Sunday, January 22, 2006

Team Discovery, Life without Lance

Team Discovery Lands in Solvang

The 2006 Discovery Channel Pro Cycling team rode into Solvang, CA. for their annual winter training camp last week. Just days before the riders arrived, the team mechanics had taken delivery of 28 team issue Madone SL and five team issue Madone SSL frames that would be built-up in less than two days.

Just as occurred last year, a select handful of riders were chosen to participate in some wind tunnel & velodrome testing down south before the camp kicked into gear. Those riders included George Hincapie, Viatcheslav Ekimov, Tom Danielson, Yarolslav Popovych, Janez Branjkovic, Vladimir Gusev and Paolo Savoldelli.

As always, there was a full contingent of Trek engineers and product managers also in attendance to oversee the on-going development of Trek & Bontrager products. In fact, the day after the team was in the tunnel, the Trek engineers stayed on to continue testing a variety of new Trek & Bontrager products, including the new Equinox TTX time trial bike. Expect to see both the Trek TTT and TTX bikes under the team until they take delivery of a fleet of yet-to-be made Equinox TTX bikes which will become the new time trial machine for the team.

The Solvang camp took place under the usual clear blue skies and the riders once again happily faced the sinewy steep climbs and descents. Underneath them were the beautiful new OCLV 110 Trek Madone SL 5.9 – the official bike of the 2006 Discovery Channel team. Trek graphic designer Chad Bailey once again designed a visual masterpiece with the new metal-flake silver/bright blue colors. The bikes absolutely glisten in the sunlight and both the rider’s and team director Johan Bruyneel thought they looked great.

Also in attendance was the new OCLV 55 Carbon Madone SSL climbing bike. Like the Madone SL, the SSL had a great paint job and it really looked exceptional along with the Bontrager Aeolus wheels. Many riders were seen lifting the SSL and shaking their heads at how light it felt. Up & coming American Tom Danielson couldn’t stop asking if one of the bikes was intended for him.

As for the other product on display, there were a few bikes sporting the Trek 9i computer (most bikes were running SRM power meters for camp), more bikes were using the Bontrager Race XXX Lite carbon stem this year and a few bikes were even outfitted with the super-light OCLV Boron Bontrager Race XXX Lite VR handlebar. A small cheer went up at one team dinner when team liaison Scot Daubert announced that the sub-180 gram handlebar would be available for everyone.

In the wheel department, most of the riders started off camp riding their bombproof, team spec training wheels, but as the camp progressed some of them would begin testing the new 5.0mm Bontrager Aeolus wheels. When the team hits the first race, the Aeolus wheel will be standard equipment.

Other Bontrager components used by the team include: Race X Lite cages (the Race XXX Lite carbon cages will be saved for climbing stages), ???? handlebar tape, and Bzzzkill handlebar inserts. The riders get to choose between four different Bontrager saddles; Victory, Classic, Race X Lite, Race X Lite Pro

A majority of the Discovery Channel riders are now using Nike footwear. Even George Hincapie has made the switch and he was saying really good things about the Lance Ltd, he was wearing. While there are few riders using the Poggio 4UL, most seemed to be opting for the Lance Ltd. shoe because of the ratcheting buckle.

As you might expect, the Discovery Channel cameras were rolling the whole time so expect to see plenty of TV coverage of the team as the break into the new season. The first big race for the team will be the Tour of California (Feb. 19-26). For all the latest on Trek and the Discovery Channel team, be sure to follow along with Scott Daubert’s Road To The Tour web column and sign-up for the Exit 180 newsletter (both on the Trek web site).

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