Tour de France champion Alberto Contador may have been denied the chance to defend his title this July by race organizer ASO but he and the rest of his Astana team have made the most of a late call-up to the Giro d’Italia. With just a few days to go, Contador finds himself in the maglia rosa of race leader and looks poised to carry it all the way to the final stage finish in Milano on Sunday.
Should Contador hold on to win, it will be the second-ever Giro victory for team bicycle sponsor Trek (Paolo Savoldelli won in 2005 for the now-defunct Discovery Channel team) but those two bikes have little in common other than the Madone model name. In contrast to the more traditional-looking layout that Savoldelli used, Contador’s frame features a sloping top tube, a unique no-cut integrated seatmast, a 90mm-wide bottom bracket shell with drop-in cartridge bearings, plus a correspondingly oversized down tube and widely-set asymmetrical chain stays. It also has a tapered and oversized 1 1/8″-to-1 1/2″ steerer tube.
Contador used a mid-level Madone 5.2 frameset last year and we were told then that team would upgrade to the company’s top-shelf Madone 6.9 this season. That frame uses a more advanced carbon fibre blend and lay-up schedule as well as a carbon steerer to shed about 120g in total but ride quality and frame rigidity are apparently identical between the two. Since last year’s Discovery Channel bikes were already dangerously close to the UCI weight limit, nearly the entire team is continuing to use the 5.2 frameset (including its aluminium steerer) to stay legal. According to team liaison Ben Coates, the lone exception is Levi Leipheimer who is using the lighter frameset to help offset the added weight of his SRM power meter.
Another factor influencing the frame decision was the team’s swap in componentry to SRAM Red. Lighter than both the Dura-Ace parts the team used last year and Record, the introduction of the group has put newfound pressure on Shimano and Campagnolo who previously enjoyed a virtual stranglehold on the market. Both companies are now set to debut new versions of their top-end groups later this year.
Contador’s machine is fitted with a nearly complete SRAM Red group with the exception being a Dura-Ace chain. Trek’s in-house Bontrager label is applied to much of the rest of the bike, including the Race XXX Lite low-profile carbon tubular wheels, Race XXX Lite carbon bar and Race X Lite forged aluminium stem. Interestingly, the latter is both lighter and cheaper than the Race XXX Lite carbon road stem, which was designed specifically with the Madone in mind but has not been used here.
Brontrager supplies the race x lite stem and race xxx lite carbon bars: brontrager supplies the race x lite stem and race xxx lite carbon barsShane Stokes
Bontrager X Lite stem with XXX Lite bars
The tubular tyres bear a rather-faded Hutchinson hot stamp and the 172.5mm-long crankarms are capped with Look KeO Carbon pedals. Perched atop the carbon seatmast is the same Selle San Marco Concor saddle that Armstrong favoured during his Tour de France reign.
Speaking of Armstrong, the Texan was notably demanding of team equipment sponsors in his search for stiffer, lighter frames and components which often led to key product developments. So what about Contador – does he have any specific requirements?
It would appear not. “Alberto uses the same bike as all the other guys on the team,” said mechanic Faustino Muñoz. “It’s exactly the same; he doesn’t use anything different to them. His position is also unchanged from before. It’s the same as last year.”
As good as the new Madone has already proven itself to be and as fresh as the design is, we’ve grown accustomed to finding new things come TdF time as most teams have something stashed away in the goodie bag. With Astana set to miss this year’s race, though, the Vuelta a España seems to be a logical launch point but we’ll have to wait and see if anything pops up. But if all goes to plan over the next few days, the team will be chasing their second Grand Tour success of the season in the Vuelta, aiming to add the maillot oro to the maglia rosa.
Frame: Trek Madone 5.2 Pro
Fork: Bontrager Race X Lite, carbon w/E2 aluminium steerer