As one of the most prestigious crowns in the road cycling calendar, the UCI Road World Championships comes with an enormity of marketing potential for sponsors. Specialized knows this all too well, having capitalised on previous successes with custom paint jobs and limited-edition collaborations, so when Julian Alaphilippe stormed to a second consecutive title in the elite men’s road race in Leuven on Sunday, the Specialized team set to work.
With the sheer quantity of spectators in Leuven at the time of Alaphilippe’s victory, there would be no better opportunity to show off the winner’s bike than in the minutes following the event. So in the wake of Alaphilippe’s title defence, another race was just beginning, as the brand wanted to bring the winning bike back to its ‘Experience Centre’ in Leuven.
With Alaphilippe looking a dead certainty for victory with 3km to go, Leo Menville, road team liaison within Specialized’s S-Racing team, set off from the Experience Centre and ran more than 2km across Leuven to the race’s official podium.
However, while Menville and Alaphilippe’s trade team mechanics are on first name terms, Alaphilippe was in Leuven representing his country so Menville’s usual freedom of access was removed. Menville had no contacts within the French federation, so had already sent a text message to his contacts at Deceuninck-QuickStep, asking that they contact the French mechanics to request they hand over Alaphilippe’s bike on his arrival, but just as a mechanic was about to release the bike, another stepped in and cancelled the handover.
To try to overturn this situation, Menville then made a call to Alaphilippe’s agent with the same request, pleading that they call the French federation, explain that he is a Specialized S-Racing liaison and allow him to take the bike. A short while later and the good news was in, he had the bike.
However, the next step was getting the bike – the second most recognisable thing in Leuven behind Alaphilippe himself – 2km back across Leuven, through the biggest crowds the city has seen in years, with many of the city’s roads still closed. With that, Menville chose speed over stealth, found one of the newly opened roads and jumped aboard the bike, riding it the distance back.
Shortly after, with the bike safely in the four walls of Specialized’s store, still covered in sweat, saliva and dust from the Belgian roads, it was on its way out again. The destination: a quiet side street that would set the backdrop of the photos you see here.
The bike, only differing from that which he’s used throughout the 2021 season by way of the colour scheme, is a melting pot of top-tier tech complete with Dura-Ace Di2, Roval Rapide CLX wheels and Turbo Cotton clincher tyres. The only new addition comes in the form of an energy bar wrapper, still hastily stuffed beneath the saddle.
Scroll through the photos above for a more detailed look at the Road World Championships title defending bike.
Tech Specs: Julian Alaphilippe’s Specialized S-Works Tarmac SL7
|Frame||Specialized Tarmac SL7|
|Groupset||Shimano Dura-Ace R9170 Di2|
|Brakes||Shimano Dura-Ace R9170 Hydraulic Disc|
|Wheelset||Roval Rapide CLX|
|Stem||Specialized Tarmac Stem (100mm)|
|Handlebars||Pro Vibe Superlight (38cm)|
|Power Meter||Shimano Dura-Ace R9100-P|
|Pedals||Shimano Dura-Ace R9100|
|Saddle||Specialized S-Works Romin Evo|
|Tyres||Specialized Turbo Cotton (26mm)|
|Computer||Wahoo Elemnt Bolt|
|Bottle Cages||Tacx Deva|