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Race Tech: Tour de France, July 7, 2007
Teams prepare for launch in London
By James Huang in London, England
Brilliant sunshine awaited the Tour de France teams as they made their final preparations on the morning of the opening prologue. As one of only two Professional Continental teams on this year's start list, Team Barloworld is especially excited to be included here, particularly since events are kicking off right here in its home base of London. Team riders, including first-year UK pro Geraint Thomas, will leave the start house this afternoon on brand-new Cannondale Slice time trial machines which were tested in competition for the first time by the Liquigas squad at this year's Giro d'Italia.
The new full-carbon frames are a stark contrast to last year's Six13 Slice which used carbon fiber for only the top tube and down tube. The new Slice boasts nary a single round tube with substantially more aerodynamic cross-sections throughout and more organic styling.
The 'Speed Shadow' cutout on the back of the seat tube now extends all the way from the bottom bracket shell to the seat stays, and cables are routed internally for a cleaner exterior. Naturally, Cannondale continues to utilize its oversized 'BB30' bottom bracket shell format (Specialized's FACT integrated crankset shell reportedly shares identical dimensions) to house its Si integrated crankset. Complete team bikes were right around 8.1kg. Other UK hopefuls include Bradley Wiggins of Cofidis and David Millar of Saunier Duval-Prodir.
Wiggins has proven himself in short tests against the clock again and again this year. He began the year by becoming the World Champion in pursuit, then went on to won the prologues at this year's Tour of Dunkirk and Dauphiné Libéré; Millar is a perennial TdF prologue threat and won in 2000. After taking last season to ease back into things after a two-year doping suspension, Millar in particular has marked this year's prologue as a prime objective in his career. As is now TdF tradition, Millar will launch out of the start house on a specially finished (and equipped) version of his Scott CR1 Plasma TT.
In addition to the gleaming white paint job, Millar will be riding a lighter-weight version of Mavic's Io five-spoke carbon wheel (his Comete rear disc is reputed to be lighter as well). Mavic officials were not able to comment on the exact changes incorporated into Millar's hoops, but the most notable visual difference up front was a broader pattern on the woven carbon fiber top sheet.
Millar is clearly leaving little chance for the repeat of the 2003 prologue where a dropped chain surely cost him a win (missing by just 0.08 seconds), as well as a yellow jersey. This year's prologue machine is equipped with two chainrings, a proper front derailleur, and a custom-built inner guard.
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Images by James Huang/Cyclingnews.com