The Prince Returns for Valverde

Race Tech: Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré, June 15, 2007

Top pros have historically used the Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré as one of the last opportunities to gauge their fitness prior to the Tour de France which begins just three weeks after the race's conclusion. Likewise, it's also a prime opportunity to test hot new equipment that riders and teams might use for Le Grand Boucle, and this year's event certainly didn't disappoint in that respect.

Caisse d'Epargne mechanics shuffled not just one, but two brand-new Pinarello Prince FP Carbon machines out of the belly of the team bus at this morning's rainy Stage 5 start: one for team leader Alejandro Valverde and another for Oscar Pereiro. The new model is a thorough update: other than a similar paint scheme, it bears little resemblance to the original either on the surface or beneath its black, white, and red skin.

Visually-speaking, Pinarello frame designers somehow managed to make the new Prince FP Carbon FP even swoopier than the Paris FP Carbon. The unusual Onda fork and seat stays that Pinarello made famous just a few years ago morphs into 'Onda FPX', with even more dramatic bends plus a few bulges added for good measure. Much attention was clearly also paid to the front triangle: the curvier top tube flows more seamlessly into the rear monostay, and the more heavily shaped down tube now flares noticeably as it approaches the heavily beefed-up bottom bracket shell.

Much as integrated seatposts were the hot trend as of late, the tapered steerer tube now seems to be this year's 'must have' item. Pinarello appears to be the latest framebuilder to hop on the bandwagon as the Prince FP Carbon head tube now flares dramatically from the standard 1 1/8" diameter up top to 1 1/4" at the fork crown. In addition to the likely gains in front end rigidity (and hopefully a concurrent decrease in weight), the new size format actually lends a more unified look to the whole front end.

A new stronger carbon fiber blend should also shed some weight from the Paris model as well, and according to team mechanics, the new bike is, indeed, "a lot" lighter than before (we're not sure by exactly how much, though). Although just Valverde and Pereiro are using the Prince FP Carbon for now, the entire team should be atop the new machine in time for the TdF.

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