The Gitane Greg LeMond rode to victory in the 1983 World Championships. His teammate Bernard Hinault won the Tour on a somewhat similar bike the year before. (Photo: User airmailv2 on flickr.com)
After swapping my Cannondale 3.0′s hodgepodge of Campagnolo components for Shimano Dura-Ace 7700s, Canny weighs in at 19.0 pounds. In this day and age of ultra-light (and über-expensive) bicicletas bedecked with enough carbon fiber to embarrass a B2 Stealth Bomber, this seems a bit portly and admittedly, she could easily lose another 1.5 lbs. if I cared to spend a few hundred dollars for a lighter wheelset, saddle and handlebar.
But can you believe that my C’dale (with its 19-year-old aluminum frame) actually weighs less than the bicycles that Miguel Indurain, Jan Ullrich and Bjarne Riis rode to Tour de France victory in the mid- to late 90s? And every winning Tour bike before that!
Below are some of the bikes ridden to glory in the modern Tour de France era. Bike weights hovered between 18 and 22 pounds from 1968 to 1998, after which they plummeted especially with Lance Armstrong demanding every technological advantage. In 2004, Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) imposed a minimum weight requirement of 15.0 pounds (6.8 kilograms) for bicycles raced in international events under their jurisdiction—including the Tour de France—so the lightest bike ever ridden to overall Tour victory was Armstrong’s Trek 5900 SL, weighing 14.5 pounds in 2003.
Some other observations:
- In the last 40 years, three bicycle manufacturers have dominated the race for the yellow jersey: Gitane (with 11 victories), Trek (9), and Pinarello (at least 8). The last decade has been largely Trek, but Specialized took the top two podium step in 2010. (Alberto Contador, who was on the top podium step, was later disqualified for clenbuterol in his body.)
- 1994 was the last time the Tour was won a steel bike—a TIG-welded Pinarello-badged beauty ridden by Miguel Indurain.
- Indurain and Bjarne Riis rode TIG-welded metal-matrix frames to victory in 1995 and 1996, respectively.
- Aluminum bicycles were ridden to glory by Jan Ullrich and Marco Pantani in 1997 and 1998, respectively.
- In 1999, Lance Armstrong’s TT bike was a Trek-badged titanium Litespeed Blade. I think this is the only titanium bicycle that was ever used by a Tour de France victor.
- Ever since Lance Armstrong won the Tour on a stock Trek OCLV in 1999, every winning bike has been made out of carbon fiber.
- Shimano also finally had a win in the Tour starting in 1999.
- For the climbing stages in all seven of Lance Armstrong’s TdF victories, he used a downtube front shift lever to save weight (about 2-3 ounces). Nowadays, combination brake/shift levers (such as SRAM Red) are just as light as a separate downtube and brake lever—and bicycle manufacturers don’t even put braze-ons for downtube levers on their frames anymore—so 2005 will likely go down in history as the last year that downtube levers were used by a Tour de France winner.
- Alberto Contador’s Trek Madone 5.2 in 2007 was the first Tour-winning bike with a mountain bike-like sloping top tube. Now almost all modern race bikes have “compact” frames, with the main holdouts being Cannondale and Pinarello.
- Cadel Evan was the first TdF winner using electronic shifting (Shimano Di2 on a BMC Teammachine SLR01).
With the UCI limit of 6.8 kilos being so easy to achieve nowadays for sponsor-backed professionals, what will be the latest innovations we will see in the next decade of Tour de Frances? More widespread adoption of electronic shifting and aerodynamic tubing are a near certainty. Eventually, Shimano and SRAM will come out with 11-speed shifting to catch up with Campagnolo.
I’ll go ahead and predict that by 2020 some sort of disc brake system for road bikes will be introduced and that electronic equipment (e.g., sensors, meters and communication devices) will be more integrated into the frames. Any one else with predictions?
|Year||Winning Racer||Bicycle Manufacturer||Weight, lbs. (kg)||Notes|
|1962||Jacques Anquetil||Helyett||22.4 (10.2)||(1)|
|1965||Felice Gimondi||Magni||24.2 (11)||(1)|
|1967||Roger Pingeon||Peugeot||22.9 (10.4)||(1)|
|1968||Jan Janssen||Lejeune||19.1 (8.7)||(1)|
|1972||Eddy Merckx||Eddy Merckx (Colnago)||21.1 (9.6)||(1)|
|1973||Luis Ocaña||Motobecane||18.7 (8.5)||(1)|
|1976||Lucien Van Impe||Gitane||18.3 (8.3)||(1)|
|1977||Bernard Thévenet||Peugeot||22.0 (10.0)||(1)|
|1980||Joop Zoetemelk||Raleigh||22.4 (10.2)||(1)|
|1985||Bernard Hinault||Hinault||21.1 (9.6)||(1); TT bike?|
|1987||Stephen Roche||Battaglin||21.1 (9.6)||(1)|
|1988||Pedro Delgado||Pinarello||21.6 (9.8)||(1)|
|1990||Greg LeMond||LeMond||20.0 (9.1)||(1); TT bike|
|1993||Miguel Indurain||Pinarello||22.7 (10.3)||(1)|
|1993-1994||Miguel Indurain||Pinarello-badged (Dario Pegoretti)||19.8 (9.0)||(16)|
|1995||Miguel Indurain||Pinarello Espada||17.8 (8.1)||(1); TT bike|
|1996||Bjarne Riis||Pinarello||19.8 (9.0)||(1)|
|1997||Jan Ullrich||Pinarello||19.8 (9.0)||(1)|
|1998||Marco Pantani||Bianchi||17.8 (8.1)||(1)|
|1999||Lance Armstrong||Trek 5500||?||(2); Frameset: 3.9 lbs. (1.75 kg). 1″ head tube, threaded chromoly steerer, 9-speed Dura-Ace|
|2000||Lance Armstrong||Trek 5900||?||(2); frameset: 2.8+.9=3.7 lbs. (1.25+.42=1.67 kg), 1-1/8″ head tube, threadless aluminum steerer, 9-speed Dura-Ace|
|2000||Lance Armstrong||Trek 5900 SL||<15.0 (<6.8)||(2),(5),(6); Frame: 2.2 lbs. (1.0 kg), for mountain stages|
|2001||Lance Armstrong||Trek 5900||?||(2) frameset: 2.5+.9=3.5 lbs. (1.15+.42=1.57 kg), 9-speed Dura-Ace, still used downtube front shifter for mountains|
|2002||Lance Armstrong||Trek 5900||18.0 (8.2)||(1)|
|2003||Lance Armstrong||Trek Madone 5.9||15.8 (7.2)||(1),(14); road stages|
|2003||Lance Armstrong||Trek 5900 SL||14.5 (6.6)||(2),(14); frame: 2.2 lbs. (.98 kg), mountain stages|
|2004||Lance Armstrong||Trek Madone SL||15.0 (6.8)||(2),(3),(4),(13),(14); frameset: 2.4+.7=3.2 lbs. (1.10+.34=1.44 kg)|
|2005||Lance Armstrong||Trek Madone SSLx||15.0 (6.8)||(3)|
|2006||Oscar Pereiro||Pinarello Dogma-FPX||15.0 (6.8)||(3),(8); Magnesium AK61 Superlight|
|2007||Alberto Contador||Trek Madone 5.2||15.0 (6.8)||(3),(10),(12)|
|2008||Carlos Sastre||Cervélo R3-SL||15.0 (6.8)||(3),(9); Rotor Q-Ring elliptical chainrings mounted on FSA crankarms|
|2009||Alberto Contador||Trek Madone 6-Series||15.0 (6.8)||(3),(11)|
|2010||Alberto Contador Andy Schleck||Specialized Tarmac SL3||15.0 (6.8)||(3),(7)|
|2011||Cadel Evans||BMC Teammachine SLR01||15.0 (6.8)||(3),(15); first TdF winner using electronic shifting (Shimano Dura-Ace Di2)|
|2012||Bradley Wiggins||Pinarello Dogma 65.1 Think 2||15.0 (6.8)||(3),(17)|
TT bike = time-trial bike
(1) Les Velos Mythiques Vainquers du Tour de France by Yves Blanc and Bruno Bade, as described in the Starbike Weight Weenies Forum.
(2) Lance Armstrong’s Tour de France-winning machines, James Huang, CyclingNews.com, July 2007.
(3) UCI weight limit of 15 lbs. (6.8 kg) in effect
(4) Other components Armstrong used are described in Wired Magazine, July 2004.
(5) Trek Press Release, July 2000.
(6) Lance Armstrong’s Tour de France Bikes, Chain Reaction Bicycles, 2001.
(7) Andy Schleck’s Specialized S-Works SL3 SRAM Red & Zipp Tour ride, The Road Diaries, July 2010.
(8) Oscar Pereiro – Dogma-FPX Bike on display, YouTube user Taurus0423, November 2006.
(9) Cervélo launch Carlos Sastre R3-SL and S3 limited edition frames, BikeRadar.com, June 2009.
(10) Alberto Contador’s Astana Trek Madone 5.2, CyclingNews.com, May 2008.
(11) Alberto Contador’s Astana Trek Series 6 Madone, CyclingNews.com, July 2009.
(12) Trek Madone: The Bike That Owned the Tour de France, Gizmodo.com, July 2007.
(13) Trek Madone 5.9 Project One, CyclingNews.com, November 2004.
(14) Trek’s 2005 Carbon Fiber Lineup, Chain Reaction Bicycles, November 2005.
(15) Evans’ BMC teammachine SLR01, Velonews, July 2011.
(16) Tour de France winning bikes, Bikeradar, June 2012.
(17) Buyer’s Guide: Race Bikes, Bicycling Magazine, March 2013.
- Cycling News: Photo Gallery: Lance Armstrong’s Tour de France winning machines, August 2007.