This is the bike on which Marcel KIttel (Giant-Shimano) won stage one of the Tour de France.
The German sprinter powered his Giant Propel Advanced SL to victory on the uphill finish into Harrogate, Yorkshire, out-pacing Peter Sagan (Cannondale Pro Cycling)
to pull on the first , while Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) maillot jaune of the 2014 race was left at the roadside after crashing on the run-in to the line.
The Propel, first launched in January 2013, is Giant’s aero road bike and one which seeks to cheat the wind in order to make the most of Kittel’s incredible power.
The frame’s teardrop tube profiles are designed to slice through the air, while the V-brakes (with the front brake hidden behind the fork) used by the Giant-Shimano team adopt a low profile to smooth air flow. Kittel’s Propel is dressed in team issue kit, with a Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 groupset, Shimano C50 wheels, Vittoria Corsa SC tubular tyres and PRO finishing kit.
Let’s take a closer look at the machine first across the line in Harrogate.
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Giant Propel Advanced SL
The Propel is Giant's aero road bike and the weapon of choice for Marcel Kittel at the 2014 Tour de France. Giant claim (when the Propel was launched in January 2013, at least) that the Propel is the world’s fastest aero bike. The frame seeks to blend the ride quality and stiffness of the TCR Advanced SL with the aerodynamics Trinity Advanced SL time trial machine. Kittel is one of the biggest riders in the pro peloton, at 6'2" and 82kg, and rides a size large frame.
The Propel's teardrop 'AeroSystem Shaping Technology' tubes give the frame a slender profile and Giant say it is between 12 and 36 seconds faster compared to "key aero bike competitors" over a distance of 40km at a speed of 40kph. We can't substantiate those claims, of course, but it certainly didn't slow Kittel down in Harrogate.
Hidden from view
The front mini V-brake on Kittel's bike is hidden behind the fork to smooth air flow and help the Propel cut through the wind. The Giant-Shimano team use aluminium brakes made by Swiss brand Fouriers, rather than the carbon Giant SpeedControl SLR units specced on aftermarket bikes, as they are said to allow for quicker adjustment when using rims of a varying width.
The low-profile design of the brakes also means the rear unit is neatly tucked behind the razorblade-thin seatstays.
Kittel uses Shimano's satellite shifters (with two small buttons, one on either side of the handlebar, to move up and down the cassette) to allow for quick shifting when sprinting on the drops.
This one goes to 11
The German powerhouse's bike is dressed in an electronic Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 groupset, with a wide-ranging 11-28t groupset for the opening stage of the Tour de France, which included three categorised climbs on the 190.5km route.
An oversized, carbon fibre PRO Vibe Sprint stem (140mm in length) keeps things super-stiff up front when Kittel is pulling on the handlebar while sprinting. The stem clamps on to an aluminium PRO Vibe 7S handlebar. An SRM Power Control head unit displays the 26-year-old's huge wattage.
We love the contrast of the amber sidewalls on Vittoria's Corsa SC tubular tyres, glued to Shimano Dura-Ace C50 wheels. Giant-Shimano are among the teams to switch to wider tyres in recent years and use 25mm rubber for most races, including stage one of the Tour.
A PRO Turnix is Kittel's saddle of choice.
Kittel powered his Propel to victory on stage one to pull on the first maillot jaune of the 2014 Tour (Pic: Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com)