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Pro bikes, March 7, 2008

Paolo Bettini's Quick Step Specialized S-Works Tarmac SL2

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Photo ©: Ben Atkins

Bettini's special world beater

By Ben Atkins in Benicassim, Spain

Bettini arrives
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The frame's distinctive colours continue
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Because of the extra small frame size
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The stiffness of the Tarmac SL2
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Unlike the frames available in the shops
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Specialized's logo
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Despite not featuring the standard Star hub
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Specialized outfitted Quick Step rider Tom Boonen last year with a custom version of its S-Works Tarmac SL2 that incorporated a few key geometry changes specifically requested by the Belgian sprinting superstar. For 2008, however, Specialized has apparently seen fit to supply similarly proportioned machines to the rest of the team, including the current Olympic and two-time road world champion Paolo Bettini.

The Tarmac geometry has always been decidedly compact, but the Quick Step team version for 2008 has become even racier with a shorter head tube that allows riders to adopt a lower, more aggressive and even more aerodynamic position. The riders were presented with their new frames at the team's December training camp with extra carbon spacers under the stems to replicate the position of their original SL2's but Bettini wasted little time in dropping down a bit further, indicating that il Grillo was very much in favour of the new aggressive position. Sadly, this new geometry will not be available to us mortals just yet.

Bettini's choice of frame size also reflects the desire to get low, a sentiment mirrored by a number of other riders including Giro d'Italia winner Danilo Di Luca and currently-in-limbo Basque climber Iban Mayo. While Bettini is clearly not one of the tallest riders in the peloton at just 1.69m (5' 7") tall, we were still a little surprised to see that he rides the smallest size frame available - an XS. We quizzed him about this apparent mis-sizing, but he insisted that it is the right size for him as it allows for a more aggressive position. To compensate for the shorter top tube, Bettini runs a relatively long 120mm stem (Boonen runs a gargantuan 140mm pipe).

Otherwise, Bettini's Tarmac SL2 is essentially identical to his teammates' in that it is based around a Specialized FACT 11r carbon frame built with the company's Az1 ("as one") tube-to-tube construction methods. The most obvious thing that sets il Grillo's bike apart, though, is the special one-off paintjob by Italian airbrush specialists Barza Design. Barza has been responsible for a number of decorated bikes in the peloton over the years - including former Italian champion Luca Paolini and Milano-Sanremo winner Filippo Pozzato - and was also responsible for the gold frame Bettini rode at last year's Giro di Lombardia. General consumers may not be able to get hold of the team geometry just yet, but Specialized's Quick Step team liaison Simone Toccafondi did say that Bettini's special finish will ultimately be available as a limited edition - albeit not a hand painted one.

The matching monocoque carbon fork has the same tapered steerer tube that is fitted to those Tarmac SL2s that are available in the shops. The tube widens from the standard 1 1/8" at the stem clam to 1 1/2" at the crown. Other than the new geometry, the only physical thing on Bettini's frame that's officially different from stock models is the non-replaceable mech hanger.

Once again, the Quick Step team is sponsored by Campagnolo and so are equipped with full Record groupset, including carbon fibre Ultra-Torque chainsets and the new "Red" Ergopower levers. These new levers are only available to Campagnolo sponsored riders and require slightly more pressure to move the gear change levers than standard.

The team's wheel sponsor has changed for 2008, though, as Specialized's Roval models have replaced last year's Fulcrum hoops. Bettini is using a special-issue set of deep section Rapide Star Carbon wheels with Specialized branded tubulars. Unlike the standard versions, Bettini's wheels swap out the distinctive Star hubs in favor of the ones used in the lighter Rapide SL wheelset. Despite supposedly being hugely aerodynamic, the Star hubs apparently carry more of a weight penalty than Bettini is willing to bear.

In contrast to the rest of his equipment, Bettini goes decidedly old school with his trusted Selle San Marco Concor Light saddle. The perch looks like it's been around the block a few times as the world champion stripes are a bit faded, but it's obviously an old favourite. The rest of the kit is fairly standard fare, including an FSA OS-115 stem, new-ergo bend FSA K-Force Carbon bar and Look KeO Carbon pedals.

Bettini's stats are recorded by a CS400 combined bike computer and heart rate monitor from team sponsor Polar. In addition to the speed sensor on the fork, Bettini also keeps an eye on his pedalling speed with a cadence sensor fitted to the base of his frame's seat tube.

The overall bike weight comes in at a not-as-flighty-as-you'd-expect 7.18kg (15.83lb), well above the minimum, but Toccafondi tells us that it's because Specialized is more concerned with getting the right balance of the bike - and safety - rather than paring it down to be as light as possible. More to the point, the additional weight doesn't seem to have slowed Bettini down at all and only adds more fuel to the argument that we should likely all be more concerned with our training than the weight of our bikes.


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Images by Ben Atkins/Cyclingnews

Full specification

Frame: Specialized S-Works Tarmac SL2 with team-only geometry and custom world and Olympic champion livery
Size: XS (49)
Fork: Specialized S-Works FACT monocoque with tapered steerer (1 1/8" - 1 1/2")

Critical measurements
Rider's height: 1.69m (5' 7") ; Weight: 58kg (128lb)
Seat tube length, c-c: 415mm
Seat tube length, c-t: 460mm
Top tube length: 500mm (actual)
Saddle height, from BB (c-t): 685mm
Saddle nose tip to C of bars: 518mm
C of front hub to top of bars: 525mm

Front brake: Campagnolo Record D-Skeleton
Rear brake: Campagnolo Record D-Skeleton
Levers: Campagnolo Record QS Ergopower "Red"
Derailleurs: Campagnolo Record
Cassette: Campagnolo Record steel/titanium, 11-23T
Chain: Campagnolo Record Ultra Narrow
Crankset: Campagnolo Record Ultra-Torque, 170mm, 39/53T
Bottom bracket: Campagnolo Record Ultra-Torque


Wheels: Specialized Roval Rapide Carbon
Hubs: Specialized Roval Rapide SL
DT Swiss Aerolite
Tyres: Specialized tubular

Bars: FSA K-Force Carbon, new ergo bend, 40cm (c-c)
Stem: FSA OS-115, 120mm x -6 degree
Headset: Cane Creek
Tape/grip: Specialized S-Wrap

Pedals: Look KeO Carbon
Seat post: Carbon fiber with alloy micro-adjust head
Saddle: Selle San Marco Concor Light (unbranded) with custom world champion colours
Bottle cages: Specialized Rib Cage Pro (down tube only)
Computer: Polar CS400 Wireless with cadence

Total bike weight: 7.18kg (15.83lb)