Through the Cristallo ball
By Anthony Tan
Colnago's Star Carbon fork
Shimano's Dura-Ace aluminium
Arguably the most famous
Shimano's Dura-Ace aluminium
No B-Stays here.
A "bowed" monostay
The SSM Rever saddle
Geert Rombauts began as a pro team mechanic 15 years ago, and virtually
everything on this bicycle before him, Daniel Becke's Team Milram Colnago
Cristallo, is the product of dramatic technological improvement since
then. "I started when shifters were on the downtube, then Campagnolo
and Shimano came out with [integrated] brake levers - that's probably
the biggest [innovation]. They're also been a lot of development in
wheels and Shimano's new [two-piece crankarm and] bottom bracket is
good," Rombauts says.
I then ask him if innovations like Shimano's STI brake/gear levers
and integrated bottom bracket and crankarm, adopted from the XTR mountain
bike group, have made his job easier. The friendly Belgian puts his
finger on his chin, pausing for a brief moment before replying: "Well,
sometimes yes and sometimes no. Before, when shifters were on the downtube,
it worked all the time; now, if the gears are not perfectly [aligned],
it's a problem."
Something this man doesn't have any problems with, however, is his
job, particularly as part of this new super-team that spearheaded by
Erik Zabel and Alessandro Petacchi. 2006 will mark Rombauts's sixth
year with Gianluigi Stanga, a highly-experienced team manager who last
year managed the Domina Vacanze ProTour team.
"It gives me more motivation; everywhere you go, you know you can take
the victory or win a stage. Maybe the only place [we lack] is in the
mountains, but we have some young riders this year that could grow up
and do some things in the mountains. But it's exciting: you go to the
race and it gives you a lot of morale."
Like Team Milram, Domina Vacanze riders also rode Colnago bicycles
equipped with Shimano groups in 2005, so for the mechanics at least,
there is a degree of familiarity with their equipment.
The major difference lies in the team's frame of choice: new for 2006,
the Colnago Cristallo is an all-carbon monocoque that is ostensibly
a redesign of last
year's E-1 frameset but lighter, breaking the 1,100 gram weight
barrier and putting it on equal terms with Colnago's flagship C-50.
When weighed, however, Becke's bike isn't gob-smackingly light at 8.1
kilograms, although the German's height - 185 cm tall or six foot two
inches - might have something to do with it.
Rombauts points out that while most of the team will be riding aboard
this frame, there are a few riders whose measurements don't quite fit
the Cristallo: Petacchi, Zabel, Simone Cadamuro, Elio Rigotto and Fabio
Sacchi require custom-made C-50s, and not surprisingly, messrs Petacchi
and Zabel receive a little bit of special attention with airbrushed
Jet and bald eagle motifs around the headtube.
Named after the Mt. Cristallo region located in the mountainous area
of Veneto, Italy, the Colnago Cristallo features a monocoque carbon
fiber front triangle that shares many similarities with the E-1. The
biggest changes, however, are in the rear triangle: a fin-like seat
tube profile is said to provide the frame with added flex-resistance;
the popular B-Stay seatstays are now a 'bowed' monostay, its curvature
claimed to increase braking power; and fattened chainstays, notably
at the junction of the bottom bracket shell, has been designed to maximise
According to Rombauts, he says it's a case of so far, so good for riders
like 27 year-old Becke, who turned pro in 2001 for Team Coast. "They
were surprised how stiff they were," he says. When my eyes divert to
the hoops, he mentions that Team Milram will use only Shimano wheels
this year, and for most of the time, the riders will use the aluminium
version of the Dura-Ace wheel. "In Europe, though, we will have around
20 pairs of carbon wheels for the big races, like the Tour and Giro.
"Our tyre sponsor, Panracer, doesn't sell a lot of tubulars because
there's not a lot of interest in the shops, so for riders like Zabel
and Petacchi, they will make a special edition tyre for them," adds
Rombauts when I mention Erik's penchant for glue-ons. "We haven't received
them yet, but they'll probably be a similar material to the clinchers;
they are a very good tyre, and all the riders who use clinchers are
happy with it. But it's hard to change [the habits] of a rider like
Zabel," he admits.
With the C-50's unconventional B-stays axed on the Cristallo and Zabel's
insistence on old-school tyres, I'm interested to find out Rombauts's
thoughts on whether he believes the road racing bicycle has reached
its limit in terms of innovation.
"I would say they [the bike manufacturers] are not at their limit.
A lot of groups can be better and lighter, and tyres can still be made
to go faster with less resistance. I know SRAM
is bringing out a new groupset that is lighter and works very easily,
and it is not a complicated system. There are still a lot of companies
working on getting things lighter and stronger, and I think they can
keep going [this way] for a few more years.
"Also, it's important not to forget about shoes or shirts [jerseys],
which can also help [performance] a lot," he says. "With bikes, we've
gone from steel to aluminium to carbon... what's going to be next? I've
already seen some companies working with magnesium, which is stiffer
and lighter again."
For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here
Frame: 2006 Team Milram Colnago Cristallo
Fork: Colnago Star full carbon
Colour: Team Milram
Rider's height: 187 cm/ 6'2"; Weight: 75 kg/ 165 lbs
C of BB to C of seat tube: 510mm
C of BB to T of seat tube: 560mm
C of BB to T of seat: 805mm
Top tube length (C-C): 540mm
Tip of saddle nose to C of bars: 618mm
C of front wheel to top of bars: 585mm
Cranks: Shimano Dura-Ace, 175mm, 53/39
Chain: Shimano Dura-Ace 10 speed
Front derailleur: Shimano Dura-Ace 10 speed
Rear derailleur: Shimano Dura-Ace 10 speed
Brakes: Shimano Dura-Ace
Levers: Shimano Dura-Ace 10 speed
Rear sprockets: Shimano Dura-Ace 10 speed, 11-23
Rim: Shimano Dura-Ace aluminium
Tyres: Panracer Stradius Extreme, 23mm (F), Panracer Stradius
Extreme ZSG Ultima, 23mm (R)
Bar: Cinelli Neo 31.8mm, 44cm (O-O)
Stem: Cinelli for Colnago 31.8mm, 15cm
Pedals: Shimano Dura-Ace
Seat post: Shimano XTR
Saddle: Selle San Marco Rever
Bottle cages: Elite
Cycle computer: Shimano Flight Deck
Total bike weight: 8.1 kg/ 17.82 lbs