Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Nissan) not only scored a big win at last weekend's Strade Bianche, he also appeared to do so on a brand-new Classics-specific bike from team sponsor Trek that we expect to be officially unveiled later this spring.
We've suspected for nearly two years now that Trek was developing such a machine, after the company flashed images of team riders and company engineers testing existing Madones on Belgian cobbles with strain gages and data acquisition setups. Moreover, up until now Trek-sponsored teams have been competing in the spring classics aboard team-only modified Madones, instead of the more purpose-built rigs some of the competition had at their disposal. This is the first indication we've seen that a new bike is actually being used in competition, however.
Trek would provide no technical information whatsoever on the new machine, offering only this official statement from road brand manager Nick Howe. “We’ve been working on something with Fabian as a compliment to the team's Tour-focused Madone,” he said. “We are in the proof of concept phase of development right now — and we're feeling pretty good about where things stand after Saturday. That’s all I can really say for now."
Even so, visual inspection of some of the race images suggest that the new bike draws heavily from the existing Madone, including the e2 tapered front end, the no-cut integrated seatmast, and wide-format BB90 bottom bracket with drop-in bearings. However, the internally routed cables now enter the frame right at the head tube the fork blades take a more aggressive bend before an abrupt kick-back at the dropouts, and the size disparity between the chain- and seat stays looks more pronounced than before.
Also clearly visible are ribs on the sides of the top tube and down tube – presumably to lend more side-to-side stiffness.
Cancellara's new bike sports ribs on the sides of the top tube and down tube
We unfortunately don't have any additional details at the moment but based on what we know about Trek's past classics-specific team bikes, it's a safe bet that those same modifications will be incorporated here. As such, we're expecting slightly longer chain stays and additional fork rake for a more stable wheelbase and additional clearances at the stays and fork crown to accommodate bigger tires, likely, up to 28mm-wide tubular tires.
Geometry-wise, we expect Trek will offer multiple head tube lengths, à la the current Madone, though, probably just in the most aggressive H1 and H2 fitments.
Cables enter the frame directly at the head tube on the new Trek classics bike. The steerer tube is still tapered but it's unclear if the dimensions have been downsized for additional flex as compare to the current Madone
The biggest mystery at this point is ride quality. Based on those earlier test images, Trek was clearly interested in building more comfort into this new chassis, particularly given that the current Madone 6-series platform isn't nearly as cushy as Cervélo's R-series or the Specialized Roubaix. The more forward-swept fork blades and slimmer seat stays suggest more give all around, it's possible the lower headset bearing diameter may be slightly reduced from the current 1.5in size, and surely there would be some carbon fiber lay-up trickery at play to generate some directional flex.
That's all we've got for now but we should have more complete details no later than early April. Rest assured — Trek seem to have something up their sleeves for this spring.
Current classics bikes are modified Madones with longer chain stays, longer forks with more rake, and more tire clearance.