US bicycle manufacturer Trek took over the former RadioShack-Leopard WorldTour licence at the end of last season and have become the title sponsor for the 2014 season, joining BMC and Cannondale in becoming sole name sponsor of its own pro team. They've built a squad around Fabian Cancellara, the fans' favourite Jens Voigt, and Andy and Frank Schleck.
The team will have at their disposal the Madone and Domane for the road, and the Speed Concept for time trials. Both the current top level Madone and Domane were launched in 2012, and as we head into the first races of the 2014 season, the bikes remain unchanged. Trek has moved away from product years which frees them to release new bikes as and when they see fit, and we wouldn’t be surprised if there is some sort of update to one, or both, bikes this summer.
The Domane is Fabian Cancellara’s bike of choice. It’s the bike he won the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix double on last year. With its unique IsoSpeed, a bump absorbing decoupler at the seat tube/top tube junction, it’s able to smooth out the harshness of rough roads and pave, leaving the rider feeling fresher so they can make a decisive attack in the final stages of the race.
The manufacturers like you to believe that the pros ride exactly the same bike that you can buy in your local bike shop, but it isn’t always the case. Sure, it might look the same and have the same components, but often the geometry is very different - pros typically like their bikes long and low, with much shorter head tubes and longer top tubes. Trek took the bold decision last year to release the Pro Endurance Geometry found on Cancellara’s bike through its Project One website. The frame also has a tougher one-piece steel derailleur hanger and increased tyre clearance.
With the Domane the go-to bike for the Classics, the Madone is the go-to choice for most regular road stages and races, and is the bike you’ll see most of the team riding this season. Like the Domane, it was heavily updated in 2012 with a substantial effort to increase its aero efficiency.
Borrowing the Kammtail Virtual Foil from the time trial-specific Speed Concept, the fork blades, down tube, seat tube, and seatstays have been shaped to decrease drag. The most noticeable change though is the positioning of the rear brake caliper below the chainstays, leaving the seat stays clean, helping to reduce drag in this area.
These new tube shapes, and the rear brake positioning, are claimed to make it much faster overall. 25 watts is saved when riding at 40kph (25mph) they claim. In a sport where races came be won or lost by fractions of seconds, it’s a performance edge the team riders will be glad of.
It’s also Trek’s lightest ever frame, with a claimed weight of 750g. That’s impressive, especially considering many aero frames are much closer to 1,000g generally. The cable routing is internal and Trek integrate an Duotrap sensor into the non-driveside chainstay that you can link up to a wireless computer.
For the time trial stages, Trek has the Speed Concept. The bike has been around for a good few years now, but had an update last year (for the 2014 model year) to reduce the weight by a claimed 437g. Trek reckon the aerodynamics and reduced frontal area have improved its performance across a range of yaw angles.
The Speed Concept heralded in Trek’s Kammtail Virtual Foil (KVF) tube profiles that see the trailing edge chopped off, tricking the air into acting as if it's still there. The tube shaping has been tweaked on the new frame, and they have added fillet’s between the main frame tubes to increase side surface area to reduce drag at higher yaw angles. This also stiffens the frame.
Trek have reduced the frontal area - down 30% they say - and taken material from the seat tube and down tube - all without any reduction in stiffness, according to Trek's men in lab coats. All cables are routed internally, and the battery for a Shimano Di2 groupset is housed inside the frame.
With Trek supplying the frames, Bontrager will supply the wheels, stems, handlebars, saddles and tyres. They’ll be using the tubular Aeolus 3.0 wheelset for a lot of the regular road stages, going to deeper or shallower section rims dependent on conditions, course profile and rider preferences.
We’ve seen a few new products coming out recently as a direct result of the team involvement - you get an awful lot of feedback from guys doing 30,000km of riding and racing every year, and to product developers that's invaluable. The pros can also be very fussy, and with personal sponsorship deals for saddles less common these days, this can lead to new saddle models being introduced. A case in point is the Serano saddle launched last December, first spotted on Andy Schleck early last year.
And we've seen the new helmet that will be ideal for the Spring Classics, the Bontrager Velocis AW. It's the same as the regular Velocis helmet, just with a new one-piece shell with the vents all blocked up to prevent rain and cold wind getting in. The helmet will only be available through the Trek Race Shop, the outlet for limited runs of equipment built specifically for the Trek Factory Racing team.
Shimano will continue to support the team, and will supply most of the team with its top flight Dura-Ace Di2 11-speed groupset. However, not all are happy to switch to electronic, and Cancellara prefers to remain on a mechanical Dura-Ace groupset.
Once again, German tyre manufacturer Schwalbe will supply the team with tyres. With the company heavily investing in tubeless tyres with the excellent Ultremo and more recent One (which it reckons is the fastest tyre it has ever produced) and Bontrager producing tubeless-ready rims, it’ll be interesting to see if any of the team ride tubeless throughout the season.
David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.