With the start of the 2021 WorldTour season just weeks away, many riders from the pro peloton have been spending the offseason becoming accustomed to new bikes that they’ll be spending a lot of time with over the course of the year.
Following the merry go round of bike swaps that occurred at the end of the 2020 season, many riders find themselves aboard a new brand altogether. As Scott Bikes transitioned from Mitchelton Scott (Now Team BikeExchange) to Team Sunweb (Now Team DSM), Michael Matthews moved in the opposite direction. Now riding for the newly-named Team BikeExchange, he’s spending his offseason familiarising himself with the Bianchi range, which last year were ridden by Jumbo Visma.
The 30-year-old Australian returns to his home team after four seasons at Team Sunweb, and given we’re all social distancing and in lockdown, we’ve not had a chance to get up close and personal with Matthews’ new bikes, but he’s kindly sent us these exclusive pictures.
As ever, we’ll follow up with a more in-depth gallery once racing begins and we can get a closer look.
Of the two bikes shown here, the one most familiar to cycling fans will be the Oltre XR4 Disc. This is the disc brake equipped version of the bike used exclusively by the Jumbo Visma team in 2020, ridden to both Monument and Grand Tour successes.
Much debate was had over Jumbo Visma’s choice to forego disc brakes in 2020, a decision that pertained predominantly to weight. However, BikeExchange’s choice to run discs is likely due to the second bike in the team’s service course, the all-new Bianchi Specialissima Disc, which was launched late last year and never made available to the Jumbo Visma squad.
With a disc-equipped lightweight bike also at their disposal, less pressure is on the team to get the Oltre XR4 to meet the 6.8kg UCI weight limit. As a result, Matthews will be free to choose between reduced weight and reduced drag depending on the parcours of the day ahead.
As a punchy uphill sprinter, it will be interesting to see which he chooses for race days, and the decision will likely depend on the gradient of the finish and where the selections are likely to be made on the day.
Matthews also shared a picture of his Bianchi 928 from his 2010 season at continental level with Team Jayco Skins. A run through the spec and feature list showcases just how quickly bike tech has moved on in 11 years. Aluminium clinchers might be a training-bike-exclusive, but the external cable routing certainly isn’t. Nor is the Dura-Ace 7900 mechanical groupset and speed sensor attached to the fork.