Tour de France tech: Custom aero bottles for Rabobank

More Monolink options; Specialized scrounging up McLaren bikes

Rabobank preview custom aero bottles at Stage 2

Rabobank riders didn't need to worry about hydration during the short team time trial that made up Stage 2 of the 2011 Tour de France, but the penultimate stage's individual effort will be a slightly different story. Instead of standard frame mounted bottles, Rabobank will have fluids mounted right up front on the aerobars.

The team's latest Giant Trinity Advanced SL cockpits have a short aluminum bridge spanning the armrest mounts. Rivnuts mounted here will eventually provide anchor points for custom carbon fiber cages and slimline bottles pointed straight into the wind. The bottles themselves will present minimal additional frontal area as they're smaller than normal to fit in between the armrests. More importantly, their placement will allow the riders to maintain their tuck even when grabbing a drink. 

According to Giant team liaison Andy Wollny, riders will simply have to slide one arm slightly rearward, pop the bottle out and bring it up to their mouth, then snap it back in place. Wollny says he worked with his long-time custom fabricator in Taiwan for the design, and drawing to delivery took a scant four weeks – just a blink of an eye when you consider the time delay of molded parts like this.

Rabobank's custom time trial bottles and cages are designed so that the rider doesn't have to break his tuck to take a drink

Selle Italia expand Monolink and Friction Free range, gain new manufacturing partners

Astana captain Alexandre Vinokourov's Specialized Project Black S-Works McLaren is fitted with a new Selle Italia saddle which looks set to form part of an expanded Friction Free Monolink line-up. Up until now, the range has included just two modified SLR models and Selle Italia's own carbon fiber seatpost. Though the Friction Free seat's unusually narrow nose provides an intriguing free-pedaling feel (and might even offer some slight power gains), the exorbitant cost for the post-and-saddle combination has proved prohibitive.

In a logical move, Selle Italia's newest Monolink saddle is a modified version of their iconic Flite with the same slimmed-down nose dimensions and highly adjustable carbon fiber central rail as the current SLR models. Vinokourov's particular perch is finished in Astana team colors with his trademark 'The Thing' graphics, however, and his carbon fiber seatpost is a new K-Force model from FSA.

No pricing details have been announced by FSA but as long as it's cheaper than the US$319.99 Selle Italia model, it's a step in the right direction. We expect FSA to offer an even less expensive SL-K model, too, and a recent visit to Selle Italia's headquarters in Asolo, Italy revealed that Ritchey and Kalloy have signed on as well. Ultimately, Selle Italia say we can expect to see a relatively low-cost Monolink Friction combination that will cost less than $200.

FSA have licensed Selle Italia's Monolink seatpost design, meaning there'll be more options for consumers next season

Specialized tap their own employees for more McLaren development bikes

Specialized have a bit of a supply and demand problem at this year's Tour de France. They sponsor three teams with bikes, each of those teams has nine riders, and yet the company have only provided two of the new Project Black S-Works McLaren development bikes per squad for testing and feedback purposes. That may suffice in normal everyday situations and lesser races but this is the Tour de France, and anything less than the best simply won't cut it.

Conveniently for HTC-Highroad, Specialized road R&D head Chris D'Aluisio was on site during the first few days of the race and had his personal test rig with him. Sadly for D'Aluisio, though, that meant that he had to turn it over to the team – meaning no more bike rides during the rest of his stay in France. According to Specialized PR man Nic Sims, the teams will continue to get more development bikes as they become available – as soon as within the next few days.

Two of these people are happy. One isn't. Sorry, Chris D'Aluisio – there are only so many of these Specialized McLaren test bikes to go around and those HTC-Highroad guys need them more than you do right now

Specialized are mum on technical changes on the McLaren development bikes relative to the standard Tarmac SL4, though, but based on the experience with the Venge collaboration, it's safe to assume that the 'Project Black' bikes are a touch lighter and a bit stiffer, too – two qualities pro teams can never have in excess.

Unlike the pro-spec development bikes, D'Aluisio's frame is equipped with standard internal cable routing instead of the team-only Di2-only setups. We get the feeling that the mechanics probably won't have much of a problem getting around that little hiccup, though.

One rider who notably isn't on one of the new machines is last year's Tour de France winner, Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-Sungard), who's still using his elaborately custom painted S-Works Tarmac SL3 bikes from last year. According to Sims, Contador simply hasn't had enough testing time on the updated version to race on it for such an important event so he stuck with what he knew.

The custom painted Specialized S-Works Tarmac SL3 of Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-Sungard) is easy to pick out against those of his teammates

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