Spy shots: Alessandro Petacchi's prototype Merida Reacto Evo

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Spy shots: Alessandro Petacchi’s prototype Merida Reacto Evo

Spotted in Majorca: the prototype Merida Reacto Evo of Lampre-Merida sprint veteran Alessandro Petacchi.

Merida are one of the biggest bicycle manufacturers in the world but, having previously focussed on elite mountain biking, this is the first time they have sponsored a team in the top tier of the professional road cycling.

Alessandro Petacchi’s prototype Merida Reacto Evo

As a result, while most Lampre-Merida riders will use the Scultura SL throughout this season, we except to see a host of other developments as Merida play catch-up. They’ve just launched the Warp time trial bike, while a Classics-specific machine is expected in the spring – and this, the Reacto Evo, is the aero bike to be used by Petacchi in elbow-to-elbow in bunch sprints this season.

The original Reacto has existed in Merida’s range since 2011 but this is the latest evolution (see what they did there?). In fact, the Reacto Evo is so new it doesn’t even exist on the latest update of the UCI’s list of approved frames and forks, although, rest assured, it does have the world governing body’s stamp of approval on the seattube.

The rear brake now sits beneath the bottom bracket

Most notable is the absence of the rear brake on the very stout and bridge-less seatstays, which are similar in design to the BMC TMR01. Instead it sits beneath the bottom bracket, much like on the latest iteration of the Trek Madone unveiled last year.

We’ve pressed Merida UK for more details but they’re remaining tight-lipped, other than to say the machine we spotted Petacchi riding at Challenge Majorca was an early prototype and the final Reacto Evo will be officially launched ahead of the Giro d’Italia.

What we can tell you for now is that the Reacto Evo is based around a frame which uses NACA (National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics) airfoil tube profiles. At the front it uses the same huge X-Taper headtube as the original Reacto, with its 1.5″ lower bearing, and the fork is neatly integrated with the frame. The Evo also keeps the Reacto’s S-Flex Comfort seatpost, which uses a window construction to reportedly improve comfort.

The Merida Reacto Evo will be officially unveiled ahead of the Giro d’Italia

Petacchi’s prototype Reacto Evo also had a tiny headtube to allow the 2010 Tour de France green jersey winner to get as low as possible during sprints, while Ale-Jet’s machine was equipped with 10-speed Shimano Dura-Ace Di2, Fulcrum Racing Speed XLR wheels wrapped in Continental Competition tubs, FSA finishing kit and a Selle San Marco Concor Carbon FX saddle.

We’ll know more when the Reacto Evo is officially launched but there’s no doubting it’s a machine designed to win races, not a beauty competition, and it undeniably looks fast. Whether the 39-year-old Petacchi still has the legs to propel it to victory is to be seen.

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RoadCyclingUK attended Challenge Majorca as a guest of race sponsor Iberostar, staying at the Iberostar Playa de Muro hotel in Alcudia. For more information visit www.iberostar.com

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