Tour Down Under pro bike: Sam Welsford’s stage 1-winning Specialized S-Works Tarmac SL8

Australian takes victory atop Specialized’s do-it-all superbike specced with SRAM and Roval components

Clock11:00, Tuesday 16th January 2024
Sam Welsford's Specialized Tarmac SL8


Sam Welsford's Specialized Tarmac SL8

Sam Welsford made the perfect start to life at Bora-Hansgrohe as he soared to victory on the opening stage of the Santos Tour Down Under.

The Australian fast man made the switch from dsm-firmenich PostNL to his new team in the off-season, swapping his Scott bikes for the Specialized S-Works Tarmac SL8 in the process. Only released last year, the SL8 is the latest iteration of the Tarmac series and, if his first outing on it is anything to go by, Welsford is going to have a successful relationship with the bike.

We got our hands on Welsford’s bike the day before stage 1 to take a closer look at his set-up for the race.

Specialized Tarmac SL8: One bike to rule all

The current WorldTour peloton is split into teams who use one do-it-all superbike and those who have dedicated aero and climbing bikes. Welsford has jumped across this void in 2024, swapping the aero Scott Foil and lightweight Scott Addict for the do-it-all Specialized Tarmac SL8.

The Tarmac series has been a regular fixture in Specialized’s line-up for many years but it only took on its all-round status when the SL7 was released in 2020. In doing so, Specialized chose to discontinue the dedicated Venge range, much to the consternation of many hardcore Venge fans. There was good reason for doing this, as Specialized is now able to pack aero and lightweight characteristics into one package. The result is a bike that performs on both the flat and uphill.

Things were taken to the next level with the SL8 which was released in 2023, which Specialized says is even more aerodynamic than the old Venge. This was achieved by some minor adjustments, most notably to the head tube which has taken on a more bulbous profile but is also much thinner than those used on other bikes. Changing the head tube profile came with a certain level of compromise as it adds an extra 25 grams to the frame’s weight, but that won’t bother Welsford on his favoured flat terrain.

Shimano out, SRAM in

Welsford’s move to Bora-Hansgrohe also means a switch to SRAM from Shimano. He’s not alone as Bora have also switched from Shimano to SRAM components for 2023. That decision may be influenced by the signing of Primož Roglič who has teamed up successfully with the American’s brand’s components over recent seasons for Jumbo-Visma (now Visma-Lease a Bike), most notably winning the Giro d’Italia in 2023. The move puts Bora in the minority as only four of the 18 WorldTour teams are using SRAM components in 2024, with the rest all using Shimano.

Moving to SRAM also opens up the possibility for a 1x set-up but Welsford stuck to a traditional 2x option with a 54/41t SRAM Red chainset. That’s a common size for the pro peloton as it provides adequate gearing for both the flat and the hills - the latter was important on the opening stage which, while not the most challenging, packed in nearly 2000m of climbing. The chainset included a built-in Quarq power meter and was partnered with a K-Edge chain guide which helps to prevent the chain from dropping.

Roval components complete build

Like many bike brands, Specialized has an in-house components brand in the form of Roval whose parts completed much of the build, including the Rapide CLX wheelset.

These combine a 51mm-deep front wheel with a 60mm rear to prioritise aerodynamics while also sticking to a light weight. Building on the previous generations, the wheels also feature a new carbon lay-up which increases their resistance to impacts, which in turn reduces the risk of a tubeless blow-out. The wheels were joined by Specialized’s Turbo Cotton tyres in a 26mm width. It’s a common choice for Specialized-sponsored teams but the rest of the peloton is almost unanimously now sticking to larger 28mm offerings.

Up front a Roval integrated bar and stem created a sleek appearance while the saddle also came from Specialized in the form of the Power Pro.

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