Thursday, October 6, 2011

"I want that one" says the pro

In the last week or so, Mark Cavendish's move to Team Sky has gone from certain to doubtful. The reason is quite simple; the new World Champion wants to continue winning on Specialized bikes, while Team Sky riders roll on Pinarellos.

Cav on his Specialized

I'm not certain of the details of the deal, but I believe Cavendish was under the impression that Specialized would be coming with him to Sky. Only problem there is that Sky have a contract with Pinarello through 2012.

Anyway, I don't much care where the Manxman ends up. What I find interesting is that had he run into this problem at an earlier stage in history, it wouldn't have caused much of an issue. You see, Cavendish is far from the first cyclist to have a preference for a bike. And most of these picky pedallers have been able to continue on their merry way on the bike of their choosing, irrespective of their team's official sponsor.

Back in the day (or even ten years ago...or even four in some cases), the bike of one brand didn't look all too different from that of another. That being the case, many cyclists simply got their favourite bike painted in the colours of their team's bike sponsor. Few knew the difference and as such, everyone was happy (more or less).

One of the most prolific suppliers of what I'll call chameleons is the legendary Dario Pegoretti. The Italian builder makes bikes that are works of art and has a two-year waiting list on his frames. And it would seem that it's not just because these bikes are pretty, as plenty of pros have chosen his bikes without the amazing paint jobs.

When Pegorettis aren't disguised they are very obviously Pegorettis

Riders who have insisted on Pegoretti include five-time Tour winner Miguel Indurain, Mario Cippolini, Marco Pantani, Francesco Moser, Stephen Roche, Andrea Tafi and Tony Romminger. Most recently, Belgian Tom Boonen won the green jersey at the 2007 Tour on a Pegoretti decorated as a Specialized.

Another example involves a certain seven-time Tour winner who rode a Litespeed Blade time trial bike at the 1999 Tour that was labelled as a Trek.

Lance on the Litespeed that took him to three of his four stage wins.
And a Campagnolo bidon, not even disguised, although it was in subsequent TTs according to Campy Only

Tyler Hamilton also rode a Parlee to 2nd overall in the 2002 Giro d'Italia while riding for CSC when it was sponsored by Look.

And, surprise, surprise, the American 7-Eleven team didn't actually ride on Huffy! The team in fact rode on Serottas badged as Huffys (Huffies?). That is, except Andy Hampsten, who rode on a custom frame produced by American builder, John Slawta. So Hampsten was riding a Slawta that everyone thought was a Serotta that was badged as a Huffy! Hampsten insisted on a Slawta frame because, as Cyclingnews reported, "a team-issued frame broke beneath him earlier that spring at Fleche-Wallone. That failure was eventually sourced back to an errant shipment by the builder's tubing supplier." Andy goes on to explain; "I felt bad about not using a Serotta...It wasn't Serotta's fault. But I was in a period of my life when I didn't like crashing due to mystery bike failures." Yeah, I'm going through that period in my life too, Andy. Maybe we can talk about it?

Andy Hampsten's Huffy Serotta Slawta (from Cyclingnews)

Unfortunately for riders like Cavendish, frames are becoming far more distinctive from brand to brand. This of course is a result of the fact that you can make carbon into any shape you like while back in the day a tube of steel, or even aluminium, didn't vary all that much.

So, no matter how you paint it, this Specialized Venge...

Will never look like this Pinarello Dogma...

And of course, it's not just the frame that riders get picky about. Almost every part under the sun has been rebadged as something it's not. And just like with regards to frames, this process is becoming harder and harder to pull off.

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