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The bike to win the Tour de France? Romain Bardet’s Eddy Merckx Stockeu69

Sam Challis
11 Jul 2019

Romain Bardet is AG2R-La Mondiale’s GC contender at the Tour de France and his bike is as ‘pro’ as they come

As the Tour de France begins to enter the mountains, and this year’s GC hopefuls look to test their legs and make their intentions clear, Frenchman Romain Bardet will be vying for his chance to make history with the first French Tour win since Bernard Hinault.

Stage 6 took in seven categorised climbs and finished with a tough ascent up to La Planche Des Belles Filles, so had a profile that should have suited the lithe physiology of AG2R-La Mondiale’s leader perfectly. As it was, he couldn't match the accelerations of his rivals and lost time on GC.

His bike, however, couldn't be better suited to the challenge of the Tour's climbs.

Bardet's CeramicSpeed over-size pulley wheel offers efficiency gains but also looks slick

Many pros are known for their idiosyncratic bike set-ups but when Cyclist got a close look at Bardet’s Tour de France machine ahead of this year’s Grand Départ it became evident that the Frenchman takes things beyond long, slammed stems.

AG2R-La Mondiale made the move from Factor to Eddy Merckx bikes for the 2019 WorldTour season. Logically Bardet chooses to ride the brand’s Stockeu69 frame, which the brand bills as its lightweight option, but appraising the bike’s setup that choice appears to be the only rational equipment decision the Frenchman has made.

As an aside, Eddy Merckx was taken over by fellow bike brand Ridley in 2017 after experiencing financial difficulty and the Stockeu69 design bears far more than a passing resemblance to the Ridley Helium SLX frame ridden by Lotto-Soudal.

Quirky finishes

If the Stockeu69 does indeed take design cues from the Helium SLX, we’d say that AG2R-La Mondiale’s mechanics should have no trouble getting the total build down close to the UCI’s 6.8kg minimum weight limit.

Even built up with those 64mm-deep Mavic Comete Pro Carbon SL tubs that should be a possibility, although Bardet is likely to run shallower wheels on the Tour’s mountain stages.

The obligatory super-long stem has been deployed at the front of Bardet’s bike, forming one-half of components brand Deda’s Alanera integrated bar-stem combo.

Integrated bar-stem combos inherently limit front-end adjustment but you’ll regularly find them in the pro peloton thanks to their purported aerodynamic advantage over conventional cockpit setups. 

It is interesting to see that Bardet opts to tape the handlebar tops up close to the stem as you would on a round bar - this will likely hurt the cockpit’s aerodynamic efficiency by increasing its frontal area, but will also increase Bardet’s grip and comfort when in his favoured climbing position.

Comfort crunches

It is at Bardet’s levers where you’ll find his most remarkable set-up choices. They are angled sharply inwards and have curious wedges from the bend in the handlebar tops up under the hoods. Cyclist can only assume this is a move to improve comfort.

There are several conventional product solutions (like gel inserts) on the market to relieve hand pain and numbness but these homemade wedges show that sometimes the crudest methods can be the most effective.

Bardet’s drivetrain is a mongrel mix, comprised of Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 derailleurs (the rear with a very slick CeramicSpeed oversize pulley wheel upgrade) and a Rotor 2inpower crankset.

With the gold chain thrown in, aesthetically it isn’t the cleanest setup going but Rotor has a solid reputation for cranksets that rival the performance characteristics of Shimano, so shifting should never be an issue for the Frenchman.

The final aspect of note on Bardet’s machine is found on the cover of his saddle. Bardet has had the AG2R-La Mondiale mechanics install a length of handlebar finishing tape along the saddle’s nose.

Once again, it is a rudimentary solution that presumably aims to increase the friction between his bibshorts and saddle so that he can remain rooted in an efficient pedalling position. 

Although it has the air of a bodge, it certainly seems more sensible than using sandpaper, which has been a technique infamously used by Tony Martin in important time-trials. 

It may not be the nicest to look at, but Romain Bardet’s Eddy Merckx Stockeu69 is exactly what a pro bike should be: quirky, personal and, as Bardet will hoping for in the coming stages, effective.

Photography by Peter Stuart