Alice Barnes is riding alongside her Drops Cycling teammates in one of the biggest events of their careers to date – the Aviva Women's Tour.
Given that Drops is a domestic amateur team, you could argue that we're stretching our 'pro bike' remit here. But considering its riders are part of the UCI Women's WorldTour and are lining up next to the likes of world champion Lizzie Armitstead and teams including Rabo Liv and Wiggle High5, we don't think its a very big stretch. In this level of competition you need a bike that can deliver, and sponsor Trek has provided Barnes and her teammates with aero goodness in the form of the Madone.
Alice Barnes has until recently been a member of the MTB squad in British Cycling's Olympic Development Programme. However, with the news that British Cycling isn't sending any mountain bikers to compete in Rio 2016, she's switched focus to the road and made the transition smoothly, joining Drops. Her sister Hannah is also competing in the Women's Tour in the Canyon//SRAM team.
Barnes' palmares are impressive both on and off the blacktop. She's taken bronze at the Mont St Anne round of the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup in the Under-23 category, and in 2015 placed second behind Lizzie Armitstead at the UK National Road Race Championships, becoming the under-23 national champion in the process.
#ColourTheRoad is the tag of the Drops Cycling Team
As with many of the riders in the women's pro peloton, Barnes' Trek Madone is a more-or-less stock model, meaning that should you want to get your mitts on this bike, you can, right down the striking colourway – but more on that later.
Carbon framed, Barnes' bike runs a full Shimano Dura-Ace groupset. Interestingly the team are running a mechanically shifting group rather than the electronic Di2 version many of their competitors have.
The 164cm rider runs 170mm cranks, a little shorter than the 172.5mm items many of her teammates choose, and her saddle height is set to 66.5cm.
While Drops team members have a selection of bikes to pick from courtesy of sponsor Trek, including the ultra light Emonda, the aero Madone is their choice for the WorldTour rigours of the Women's Tour, where every potential advantage matters.
It's got the look
Colour is obviously not an important factor when it comes to the performance of a bike, but it certainly does make a difference when it comes to attracting attention, and the matt turquoise finish on Drops' Madone fleet certainly does that. While the finish isn't exclusive to the team – it's one of the options on the Project One option bikes – it coordinates perfectly with the pastel shades on the team kit, and matches their helmets. According to Drops, Trek has seen an increase in bikes sold with this paint job since the team launched.
The IsoSpeed decoupler, designed to provide comfort without sacrificing speed
It's got the tech
Peer beyond the skin-deep and you'll find a state-of-the-art race machine. Out back, the Madone features Trek's comfort-boosting IsoSpeed decoupler, via which the seat tube pivots at its junction with seatstays and top tube to help smooth out road roughness – all concealed within an aero cover.
Further aerodynamic properties are found within the Madone's integrated bar and stem, which provide a smooth and aero-shaped cockpit. Indeed, the Madone Barnes and her teammates ride has taken aerodynamics to the extreme. Every element of this bike is designed to cut through the air, and elements like cables, which might interrupt that flow, are minimised or removed through some careful engineering.
So the Madone's brakes are integrated into the frame and fork, with the head tube featuring integrated 'vector wings' that pivot out when turning to help with aerodynamic flow. We've had a closer look at a similar model to this before on BikeRadar, which our reviewer described as a "highly evolved aero machine that’s fast, light, and seriously smooth" – all, of course, sought-after attributes for an ambitious road team.
Personalising the ride
While the whole Drops team ride the Madone, there are a few elements on Barnes' bike that make it her own. Mechanic Tom Payton tells BikeRadar that Barnes prefers the stopping power and feel provided by Swiss Stop brake pads, for instance. She also prefers Shimano Dura-Ace pedals to the Look Keos many of her teammates opt for.
The whole Drops team also have access to Trek Precision Fit, Trek's own bike fit system.
And of course having a race plan is essential – Barnes has taped hers to her handlebars.
Barnes keeps her Stage 2 Women's Tour race plan in clear sight, on the integrated aerodynamically designed bars and stem of her Trek Madone
Women's Tour ready
Participating in the Aviva Women's Tour is both a big deal and a huge opportunity for the team. One of only three British teams in the Women's Tour, Drops is also the only amateur team, albeit with ambitions to operate as efficiently and professionally as any pro team. Racing the Tour means the opportunity to experience riding against some of the best pro racers in the world. It also brings visibility on a world stage and huge crowds out along the start and finish, and lining the route during the day.
The stages vary from a fairly flat and dry first stage to a wet, hilly, challenging ride on Stage 2. The team have two wheels to choose from, Bontrager's Aeolus 3 and the Aeolus 5. For the Women's Tour, the lighter Aeolus 3s are preferred, with the 5s the popular choice for crit racing due to their stiffness.
Barnes ran an 11-28 cassette for the punchier climbs of Stage 2
Mechanic Payton also informed BikeRadar that Barnes was running an 11-28 cassette with her 53/39 crankset for the hilly and punchy second stage as she likes having the extra range at the back, allowing her to crank it out over some of the climbs without dropping to a smaller chainring. For the flatter stage 1, she opted for 11-25.
Our eyes were also caught by the extremely neat Garmin mount, produced by Bontrager specifically to fit with the aero handlebars on the Madone.
Fancy channelling the Drops look? We've included it in our 5 favourite team kits for 2016, and there's a link on where you can get your mitts on the supporter version, and various other bits and pieces such as caps and socks.