At the Tour of California, Team High Road is aboard prototypes of a brand-new version of Giant’s time-tested TCR Advanced that Giant says are stiffer and lighter than the already-not-flexible-or-heavy previous incarnation.
“We’ve built a bike that is lighter than what our previous TCR Advanced was, we’ve built a bike that’s significantly stiffer than what our TCR Advanced was, [and] we’ve catered it specifically for the team’s needs,” said Giant communications manager Andrew Juskaitis after the official team presentation in Palo Alto, California.
According to Juskaitis, the bike has been in development for over two years and the team has been evaluating near-final prototypes over the last year in order to firm up any remaining details. In this final stage of testing, Team High Road will use the new TCR Advanced SL in actual race conditions, starting with the Tour of California.
“The bike you’re looking at here is the 2009 TCR Advanced SL,” said Juskaitis. “This is not production [and] this has not come out of production molds. We still have the ability to tweak anything that the team has feedback on. Some of the angles we can change around and all that kind of stuff. Little details like cable routing and all that, we’re all experimenting with what works best.”
The current generation TCR Advanced was already a stiff machine by most consumer standards but the team’s extra-demanding requirements meant that some riders, including sprinter Mark Cavendish whose bike you see here, needed custom-reinforced frames that were bolstered with additional carbon fiber plies.
“The bike that our team was riding last year, some of the bikes the team members had were not pure production,” said Juskaitis. “They had custom lay-ups, a little bit stiffer than what the consumer could actually buy. This bike takes that even one step farther. The lay-up that the team riders are on right now is what we are prepared to sell later on in 2009.”
Big tubes & tapered steerer for stiffness
Key changes to the new TCR Advanced SL frameset include square-profile tubing in the down tube and seat tube, an oversized steerer tube that tapers from 1 1/8in up top to 1 1/4in at the crown and the use of Shimano’s press-fit bottom bracket cups (first used on Scott’s Addict SL last year) that affords a substantially broader down tube and more widely set chain stays.
Those chain stays are also noticeably asymmetric with a taller and narrower driveside stay and a wider and rounder profile on the non-driveside. Derailleur cables were also routed internally on the team’s bikes and the last section of rear brake housing actually pierced straight through the top tube as it made its way from the tube’s underside near the seat tube.
According to Juskaitis, “One of the key goals was two forms of stiffness: head tube stiffness for steering stability and bottom bracket stiffness, obviously, for maximum efficiency. We’ve gone oversize where we think it makes the most sense. We didn’t go oversize where we don’t think it makes the most sense. So obviously we’re going to be running a larger headset, a larger bottom bracket, and press-in cups [in the bottom bracket].”
In regards to the last feature, Juskaitis says that consumers will ultimately be able to run any modern external-type crankset once the TCR Advanced SL hits the market. “As a consumer, you will not be locked into a single model or brand of crankset.”
Stiffer yet softer
From an earlier conversation we had with team mechanic Steve Kiusalas, team riders have indeed reported that the new bike feels “much stiffer side-to-side.” In spite of the frame’s increased steering precision and drivetrain rigidity, though, Juskaitis insists that ride quality has actually improved. The TCR Advanced SL retains the current version’s integrated seatmast but careful shaping at the mast’s base supposedly yields “outstanding” ride comfort as compared to the current version’s distinctly firm feel.
“We increased stiffness significantly, but one of the things we didn’t want to give up was ride quality and that’s always the balance,” Juskaitis said. “When you make something stiffer, a lot of times it’s often going to ride like a rock. We weren’t going to, nor was the team going to, accept a bike that rode like a rock. One of the secrets up our sleeves [is that] ride compliance can really be tuned quite a bit through the integrated seatmast.”
Size tweaks too
Team riders may now be aboard soon-to-be fully production frames for this season but Giant has still altered frame geometries to better suit their needs. Cavendish swapped from last year’s standard ‘medium’ size to the next generation’s ‘team small’.
According to Kiusalas, the ‘team small’ bears a longer top tube and shorter head tube than the standard small frame size that provides the Brit with essentially the same reach as last year but a slightly lower bar height for a more aggressive position. Seat tube angles are reportedly also a hair steeper across the board as compared to the current TCR Advanced. In keeping with current industry trends, Juskaitis says that Giant will eventually offer the new TCR Advanced SL in both geometry styles to suit a wider range of consumer needs.
Other than the new frame, Cavendish’s bike is largely identical his 2007 ride, with the full Shimano Dura-Ace group, deep-section Dura-Ace WH-7850-C50-TU wheels, Dura-Ace SPD-SL pedals and a PRO cockpit. Cavendish has swapped from a Selle Italia Signo saddle to the company’s new Thoork, though, and the team tire sponsor has shifted over to Schwalbe for the 2008 season.
Frame: Giant TCR Advanced SL Team prototype, size ‘Team S’
Fork: Giant TCR Advanced SL Team prototype
Bottom bracket: Shimano Dura-Ace press-fit
Cranks: SRM Training System – DuraAce compatible Standard, 170mm, 39/53T
Chain: Shimano Dura-Ace CN-7801
Front derailleur: Shimano Dura-Ace FD-7800-F
Rear derailleur: Shimano Dura-Ace RD-7800-SS
Front brake: Shimano Dura-Ace BR-7800
Rear brake: Shimano Dura-Ace BR-7800
Brake levers: Shimano Dura-Ace STI Dual Control ST-7800
Shift levers: Shimano Dura-Ace STI Dual Control ST-7800