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Las Vegas, USA, October 5 - 8, 2002
By Gerard Knapp in Las Vegas
Fondriest's Top Carbon takes centre-stage
Carbon fibre, as we all know by now, is one of the lightest materials that can be used to build a bicycle frame. It's a bit like titanium, and while this story will not attempt to discuss the pros and cons of either material, they do have one thing in common (apart from being expensive): they don't need painting.
In fact, most manufacturers of these high-end beauties like to leave them naked except for decals.
It would seem the more expensive the material, the easier it is to leave it naked. Titanium's dull grey may be boring, but in an understated way it also says "expensive", "light" and "doesn't rust or corrode".
"Classic" racing carbon fibre bikes have often been left naked, but for a thick layer of clear lacquer. This makes the frame appear more purposeful, rather than candyish. After all, CF bikes are almost always serious racing machines and the visible weave of the fibre is undeniably part of the appeal. After spending all that money, owners wouldn't want admirers to think it's aluminium.
This nakedness is evident on the Fondriest range for 2003, where its top-of-the-line model, the Top Carbon, is an unpainted carbon beauty. Ironically, the aluminium models further down the line feature the extraordinarily-detailed paint jobs which are applied using a dye-sublimation process.
Taking the centre position on the Interbike booth from Fondriest's US distributor, The P4 Group, the Top Carbon on display was fitted with a carbon Campagnolo Record group set, Campag's carbon fibre wheels and other lighweight components. from what the company describes as Formula One-grade carbon fibre.
The Italian manufacturer - owned by the brothers Fondriest, former world champion Maurizio and his brother Francesco - has continued to develop its technology and manufacturing facilities. It claims to produce the most advanced carbon fibre framesets available, with the Top Carbon featuring a monocoque bottom bracket, a monocoque seat stay unit and titanium drop-outs.
Scott Merrin from The P4 Group explained that the Top Carbon bikes have the fibre weave laid in six different directions to improve strength in key areas. This same carbon fibre is also used in the P4 carbon and Titan Level, which features a titanium frame and carbon monocoque rear-end.
The majority of the Fondriest range are the TIG-welded aluminium bikes that were the workhorses of the Lampre-Daikin team. These aluminium bikes include the Carb Level Plus and Carb Level, which also feature carbon rear-ends. All the aluminium bikes use Dedacciai U2 tubing which is put through a heat treatment process after TIG wleding that is said to address the brittleness caused by the wleding process. According to the maker, the three-stage process adds another 72 hours to the production cycle but results in a homogenous structure with greater rigidity and durability than U2-based frames that do not receive the treatment.
The Carb Level model - an aluminium bike with carbon rear-end - features a hollow-section CNC-machined unit welded to the bottom bracket which is said "to optimise energy transfer" and "lowers the amplitude of vibrations in the chain stays for a plush ride".
Fondriest also make steel/carbon framesets made from Dedacciai EOM 16.5 steel tubing, but with PSA monocoque carbon fibre rear ends.
One of Fondriest's lightest models is the all-aluminium Don Racer, also known as the U 107. This is made entirely of U2 tubing, weighs 1.05kg and comes in bright orange. This model was also used by the Lampre-dakin team, but in a recent announcement, Fondriest has announced it is temrinating its sponsorship of this team.
"Team Lampre-Daikin's interest in primarily Italian and Eastern European riders is not in synergy with our market development initiatives, particularly in the US and the Western European countries. We were not able to come to terms on this issue with the management of Team Lampre-Daikin and as such have declined to renew our sponsorship of the team," said Francesco Fondriest.
Maurizio Fondriest added "We would like to thank all of the staff and riders at Team Lampre-Daikin for their excellent support and victories over the past few seasons. Fondriest has had great success in winning stages in all three Grand Tours, multiple Classic victories and the general classification of the 2001 Giro d'Italia."
Fondriest has been in negotiations with several UCI Division One teams during the past weeks and will announce future sponsorship initiatives as they develop.
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