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Tour de France continues to yield new goodies

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…but it's not the Orca you've already seen.

…but it's not the Orca you've already seen.
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The aluminum head tube badge and housing stop

The aluminum head tube badge and housing stop
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Orbea has apparently developed

Orbea has apparently developed
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Michelin showed off its new Pro3 Race clinchers.

Michelin showed off its new Pro3 Race clinchers.
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Team Barloworld is using prototype tires

Team Barloworld is using prototype tires
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Finally!

Finally!
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SRAM introduced its ceramic bearing-equipped

SRAM introduced its ceramic bearing-equipped
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Unmarked SRAM Red levers made their TdF debut

Unmarked SRAM Red levers made their TdF debut
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Just a splash of green

Just a splash of green
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Shimano's updated Dura-Ace rear hub

Shimano's updated Dura-Ace rear hub
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Euskaltel-Euskadi is finally using Orbea's new Orca…

Euskaltel-Euskadi is finally using Orbea's new Orca… (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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…but it's not the Orca you've already seen.

…but it's not the Orca you've already seen. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Last year's two-piece dropout has apparently been replaced by a lighter and stiffer one-piece unit.

Last year's two-piece dropout has apparently been replaced by a lighter and stiffer one-piece unit. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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The aluminum head tube badge and housing stop is upgraded to carbon fiber.

The aluminum head tube badge and housing stop is upgraded to carbon fiber. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Orbea has apparently developed two separate front derailleur braze-on mounts: one for standard drivetrains, and another for compact.

Orbea has apparently developed two separate front derailleur braze-on mounts: one for standard drivetrains, and another for compact. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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A new Zeus stem complements the new Orca.

A new Zeus stem complements the new Orca. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Michelin showed off its new Pro3 Race clinchers.

Michelin showed off its new Pro3 Race clinchers. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Michelin was tight-lipped on details, but the new Pro3 Race clincher clearly uses some sort of dual-compound tread design.

Michelin was tight-lipped on details, but the new Pro3 Race clincher clearly uses some sort of dual-compound tread design. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Team Barloworld is using prototype tires from team sponsor Vittoria.

Team Barloworld is using prototype tires from team sponsor Vittoria. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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A more detailed look at the battery used in Campagnolo's still-in-development electronic group.

A more detailed look at the battery used in Campagnolo's still-in-development electronic group. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Finally! A look at the computer display on Campagnolo's electronic group.

Finally! A look at the computer display on Campagnolo's electronic group. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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SRAM introduced its ceramic bearing-equipped BlackBox GXP bottom bracket just a few months ago at this year's Sea Otter Classic, and just about the entire Saunier Duval-Prodir team is now using it at the Tour de France.

SRAM introduced its ceramic bearing-equipped BlackBox GXP bottom bracket just a few months ago at this year's Sea Otter Classic, and just about the entire Saunier Duval-Prodir team is now using it at the Tour de France. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Saunier Duval-Prodir's Juan Jose Cobo Acebo was curiously sporting these gold-anodized SRAM GXP bottom bracket cups instead of the polished version used by the rest of the team.

Saunier Duval-Prodir's Juan Jose Cobo Acebo was curiously sporting these gold-anodized SRAM GXP bottom bracket cups instead of the polished version used by the rest of the team. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Unmarked SRAM Red levers made their TdF debut on the front of Iban Mayo's Scott Addict Limited.

Unmarked SRAM Red levers made their TdF debut on the front of Iban Mayo's Scott Addict Limited. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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A small cam adjusts the reach on the shift paddle ; Mayo's levers appeared to be set at full extension for the time being.

A small cam adjusts the reach on the shift paddle ; Mayo's levers appeared to be set at full extension for the time being. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Giro outfitted all three of its sponsored teams with its new Ionos helmet, here shown awash in new Discovery Channel livery.

Giro outfitted all three of its sponsored teams with its new Ionos helmet, here shown awash in new Discovery Channel livery. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Just a splash of green highlights Discovery Channel's new eco-friendly initiatives.

Just a splash of green highlights Discovery Channel's new eco-friendly initiatives. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Discovery Channel's team kit and helmets weren't the only thing to get a new color scheme for the TdF.

Discovery Channel's team kit and helmets weren't the only thing to get a new color scheme for the TdF. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Shimano's updated Dura-Ace rear hub gains an edgier look for 2008.

Shimano's updated Dura-Ace rear hub gains an edgier look for 2008. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Blackburn's carbon fiber Camber CF cages make a rare appearance on the bikes of Astana.

Blackburn's carbon fiber Camber CF cages make a rare appearance on the bikes of Astana. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Astana's BMC SLC01 Pro Machines get new bottom bracket cable guides; a small detail for sure, but one that can have a dramatic impact on shifting performance.

Astana's BMC SLC01 Pro Machines get new bottom bracket cable guides; a small detail for sure, but one that can have a dramatic impact on shifting performance. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)

Race tech: Tour de France, July 24, 2007

Orbea introduced its thoroughly revamped Orca last year but we spotted the Euskaltel-Euskadi team still riding the company's old Opal model as recently as this year's Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré. ProTour riders are renowned for prizing stiffness in their machines, and while the new Orca is said to be substantially more rigid than the outgoing version, the boys in orange apparently still found the Opal to provide a more solid platform and preferred to use it in competition.

That has changed at this year's Tour de France as the team has finally been riding atop the Orca, but not the one currently on storeroom shelves. The orange-and-black frames of the Basque team sported new one-piece aluminum dropouts (which should be both lighter and stiffer than the two-piece versions of last year) and lighter (and decidedly more trick-looking) carbon fiber Orbea head tube badges which still serve double duty as housing stops. We also wouldn't be surprised if Orbea had stiffened things up with the second generation as well, at least for the team. Although Orbea has yet to officially announce anything, chances are this updated version will be introduced as a 2008 model.

Michelin is still one of the only ProTour tire sponsors to supply its sponsored teams with clinchers when it comes to race time (as well as 'tubulars' as we've already demonstrated…). We were already accustomed to seeing its Pro² Race model on the wheels of the Bouygues Telecom team, but a new Pro3 Race reared its head at this year's TdF.

According to Tim Jamison, Michelin's North American Bicycle Marketing and Sales Manager, "you are looking at prototypes of our next generation racing tire. This is not the first race we have used it but it is the first one where it has a Pro3 Race patch on it. We are not prepared to release the details on this product at this time, but rest assured, the performance enhancements we have made are awesome."

Jamison's comments obviously offer up little in the way of substantive information, but the new tire clearly utilizes a dual-durometer tread, and likely compounds related to one of the company's motorsports divisions (the Pro² Grip borrows its compound from Michelin Moto Grand Prix and Formula 1 tires).

In other tire news, Team Barloworld's fantastic run at its first-ever TdF has been made on prototype Vittoria tubulars made especially for the team at the request of team mechanic Giancarlo Bianchi. The tires used to land wins on Stages 9 and 11 recycle an old tread design mated to Vittoria's newest compounds. According to Bianchi, the unique combination is better suited to today's "more polluted road conditions" that are typically littered with more debris and oil. No word yet on whether or not consumers will be able to enjoy those benefits for themselves in the near future, though, but we'll continue to keep you posted.

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