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The Hostile Takeover

Trek bikes so celeste.

Vacansoleil Bianchis

matte black? Coppi sighs.

Aside from the hostile takeover of Italy’s most storied color, the top story from the opening weekend of le Tour might be the hyperactive breakaway activity of Euskatel-Euskadi. The cynical might attribute it to the looming threat of sponsorship loss. But I’ll credit it to something completely different: The magic of the 2014 Orbea Orca Race the team is racing on. It’s gotta be the bike.

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OK, maybe that’s a stretch. But a weeklong test ride of the all-new Orca had me giddy with silent x’s , dreaming of pintxos , and surfing eBay for my very own pizza-sized floppy beret. Equipped with Shimano Dura Ace 11-speed Di2 and a set of Dura-Ace C-24 clinchers, it made a mockery of the UCI weight limit, and maneuvered, particularly on high speed descents, with an easy sureness. It exceeded the best-handling bike I’ve ridden to date, the Pinarello Dogma 2 I’ve been lovingly faithful to for two seasons. Talk about unexpected. The new Orca is a showstopper.

What’s interesting is that “new” isn’t radically different from the Orca of the last few seasons. The differences for 2014 are a change in bottom bracket platform from BB30 to BB86, modified seaststays, a new carbon layup, and an all-new fork. Predictably, it’s lighter, stiffer and more aero. But incremental gains ain’t the story. There was something unexplainably perfect about how the bike rode. Is it the stays? Is it that fork? Is it its truck-like 53mm rake? My beloved Pinarello is star crossed with compromise. Its price tag is frightful, and cost-be-damned Pinarellos never build up OMG light. But the Orbea seemed concession-free: In the realm of Tour-caliber bikes, it’s moderately priced. It’s pure eye candy. And did I mention how it flung my porky carcass up the hills?

The second edition Di2 is glorious. The best improvement is being able to shift multiple cassette cogs with just one steady press of the button. The hoods feel slimmer than the original version of Di2 — they might possibly be the most slender hoods out there. They’re sublime whether you’re in cruise mode, or if you’re climbing out of the saddle. My only complaint about the new Di2 is the exact same problem I had with v1: When trying to shift just a single rear cog, it’s difficult to judge how hard and how long you need to press the button. No matter how many hours I rode, I always took single-gear changes with a dose of low confidence.

Note to self about saddles: Even though the Fizik Aliante has been my one-and-only for nearly a decade, the Selle Italia SLR GelFlow is a surprisingly comfortable alternative. Nothing about its shape or size would indicate the degree to which it’d make an Aliante owner happy (i.e. my ass is beefy and the SLR is lithesome.)

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- ‘Tis Tour time. ‘Tis time to eat like a rabbit (NSFsensitive eyes), not a pig.

Tour Time

- Have you seen the Getty Images image feed? Search crazy terms and delight in the results.

Dropping out

Dropping out

- Tour time makes the Spring Classics seem like ages away. If you need a pavé fix check out JoolzeD’s photostream on Flickr.

Tour De Trump ´89

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