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Photo ©: Sirotti
Forging the Gold - Giant's TCR Composite Gold Road Bike
What do you do when you're a company known for making solid-value road and
mountain bikes, but you sponsor a top Tour de France team, and you have a state-of-the-art
carbon fiber frame that you want people to really notice? If you're Giant, you
make a black and gold special edition for your racers and when everyone goes
'Wow' over it, you produce a very limited edition of 35 $10,000 bikes decorated
with real gold plate. This is how it all happened.
The bike that started it all
The bike is Giant's TCR Composite Gold, and Taiwan's biggest bike builder is
offering just 35 of them, individually numbered, to deep-pocketed riders and
collectors. To find the spark of this slightly mad idea (after all, who really
needs a gold-plated, ten grand bike?) we go back to December 2001 when Giant's
Sport Marketing Manager Tom Davies and ONCE-Eroski manager Manolo Saiz got together
to discuss ONCE-Eroski's product needs for the 2002 season. It was the first
time Saiz had seen the final version of the TCR Composite and he was impressed.
Further discussion between Saiz and Davies at the team's January training camp
saw Saiz arguing that the team's TCR Composites should be something special
as far as decals went, and that led to the notion of a gold or silver bike to
be launched at the Tour de France. Saiz even offered to do one design himself,
so Giant's Chief Engineer Jack Chen sent over an old frame to Spain for him
to experiment with.
The bike it turned into
The frame was returned to Giant in March. It was glossy and bold and reminded
Davies of the classic Lotus F1 car of the 1970s, the John Player Special. Davies
passed on Saiz's design to Wina Smeenk, Giant Europe's Art Director, who retained
the glossy finish but created a two-tone gold skin design with minimal decals.
Worth Their Weight In Gold
Assembling the 35 TCR Composite Golds took Faustino Muñoz and
his team four long days at Giant Europe's assembly plant at Lelystad.
You don't rush the assembly of bikes like these, and Saiz and the mechanics
clearly savoured the experience, as their comments show.
Manolo Saiz, ONCE-Eroski directeur sportif: "I've always
said that the bike is an extension of a rider's personality, just like
the tennis racket is part of a tennis player, and the TCR Composite Gold
is no exception. We should never forget about combining the aesthetics
of athletic experience with the experience itself. Here is one way of
doing it. This isn't just a tool, of course, but it's not because of the
gold that it's the best bike in the world, either. It has other qualities
"This project is also a source of inspiration. Every year we should
try and do something equally special, not just in 2002. But it was clear
that for the mechanics and for myself the best time of year to do it was
after the season - this is like any Christmas present, you can't just
have one at any point in time.
"Creating these bikes has been a beautiful operation, and a very
special one. I would love it if the press were to write more about these
kinds of bike production and not just the sport in general. The TCR Composite
Gold is a solid and highly original way of convincing them of the case."
Faustino Muñoz, team mechanic: "Working on something
like the TCR Composite Gold is like spending a day with the woman of your
dreams - a really classy experience, above and beyond anything else you
"You can't say it is an idea that's totally new, there have been
other celebrations of centenaries in the past by bike races, for example,
as well as other anniversaries within the bike industry but even so creating
something that's this special doesn't happen every day: Manolo and I had
been thinking about doing a project like this for the last five or six
"The three of us mechanics ONCE-Eroski have decided to send on this
project are organised here in Holland in the same way as in any race.
All of us are perfectly capable of building a bike, but essentially by
doing them all together in stages, taking all of them to the same point
before going onto the next, then it's easier to co-ordinate.
"We brought our own tools from Spain because we felt this project
deserved the cost in excess baggage! No seriously, which mechanic would
not like to have assembled the 35 best bikes in the world?"
Joaquin Pozueto, team mechanic: "You can feel a bit tense
at times, because you know this project is a special one and you have
to get everything just right. There's never going to be something quite
as unique as this project again in the work I do.
"It's something you feel proud of, really, that takes you out of
the routine of assembling bikes, taking them apart and putting them together
on bike races all over the world. This is different, you will remember
as a high point of your life as a mechanic.
"There are more complicated things, like the gold threading, for
example or the brake pads for the carbon wheels which take more time.
However, it's been an immensely satisfying experience and we can go home
to Spain feeling that it was worth coming all this way."
Luis Miguel Díaz De Otazu, team mechanic: "Each tiny
component counts even more than ever on this bike. This is a luxury model,
something you can only work on little by little, being ever so careful
and thorough. I've worked with a lot of bikes in my time but never one
as unusual as this one.
"The first day it was hard to see any real progress, but that's
always the same when you've got a lot of bikes to assemble. Suddenly you
get to day two or day three and suddenly it's all there, all completed.
It's a terrific sensation."
During the Tour of the Basque Country in April 2002 Davies and Saiz met to
discuss the project further and for the Spaniard to test out a carbon handlebar,
stem, and round seat post that were slated for the Tour de France TCR Composite
Gold bike. The final piece now fell into place: making a limited number of production
versions of the bike for general sale.
Now it was time to decide on a name. Given ONCE-Eroski's origins, Davies liked
TCR Oro - 'oro' being the Spanish for 'gold' - but eventually the project name
of TCR Composite Gold was decided on.
The pointy end
Davies, accompanied by Wina Smeenk, then visited Campagnolo in May to try and
convince the company to produce a special edition series of all-gold component
groups. Campagnolo declined, but did offer alternative black anodised components
with gold lettering, plus carbon cranks and carbon Hyperon wheels with gold
decals. Meanwhile the original TCR Composite was launched in Wisbaden in the
Tour of Germany with ONCE-Eroski co-leader Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano taking
out the win.
In June Tacx came up with the gold bottle cages and Selle Italia with gold
saddles, within weeks of being asked.
It all came together in Madrid in July 2002, when ONCE-Eroski received Jack
Chen's frames plus the new racing components (handlebar, stem and seat post)
for the TCR Composite Gold, plus Campagnolo's 15 groups, 10 sets of wheels and
one pair of cranks for Beloki. At the Tour's presentation in Luxembourg, the
TCR Composite Gold was unveiled to the world. It was instantly hailed as a great-looking
bike, and ONCE-Eroski's Tour, with Galdeano in yellow for seven stages, hinted
that it was no slouch performance-wise.
With the Tour over, it was time for some more tweaking to add the finishing
touches to the final version of the TCR Composite Gold. AX-Lightness offered
to make a special super light gold and carbon saddle for Beloki, which Giant
and ONCE-Eroski agreed to use on the commercial bike. Rob de Groot's metalwork
shop, Heijchroom, was chosen to gold plate the components on the TCR Composite
Gold. The original plan was that only a few small parts of the bike were to
be gold plated but Davies decided the bike deserved more. He specified gold
plate on all the bolts; the seat clamp; rear dropout; face plate; front derailleur
hanger; the wheel spindles; the handlebar ends; the special Nokon cables; and
parts of the pedals. Now all that was required was the assembly.
You don't let just anyone put together a bike with a $10,000 price tag, so
the job went to ONCE-Eroski head mechanic Faustino Muñoz. Together with
his staff, Muñoz personally supervised the
process at Giant Europe's Lelystad assembly plant, and each bike comes with
a video of the assembly process.
The TCR Composite Golds are numbered from 001 to 035. Model 001 is on show
at Giant Inc. in Taiwan, while bike number 007 already has its destination decided
- it's going to a James Bond fanatic, though it's a fair bet he doesn't want
it shaken or stirred. Other countries where the TCR Composite Gold will
be sold include Australia, the United Kingdom, China, France, Germany, Holland,
Japan, Norway, Spain, Taiwan and the USA. Fanatics with a large wedge burning
a hole in their bank accounts should contact their local Giant office or dealer.
The whole thing has been very satisfying for its chief mover, Tom Davies. "The
bike is every bit as good as I'd hoped" said Davies. "It's an elegant,
classy model, but also as we know from the Tour de France, an extraordinarily
successful one as well. That level of performance makes it even more satisfying
Images by Giant
TCR Composite Gold road bike component list
Frame: Giant TCR Full Composite with glossy finish.
Handlebar: Giant Composite with glossy finish.
Stem: Giant Composite with glossy finish.
Handlebar Tape: Black cork Cinelli
Handlebar Caps: Giant, gold plated
Seat post: Giant Composite glossy
Seat post clamp: Giant, gold plated
Bottle cages: Tacx Tao, special gold design
Component group: Campagnolo Record 10 speed, Black anodised with gold lettering
Pedals: Campagnolo Pro-fit Record, gold plated
Crankset: 172.5mm Carbon, chain rings 42/52
Cassette: Campagnolo 10 speed, 12-26
Wheels: Campagnolo Hyperon Full Composite with gold decals
Tyres: Hutchinson tubulars in black
Saddle: AX-Lightness, carbon and gold leather
Cable Casing: Nokon, gold plated
All gold plating is 24 carat, 3 microns thick.
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Armstrong's Trek Madone SSL proto
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