For the second year in a row, the American bike manufacturer Specialized will supply bikes to the Belgian Quickstep team. Specialized appears at the start of the season with clear ambitions: the S-Works Tarmac SL2 will be the best and most complete racing bike ever, according to the programme booklet. As a nice extra, a select group of Quicksteppers will receive a customized copy. The bike of Stijn Devolder will have customized finish, just like those of Paolo Bettini, Tom Boonen and Giovanni Visconti. No Italian tricolour, Olympic gold or rainbow colours but subtle touches of Belgian black, yellow and red on the frame. Devolder wants as few frills as possible on his bike. Standing out through performance, not through flashy bike gear is his creed.
The Belgian champion is not an equipment freak. Before the start of the season, he does adjust the bike properly. But that is where it ends. Stijn is extremely frugal when it comes down to his choice of saddle. Not an 'official' Specialized Toupé saddle, but a San Marco Regal - Stijn's favorite for years. To avoid offending the sponsor, Devolder hides the saddle in a black leather cover. Strikingly, teammate Boonen also rides a Regal and wins Paris-Roubaix, the bumpiest of the classics, one week after Stijn. Does Specialized have no merit in Devolder's victory? There is. For four years in a row, the winner of Flanders' finest has been riding a Specialized S-Works Tarmac SL2 (Devolder in 2008 and 2009, Cancellara in 2010, Nuyens in 2011). Is this type the best and most complete of the bunch?
And Stijn's bike? At the end of the season he gets the Specialized. Devolder senior gives the Tour bike a second life and degrades the shiny bolides of fellow cyclists to followers. Until the bike gets a place in the gallery of honour of KOERS. Museum of Cycle Racing.