2012 Specialized Amira
When Specialized decided to launch their 2012 Amira, they certainly did it with style. The location chosen was that of the longest running women’s stage race, held in the mountainous Northern region of Spain otherwise known as Basque country. The Eumakameen Birra (meaning women’s tour) is a four day event that is considered one of the most difficult races in Europe. When Specialized formed a partnership with HTC Highroad this year, it saw cycling legends like Judith Arndt, Ina Teutenberg, Evelyn Stevens, and Amber Neben racing on the 2011 Amira. So what better way to review the 2012 model, than ride it on the roads that these girls will be racing on.
Beginning in 1992 the Eumakameen Birra has grown from three stages to five. The four day event encompasses distances of 75km, 115km, a 7.6km TT which finished on top of a hill and was followed by 81km circuit race, then winding up on day four with 125.7km. Being able to ride the first two stages and also watch the girls in action was truly exciting, as was the chance to meet the racers.
On the night before the first stage, we shared a meal at a mountain top restaurant. With a small gathering of 25, which included only eight journalists, the atmosphere was relaxed and friendly. The team was quite happy to share race stories and also comment on the upcoming event. When asked about the difficulty of the stages, Judith Arndt’s reply was “every race here is hard.”
After spending the morning riding the Luretta 75km first stage in glorious sun, we devoured a lunch of pizza and red wine, and headed to the start line in Durango to watch the girls. With an untimely change in the weather and pending rain, the start line consisting of 18 teams gathered. I was surprised and a little disappointed to see such a small gathering of spectators at this event. This is something that can only be improved with more media coverage of women’s races. But the weather and minimal crowd support didn’t seem to affect the determination of the competitors. Within a sea of brightly coloured lycra the race faces were definitely on. Completing the course in less than two hours meant an impressive average speed of 48kph. Our ride took slightly longer. Ina Teutenberg (Ger) HTC Highroad Women camesecond on this stage.
Day two’s weather was not so kind. With the Luretta Lekeitio 115km ride ahead of us, it was arm warmers and wet weather gear all round. I don’t think I have ever been so keen to climb hills, if only for the pure purpose of keeping warm. And with one category two climb and three category three climbs, there were certainly peaks and troughs in body temperature. One of the teeth chattering descents led to a quaint little café about half way down. The coffee was great, but the enthusiasm to go back out in the rain was not. Once back on the bike, the spectacular Basque countryside was a welcome distraction from numb fingers and toes. The first 60km of this stage found us in the beautiful seaside town of Lekeito. The ride then continued along the coastal road with two 30km loops and a finish line back at Lekeito. After five of us decided to continue on the first of these loops, I found myself in awe of the fact that the racers would be taking it on twice, at break-neck pace. These girls are tough!
After lunch it was into the van to catch the girls in action climbing those hills. Unfortunately for us, we missed them and after driving alongside one of the riders who had been dropped we found out why. When we asked her what the pace was like she exclaimed “fast race…….much too fast”. Judith Arndt (Ger) HTC Highroad Women came in third that day.
On day three, still feeling the sting in our legs from the day before, we had a leisurely ride to Bilbao to watch the 7.6km TT. With a profile resembling a ski jump, this section is infamously hard. Finishing at the top of the hill, Judith Arndt from HTC –Highroad, camethird. Unfortunately our itinerary didn’t include the rest of the race, so the results are listed below.
So apart from the breathtaking scenery and awesome company, what’s the 2012 Specialized Amira like? Fairly soon after arrival, I had my first taste of the Spanish hills. My initial impression was less a surprise than you might think. With the knowledge that this was a super light bike, it was fairly obvious that it would climb well. But given that I had altitude adjusting lungs and jetlag, it climbed seriously well. And the riding on days that followed only reinforced this. Limited only by ability, this bike has the potential to literally fly up the hills. Descending was also impressive. There’s a certain amount of confidence you get when riding the Amira. The long descents were fast and cornering was direct. Not forgetting that this is a bike designed for pro-racers, you quickly get the feeling that this bike has no limits. It wants to be pushed to the extreme. Most descents at some point require a certain amount of braking and with the need to pull up quickly on a particular descent, I was once again reminded how good SRAM Red brakes are. With the opportunity to open up at the end of a ride the Amira was truly responsive in a sprint, again limited only by the power in your legs. This bike is definitely going to be a weapon for those HTC girls. I will be following their race results with renewed interest.
History of the Amira
True appreciation for the 2012 Specialized Amira requires a step back in time to where it all started. There have been a number of significant milestones in women’s products from Specialized, starting in 2003 with the introduction of female specific geometry and components.
In, 2004 ‘Designs for Women’ was launched and in 2005 the first women’s team ‘Victory Brewing Women’s Cycling’ was sponsored. The following year saw the introduction of the Ruby and in 2007 an S-Works Ruby was included in the line up. In that same year the ‘Quasar’ logo was put onto all women’s products as an immediately recognizable women’s logo. In 2008 the women’s pro team ‘Aarons Pro Cycling’ raced on the S-Works Ruby and in 2009 it won its first world cup race under Emma Pooley. With an increasing demand for that extra effort to be put into women’s bikes and a definite need for a higher-end performance model, Specialized realised that although they had an exceptional product in the Ruby, it was unable to be pushed to a true race platform and was performing best as an endurance road bike.
With an increasing demand for stiffer and lighter bikes it was at this point that Specialized engineer Kyle Chubbuck started work on the Amira. Knowing that not just one women’s road bike was going to appeal to everybody, and it wasn’t just about the bike being a good fit, but that it also had to perform well, the Amira was launched in 2010, and in the first year of racing achieved over 30 podium finishes. This leads us to now - 2011 and the HTC Highroad Women’s Team sponsorship.