Astana's Alberto Contador is seeking his third Tour de France victory this year but this time not on the Trek Madone he used the first two times around but rather Specialized's S-Works Tarmac SL3.
Although it's obviously a different machine, Contador's new Tarmac is no slouch in its own right with all of the design and engineering features we've come to expect out of the latest carbon superbikes.
Included in the list is a tapered 1 1/8"-to-1 1/2" front end for accurate steering and solidity under hard braking, an integrated and oversized bottom bracket, giant asymmetrical chain stays matched to much smaller seat stays, clever internal stiffening ribs in critical areas, trick box-section alloy dropouts, and carbon fibre bottom bracket and headset bearing cups.
In total, Specialized says the new Tarmac SL3 'module' weighs just 2,047g - 153g less than its already light predecessor - and is also nearly a fifth more rigid in the front triangle for improved overall responsiveness.
Still, it's essentially no different from the SL3 any average consumer can pick up off the shelf so what makes this so special?
Custom painted frames are nothing new at the Tour de France but Contador's are consistently one of our favorites
As usual (and aside from the obvious answer - the rider), the difference lies in the custom aesthetic and mechanical touches that have been applied plus the manner to which it's prepared by Contador's master mechanic, Faustino Munoz.
First and foremost is the eye-catching paint package, which is applied almost throughout the entire bike and builds on last year's hand pistol (Contador's signature victory salute) theme with a new black metallic base coat and similar yellow, pink and red 'fingers' to indicate his victories in all three Grand Tours.
New for this current version, too, is a fetching new graphic with back-to-back pistols atop both the top tube and custom saddle.
For those of you wondering, Specialized has mentioned to us that Contador's special paint job - plus those of Saxo Bank's Fabian Cancellara, Andy and Fränk Schleck - will be offered in limited quantities this fall.
Unlike most SRAM Red-equipped riders in the peloton, Contador sticks with the stock titanium front derailleur cage. Plus there's no chain watcher, either.
Contador's rig is awash in a few notable component upgrades as well. SRAM already provides the two-time Tour de France winner with its new Red LTE group but the rear derailleur is further augmented with a specially fitted Berner oversized carbon fibre cage and pulley wheels for lower drivetrain friction - or at least, so says the theory.
Additional hop-ups include the dramatically minimalist quick-release skewers (the front uses an aluminum shaft!) and polished aluminum segmented housing to supplement the Gore Ride-On cables and liners.
Rounding out Contador's impressive build kit are a pair of Zipp 202 carbon tubulars wrapped with Veloflex Carbon tyres, Specialized's own carbon fibre crankset and angle-adjustable stem, an FSA semi-anatomic alloy bar and carbon fibre seatpost (both custom finished), Look KéO Blade pedals, a pair of Tacx Tao Carbon cages and an SRM PowerControl 7 computer head.
Munoz first applies oil to Contador's freshly washed and dried chains, then seals it in with a heavier grease for an ultra-smooth drivetrain
Not to go overlooked is the manner in which Munoz puts this all together. As we've noticed in years past, Contador's drivetrain is among the smoothest and drag-free we've ever encountered, likely helped along by a full ceramic bearing package (Munoz has used Enduro as a supplier before but we're unsure what's included here) and his 'secret sauce' chain lube mix that first uses a coating of light oil that's then sealed in with a layer of grease on the outer surfaces.
An even closer inspection reveals not a single speck of dirt or debris, impeccably clipped and capped cables, an impossibly clean glue job on the tyres, and what is undoubtedly one of the most consistently superb handlebar tape applications on the circuit.
Quoted weight is exactly 6.8kg and while Munoz wouldn't let us weigh the bike ourselves (or take our full battery of measurements), prior experience with Contador's 6 Series Madone gives us no reason to suspect otherwise as that bike was 6.8kg on the nose as well.
Now all Contador needs at this point is the legs.
Complete bike specifications
- Frame: Specialized S-Works Tarmac SL3, size 52cm
- Fork: Specialized S-Works Tarmac SL3
- Headset: Cane Creek
- Stem: Specialized S-Works Pro-Set, 120mm x -8°
- Handlebars: FSA Wing Pro Compact, 42cm (c-c)
- Tape/grips: FSA cork
- Front brake: SRAM Red LTE w/ carbon-specific pads
- Rear brake: SRAM Red LTE w/ carbon-specific pads
- Brake levers: SRAM Red LTE DoubleTap
- Front derailleur: SRAM Red LTE
- Rear derailleur: SRAM Red LTE w/ Berner cage and pulleys
- Shift levers: SRAM Red LTE DoubleTap
- Cassette: SRAM PG-1090, 11-26T
- Chain: SRAM PC-1091R
- Crankset: Specialized S-Works, 172.5mm, 53/39T
- Bottom bracket: Specialized integrated
- Pedals: Look KéO Blade
- Wheelset: Zipp 202 tubular
- Front tyre: Veloflex Carbon tubular, 22mm
- Rear tyre: Veloflex Carbon tubular, 22mm
- Saddle: Selle Italia SLR Team Edition
- Seat post: FSA K-Force Light SB25
- Bottle cages: Tacx Tao Carbon (2x)
- Computer: SRM PowerControl 7
- Other accessories: Alligator iLINK housing, Gore Ride-On cables and liner, ultralight skewers
- Rider's height: 1.77m (5' 10")
- Rider's weight: 62kg (137lb)
- Saddle height, from BB (c-t): 748mm
- Seat tube length, c-t: 490mm
- Head tube length: 120mm
- Top tube length: 537mm
- Total bicycle weight: 6.80kg (14.99lb)