Continuing the team bike series from the start of the 2023 season, this is a gallery of the Merida bikes raced by Bahrain Victorious, plus a short, impromptu interview with Alan Dumic – a mechanic from the team – as he cleaned up the bikes in preparation of the opening day of racing at the TDU.
– Part of a Team Bike series from the 2023 Tour Down Under (photos by Rob Arnold)
The Tour Down Under began well for Bahrain Victorious. After the wet time trial on the opening day, the team enjoyed two stage victories: Phil Bauhaus in a sprint in the Barossa wine region, then a couple of days later Pello Bilbao beat Simon Yates and Jay Vine for line honours after the trio escaped the bunch on the steep slopes of the Corkscrew climb.
A sprinter and a climber, first in stages one and two, respectively.
Alan Dumic is a Croatian mechanic who works for Bahrain Victorious. While he put the finishing touches to some of the team’s bikes – a few hours before rain started to fall in Adelaide, just as the prologue TT was about to get underway – I spoke with Dumic about Merida and the equipment that will be used in 2023.
Merida is one of the biggest bike brands in the world and its association with the WorldTour team has been in place since Bahrain came to cycling as a title sponsor in 2016.
One of the biggest racing product innovations of the 2022 season was created by this team and it immediately yielded a Classic result. Matej Mohoric scored a coup in Milan-Sanremo when he sped ahead of the bunch on the descent of the Poggio and, using a specially created dropper seatpost for his road bike, he built a winning advantage.
The dropper post was a concept that had been mapped out years in advance by Dumic, Filip Tisma (the head mechanic for Bahrain Victorious), Mohoric and the team’s product suppliers.
Mohoric was, after all, one of the first riders to race in extreme positions and achieve success. His victory in the wet of the under-23 road race at the world championships in 2013 came after an attack on a climb and the subsequent descent. With his body tucked down low, he sat on the top tube of the bike and pedalled furiously in a style that would later be used by others to gain an advantage on the descent.
That style of riding has since been banned by the UCI.
“Riders must observe the standard position as defined by article 1.3.008,” says the rule update on the UCI site. “Sitting on the bicycle’s top tube is prohibited.”
But Tisma, Mohoric et al had a plan to circumvent the rule change. They’d employ a bit of MTB thinking and apply it to road cycling.
That was a technical innovation that was applied to an otherwise ‘standard’ road bike but it isn’t common, not even for other riders from the team.
When I asked Dumic if there was a dropper post for any of the bikes at the TDU, he smiled and replied, “No, no… Matej is not here, huh?”
“Is it only for Matej?”
“It was only for Matej,” he explained, “but that does not mean that some other riders – if they like it – we will not build it for them.”
Without this team-specific innovation the bikes raced by Bahrain Victorious are the same as what you can buy in the shops.
Are there any new innovations for 2023? “No, everything actually is based on the last season except the new wheels from Vision… the rim is a bit wider.”
Vision supplies the wheels, handlebars and stem while the rest of the spec is in keeping with Merida’s catalogue: Shimano Dura-Ace groupset (R9200, ie. 12-speed), Prologo saddles, and the proprietary aero seatpost (for the Reacto Team – while the Scultura has a 27.2mm rounded post). The team’s tyres are tubular Continental GP 5000 (28mm).
“We have Shimano power meter, which is functioning pretty well,” says Dumic. “We’re happy with that.”
Bike selection: what’s more popular?
Do the riders generally ask for the Reacto or the Scultura? “It depends from rider to rider. If there is more climbing, they are on the Scultura,” explains Dumic. “If they are an all-rounder, they are more often on the Reacto.”
Both these Merida bikes are common on the roads of Australia, particularly since the start of the pandemic when there was a glut of interest in cycling, but bike supply was limited.
The Taiwanese company was able to continue supplying shops at a time when stock of other brands was dwindling. Another contributing factor to the strong presence of Merida in Australia is the partnership that exists between the distribution agent, Advance Traders, and the 99 Bikes retail chain.
None of this relates to the Bahrain Victorious team but, as one comment on the YouTube clip highlights, “Merida is a good, dependable bike, so frequently looked down upon at the coffee shop.”
In other words, while there’s often much fanfare around other bike brands, Merida tends to get pigeonholed into the mass-market category despite having race-winning products like the Reacto and Scultura.
As the video gallery and images on this page illustrate, however, the Bahrain Victorious team bikes are aesthetically stunning while also having all the usual trimmings of technical innovations… and a price tag that’s competitive with other brands, if not a little cheaper.
The Bahrain Victorious replica Reacto Team retails in Australia for AUD$11,999, complete with Shimano power meter, the new 12-speed Dura-Ace groupset and Vision’s handlebar and stem combination (as raced by Bauhaus, Bilbao etc).
Meanwhile, the lighter Scultura (again with power meter etc) is slightly less expensive in Australia, with a retail price of AUD$11,499.
– By Rob Arnold
– Click the link below to see the bikes of 18 pro teams in 2023. –
Stay tuned for more bike galleries and videos about equipment used at #TDU2023.
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