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Tour tech: who's wearing what in the Tour de France, July 14, 2006

Tour de France tech accessories report

The eyewear report - BBB, Specialized, Smith and Oakley have famous faces

By Anthony Tan in Lorient

Just say you're a Tour de France rider, blasting down the forested descent of the Col du Tourmalet at 100 clicks an hour. You're only 30 seconds behind the lead group, but you're going to have to bomb the descent to regain contact. Bright light comes in and out your vision, disturbing your line of sight; you can't decide whether to leave your shades on or off.

Tom Boonen in yellow BBBs
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The rainbow stripe special edition
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Well, lenses that automatically adjust to prevailing light conditions are almost the norm, with many of the main eyewear manufacturers offering what are generically called photochromatic lenses in their products. So that's the technology, but as there is more than just a bit of marketing in the eyewear war, it also helps to have popular and recognisable riders wearing said products, especially when they win.

BBB - for big bad Boonen?

It could be argued that there is no rider with more rock-star allure than Belgium's Tom Boonen. Admittedly, he could wear $10 cheapies from the local supermarket and still look cool, but with a head that's photographed as many times as his, why do that?

The Dutch company, BBB Parts, sponsors the whole Quick.Step Team and has designed its new BSG-23 especially for big Tom. They have a flexible and lightweight Grilamid frame; adjustable metal nose piece and interchangeable polycarbonate lenses with 100% UV protection.

The Boonen specials are white with the world champion rainbow stripes on the bands. Of course, after stage three of the Tour you may have noticed that Boonen wore a new yellow version of the glasses, while he leading the race. They come with smoke blue revo lenses and also three extra lenses; orange, yellow and clear with a flash mirror coating, and a carrying case.

Do these match?
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The Specialized Arc
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Levi's not weighed down by his sunnies, at least

Californian company Specialized continues to make inroads into the ProTour peloton with its accessories, such as its shoes, helmets and of course, optics. Of course, it's most well-known for its bikes, such as those ridden by Team Gerolsteiner, and its main GC rider, Levi Leipheimer, who also wears the Specialized Arc model (as does Fabian Wegmann).

The Arc model weighs only 17 grams and features the Specialized 'Adaptalite' lens that also adjusts to existing light conditions. This lens material - which is also said to be more shatterproof and lightweight than Polycarbonate NXT - is held in place by a non-folding titanium frame, which helps keep the weight down. Providing comfort for wearers is molded Megol nosepiece and ear tabs (these also come with a hard-shell case).

The other model being used by other Gerolsteiner riders, as well as ProTour teams Cofidis, Davitamon-Lotto and Milram, is the Helix. This is a more traditional piece - given that it has a folding frame - but also provides the Adaptalite lens in a more traditional shape. But like the Arc, it also features the Megol nosepiece. It should be pointed out that although Specialized sponsors the Davitamon-Lotto team, Cadel Evans, Chris Horner and Robbe McEwen each have individual pre-existing agreements with other sponsors, but they still use the Specialized helmets.

Smith's V-Ti
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With three optically-correct lenses
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A certain shade of CSC

Not to be outdone on the shades front is Smith's V-Ti. Representative Greg 'Chopper' Randolph told Cyclingnews the glasses were designed specifically to meet the needs of the riders on Team CSC and Discovery Channel, as well as other wind-affected endurance sports.

"With a 7-base lens curve utilizing Smith's patented TLT Optics, the V-Ti is designed for perfect and unobstructed vision in the drops, TT bars or looking out for the coming attack in the peripheral," began Randolph.

"They incorporate super lightweight, maximum peripheral view and visibility, with an easily interchangeable lens design. Utilising a unique beta-titanium material in the temples provides a light-fitting, lightweight, and bomb-proof product which fits any head with its custom spring-fit design."

With three optically-correct lenses, the friendly Chopper with the not-so-friendly nickname went on to say "The V-Ti is also available in polarized and photochromic (light-sensitive, self-adjusting) polarized lens configurations. Hydrophyllic Megol is utilized on temple tips and nose pad to ensure a soft, secure fit, which does not fail when soaked with water or sweat."

Pricing is yet to be determined, but they will be available to the public later this fall. (Like other teams, some riders on Discovery and CSC have pre-existing sponsorship arrangements with other suppliers.)

Oakley keeps 'em covered

As used by George Hincapie
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George Hincapie, Cadel Evans, Chris Horner and Carlos Sastre may all come from different countries, but they are all wearing Oakley's new Activated by Transitions sunglass lenses, which lighten or darken depending on the sun's behaviour. As UV light exposure increases, the base lens darkens automatically to maintain a adjusted level of light transmission - from overcast/flat light to bright sun, and vice versa.

Just released on June 1 this year, Oakley's Transitions lenses are so far available on seven frame models. Hincapie's favoured Racing Jackets now have the Transitions lenses but also have the same visual contrast and clarity of the company's renowned High Definition Optics (HDO), allowing him to zero in when cornering at speed, or any other split-second manoeuvres.

As used by Cadel Evans, Chris Horner and Carlos Sastre
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Likewise for Evans, Horner and Sastre, who opt for Oakley's Half Jackets Activated by Transitions. Said Oakley marketing representative Steve Blick to Cyclingnews, "They help you adapt to changing light conditions while filtering out 100 percent of ultraviolet (UV) light. Whether your environment lightens or darkens, the lenses adjust automatically.

"Additionally, the balanced light transmission helps to boost visual contrast, enhancing depth perception, a key performance benefit that improves visual quality and comfort. If you're a professional cyclist, this combination of technologies gives you performance, impact resistance, comfort and clarity.

"Even a weekend warrior or non-athlete will enjoy the benefits of our Transitions lenses - this really is a combination of the world's best optical sciences," said Blick proudly.