Photos courtesy of ASO/Tour de France.
Before Lance Armstrong’s downfall, the Trek Madone was the bike that every M.A.M.I.L. (Middle-Aged Man In Lycra) had to have. Then, during Team Sky/Ineos’ decade of domination, the Pinarello Dogma became the king of the cafe ride. People just love riding Tour de France winners. And now, the torch has been passed to the Colnago V3Rs.
Two-time Tour de France winner Tadej Pogačar and his UAE Team Emirates squad rely on the Colnago V3Rs for their three-week trek through France. Not only did Pogačar ride into Paris in yellow, but he also won the King of the Mountains and Best Young Rider classification (both times!) and took six individual stage wins along the way. Outside of the Tour, he’s won one-week stage races, a monument classic, and scored piles of other wins. Needless to say, Pogačar is pretty fast, and his bike must be too. As the undisputed favorite, let’s take a closer look at the bike he’ll be riding at the 2022 Tour de France.
How Tadej Pogačar’s Colnago V3Rs came to be
Colnago’s founder, Ernesto Colnago, was one of the first to experiment with carbon fiber bikes. In 1981, he unveiled the CX Pista track bike, which featured the world’s first full monocoque carbon fiber bicycle frame. When it came time for mass production, though, Colnago decided to use lugged carbon instead of monocoque construction. Lugged carbon allowed Colnago to create some absolutely beautiful bikes, but with the carbon fiber arms race kicking into high gear in the mid-'00s, Colnago needed a modern monocoque frame to satisfy its racers.
The Colnago CX-1 (left) and M10.
In 2008, Colnago introduced the monocoque CX-1 (despite its confusing name, it was a dedicated road racing bike). The CX-1 managed to win a Giro stage in 2010, so it was clear Colnago was on the right track. The CX-1 was followed by the somewhat forgettable M10 in 2011. Then, in 2015, Colnago introduced the M10’s ground-breaking replacement, the V1-r.
The Colnago V1-r (left) and V2-r.
The V1-r was Colnago’s first aero road bike and it used NACA (National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics) Kammtail tube profiles shaped through extensive wind tunnel testing with some help from Ferrari (note the Ferrari badge on the top tube). The V1-r was fast and provided a comfy ride, but it was a bit too mellow for world-class racers. Its successor, the V2-r, arrived in 2017, and it increased stiffness significantly at the bottom bracket and fork and introduced the option for disc brakes. Paired with its lightweight aero frame, it was the ultimate all-rounder. That is, until the arrival of the V3Rs in 2019.
Regular cyclists can buy and ride the exact same bike as Pogačar, complete with Campagnolo Super Record EPS and Bora One tubulars.
Thanks to a new carbon blend, the V3Rs is also lighter and stiffer than its predecessor. But it’s also more comfortable. There’s room to fit 28mm wide tires (though Colnago engineer Davide Fumagalli has said the disc version can fit 32mm tires), slightly longer chain stays, and a small cutout in the seatpost to add more comfort and control. The frame also added dropped seat stays, which add even more comfort as well as some aerodynamic gains.
Colnago has been around since 1952, and it even built bikes for five-time Tour de France winner, Eddy Merckx. But surprisingly, Tadej Pogačar’s 2020 victory on the V3Rs was the first time a Colnago-branded bike has taken the top step of the Tour de France podium.
Tadej Pogačar’s Colnago V3Rs
Pogačar rode rim brakes in 2020 (pictured) but switched to disc brakes in 2021.
Frame: Colnago V3Rs Disc
Drivetrain: Campagnolo Super Record EPS
Brakes: Campagnolo Super Record Disc
Handlebar/Stem: Deda Elementi Alanera
Wheels: Campagnolo Bora Ultra WTO tubeless
Tires: Vittoria Corsa
Pogačar’s V3Rs is equipped with Campagnolo’s Super Record EPS electronic drivetrain. EPS is not as ubiquitous as Shimano Di2 or SRAM AXS, but like its competitors, it’s extremely reliable, especially in poor conditions. Pogačar suffered no drivetrain-related mechanicals in either of his Tour campaigns. He uses a standard 53/39t crankset, with 172.5mm crankarms, and an 11-29t cassette. He will choose a larger 11-32t cassette for the biggest mountain stages.
Wet conditions during Stage 9 of the 2021 Tour made EPS and disc brakes the right choice.
For his first Tour win, Pogačar primarily rode the rim-brake version of the V3Rs. But in 2021, Pogačar broke the hearts of caliper purists by swapping to the disc-brake version. The disc-brake version was preferred for the greater stopping power, especially in the rain. The rim vs. disc debate still has some fire in it though, as Pogačar did use the rim-brake version (which is 200 grams lighter) for two key climbing stages.
Pogačar rides Campagnolo Bora Ultra WTO tubeless wheels with Vittoria Corsa tubeless tires. Pogačar actually helped develop the Bora Ultra WTO rims, which are 100 grams lighter than standard WTO rims and aero optimized for 25mm tires. Depending on the stage, he'll choose 45mm or 60mm deep rims. These are his preferred wheels, but as he does with rim brakes, he will switch to old-school Bora One or Bora Ultra tubulars for certain key stages.
For 2022, Pogačar’s Colnago V3Rs remains largely unchanged, which is fine, because it’s already a proven winner. It uses the latest and greatest tech, and it’s piloted by arguably the best rider in the world. It’s going to take a lot to dethrone the Colnago V3Rs. So we better get used to seeing a lot more of them out in the wild!