The Tour de France organisers, Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO), sent an email communication last week showcasing some of the numbers and scale of French Grand Tour.
As well as the 176 professional riders lining up at the Grand Depart on Saturday, ASO expects 10-12 million fans to line the roads of France and Spain throughout July. Alongside these fans, 29,000 police officers will be deployed along the route, 2,000 accredited journalists will be in attendance and the race will be broadcast in 190 countries.
Put simply, if you have access to this audience, the Tour de France is the biggest and best cycling event in the world to launch and showcase your new products.
Aero is everything
In 2017, it was the year of the all-around race bike. The new Specialized Tarmac and Trek Emonda were seen for the first time in the Tour de France build-up races - the Critérium du Dauphiné and Tour de Suisse - and this year, the biggest brands in cycling are back again, this time with new aero framesets.
Specialized Venge 2019
The likes of Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Fernando Gaviria (Quick-Step Floors) are confirmed to be racing on the new bike for the Tour de France, and between the duo, alongside their teammates, we can expect a stage victory or two for the new bike on its official race debut.
Specialized says the new Venge is faster and is 460 grams lighter than the previous version of the bike, and with Marcel Kittel managing five stage victories on the 'old' version of the bike last year (although now racing aboard a Canyon at Katusha-Alpecin), fast-men Sagan and Gaviria will be confident of their chances of victory aboard the 2019 Venge.
Perhaps one of the worst-kept secrets in terms of new aero framesets, Cannondale's WorldTour team EF Education First-Drapac have been race-testing the Cannondale SystemSix since February at the Dubai Tour.
Also launched officially in the days leading up to the Tour de France, Cannondale claims that the SystemSix is the fastest UCI approved road bike in the world - although this claim was made ahead of the new aero bike launches from Specialized and more from the brands below.
Like the new Venge, the SystemSix is disc brake-only and features classic aero-specific design features such as lowered seat stays, truncated aero tubing and a fork crown that integrates almost seamlessly into the down tube.
A subtle swooping indent into the top of the down tube is a design feature you can now see on nearly every high-end aero bike on the market.
Trek Madone Disc
Like the Specialized Venge, the Trek Madone Disc was seen for the first time on stage 2 at this year's Critérium du Dauphiné.
Trek is yet to announce any details or data on the new bike, but the UCI's list of approved frames and forks shows the Madone MY19 (model year 2019) in a rim brake version and disc brake version, as well as a new Madone KVF Fork, again for both a rim and disc brake model.
Trek's WorldTour team, Trek-Segafredo, have been one of the few WorldTour teams that have fully embraced disc brake-equipped bikes this season, committing to racing on the bikes during the Classics and at the Giro d’Italia. It is interesting then, that unlike Specialized and Cannondale, Trek has opted to offer a rim brake version of its new bike - perhaps still seeing this as a valuable sector of the market.
Other notable mentions
Lotto-Soudal's Andre Greipel debuted a new aero frameset from Ridley at last month's Tour de Suisse. Spotted in a red and black camouflage plastic wrap to conceal key design features, the UCI approved frames and forks list shows a Ridley Noah Fast and Ridley Noah Fast Disc.
BMC Racing's long-term future may be in doubt, but Cyclingnews understands the Swiss bike manufacturer will stay in the WorldTour next season. Also on the UCI approved frames and forks list, two new framesets from BMC have recently become listed.
The BMC Timemachine Road 1 and BMC Timemachine 1 Disc are listed as road and time trial models, respectively, and were registered on the same week in April as the new BMC ALR E-Bike range launched last week. Could we see a new aero frame and time trial model from BMC ahead of this weekend's Grand Depart?
Other new models on the UCI approved frames and forks list include the Argon 18 Nitrogen Disc - ridden by Astana, the Bianchi Oltre XR4 CV Disc - ridden by LottoNL-Jumbo, the Lapierre Xelius SL2 - ridden by Groupama-FDJ and the Orbea Orca Aero Disc - ridden by Pro Continental squad Cofidis.
Warren Barguil's Fortuneo-Samsic squad also announced last week that they have broken contract with French manufacturer Look and will be racing on the Basque-designed BH bikes for the Grand Tour.
Disc brakes here to stay
Marcel Kittel became the first rider to take victory at a Grand Tour on a disc brake bike at last year's Tour de France, and following the UCI's decision last month to formally authorise disc brakes in racing, this could be the new normal.
While Specialized- and Trek-sponsored teams have fully embraced disc brake technology, other teams such as Team Sky and Movistar have yet to race on disc brake bikes.
Following the UCI announcement and the updated UCI approved frames and forks list, every WorldTour team now has at least one disc brake frameset and the relevant groupset components to race on should they wish.
While this year's Tour de France may still see disc brake bikes as a minority, a WorldTour team manager recently suggested to Cyclingnews that the 2019 season will see as much as 80-90 per cent of WorldTour riders on disc brake bikes.
Stage 9 cobble tech
Back for the first time since 2014, this year's Tour de France will see the peloton traverse the brutal cobbles of northern France from Arras to Roubaix.
Like the famous one-day Monument in April, won by Peter Sagan, we can expect to see wider tyres, double-wrapped handlebar tape and less aggressive endurance bikes used for the stage.
Custom paint, new national champions and more
As the race becomes saturated with the latest and greatest cycling tech, brands that aren't making headlines through new model launches will aim to utilise the Tour de France through other techniques.
AG2R La Mondiale's frame supplier Factor has been releasing teasers of new paintwork for GC contender Romain Bardet and his teammates on social media in the build-up to the race, and it is unlikely they will be the only team with special paint at the Tour de France.
Included in the Specialized Venge launch this week was also a mention of a Sagan Collection range of framesets. Ahead of this year's Paris-Roubaix, Specialized and Peter Sagan launched a limited collection of framesets celebrating the three-time world champion, and it would not be a surprise to a see the new Sagan Collection Venge in the coming days or weeks.
The past two weekends of racing have seen the majority of cycling nations in the Northern Hemisphere crown their new national road and time trial champions. Despite a short turnaround, we can expect at least some of the new national champions to don their new national jerseys aboard custom-painted framesets at the race to celebrate their victories.
Helmets, shoes, accessories and more
Alongside new bikes and components, the Tour de France also offers the opportunity for professional teams to showcase new kit and accessories on the big stage.
The 2017 edition of the Tour de France saw new helmets from Giro, Kask, Lazer, Met and more, and we can perhaps expect to see more of the same this month.
Eurobike - the world's biggest cycling trade show - has moved from late August to July for 2018, and we can expect helmet, sunglasses, shoes, clothing and accessories brands to use the month of July to showcase their 2019 products.
Cyclingnews and BikeRadar will have full coverage of all the tech on display at the 2018 Tour de France.
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