The Criterium du Dauphine has established itself as the final chance to test the legs ahead of the Tour de France. A prestigious event in it's own right, this year's champion Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) joins a list of winners that includes Chris Froome, Bradley Wiggins, Alejandro Valverde, Miguel Indurain, Greg LeMond, Bernard Hinault, Eddy Merckx and Jacques Anquetil to name just a few of the legendary winners.
As well as a final opportunity to test the legs, the Dauphine offers a platform to test new equipment in a race scenario. Many component and apparel manufacturers coincide their 2018 product launches with the biggest race of the year in July. Whilst riders will have been training with the products for many months, you can never quite replicate a race.
Nobody wants to see or run the risk of equipment failure at the Tour de France, so more and more 2018 products have become commonplace at the Dauphine in recent years.
The 2016 edition was the year of the shoe. Chris Froome, Dan Martin and Team Giant-Alpecin wore the Sidi Shot, Mavic Comete and Shimano S-Phyre respectively, all of which were subsequently released in the months that followed, ahead of the 2017 season.
This 2017 edition of the race became the year of the frameset. BMC, Specialized, Trek, Merida and Lapierre all debuted new frames.
Whilst BMC officially launched the latest Teammachine SLR01 ahead of the race at a press camp in Switzerland, the remaining frames have yet to be officially launched and it is expected we will hear the full details during, or soon after, the Tour de France in July.
1. Specialized Tarmac SL6
The new Specialzied Tarmac is so different to its predecessor, frankly we weren't sure what it was when we first saw it. Aesthetically, the latest Tarmac sits somewhere between the previous Tarmac and the aerodynamic Specialized Venge, looking more like a carbon version of the latest Allez DSW released last year.
Following the industry wide trend, the new Tarmac features a smaller rear triangle, lower seat stays and a D-profile seat tube. The tubing appears to be more aerodynamically profiled than its predecessor and the frame also features direct mount brakes.
Expect the official launch to contain 'more stiffness, better compliance, larger tyre clearance and better braking'.
Dan Martin (Quick-Step Floors) rode into a podium position on the final day of the race on the new frame and Emanuel Buchmann (Bora-Hansgrohe), who was the only other rider on the bike, came seventh overall and winning the youth classification in the process.
2. Trek Emonda SLR
Alberto Contador only rode the long awaited update of the Emonda on stage 1 of this year's race. Without crosschecking the frame's UCI code on the day, you might be forgiven for not noticing the new frame at all.
Unlike the new Tarmac, the Emonda seems relatively similar to the current version of the bike. It is suspected that the frame will feature new composite technologies and will be launched alongside a disc version of the frame.
The rear dropouts of the frame are one of the few noticeable updates on the Emonda. It is likely that Trek has followed BMC's lead in keeping the rear triangle the same geometry, whether in disc or calliper versions of the frameset. Therefore maintaining handling characteristics if Alberto Contador or a Trek-Segafredo teammate needs to change between the bikes mid-race.
3. Merida Reacto 3
Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain-Merida) certainly had the most eye-catching bike at the race. A black and white geometric design in the form of a plastic wrap covered the bike to keep the design features of the latest Reacto, well, under wraps.
Closer inspection of the bike unveiled smaller rear stays, a new fork crown, and updated top tube and new tubing profiles throughout the frameset.
Merida registered four new framesets for UCI approval in February of this year. The CF2 in rim and disc versions and the CF4 in rim and disc versions, suggesting two different geometry setups of the aero frame and continuing the trend of launching disc brake and rim brake versions of the bikes simultaneously.
4. Lapierre Aircode 2
We first saw the Lapierre Aircode at the Scheldeprijs race in the spring. Like the Merida Reacto, the Aircode is an updated aero offering from Lapierre, which Thibaut Pinot also raced on at the Giro d'Italia.
New tubing profiles, forks and most significantly a deep profile seat tube are all likely to results in improved aerodynamic performance. Aero bikes in recent years have also earned the welcome characteristics of also being incredibly comfortable. The Aircode 2 looks to be no different, with a vague triple triangle design that also appears on several endurance bikes.
5. BMC Teammachine SLR
Unlike the previous four framesets, the BMC has been officially launched ahead of debuting at a race. The new Teammachine SLR01 retains the same race geometry as its predecessor, but comes with new composite technology resulting in a stiffer fork and bottom bracket whilst improving comfort.
The vertical compliance improvement predominantly comes from lowering the seat post clamp and increasing the seat post length by 20 per cent. BikeRadar's US Editor Ben Delaney tested the bike at the launch in Switzerland, and whilst the increased compliance wasn't obvious, the stiffer fork due to reinforcement to handle the disc brakes was.
As mentioned above, BMC designed the rim and disc versions of the framesets with identical geometry, so the two bikes will feel identical if needing to switch during a race.
Longer chainstays feature on both the rim and disc brake versions of the bike to accommodate the disc brakes, but with increased bottom bracket stiffness minimal power transfer is lost.
Following the launches of the Pinarello Dogma F10, new Cervelos for Team Dimension Data and a handful of time trial bikes, on top of the Dura-Ace 9100 series groupset from Shimano, the 2017 season has seen an exciting new array of tech.
It is likely we will see a handful of even more new products at the Tour de France next month, as well as the official launches of the above bikes. We look forward to updating you following the launches in the coming weeks.