I don't know why, but my favourite bike tests are always the ones where I get to ride a team issue bike - one of the bikes you see the pros on all year round in the big races. These machines just seem to have a special aura surrounding them - or maybe it's just me reliving my glory days!
It is not so much the 'Wow! Such-and-such won the Giro on this, or such-and-such hammered it over the Roubaix cobbles...', but more the fact that the bikes are always so well presented and look the complete article with the jersey, helmets and team cars.
It was the same with the Wilier Le Roi - not that I would specifically look for a carbon bike with blue, silver and pink paint on it - but this one had it, and at least it was different to the usual carbon frames.
Knowing that a top team, with top riders, invariably equals great equipment too, it was easy to start my ride with high expectations.
My first impression was that the bike was stiff and light, something that is quite normal in the range of bikes I usually test, and the acceleration was just amazing.
I cranked it up a false flat, with the chain in the big ring and on the 14 sprocket - and I just took off like I used to back in my old racing days. When I shifted down onto the small ring for a few kilometres of climbing, I had a nagging feeling that something was not quite right.
With a good idea of what it was, I dismounted, and there it was on the black carbon cranks - a Record CT. The CT, an abbreviation for compact, which meant I was climbing on a 34 chainring, and sprinting on a 50. I am sure the Lampre riders wouldn't have this set-up, but, to tell the truth, with a 12-25 at the back there is such a huge variety of gears to choose from that no hill will prove too steep. With the slick looks of a two-chainring crankset you almost get the gear ratio of a triple - with less weight, better looks and more accurate shifting. It really is great gear this CT!
The rest of the Campagnolo equipment met my high expectations - perfect shifting, even under pressure and with a lot of carbon for the rear and front derailleur, it was a perfect match to the frame. A good choice aesthetically were the black brake calipers instead of the silver ones. All of the other equipment was carbon, too, except for the wheels - but more on these later.
The bars and stem came from ITM - from their Sword range. It's a good unit with the brake cables running inside the bars, although this might have been the reason that it didn't provide quite the same stiffness as other setups. The power transfer, however, was impressive, while the way the bars connected to the stem was new to me. There was no lid and screw system, but an aluminium block, which holds the bars from the inside of the stem, with only one screw to be tightened.
To tighten the Ritchey headset took a bit of experimentation, but mucking around with the screw under the stem (to tighten it to the top of the fork) and then the one on the FSA lid finally did the job.
The same brand provided the carbon seatpost, which was fitted with a Selle Italia Genuine Gel Signo saddle. Comfort-wise, I have to say that I didn't really feel the benefit of any gel, while I thought that the overall look of the saddle didn't quite fit the stylish appearance of the bike as a whole.
If I was to put my fashion police uniform on, I would also say that I was quite surprised by what I would call fashion faux pas on the bike - especially as it's a team issue - and from Italy as well!
The Fulcrum wheels were great to ride: fast, light enough and providing some aerodynamics. But the white and red did not really match the pink and blue of the frame. The world champion colours on the WCS seatpost didn't really fit into the whole picture either, and the same goes for the Italian flag on the bottom of the fork.
One thing is for sure, though: if you ride a Wilier, there is no way that someone will not notice you.
Don't get me wrong, I actually like bikes with some colour on them, but without the silver paint, it would still have been flash enough, and a bit more of the chessboard-like carbon layers would be seen - especially in the area between the bottle cage and the very nice and solid bottom bracket.
Focusing on the heart of the bike, one thing is for sure: if you ride with Lampre and you don't win races, you can't really blame the bike if the finish is on top of a hill. It is very light, and the lateral stiffness around the bottom bracket and the headset is great.
It is also one of the most comfortable team bikes I have ever ridden - this has to be due to the chopper like geometry. With a front-centre of over 60cm for my 56cm frame, cornering fast was a struggle. With a lot of trust in the Vittoria tyres, I managed a few fast corners, but if you had to follow the sprinters' gruppetto downhill, even a great descender would have trouble keeping up with the best.
I've no idea who is responsible for such an extreme (anti-race) geometry - especially for a team bike - but even as a hobby rider, this wouldn't be my choice.