The Critérium du Dauphiné is when stage-racing gets serious. Not only are the best riders in the world warming up for the Tour de France, putting the finishing touches to their hard-earned form and at the same time checking up on the form of their biggest rivals, but the teams are unveiling brand-new unreleased equipment from the bike and component manufacturers, often to be ridden in a race situation for the first time.
Spotted so far have been prototypes from BMC and Ridley, while Cofidis’s new Look 795 Blade RS, which the team have been using since the start of the season, is still team-only and in a very high-end specification.
Rouleur photographer James Startt captured all the secret new tech in these exclusive pictures.
Ag2r’s new #CREATESPEED BMC – time for a new Teammachine?
Often new bikes are hiding in plain sight, painted in the standard team livery with just a different tube shape, lower seatstay height or more aerodynamic fork crown differentiating it from the older version. But BMC’s new team bike is not so subtle.
Instead of the stylish baby blue and vermillion of the standard Ag2r Teammachine SLR, the prototype is all black with a huge #CREATESPEED logo emblazoned on the down tube.
What does that mean? BMC has a ‘secret’ page on its website that teases the project without giving anything at all away. According to the Swiss brand’s head of R&D, Stephan Christ, it stands for the next phase of BMC’s winning journey that includes the Tour de France (Cadel Evans in 2011), Olympic medals and the World Championship (Philippe Gilbert in 2012) and Paris-Roubaix in 2017 with Greg Van Avemaet.
And it’s Van Avemaet whose name is on this prototype. On the seat tube is the mandatory UCI prototype sticker while on the fork legs is Red Bull’s logo. BMC partnered with the F1 team on a new Speedmachine triathlon bike last year, and the project appears to have also produced this new road bike.
Although the prototype is still very recognisably a BMC, with the signature top tube that’s flat on the top and waisted underneath, it’s the front end of the bike that seems to have undergone a comprehensive aero redesign. The head tube is much deeper than before, taking advantage of the recent changes to the UCI regulations, while the fork legs have a much wider stance, perhaps designed using the same principles as the radical GB Hope x Lotus track bike. Where the airflow transitions onto the down tube from the fork legs is now smoother compared with the older Teammachine and Timemachine Road. The angular shoulder has disappeared, replaced by a downward curve as the down tube meets the rear of the fork crown.
At the rear, the changes are not quite as dramatic. Most obviously, there’s more material at the juncture of the seat tube and seatstay, perhaps to smooth and direct the airflow, but also possibly to bolster the rear-end lateral stiffness.
Ag2r are the only team using Campagnolo components this season, so as you’d expect, the prototype bike is fitted with the new wireless Super Record groupset. There’s a plug in the redundant cable port behind the rear chainstay.
The integrated cockpit could also be new. It certainly follows the trend for a narrower measurement between the hoods and more flared drops, and from the side, the stem section looks as though it tapers more towards the bar for better aerodynamics.
With the new thumb button-less Campagnolo shifters, it looks super slick. In fact, the whole bike looks fast – it could be the successor not only to the Teammachine but also the Timemachine Road too.
Lotto Dstny’s Ridley – out with the arc for the new Noah?
While the BMC prototype being ridden by Greg Van Avermaet and Ben O’Connor has swapped some angular shapes – a signature of the band’s former designer Torgny Fjeldskaar, who most recently designed the Colnago V4Rs – for smoother profiles, Lotto Dstny’s prototype Ridley has gone in the opposite direction.
The Noah FAST is one of the most distinctive bikes in the peloton with its arcing top tube, but its possible successor looks to be playing it much straighter. Not only is the top tube more conventionally shaped, but the down tube doesn’t look as deep as the Noah FAST, leaving more of a gap to the front wheel than before. This is an area crucial to watt saving, which might suggest that this bike isn’t a direct replacement for the Noah and is instead a Tarmac SL7-style merging of the aero bike and the lightweight Helium that the Lotto team can also option.
That said, the seat tube is still deep with a rear-wheel cutout, and the seatstays are more in line with the rear of the top tube – a departure from the Noah’s more compact rear triangle with its lower seatstays.
The prototype, ridden by Maxim Van Gils, is in a relatively small size, so it could equally be that a scaled-up version could be closer in geometry to the Noah – but what’s for sure is that the whole frame has been redesigned rather than just tweaked. As the Noah was launched in 2018, there’s no doubt Ridley will be ready to retire it.
Unlike the BMC prototype, the Ridley doesn’t come with its own updated cockpit. Van Gils is using the same Deda-branded unit as the Noah FAST bikes. Incidentally, these cockpits with negative-rise stems are not the Italian brand’s Alanera model and are not listed on its website.
Lotto Dstny runs Shimano components, though it is not a formally Shimano-sponsored team, and all the bikes, including the prototype, are fitted with Dura-Ace groupsets and gold KMC chains.
The DT Swiss ARC 1100 wheels are shod with the brand new tubeless Vittoria Corsa Pro tyres – tan-walled of course. But we’ll need to wait to find out where exactly the Ridley bike fits into the Belgian brand’s range and into Lotto’s arsenal.
Cofidis’s Look Blade 795 RS – all-French dream machine
Look’s brand-new bike kept everybody guessing at the beginning of the season. With just a simple Look logo and no clue about the model name anywhere to be seen, bike spotters were reduced to trying to zoom in with telephoto lenses on the UCI frame sticker. Now all has been revealed – it’s the 795 Blade RS which is also what the previous bike was called, but it’s a completely new frame.
The bike still isn’t available to the general public, and we still don’t have all the details about its advantages over the old one, but it’s fair to say it’s more conventional in its design. The outgoing bike had a striking look, with its top tube flowing directly around the seat tube into the seatstays.
The new bike features the ubiquitous dropped seatstays, but these join the seat tube with an abrupt-looking ledge rather than a smoother area of carbon as deployed by the new BMC. It’s also surprising that there’s no cover for the seatpost clamp bolt at the back of the top tube.
However, although fans of classic Look bikes might be slightly disappointed that the new machine doesn’t appear to be at the cutting edge of aero, it’s a treat to see the delicious Corima WS 47mm wheels with the French brand’s distinctive, traditional-looking carbon weave and delightfully few spokes – and fitted with Michelin Power Competition tubular tyres, too.
Cofidis are back on Shimano after three years with Campagnolo, meaning a Dura-Ace groupset. However, although they’re using Dura-Ace chainrings, they’re using the SRM Origin 9 power meter carbon crankset – another highly desirable piece of kit.
Up front is Look’s new integrated cockpit, also not available to the public as yet, but looks clean, narrow and aero. But, as with the seatpost clamp, you might expect to see a cover over the bolt, not just for aerodynamics but for aesthetics too.