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Milan, Italy, November 8 - 11, 2007
Part 1 - Team news, new cranksets and wheels from Italy
By Gregor Brown in Milan
The 2007 EICMA bicycle trade show in Milano, Italy now spends its third consecutive year in the stunning glass-and-steel Milano-Rho Fiera venue, designed by Roman architect Massimiliano Fuksas to emulate the rolling and mountainous landscape that surrounds the fashion capita of the world. Although the show has been dwarfed by Eurobike in recent years, the four-day event still stands as a premier Italian showcase and has taken some additional steps this year to literally put itself back on the fast track. Organizers have rented a 200-metre temporary velodrome and brought in top Italian riders like Paolo Bettini, Filippo Pozzato, and Alessandro Ballan for exhibition races to attract visitors. In addition, the bike show itself is now combined with the much larger motorcycle show after a few years of separation to make for a much more festival-like atmosphere.
Bianchi and Barloworld join forces
Barloworld Team Manager Claudio Corti has joined forces with cycling great and Bianchi representative Felice Gimondi to supply the Italian Professional Continental Team with bikes for the 2008 season with options for additional years. The classic celeste-coloured Italian frames – to be ridden by Mauricio Soler and Robert Hunter, both stage winners in this year's Tour de France – will replace that of American manufacturer Cannondale.
"Supplying racing frames provides a critical source of input, via feedback, for development," said Bianchi CEO Bob Ippolito to Cyclingnews Thursday morning at the EICMA bicycle trade show in Milan.
The firm has a long history in sponsoring teams in the sport, and has seen some great names go on to win cycling's biggest events – riders like Gimondi himself, Magnus Backstedt, Danilo Di Luca, Andrea Tafi, Marco Pantani, Gianni Bugno, and Moreno Argentin. Its most recent period in big league sponsorship ended with the 2006 season at team Liquigas. During its time with the lime-green team, it supplied the bikes that Di Luca rode to his wins in the Amstel Gold and Flèche Wallonne.
"We decided to stop for a year but with the idea of always returning to the sport," Ippolito continued.
The firm is based in Treviglio, near Bergamo, and believes it has found the right match for its international interests. "Twenty riders with ten different nationalities, it is a global team like Bianchi. This is particularly important for us, and it promotes our interests in the USA, China and other emerging areas of cycling."
The component group has not yet been decided for 2008, and meetings were ongoing as Cyclingnews was in Milan. Barloworld used Campagnolo in 2007, though, and it would seem likely that the Italian firm would stay on board to finish off the Bianchi machines.
The main bikes of the team will be the 928 T-Cube and the 928 Carbon SL. "This bike is for sprinters and Classics riders, and you will see it a lot in the spring," noted Product Department Manager Lars Svalin of the T-Cube. The 928 Carbon SL is expected to be the main rig to be used in the Grand Tours.
"Hunter likes a shorter top tube but a very rigid frame," said Product Manager Angelo Lecchi. Lecchi also added that the T-Cube is also available in two rigidity levels, and Hunter will almost certainly go with the stiffer option. Moreover, the frame can be custom-sized and Lecchi and Svalin are already studying the riders' measurements.
Frames have already been shipped to the team officials for inspection but the riders will not be able to officially ride the frames until January 1. The colour scheme – viewed by Cyclingnews in unpublished documents – will be mostly celeste with some red representing Barloworld.
Fulcrum cranks on for 2008
Italian company Fulcrum rolls forward for 2008 with the inclusion of two ‘Racing Torq’ carbon cranksets to accompany its already popular wheels. Both are similarly styled and borrow the splined Ultra-Torque system from sister company Campagnolo, but the lighter RS saves weight by virtue of hollow arms while the R makes do with solid ones. Both versions are available in standard (53/39T) or compact gear sizing (50/34T or 50/36T), with arm lengths of 170, 172.5 or 175mm.
In general, the new cranksets are similar in overall design to their Campagnolo versions but use a more aggressive styling. The moulds themselves are also slightly different and the bold red ‘F’ certainly leaves no mistake as to the make. More significantly, though, Fulcrum’s cranks use fully standard bolt circle patterns for its chainrings, in stark contrast to the proprietary patterns on the Campagnolo versions.
Fulcrum has also modified its upper-end wheelsets for 2008. The Racing Zero now comes with red spokes to spark up the black look of 2007 and complement many of the bikes that are being built. In addition to the colour changes, the skewer has been slightly redesigned. The wheelset still uses Fulcrum’s trademark 2:1 lacing on its rear – seven on the non-driveside and 14 on the driveside – to help balance out the spoke tension while the front wheel uses a standard radial pattern.
The oversized and bladed Ergal aluminum spokes on some of the wheelsets also utilize a variable section depth along their length, which Fulcrum says adds to the wheel's strength and also makes them more aerodynamic. Fulcrum threads these to pseudo-traditional Ergal nipples that are fed into the rim using the company’s innovative MoMag procedure. The process is undoubtedly tedious for the builder, but leaves for a solid outer rim bed that is both stronger and stiffer than conventional rims.
The carbon range of wheels has been updated with a new tubular model of the shallow-section Racing Light, which was previously only available in a clincher model. While that version was already light, the tubular version shaves another 25g off of the front and 65g from the rear for a claimed weight of just 1280g for the pair. The high-profile carbon version – the Racing Speed – remains a tubular-only model.
Fulcrum continues its research and development with feedback from four ProTour teams for 2008: Liquigas, Quick.Step, Lampre-Fondital, and Cofidis. The teams have provided field data while showing off the colours to the company's potential customers.
For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here
Images by Gregor Brown/Cyclingnews.com