Giving each Tour de France rider their own Project One scheme? Not easy

How Trek put Project One bikes under every Lidl-Trek rider in the Tour de France

For this year’s Tour de France and Tour de France Femmes, Trek is unveiling eight new Project One schemes, one for every Lidl-Trek rider in each event. Preparing for the biggest Grand Tour of the year is a massive undertaking on its own. Adding bespoke paint schemes in the mix makes it an even more complex task for the people in charge of the team’s equipment.

That’s where Glen Leven comes in. Leven is Lidl-Trek’s team support manager in charge of the team’s bikes — i.e., frames, tires, wheels, components, etc. He had to coordinate getting the painted frames from Trek headquarters in Waterloo to the team’s service course in Deinze, Belgium, to then getting the bikes built with a team of mechanics in time for Stage 1 of the men’s Tour de France in Bilbao, Spain, on July 1.  

Leven is one of the busiest people in the world during the weeks and days leading up to the Tour. Good thing he’s uniquely suited to the job. He has been a mechanic for Trek’s road program for nearly a decade, and has never stopped loving to work on bikes.

Mads Pedersen's Chroma-Iridescent P1 Madone.

Jasper Stuyven's Viper Frost Crystalline P1 Emonda

“You don’t do it as a normal job. You need to do it as a passion,” Leven says. “If there is an issue, I love to understand why it happened, and what can be done to avoid the issue in the future. And then I love to make everything work perfectly.”

Job done in this case. You’ll see the eight new paint schemes — Blue, White, and Red Smoke; Chroma Ultra-Iridescent; Chroma Diamond Flake; Blue and Red Crystalline; and Team Tie Dye — all across the French countryside and on the Champs-Élysées thanks to the efforts of Leven and a host of designers, painters, mechanics, and Race Shop support team managers.

The process began in February. Leven was approached with the idea of providing a different Project One paint scheme to each of the riders participating in both editions of the Tour de France. He immediately set out collecting the correct sizes for each frame to be painted, which is a tricky task when no one could say for certain yet who would actually be racing the Tour come July.

“You need way more bikes than if all the riders are on the same color scheme, because you also need to take into account spare frames, spare forks, spare seatposts, and everything else,” Leven says. “So I asked the sports directors and the performance manager for the long list of possible riders for the Tour, and then you start to check sizes for their primary bikes, secondary bikes, seatposts — any information I can provide to Trek and make sure the correct bikes get painted.”

A Grand Tour team needs a lot of bikes to survive the gauntlet of stage racing. For the men’s Tour de France, each rider will have at least three road bikes and two time trial bikes built to their specifications. For riders who are designated as team leaders, they may have five road bikes and three time trial bikes. (You can never have too many spares in a race as unpredictable as the Tour.)

All told, Lidl-Trek could have somewhere from 40-50 bikes with them at the Tour for the eight riders. Unfortunately for Leven and his crew, they have to start building bikes well before final selections are made. So to be safe, they built bikes for 11 riders to make sure they could cover every foreseeable permutation of the roster.

Quinn Simmons' Chroma Diamond Flake P1 Madone

Leven estimates that one mechanic can build, on average, three bikes a day. Receiving the frames as soon as possible helps his peace of mind. Whenever a batch of four frames are painted in Waterloo, they are quickly packed and shipped to Deinze to be prepped. 

“I’m following up with the Race Shop and checking how the process is going with painting,” Leven says. “If some frames are already painted, we can get them shipped over. When they are shipped, you’re following up with customs and making sure they don’t get stuck.”

The team set a deadline of June 10 to have received all of the painted frames in Deinze. Thankfully, everything arrived without any significant glitches. It’s rare when something doesn’t go wrong in the lead-up to the Tour — such is the nature of one of the most logistically challenging sporting events in the world.

If the frames had been late, Leven and his team would have been prepared. He brings in two mechanics to Trek’s service course for two weeks before the Tour to help him with any last minute bike prep. Then the four mechanics who will be traveling with the team for the three-week Tour show up with roughly a week to spare. If all goes well, the group has a day or two to relax in Belgium before shipping off for three grueling weeks of racing.

Thanks to more than four months of diligent planning and execution, Lidl-Trek riders will look stunning aboard their Project One bikes this July. Dozens of people deserve credit, none of whom will be quite as visible as the intrepid men and women racing in their red, yellow, and blue kits. Just know that when a glint of sunshine off a chroma frame catches your eye from somewhere within the peloton, Leven and a passionate crew worked tirelessly to make that moment happen.