Team RadioShack leader Lance Armstrong may have drawn attention at this year's Tour de France prologue for the wrong reasons, but at least his bike is being pushed into the limelight for all of the right ones.
Trek and Livestrong (Armstrong's cancer awareness organisation) have paired up for the 'Unity' campaign, which aims to make things a little more personal – as far as cancer is concerned.
Trek are offering customisable 'I Ride For __________' frame decals, water bottles and posters directly through their website, with the idea that riders can call attention to individual cancer sufferers they'd like to support.
In the case of Armstrong's main bike, it's Italian cycling coach Aldo Sassi, who is undergoing treatment for a brain tumour. Actor Dennis Hopper is called out on the spare.
Beneath the fancy paint job is Trek's latest Speed Concept time trial machine with its unique Kamm tail truncated airfoil tube shaping. According to Trek, the more structurally efficient tube shapes are nearly as aerodynamic as far deeper teardrop sections but can be made wider and stiffer without violating UCI dimensional guidelines, thus yielding a lighter and stiffer frame than most aero bikes.
Additionally, Trek have gone to considerable lengths to tuck the proprietary front and rear brakes out of the wind. Up front, the external-steerer fork directly incorporates brake arms right into the structure while the similarly stealthy rear brake calliper is built into an aerodynamic pod housed beneath the bottom bracket shell.
The proprietary rear brake arms are shielded by a small pod beneath the bottom bracket
The integrated bars are incorporated into the overall structure as well, with smooth lines flowing neatly into the frame and fully internal cable routing that runs inside the flip-top stem. Naturally, Armstrong's bike also gets a few special touches that go beyond skin-deep.
Team mechanics have augmented the standard SRAM Red group with a special carbon fibre rear derailleur pulley cage from Wolfgang Berner. Berner's unique pulley layout – using a massive 15T lower wheel and 13T upper – is nothing new but Armstrong's version goes one step further with a huge wraparound carbon cage that's sleeker and more aero.
Armstrong's carbon fibre rear derailleur cage was made by Wolfgang Berner
Mounted to the front of the Zipp carbon aero extensions are a pair of Zipp VukaR2C shifters with custom graphics and while the rear disc is badged 'Bontrager', the underlying pattern reveals it to be a Lightweight instead. Wrapping things up is Armstrong's usual Selle San Marco Concor Lite saddle.
Unfortunately, the frenzied atmosphere prior to the start of the prologue precluded us from taking our usual array of Pro Bike measurements, though based on the team's recent behaviour, we likely wouldn't have been allowed to weigh the thing anyway.
For those of you keeping track, Armstrong finished fourth on Saturday – 22 seconds behind stage winner Fabian Cancellara (Team Saxo Bank) but more importantly, five seconds ahead of Alberto Contador (Astana). Consider the first salvo fired.