by Neil Browne
WorldTour teams play bike shuffle
In addition to the personnel transfers that occur during this time of year, teams often change bike sponsors.
As you might have noticed in comparison to rider transfers, which is a game of musical chairs due to one and two year contracts, bike sponsors don't change too often – at least for 2014 they don't.
Euskaltel-Euskadi was all set to fold due to the poor Spanish economic conditions. However, there was good news that F1 driver Fernando Alonso has bought the Basque team's WorldTour license for a reported six million euros. It is also reported that he is honoring the contracts of the Euskaltel-Euskadi riders and the new team will be built around Samuel Sanchez. As of this writing full details haven't been revealed, but if I was a betting man I'd say we haven't see the end of the Orbea bikes on the WorldTour stage.
While Euskaltel-Euskadi has avoided folding, the Vacansoleil-DCM team has not been as lucky and will be nothing but a memory in 2014. The title sponsors for the Dutch team are not renewing and the search to replace them has been fruitless. Bianchi was the team's bike of choice and Bianchi has now signed a bike sponsorship deal with the Belkin pro team. It looks like the green kit might have a splash of celeste next year.
Of course when the title sponsor is a bike company there won't be any change. BMC, Lampre-Merida, Cannondale, and Trek (taking over ownership of Team RadioShack-Leopard in 2014) are riding their respective bikes.
In 2014 Specialized continues to sponsor Team Astana and Omega Pharma-Quick Step. I'm not sure what's going on with the Saxo-Tinkoff Bank team. If you've been paying attention to the train wreck that is the Oleg Tinkoff's Twitter account, he's been quite vocal of his displeasure with team rider Alberto Contador. It turns out Oleg is more of a mean drunk than a happy one.
By the end of July Riis issued a press release stating, “During the course of our extensive negotiations with Tinkoff Bank, it has become clear that we are unable to settle on common views and the ideas that are necessary for our partnership to grow and be successful for both parties beyond 2013.” In my opinion that's a nice way of saying, “We couldn't negotiate with a guy on a vodka soaked bender.”
Perhaps Specialized comes in as a co-title sponsor for Riis?
Next year Trek is gambling on Fabian Cancellara winning the Classics, because if this year is any example Pinarello might as well add Tour de France yellow as a permanent color for the Pinarello Dogma bike.
If Fabs dominates the early part of the 2014 season, Trek is going to sell a lot of Trek Domanes. In the battle for the Spring classics campaign Specialized might see the value of having their name added front and center to a team's official name. Maybe Saxo Bank – Specialized or Omega Pharma – QuickStep p/b Specialized? I know my journalist/PR friends would love that wordy combination. I also suspect the UCI might take issue with the length of the name.
As stated earlier Alonso is bailing out the Euskaltel-Euskadi team for at least a couple of years. That's a great thing. However, I'm curious why he choose the Spanish team. A couple of years ago the F1 driver was considering starting a cycling team with Alberto Contador, but ultimately it didn't work out. Why not jump into the empty Tinkoff spot on the Saxo Bank jersey for next year and help out a buddy? I'm just speculating here, but I'm wondering if Specialized already has dibs on that spot and therefore no room for Alonso. Sponsoring Euskaltel-Euskadi could also be due to the simple fact that Alonso is Spanish and Euskaltel-Euskadi is from the region. It makes sense to throw his euros to save a Spanish squad rather than a Danish one. Who knows, maybe when Contador's contract expires Pistolero returns to a Spanish team.
Focus bikes is still going to be under the brown shorts of AG2R-La Mondiale for another two years. Signs point to Jelly Belly with reigning US road champion Freddy Rodriguez continuing to ride the German bike in 2014 as well.
One team that is a question mark bike-wise is Argos-Shimano. The team has been aboard Felt bikes, but there are rumors that Giant might be the Dutch squad's bike brand moving forward. This actually holds water as Team Belkin is switching from Giant to Bianchi in 2014. Giant is one of the top three bike companies and having a WorldTour team ride their bikes is almost mandatory. The move to a winning team like Argos-Shimano is smart.
I recently returned from the Felt 2014 product launch and from a technical standpoint riding one of the AR bikes would be smart choice for a team. Like we saw in stage 7 of this year’s Vuelta a Espana, a win can be as narrow as a tire width and a bike as aerodynamic and slippery as the Felt AR could bring that slight winning edge.
Last week Eurobike was in full swing and team owners were huddled in the back room of their equipment sponsors' booths signing the dotted line for the next year and beyond. I'm sure we'll see more bike sponsor details after the show which took place in Germany.
2014 WorldTour teams and their bike sponsors:
Ag2r-La Mondiale: Focus (Continuing through 2015)
BMC Racing Team: BMC
FDJ.fr: Lapierre (Continuing)
Garmin-Sharp: Cervélo (Continuing)
GreenEDGE: Scott (Contract ends in 2014)
Movistar Team: Pinarello
Omega Pharma-Quick Step: Specialized
Belkin Pro Cycling: Bianchi
Team Katusha: Canyon
Trek (Team sponsored by Trek in 2014): Trek
Team Saxo Bank-?: Specialized
Team Sky: Pinarello (continuing)
Aero may not be everything, but it sure is significant. Looking at 2014 model bikes it's easy to see that aerodynamics is a significant part of the design. The reason is easy: modern manufacturers can easily produce a bike that weighs 14 pounds – the UCI minimum for a bike. The only other barrier that bike designers can improve upon is aerodynamics. However, aerodynamic design is restricted by the UCI with the tube 3-to-1 ratio rule which prevents companies from creating bikes that look like air foils with handlebars.
While bike aerodynamics is a great discussion point with your buddies at the post-ride coffee shop hangout, the greatest drag to a bike is the actual rider.
Coming out of this year’s Eurobike, Castelli is showcasing their new aero line of clothing from jerseys to road skinsuits, all promising to save you watts. You may have noticed pros kitted up in aero road skinsuits in flat road races for that very reason. As a tech geek, I'm curious to see what other clothing manufacturers are going to produce in the battle against the wind.
Of course we've seen the battle for aero helmets heat up with Giro and Specialized leading the charge. Team Sky during the Tour de France had Kask aero helmets for certain flat road stages. Recently Bell had an aero lid on the heads of their sponsored Belkin riders. So complain all you want people, aerodynamic helmets are here to stay and as their cooling abilities improve they won't be reserved only for flat, cool days.
While you get used to the thought of aero helmets taking over road cycling why not follow Roadcycling.com on Twitter, Facebook and Google+ - and consider subscribing to the premium version of our Training Tracker service p/b TrainingPeaks, which lets you track and analyze your training and nutrition using the exact same tools as pro riders on WorldTour teams such as Sky, Saxo-Tinkoff and GreenEdge. Login to your Training Tracker account from all pages here on Roadcycling.com while you're here to check out the latest news from the pro road cycling scene - how very convenient.
Also, if you're located in the USA you may watch video highlights from all stages of the 2013 Vuelta a Espana in our videos section.