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Julian Alaphilippe’s Specialized S-Works Tarmac SL7 – World Champion Edition

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Deceuninck–Quick-Step’s Julian Alaphilippe gave the Tour de France a huge boost with a stunning victory on stage 1, at the top of the Côte de la Fosse aux Loups. The world champion exchanged his rainbow jersey for first maillot jaune of the race, which he wears for the third straight Tour, hopefully drawing many French eyes away from the Euro2020 soccer tournament. He attacked with more than 2 kilometers of the steep climb remaining and held off the chase from all his stage hunting rivals and contenders for the overall victory.

By Ben Atkins | Images by James Startt

Despite hitting the asphalt with his right knee in a huge crash inside the final 50 kilometers, Alaphilippe raced to glory over the challenging terrain of Brittany on a Specialized S-Works Tarmac SL7. It’s a very standard team bike in many ways, but equally as individual as the mercurial Frenchman himself.

The frame was launched last year at around the time the Tour de France should have been, were it not for the Covid-19 pandemic. Alaphilippe nevertheless rode it to victory on stage 2 last year into Nice, where he took the maillot jaune for the second year in succession. Irish champion Sam Bennett also took two stages on the SL7, including the final showpiece in Paris, and went on to deny fellow Specialized rider Peter Sagan an eighth green jersey in nine years.

Alaphilippe’s 2021 Tarmac SL7 is largely the same as the 2020 version, with the most obvious difference coming as a result of what he achieved just a week after that Tour finished, as he became the first Frenchman since Laurent Brochard in 1998 to win the world championship.

Julian Alaphilippe S-Works Tarmac SL7 World Champion
World champion Julian Alaphilippe’s S-Works Tarmac SL7.

For a rider as flamboyant as Alaphilippe, one would expect nothing less than this rainbow jersey paint scheme. Although, to be fair, Specialized has had plenty of practice over the years with Sagan’s three championships, and others going as far back as Paolo Bettini in 2007. They’ve also had several world champions in the women’s peloton, of course, and the Netherlands’ Anna van der Breggen has a similar paint scheme on her Team SD Worx machine.

Special detail for a growing family

What sets Alaphilippe’s frame apart from van der Breggen’s however is the decorative monogramming on the top tube. A ‘J’ for Julian is intertwined with an ‘M’ for partner, former French champion turned TV commentator Marion Rousse. In between the two is a smaller ’N,’ representing their baby Nino, who was born on the June 14, just 12 days before the Tour, with Alaphilippe abandoning the Tour de Suisse to be at Rousse’s side.

Julian Alaphilippe S-Works Tarmac SL7 World Champion
A fresh detail on the world champion’s bike: Initials of his wife, himself and his newborn child.

As well as this lovely touch is a golden reminder on the sides of the fork that Deceuninck–Quick-Step refer to themselves collectively as the “Wolfpack.” The Côte de la Fosse aux Loups, where the stage finished, roughly translates as “Wolf Pit Hill.” Who would have bet against the leader of the pack winning there?

Julian Alaphilippe S-Works Tarmac SL7 World Champion
Note the “Wolfpack” logo on the fork.

Alaphilippe’s stage 2 victory in 2020 was dedicated to his father, who had tragically passed after a long illness just a few months before. This time was a far happier tribute though, as he approached the line and put a thumb into his mouth in dedication to his young son.

A predominantly Shimano and Specialized build

The SL7 is only compatible with disc brakes and electronic groupsets, so as a Shimano sponsored team, Deceuninck–Quick-Step has kitted the Frenchman out with a full Dura-Ace 9170 groupset.

Julian Alaphilippe S-Works Tarmac SL7 World Champion
Alaphilippe’s bike gets a full Dura-Ace 9170 groupset.

With every drop of rider data so vitally important in today’s peloton, the team uses the R9100-P crankset, featuring a dual-sided power meter, which will be communicating with Alaphilippe’s Wahoo ELEMNT head unit just as soon as he clips it on. Deceuninck–Quick-Step uses CeramicSpeed bearings in the headset and bottom bracket, but—presumably at least part due to the Shimano sponsorship—does not use the company’s conspicuous OSPW pulley wheel system on the rear derailleur.

The Tarmac comes with an S-Works integrated stem, which allows all of the hydraulic brake lines and Di2 cables to be neatly channeled through the head-tube, and into the frame and fork, to keep them nicely out of the wind. Eschewing the slight Watt-saving benefit of an aero profile handlebar though, Alaphilippe opts for the comfort of a more conventional Vibe model, from Shimano subsidiary Pro, with a compact drop.

Julian Alaphilippe S-Works Tarmac SL7 World Champion
Alaphilippe opts for traditional round bars, rather than aero ones that come standard on the Tarmac.

With Shimano supplying Deceuninck–Quick-Step with almost its full product range, it’s no surprise to see the bike fitted with in-house wheel brand Roval’s aerodynamic Rapide CLX with S-Works RapidAir clincher tires. Specialized and the team have been making the gradual move away from tubulars for several years, and now uses them only occasionally.

Alaphilippe sits on an S-Works Romin Evo, again from Specialized, and clips his S-Works shoes into Shimano’s PD-R9100 pedals. Finally, but no less importantly, Alaphilippe will be kept hydrated via bottles from Tacx (although let’s hope not inside the final 20km, costing him his maillot jaune, as happened last year!) which will be held in place by Deva bottle cages from the same company.

Julian Alaphilippe S-Works Tarmac SL7 World Champion
Deceuninck–Quick-Step uses Tacx bottles and cages.

With Deceuninck–Quick-Step having signed a new deal with Specialized this week, which will see the California bike company supplying the Belgian super-team until the end of 2027, surely nothing will have made them happier than to see their bike ridden to victory on the very first stage.