger than before at both ends and are now secured with a metallic plate bolted in from the backside (though it's possible that plate is just cosmetic). In addition, the SL3 seat stays are spindlier than before though when viewed from behind, they now follow a straighter path from the seat cluster to the dropouts. That likely will stiffen up the rear end laterally but based on Specialized's usual design directions, we still expect the new SL3 to offer even greater vibration damping capabilities relative to the SL2 for a smoother ride, too.

Down tube, top tube and chain stay dimensions are still comparatively huge on the SL3 but with slight tweaks. The top tube is now more evenly bowed from end to end (as compared to the SL2's sudden kink at the head tube) and both the down tube and chain stays attach further down on the bottom bracket shell. Down tube height looks to have actually decreased a tad down there as well and the transition to the chain stays is much smoother and cleaner looking than before.

The seat tube has clearly received some attention, too, being more squared off toward the bottom and taking a noticeably more asymmetrical shape than before. Unlike on the SL2, the outer diameter also bulges out a bit as it joins the top tube and chain stay – suggesting perhaps a new joint method.

Dropouts are again aluminum at both ends with the rear likely using the same trick hollow construction as on the Tarmac SL3. In a first for Specialized on the road (if not, please feel free to let us know!), cable routing is fully internal for both derailleurs and the rear brake with the exception of a short exposed section at the bottom bracket guide – likely for ease of maintenance and setup. In addition to offering a cleaner look, the bolt-on entry and exit ports will almost certainly be made compatible with Shimano's Dura-Ace Di2 group for a nicely integrated package.

Unfortunately, Specialized director of research and development Chris D'Alusio was very tight-lipped about the new Project Black frameset, refusing to quote any weight or stiffness figures or even confirm or deny our observations. As of right now, he said there are no firm plans for production, either, but we're betting something very similar to this will be debuted as a 2011 model.