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Tour de PEZ: The Sprinters And Their Steeds
Roadside St.13: On the day when L'Equipe magazine declared Mark Cavendish the best Tour de France sprinter, ever, PEZ decided to have a look at the fast men who are still in the race - and their bikes, too. There are eight men left in the race that it's fair to classify as pure sprinters – we haven’t included Peter Sagan; he’s much too versatile to classify as a pure sprinter.

Of the eight, seven have won Grand Tour stages, the exception being Vaconsoleil's Kenny Van Hummel (Holland).

Van Hummel is the man who in 2009 battled with the time cut on every stage where the parcours deviated from the sea level contour, and had us all asking at the end of the stage; 'how did Kenny do?'

These days he's lighter, copes with gravity better and has swapped Skil livery for Vacansoleil. Despite his lack of a win, he's creeping closer to the top of the podium. Vacansoleil ride the Bianchi Super Leggera (super light) for season 2012. As with the whole of the pro peloton at this level - and all the bikes we mention - the frame is carbon.

What we don’t know about the sprinters’ bikes is what’s going on under the paint; it’s fair to speculate that riders like Greipel will have a few more fibres around the bracket and seat cluster than the frame of a lightweight climber, in order to cope with the 1800 watts a rider like the big German generates.

The predominant colour on Van Hummel’s bike is 'celeste' - the same pale blue colour which graced Fausto Coppi's Bianchi, 60 years ago and which is commemorated by a head tube decal.

Chainset and brakes are by FSA with a 'solid' time trial big ring to provide more rigidity when the watts soar into four figures.

Gearing is Shimano electronic with the battery down tube mounted below the bottle cage.

Above Kenny, there are three riders 'stuck' on one Vuelta stage win each; let's talk about Saxo - Tinkoff's ex-Pan Am junior sprint and kilometre champion, Argentina's JJ Haedo.

JJ rides Specialized's S-Works with the new SRAM red groupset and don't forget that nice big loop of cable to the rear mech to ensure smooth operation. Like many in these watt-obsessed days, JJ runs Specialized own SRM compatible carbon cranks - but how do the Saxo mechanics get the tape so clean?

And ever the perfectionist, Mr. Riis's team have the SRAM brake lever hoods match the jerseys - cool.

Belorussian champion Yauheni Hutarovich too, has scored once in the Iberian Grand Tour. His FDJ-Big Mat champion's kit could easily be used in a washing powder commercial and looks even cooler astride his Lapierre Xelius.

One way to spot a sprinter's bike without looking at the number is to check out the stem - more often than not it will be an 'industrial' job to take the strain when it's owner is out of the saddle and wrenching hard on the 'bars.

Hutarovich is no exception; his PRO stem wouldn't look out of place in a scaffold. The Shimano battery pack lives under the down tube, just up from the massive bottom bracket.

The Third Vuelta victor is Borut Bozic, national champion of Slovenia, with his Astana jersey reflecting his status. His Specialized avoids the garish extremes of some national champs spray jobs, with just hi-lites along the top tube to give away his status.

Like Saxo, the men from Kazakhstan's capital city run the SRAM Red group set - no batteries required. The chainset is Specialized’s own S-works carbon with SRM compatibility.

At number four we have the man who was busy telling the radio journos about his misadventures of yesterday when he came off his line in the sprint for sixth place, impeded Sagan and was docked 30 points (ouch!)

Matthew Harley Goss - 'Gossy' to his chums - GreenEDGE & Australia, hasn't yet scored on the biggest sprinting stage of all - albeit he has two Giro stages notched on his Scott Foil.

On the subject of which, he has the classic 'seat up high, extension slammed down on the head race' position as pioneered by Cipo.

Australia's first Pro Tour squad runs Shimano electronic; Goss’s differs from the rest of the squadra in that the custom battery for the Di 2 is carried inside the down tube, avoiding any upset to the bike’s clean lines.

The first of the three sprinters in the race who have won stages in all three Grand Tours is Garmin’s man from Washington State, USA – Tyler Farrar.

Farrar has spent a little too much time on the tarmac in this Tour to be at his best form but on his day, he’s one of the best, with a stage each in the Tour and Vuelta plus two in the Giro.

Tyler’s DS, ex-Liquigas and Lotto ‘super domestique’ Charly Wegelius did the honours with Tyler’s Cervelo P5; giving us a better view of the Rotor rings, Di 2 mounting and also the neat Rotor chain guide which mounts with the front changer to prevent chain derailment.

Tyler’s bike totes the obligatory ‘mega-stem’ – in this case by TTT.

In second spot is the man they call ‘le Gorille’ in France; he’s now won four (as of this afternoon!) stages in le Tour, four in the Vuelta and two in the Giro – no bad stats.

His Ridley is well worth a second glance, with ‘bi-plane’ front forks and seat stays for improved aerodynamics, not to mention ‘integral’ brakes tucked in to avoid them creating that nasty turbulence stuff.

We couldn’t pluck up the courage to ask Andre for a pedal of his machine around the block to test the brakes, but they’re similar in operation to a mountain bike ‘V-brake’ so we can assume they’ll do the job of slowing 80 kg of Rostock beef descending a col, just fine.

And of course we mustn’t forget the custom, primate air brush job.

It’s hard to argue with L’Equipe’s assessment of ‘Cav’ as ‘Roi du Sprint.’

He’s on 21 Tour de France stage wins; just one off Andre Darrigade’s total of 22 as the Tour’s best sprinter to date – but bear in mind that only 11 of the Frenchman’s came in mass sprints. And what makes Cav’s record all the more remarkable is that those 21 wins came off only 27 finish line sprints which he contested: a 78% strike rate.

Incidentally, Lance is also on 22 wins – the all time record stands to the incomparable Eddy Merckx with 34 stage wins. But not only that, Cav has won 10 Giro stages and 3 Vuelta stages. He pumps out 1600 watts; lower than ‘Le Gorille’s’ 1800 but because of his superior aerodynamics, he’s quicker in the last 200 metres.

Between his Sky contracts; sponsorship deals with Nike, Oakley and Head & Shoulders shampoo and prize money, he’s estimated to earn around three million Euros per year.

Pinarello supply the frameset and Shimano the electronic groupset – he provides the watts.

And the most impressive stat of all: he’s 27 years-old.

- a demain


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