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by Dave Everett
April 3, 2017
Photography by Dave Everett
The Spring Classics present a challenge for the mechanics of the WorldTour teams and the select few Pro Continental teams that get to ride these illustrious races. All the races put on by organiser Flanders Classics — from Omloop Het Nieuwsblad through to Scheldeprijs — and ASO’s Paris-Roubaix incorporate the famed cobbles of northern Europe; old broken roads which, for generations, have either made or broken riders. These races demand a lot, not just of the riders but also the equipment they use.
We took a tour of the pits at the Tour of Flanders to find out what kit was being used to tame the bergs and cobbles of De Ronde.
In his last Classics campaign, Belgian superstar Tom Boonen (QuickStep Floors) had not one, not two, but three custom bikes prepared for him by Specialized, his team sponsor. Sat atop the team car, in prime position above the passenger’s door (where the mechanic sits), was a glossy white and gold Tarmac, decked out with matching gold Roval CLX50 wheels. To tip it overboard, Boonen had pristine white, very-pro-looking bar tape with Supacaz bar end plugs.
He started the race on Specialized’s latest incarnation of the Roubaix, a bike with an in-built suspension cartridge dubbed Future Shock. Unlike the disc brake models available to the public, Boonen’s was a conventional rim-brake setup. In line with UCI rules, Specialized will have to make sure this build is also available to the average Joe at some point.
Partway through the race, Boonen switched to his first spare bike, the Tarmac, then later returned to using the Roubaix. His third bike — the second Tarmac — didn’t see any action, and the Shimano Dura-Ace R9100 components with which it was built finished the race as clean as it started.
Tom Boonen’s second spare bike, a Specialized S-Works Tarmac, didn’t see any action as he started on an S-Works Roubaix, swapped to a different Tarmac, then finished on the Roubaix.
Boonen had two sets of custom Roval CLX50 carbon tubular wheels, too.
The white-and-gold finish seemed fitting for Boonen’s final Tour of Flanders.
Boonen switched between the lighter-and-stiffer Tarmac and the heavier-but-smoother Roubaix during the race.
Naturally, Boonen’s bike occupied the prime position atop the team car. Specialized only makes the consumer-spec Roubaix with disc brakes, but these rim-brake versions were made especially for Quick Step and Bora.
More of that white and gold paint scheme.
Boonen’s second spare bike was fitted with Roval CLX32 wheels and 26mm-wide FMB cotton tubulars with Specialized’s own Turbo tread.
Boonen’s second bike had the 4iiii power meter on the latest Dura-Ace chainset.
A few team buses over, team title sponsor and bike sponsor Wilier Triestina supplied team leader Filippo Pozzato with a very “bling” Cento10 Air, whose chrome blue colourway stood out from the rest of the team’s standard red and yellow livery. Italian manufacturer Ursus supplied the 24mm-deep carbon wheels, and in a not-very-Italian manner, the bike was kitted out with a Shimano Dura-Ace groupset.
Pozzato had a custom Wilier Cento10 Air for use at Flanders.
One glossy looking frame. Notice the ‘P” on the bottles.
What a top tube!
The matching Wilier Alabarda integrated carbon cockpit was finished in a very fetching yellow.
Filippo Pozzato prefers a classic bend to his bars, and thin bar tape.
Pozzato was using 28mm-wide Vittoria Corsa tubulars.
Aside from the neon yellow decals, it’s unclear what makes these Ursus Miura T24 wheels “Team Edition”.
Just so you don’t forget the heritage, there’s a little Italian flag on the fork.
The latest Shimano Dura-Ace R9100 callipers.
The seatpost is proprietary to the frame, but uses a standard Ritchey one-bolt head.
A personalised Selle Italia SLR saddle.
Those Italian stripes again.
Pippo was using a 39/53T chainring setup on Shimano Dura-Ace 9000 cranks.
The top tube had a mottled cobbled effect to it.
Pippo’s own logo on the nose of his saddle.
Classic Italian. The bike looked as lovely as you’d expect in the early morning Belgian sun.
At Paris-Roubaix, we tend to see teams on a variety of machines designed to endure the cobbles. At Flanders, where the cobbles aren’t as harsh, the riders tend to stick with pretty standard setups. Most will run normal tubulars in widths of anything from 25 to 28mm. Tyre pressures will be lower at some teams than others. It seems that the bigger the rider, or the more classic in thinking, the higher pressure that they will run. We saw pressures ranging from 4.4 bar (64psi) through to 7.9 bar (115psi) — a huge variation.
The Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise team is using Edco wheels for 2017.
Campagnolo Bora Ultra 35 tubulars are the wheel of choice for UAE Team Emirates.
Fulcrum Speed 40T wheels for Team Wanty matched with 25mm-wide Continental Competition ProLTD tubulars.
More of the ever-popular Continental Competition Pro LTD tubulars.
Vittoria have upped the number of teams they supply for 2017. These are the popular Corsa SC Pro Series tyres in 25mm.
While Team Sky was not letting on as to what pressure they pumped riders’ tyres to, Lotto-Soudal had that information taped to the top tube of each rider’s bikes.
Tyre pressures even varied considerably within the same team.
Tyre pressure was a hot topic at Flanders. Every rider clearly wanted something different, and the mechanics were running around getting the tyres ready for the start.
Beyond tyre choice, there’s still a few extra adjustments that riders and mechanics can make to soften the roads. This might include an extra wrap of bar tape, but it was amazing to see the number who were running very thin tape this year — much of it in the same style as Lizard Skins with a rubberised surface for extra grip. Many riders apparently like to feel the road instead of being isolated from it.
Saddles are something else that tend to be chosen with caution — it’s not uncommon to see old, worn saddles atop fancy bikes.
For whatever reason, this saddle once had a strip of bar tape applied, which was then removed prior to the start.
Sacha Modolo had a well-used Selle Italia Flite Classic as his perch of choice.
A single wrap of Prologo tape intentionally provides no extra comfort here, unlike many who like an extra layer of tape to smooth things out when they hit the cobbles. Another interesting thing to note with Astana is that they are still using Shimano components, even though they are sponsored by FSA.
There’s need for front lights with the bright orange team edition Ritchey WCS bar and stem with matching tape.
Again, thin, single-layered bar tape. Some riders love to feel every cobble.
The Canyon integrated bar and stem gives plenty of room for course notes.
Vision’s new Metron integrated bar and stem has become a new favourite in the peloton. It too gives riders plenty of space to stick whatever information they like.
Another classic perch in the shape of the old San Marco Concor. A certain Mr Armstrong used to use these.
Though it’s been spotted before, Greg Van Avermaet’s BMC Team Machine SLR01 is well worth an inclusion in this piece. The Olympic champion rode his liquid silver and gold bike to second place. Who knows what would have happened if it hadn’t been for his unfortunate crash late in the race.
When it comes to keeping the legs ticking over up the bergs of Flanders, any little aide will help. For Van Avermaet, this came in the form of a 30-tooth sprocket on the rear. The 11-30T cassette was matched with standard 39/53T chainrings.
A stunning paint scheme on the BMC Teammachine SLR01 for an Olympic champ.
It was practically a chrome battle between Pozzato and Van Avermaet.
Greg Van Avermaet was using a 53/39T set up.
A little gold, just so you don’t forget where he finished in last summer’s Olympic road race.
Van Avermaet’s bike looked like liquid aluminium.
That telltale BMC seat cluster.
Believe it or not, Van Avermaet used a 11-30T cassette.
Fighting the crowds on race day to get a glimpse of what items the riders will be using isn’t always that easy, so we were fortunate to be able to get a good look at the Colnago C60s being used by UAE Team Emirates the day before the big race.
The team uses a full Campagnolo Super Record EPS groupset with the only variation being the German-made Power2Max power meter. Keeping the Italian theme, bars and stem are supplied by Deda while the seatpost is Colnago’s own. Wheels are Campagnolo Bora Ultra 35s.
There was practically no change from their normal race setup for Flanders, apart from the addition of 28mm-wide Vittoria Corsa tubulars and the Elite Ciussi cage that’s a favourite for keeping a firm grip on bottles when you hit the cobbles.
Sometimes teams — usually the smaller Pro Continental setups — will use older equipment over these tough cobbled races. The conditions take their toll on running parts, and keeping costs down by using last year’s race kit is at times an option. This year we didn’t need to look any further than Cofidis to see this in action.
Modolo’s Colnago C60 in its UAE Team Emirates colourway. A full Campagnolo Super Record groupset and Deda components keep things decidedly Italian.
Power2Max supply UAE Team Emirates with power meters, all mounted on Campagnolo carbon crankarms.
Bora Ultra 35 tubulars are the wheel of choice for UAE Team Emirates.
A clean and tidy 11-28T cassette for Modolo.
The classic Elite Ciussi cage is still a staple of the pro peloton.
Mr. Colnago’s signature. All you need to do now is find one of his credit cards and you can go on a spending spree.
Cofidis were aboard the latest incarnation of the Orbea Orca, a bike we tested last year and found to be snappy and very aggressive — perfect traits for an event like Flanders.
An unbelievably well-used FSA K-Force SRM power meter chainset on one Cofidis bike.
Plastic Tacx Deva cages seemed to be the bottle cage of choice for many of the Tacx-sponsored riders.
Even Pro Continental teams have upgraded their weaponry. Most Shimano sponsored teams are now running the R9100 version of Dura-Ace.
Wanty-Groupe Gobert was using the very bright Cube Litening C:68 bikes.
Eddy Merckx Bicycles have had a pretty disastrous business year (a loss of 16 million euros; AU$22.4 million), but they still supply their elegant looking 525 to the Sports Vlaanderen-Baloise team.
LottoNL-Jumbo were using their normal race bikes: the very beautiful Bianchi Oltre XR4. Even though the team is heavily sponsored by Shimano, they were using the older Dura-Ace Di2 groupset.
Giuseppe Fonzi was clearly hoping for happy days at Flanders.
Giuseppe Fonzi’s Wilier Triestina Cento10 Air.
A very tidy mount for the Di2 junction box was spotted on the Factor bikes of Ag2r-La Mondiale.
Edvald Boasson Hagen was on his custom Cervelo S5.
More custom details from Boasson Hagen’s Cervelo S5.
Boasson Hagen’s forks had a touch of the Norwegian flag about them, too.
An easy-enough-to-spot quicklink when the chain needs to be removed.
Away from the race, and in the build-up to the big day, we managed to get a sneak peek at two items that you’re sure to see more of soon.
Usually, deals on equipment are done later in the year for the following season, but we bumped into the guys from US-based roof rack manufacturer Seasucker who were chatting to several teams and the UCI about their new nine-bike roof rack.
The rack has vacuum cups — not just suction cups — that hold the rack in place, but also allow it to be removed and packed up small for easy transport. Currently, most racks on team cars come from only a handful of manufacturers who have monopolised the business for years.
SRM were also showing off their latest chainset, a 640g modular design they’ve built in partnership with Look of France. There will be two available — a sealed unit and a USB-rechargeable version. The sealed unit has a claimed battery life of a staggering 1,400 hours. The modular system allows for it to be changed between different bottom bracket designs. It is already available to the public for €2,200 (AU$3,080 or an extra €150/AU$210 for the USB model).
Before the race, we spotted this nine-bike pro roof rack from Seasucker. They’re in Belgium talking with teams to possibly supply their new racks.
The nine-bike rack packs down to an impressive 62 lbs/28kg. This would allow teams to take the rack to races where the organisation isn’t as professional as many of the European races. In the past teams have been spotted using normal boot-mounted racks for races in places such as Dubai. The Seasucker rack has all the features of the current professional racks and mounts to hold two fully assembled bikes on either side of the car.
Seasucker is known as a brand that has a simple yet hugely secure vacuum cup mechanism to attach their racks to team cars.
Bumping into staff from SRM in the Ag2r-La Mondiale hotel lobby gave us the chance to check out the brand’s latest chainset. Both Ag2r and Bahrain-Merida are using the new carbon chainset designed by SRM and manufactured by Look. Weight is 640g, and with a unique modular system, it should be the only power meter you’d ever need to buy. Swapping between a standard 24mm axle and a 30mm-one would only require buying a new axle that then mounts onto the cranks. It’s quite ingenious.
Partnering with Look has allowed SRM to incorporate Look’s painted Trilobe adjustable crank length system. You position the metal insert to one of three positions depending on what length crank you need. Currently, only the 170-175mm cranks are available, but soon they’ll have 110-165 available. They are also working on something else very neat, but we’ve been sworn to secrecy. Stay tuned to SRM for that announcement, though.