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Tour de Pez: A Bike Called Johnny
Roadside Pez: The guys in black tee-shirts look up, when I shout; “Craig!” This is the Astana camp and strangers making loud noises need to be investigated; “oui?” says one of the guys, suspiciously. Craig looks up from washing Haimar Zubeldia’s blue Trek; “it’s OK, they’re friends of mine,” he tells his compadres as he beckons us to duck under the red and white “crime scene” tapes.

The tension eases and we’re in another world; one inhabited by the world’s most famous cyclist.

On one of the other work stands, Alberto Contador’s white Trek has just been de-greased, soaped, rinsed and lovingly re-lubricated – and that was before the white, black and gold Trek that’s lying there among all the other bikes.

But that’s a special bike, it has “Livestrong” written on the seat tube; a “Mellow Johnny” sticker on the down tube and Martin has driven us a 100 kilometre detour just to see it.

We chose tonight because Astana are deep ‘in the sticks.’ Chвteau De Germiney, Port Lesney; but even here, close to nowhere, there’s a crowd of Lance spotters. It would have been difficult, if not impossible to get relaxed time like this if Astana were in a town or city – our friendship with Craig would count for little with security there.

We’ve known Craig since his CSC days; “where’s Alan Butler?” we ask, referring to Craig’s fellow mechanic (and friend of Pez) from Nottingham, England; “he’s at home, painting the fence just now, then he’s going to the Tour of Poland,” says Craig – we all wonder what he did wrong to get that gig!

We enquire how many bikes Lance has on this Tour, Craig explains; “six, but he gets new bikes for every race!”

It’s time to talk Treks; in common with a few of his team mates, Lance rides a Concor saddle, rather than the team issue Bontrager.

The Italian seat is heavier than it’s US counter part, but with even a 58 cm team bike dipping below the UCI weight limit, a few grammes ain’t an issue. Craig explains that the UCI are liable to spot check bike weights after mountain stages; “if the bike is under weight, you’re out of the race, no discussion!”

The integrated seat post is very neat, the top part with the saddle clamp at its head and fixing clamp at the bottom slides over the seat tube which ‘flys through’ from the frame. “It’s a very positive attachment and gives a bit more flexibility on seat height adjustment,” explains Craig.

Bars and stem are Bontrager’s carbon xXx offerings, shallow and square.

Lance still has a spacer between the top head race and the extension; the current pro ‘mode’ is to have your stem hard down on the that top race. On a tall rider, like Pozzato’s bike, this looks extreme; but gives a very, low, stretched, aero position.

Tape is by Bontrager too, black and nice and sticky to make sure there are no scary moments with hands slipping of the bars over bumps. Shifters are SRAM’s Red – what else? – Lance is a share holder. Hoods are in white and look good.

Dirk Demol appears at this stage, shakes hands confirms it’s OK for us stay, then expresses his surprise at Garmin’s decision to chase the Hincapie group today, thus denying Big George yellow. The only reason that he can think of is that Garmin are jealous of Columbia’s success and didn’t want them to have another chunk of glory.

Dirk ambles off and we start to look at the frame in more detail; there’s metal flake in the white painted sections, which works well with the black and gold contrasts.

The down tube is massive and the seat tube is ‘flattened’ side to side – making it look narrow when viewed side on, but broad when looked at from the front. The bottom bracket is massive too, with pressed-in bearings; it’s also off set to the drive train side to give chain ring clearance. A consequence of this is that the seat tube Bontrager cage bosses are off centre to bring the cage into line.

Treks used to be a bit “gappy” as far as clearances, but this 2010 Madone is much tighter all round – especially in the rear tyre to seat tube stakes; the proportions are good.

Fork ends at the front are deep and bear evidence of the ‘safety tabs’ being filed off – confirming Trek man, Ben Coates’ answer to our question; “any trick stuff to tell us about, Ben?” The answer being; “the biggest trick about Lance’s frame is that the one you buy in your local store – apart from the paint – is identical to it!”

Cable routing and computer enabling is about the neatest we’ve ever seen; some of Trek’s opposition have cable routing best described as tortuous.

On the Madone, the rear brake cable disappears into the head tube before popping out of the seat tube at exactly the right spot to give a perfect loop to the rear SRAM caliper.

The gear cable routing is ultra neat, the cables enter the top of the down tube near to the head…

The front changer cable, bare wired pops up from behind the bracket, whilst the rear changer cable emerges from the rear of the stay end to describe a perfect radius to the mech – cool.

Cables are bare inside the frame, but Goretex sleeved.

The off side chain stay has a neat little ‘bump’ which contains the wireless sensors for the computer – nice!

Martin asks how much longer Craig and the guys will have to work, tonight; “maybe another hour; it’s a nice hotel here. The hotels started well this Tour; the guy at the one in Monaco insisted on parking the car for me, I’m just a bike mechanic from New Zealand – I’m not used to that stuff! Then we stayed in an old monastery, converted to a hotel – that was awesome. It’s been downhill since then, though. We stayed in a renovated two star hotel where there was no hot water; I think someone shot the stars off the roof!”

Martin had imagined that Johan Bruyneel and the Astana organisation would pre-book the hotels; “no, no it’s the ASO, they choose all the hotels.”

Back to bikes!

SRAM supply transmission for the Treks, Red cranks and gears. We ask about the crank end caps, they don’t look ‘stock.’ Craig explains that these are weights to get the bikes up to the UCI minimum; “at CSC, we used to fit pieces of lead under the bottle cages, but now the UCI insists that the weight must be a functional part of the bike.”

The SRAM chain rings are secured to the cranks by blue anodised bolts, except on Lance’s – where the bolts are gold anodised.

The SRAM cassettes are super light, machined from a solid block of alloy, Craig explains; “we only have two types 11-23 or 11-26, it makes life a lot simpler for us. Compacts? We don’t use them that often, the Angliru and a few of the big passes in Italy.”

The cassettes drive Bontrager Aeolus carbon wheels, both deep section for the flats and rollers, and shallow for mountains, shod with Bontrager rubber.

Big Kazakh, Dimitriy Muravyev wanders down to talk to the mechanics about some minor adjustments, he’s big, raw boned, powerful.

Whilst Craig sorts out Dimitriy, he asks Chris Van Roosbroeck if he can pop the wheels in Lance’s bike for Pez to get some shots.

Martin mentions to Chris that the weight in the crank of Lance’s bike is sitting a little proud; “yeah, Lance spotted it, but I think it’s good enough for an old guy!” he jokes.

Just as we finish taking our pictures, Johan Bruyneel appears; down to ask how things are with the hardware.

We figure it’s a good time to go and leave the team to talk business in peace.

As we say our ‘thank yous’ and ‘farewells,’ Javi, Craig’s Spanish Colleague starts to wash the cars – you didn’t think it was just the bikes they have to keep clean?

With thanks to Dirk Demol, Craig Geater, and the Astana team.


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