A McLaren 570S Coupe, a four-time Grand Tour winner, and the ancient streets of Bologna. This combination can only mean one thing: Team Bahrain Merida competing in the 2019 Giro d'Italia.
But how does a McLaren 570S come into an equation which includes one of the greatest stage race riders of his era – a man who goes by the name 'The Shark' – Vincenzo Nibali? It harks back to December of last year, when McLaren announced it was to become a joint venture partner in the Bahrain Merida Pro Cycling Team.
Fast forward to May, and there aren't many better ways to make a statement on the opening time trial stage of the first Grand Tour of the season than by having an adrenaline-pumping supercar as a team car. It certainly makes a change from the litany of estates and hatchbacks normally seen during every stage of a race!
Spare bikes have never travelled in such style, as the Team Bahrain Merida-liveried 570S followed closely in The Shark's slipstream, during the leg-sapping 2 km ascent to the Sanctuary of San Luca which overlooks the historic capital of the Emilia-Romagna region.
However, this partnership goes much further than having the coolest team cars in the peloton. Rooted in three key areas: technical collaboration; human high-performance; and marketing and commercial services; delivered through McLaren Applied and McLaren Group's marketing specialism, it aims to accelerate Team Bahrain Merida's journey to the pinnacle of professional cycling.
"This is a joint venture that’s been founded out of a shared love of racing," explains McLaren's Managing Director of Pro Cycling John Allert.
"Pro cycling is an amazing, heritage-filled sector of racing, but it’s also an area that we think has fantastic opportunity for innovation. We want to bring the technology and innovation that we have forged over 50 years in Formula 1 and see if we can apply it to this great team and this fantastic sport.
"A time trial is a perfect example [of how we are trying to benefit the team and improve performance]. We're looking for milliseconds of performance, just like every other team, in the same way that we do in Formula 1.
"Aero becomes fundamental – we've been working with Rudy Project on a new aero helmet that you will see Vincenzo wearing [during the time trials] – but so does course mapping, strategy, and trying to understand the best relationship between man and machine.
"Time trial bikes are very specific in terms of their optimal performance, so we're looking to quantify what that optimal performance is to make sure we're always improving."