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Pro bikes, February 19, 2009

Christian Vande Velde’s Garmin-Slipstream p/b Chipotle Felt F1 SL

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Photo ©: James Huang

Looking for big things ahead

By James Huang

The seat cluster area bears some distinctive Felt tube shaping trademarks.
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Vande Velde and five other Garmin-Slipstream riders
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The new Dura-Ace 7900 crankset is one of the stars
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Garmin-Slipstream is one of several teams using the Edge 705
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Christian Vande Velde once considered himself more of a super domestique than an overall contender but after last year’s breakout performances at the Tour de France and Giro d’Italia, 2009 now brings bigger and better goals starting with the Tour of California. Carrying him on the road stages from the start in Sacramento to the finish in Escondido is Felt’s flagship F1 SL.

The F1 SL is Felt’s classic level top tube frame, trading the aerodynamic performance of its latest AR and the Z’s smoother ride and more stable handling in exchange for lighter weight and snappier handling. Interestingly, Felt’s lightest road frame bears their oldest carbon shape yet continuous advances in materials and construction technologies have kept it current. Thanks in part to Felt’s latest Ultra-Hybrid Carbon fiber blend and carbon nanotube-enhanced resins, claimed frame weight is around 900g and the matching Felt 1.1 UHC-Nano fork adds just 300g more.

Though the latest iteration’s new fiber lay-up is lighter than before, team riders report stiffness approaching last year’s beefier - and substantially heavier - F1 Sprint variant, according to team mechanic Daimeon Shanks. Shanks adds that the more austere paint job - used since last year’s Tour de France - also saves approximately 60g alone.

Vande Velde and the rest of the team have switched from last year’s Shimano Dura-Ace 7800 group to the all-new 7900 version and the team leader and five others also now have the option of the Di2 electronic version. Replacing the usual network of stainless steel wires and coil springs are buttons, wires and stepper motors - all powered by a small Li-ion rechargeable battery pack - for what Shimano claims is its fastest and smoothest shifting yet.

In addition to the alternate internals, the Di2 Dual Control levers also bear a markedly more svelte shape than the standard 7900 whose girth had bulked up as a result of the new shifter spool location. The narrower body and more curvaceous shape is more in keeping with 7800’s original form - and Shimano engineers’ ideals - so while Vande Velde obviously has to get used to a new way of shifting gears, at least the levers will feel mostly familiar.

In spite of the 100g or so of added weight relative to the standard 7900 package, Vande Velde’s complete bike still comes in slightly under the UCI weight limit at 6.57kg (14.48lb) when fitted with Zipp 202 carbon tubular wheels. Depending on the particular configuration of the day, Shanks plans to wrap up short sections of chain links in bubble wrap and drop them into the seat tube to make the difference if needed.

As in years past ceramic bearings are fitted all around, including Zipp’s own custom cartridges in its all-new hubs and top-end hybrids from new official sponsor CeramicSpeed.

Though the entire Garmin-Slipstream team both raced and trained with Powertap power meters, Shanks says that this year riders have the option to go with or without depending on the situation and rider preferences. Vande Velde’s bike went without when we caught up with it in the days leading up to the race start in Sacramento but it remains to be seen what he will end up using in the days ahead.

Save for a swap to fi’zi:k’s more heavily padded Arione 2 saddle, Shanks reports no major position changes for Vande Velde. Garmin-Slipstream has switched from Oval Concepts to 3T for 2009 but the ARX Team stem is still slammed down directly on top of the short head tube and the new Rotundo Team carbon bar offers a similar traditional bend that the Illinois resident prefers. Since 3T currently offer only zero-offset posts - apparently the new Palladio isn’t yet in production - Vande Velde’s frame currently wears a layback Thomson Masterpiece.

Rounding out the package are Shimano Dura-Ace SPD-SL pedals, Arundel Mandible carbon cages and a colored-to-match Garmin Edge 705 computer. Given the Tour of California’s cold and soggy start so far, we can’t help but wonder how often Vande Velde has looked down at its giant LCD screen, hoping the finish line - and a hot cup of tea - isn’t far off.

Don’t worry, Christian: the forecast is looking brighter (in more ways than one) and sunnier skies await in Escondido.


For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by James Huang/Cyclingnews.com

Full specification

Frame: Felt F1 SL, 56cm
Fork: Felt 1.1 UHC-Nano

Critical measurements
Rider's height: 1.8m (5' 11") ; Weight: 68kg (150lb)
Seat tube length, c-c: 522mm
Seat tube length, c-t: 564mm
Saddle height, from BB (c-t): 778mm
Tip of saddle nose to C of bars (next to stem): 584mm
C of front wheel to top of bars (next to stem): 552mm
Top tube length: 560mm (horizontal)

Front brake: Shimano Dura-Ace BR-7900
Rear brake: Shimano Dura-Ace BR-7900
Brake levers: Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 STI Dual Control ST-7970
Front derailleur: Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 FD-7970
Rear derailleur: Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 RD-7970 w/ BBB ceramic pulleys
Shift levers: Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 STI Dual Control ST-7970
Cassette: Shimano Dura-Ace CS-7900, 11-25T
Chain: Shimano Dura-Ace CN-7900
Crankset: Shimano Dura-Ace FC-7900, 175mm, 53/39T
Bottom bracket: Shimano Dura-Ace SM-FC7900 w/ CeramicSpeed hybrid ceramic bearings

Wheelset: Zipp 202 tubular
Front tyre: Vittoria Corsa Evo-CX tubular, 23mm
Rear tyre: Vittoria Corsa Evo-CX tubular, 23mm

Bars: 3T Rotundo Team, 42cm (c-c)
Stem: 3T ARX Team, 110 x -6º
Headset: FSA integrated
Tape/grip: fi'zi:k Dual:Tape

Pedals: Shimano Dura-Ace SPD-SL PD-7810
Seat post: Thomson Masterpiece Setback
Saddle: fi'zi:k Arione Tri 2
Bottle cages: Arundel Mandible
Computer: Garmin Edge 705

Total bike weight: 6.57kg (14.48lb)