Team Sky may have lost its biggest hope for Tour de France glory with Chris Froome limping off his bike and into the back seat of a Jaguar XF Sportbrake just five stages into the race. But the show goes on and
division has been hard at work maintaining Team Sky's reputation for having the coolest kit in the peloton by building a special F-Type Coupe support vehicle for de facto team leader Richie Porte and his colleagues for the
Team Sky's cars were already pretty cool...
From the team bus to the Rapha clothing, Pinarello Dogmas and - of course - mean looking XF Sportbrake team cars Sky's image is one of stylish tech and well financed showmanship. Amid the Skodas used by the race officials and majority of other teams the Jags really cut a dash, the V8 rumble of Sky's
adding to the sense of national pride when the peloton made its triumphant tour de Yorkshire at the start of the race.
This one-off F-Type Coupe, named the Stage 20 Concept, will only deepen the sense of envy among rival teams, this being possibly the coolest combination of pedal- and horsepower ever created.
PH got a sneak preview of the S20C at Jaguar's Gaydon proving ground, chatting with Special Operations man Mark Truman for whom it's been a labour of love since getting the go ahead last year. Built with consultation from Team Sky from the outset, the F-Type is a proper working team car with all the additional equipment required for any Tour de France support car. Just rather sexier than most.
Special Operations man Mark talks us round
In place of the regular boot lid there's a fabricated carbon fibre hatch configured with wells to hold the rear wheels of the bikes - plus additional spares - while the front wheels sit in carbon fibre channels added to the roof. The bikes -
time trial machines - are held in place with a custom built quick release aluminium clamp and once released the bike can be removed with one hand in mere seconds should a mechanical issue on the time trial require a swap on the hoof. Inside cargo netting has been installed to carry the crew's gear and radio gear wired in for keeping in touch with riders and other team vehicles. It goes without saying the upholstery has been finished in Team Sky colours too with bright cyan stripes up the centre of the black leather seats and colour coded contrast stitching.
The attention to detail Mark and his colleagues have put into the car is an excellent demonstration of the kind of thing SO can do, given the time and budget. Realising the wheel wells could be a water trap in foul weather an intricate drainage system has been devised to draw moisture away but it's the sleek looking carbon fibre support bracket on the roof Mark's most proud of. "That's four separate pieces and bonding it together and finishing it to the standard we wanted took a lot of work. A lot of work," he says, thoughtfully. It perfectly complements the aero shaped frames of the Pinarellos and provides a neat physical and aesthetic connection between bikes and cars. It's all got to work too though and the beautifully machined clamp is adjustable so it can work with different frames and carefully designed to hold the bikes securely without crushing the carbon tubing.
F-Type will support time trial on penultimate stage
With 550hp the F-Type R isn't exactly troubled by the presence of bikes attached to the roof and Mark says they've tested it up to over 100mph, even if the team will rarely need to go over 60mph. Better safe than sorry though, the Gaydon test track offering its own sections of pave as wickedly bumpy as anything Belgium has to offer should the F-Type take a more wide-ranging role in future Tours. Pinarello dealer Sigma Sport, based just down the road from PH Towers, told us an Il Bolide costs £9,300 for the frame and a near-£20K custom build for a team-standard bike wouldn't be a huge stretch of the imagination. So you'd have to hope they'd stay put.
By rights an F-Type configured to carry fancy road bikes is the kind of thing to set PH's Pedal Powered forum alight and have well-financed MAMILs advancing towards Special Operations with cheque books wide open. Could a productionised equivalent ever be made available, either as an official accessory or pricey custom job for well financed roadies? Mark says he's had the discussion with SO boss John Edwards but reckons, as is, it'd require swapping out the entire bootlid for starters. A price worth paying for the coolest bike transport device out there? Possibly, though that natty carbon support pylon might make even the most sturdy wallet quiver somewhat. Certainly the combination of sports cars and bicycles is one that's been seen before, at which point we'd invite you to share pictures of the best and worst examples you may have come across in real life or on that there t'internet...