If you're aiming to cycle 3600km through the some of the most mountainous countryside on the planet, you might want to make sure you've got a decent bike. What you're looking at just above this writing, and in some spaces below as well, is the very pinnacle in two-wheel pedal-power road racing finesse as made by Scott, as sponsored by HTC-Columbia and as ridden by the Isle of Man sprint champion Mark Cavendish in the Tour de France 2010.
With 20 per cent of a rider's output lost on the drag caused by the frame, the brief for Scott when building the Scott F01 for the Tour, was to come up with a bike that's aerodynamic, light but still with plenty of stiffness. The first two of these are obvious - you need a bike that's going to create less drag and you need a bike that's not too much a weight to lump about, particularly given that you'll be taking the thing up to nearly 3000m above sea level.
Stiffness is the third issue and all about the flex in the frame. A bike which gives a little more is more comfortable to ride but that extra give means more of your pedal energy is absorbed into the material rather than used to propel the rider onward. The issue on top of that is that the lighter frame materials are often the ones to have more natural flex. So, how did Scott tackle the conundrum?
The answer, as ever was a good cocktail of science, technology and presumably a nice whack of research money to back it all up. Given that a carbon frame was going to be the lightest they could make, it was the shape of the struts where the team focused its efforts. Taking two previous Scott models - the Addict and the Plasma - they analysed the flow of air around the frame cross sections in the Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix wind tunnel. Nice of them to lend it.
While the circular section of the Addict provided for both lightness and a good sturdy ride, a big round surface meeting an air front isn't exactly going to cut through it like a knife nor do much for the drag. On the other hand, the Plasma's tear drop tube was superb aerodynamically but was far too flexible and used more material as well. So after a good bit of tinkering, Scott came up with something which was essentially a slightly more stiff version of the leading edge of the Plasma's shape, but without the tapering tail that meant all the additional weight. Voila, the F01 was borne.
Once put together the new frame, fork, seat post and clamp weigh not much over a kilo at 1227g, making most other bikes around 20% heavier, while also saving around 20-30% of the drag of a normal model as well.
Next it was simply a case of heading to team partners Shimano to add on just about every other piece of light weight accessory required - the breaks, hubs, rims, chains, pedals and cogs - from the company's top of the line Dura-Ace Di2 range including electronic gear shifting control. The icing on the cake though - certainly from our point of view - was HTC strapping a Legend handset under the seat of each team rider paired with power meters and speed sensors so the team can track each one's exact position giving them speed, power, cadence and heart rate to monitor for us to see live online as well.
The final touch - at least for the Manx Missile's model - was a little livery. The request from the Green Jersey contender himself was a ninja theme complete with blood splatters - Shinobi fan perhaps? So when you're watching the last legs of the Tour de France 2010, if you see a red and black bike whiz by, you'll have a better idea of what it looks like when to everyone else it's only a blur. Oh, and if you're looking to buy one for yourself, there'll be a limited run of the Scott F01 in 2011 with more planned for the following year. Expect to be paying somewhere near £10,000 - HTC Legend not included.