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by Dave Everett
April 11, 2018
The race is over, the bodies are battered and bruised, and the machines that carried the riders to the finish will now be cleaned, repaired (if needed), and stored away for another year. Paris-Roubaix is uniquely demanding, and not just on the riders; the bikes that they use receive a beating, too.
Most of the tech choices at Paris-Roubaix were similar to recent years, with the mostly dry conditions keeping the truly weird-and-wonderful machines at home in the service course. There were some top-mounted brake levers and double-wrapped bars, but many riders and teams – but not all of them – went with relatively standard “endurance” road bikes for their softer ride, more stable handling, and additional tyre clearance. Peter Sagan won on a Specialized S-Works Roubaix, for example, customized for the team with direct-mount rim brakes and a special version of the FutureShock front suspension with on-the-fly stiffness adjustment. However, his breakaway companion, Silvan Dillier, was on his standard Factor O2.
Some riders, such as Heinrich Haussler, had originally planned for a mid-race bike change: a normal road bike set up for the first 100km, and then a cobble crushing machine for the bumpier latter sections of the course. But on the morning of the start, it looked as though many had changed their minds. With dry roads, a tailwind, and the promise of another fast race, stopping far a bike change before the cobbles would have been more trouble than it was worth.
Nearly every rider was on bigger tubulars, though, since the cobbles of northern France are one place where keeping it “rubber side down” is consistently challenging. It now looks like most teams and riders have settled on 28mm tubulars as the width of choice for Roubaix cobbles. There were a few exceptions, the major stand-out being EF Education First-Drapac on 30mm tubulars from Vitoria. Several of the Michelin-sponsored teams were using the new Pro Endurance in 27mm.
For many years, French company FMB was the tubular of choice for many teams, thanks to the extra comfort and grip provided by the tires’ ultra-supple casings. The tiny manufacturer has never officially sponsored a team, but given the unique conditions at Paris-Roubaix, most official tyre sponsors were comfortable looking the other way if it meant their team could earn a spot on the podium. But fewer teams were on FMB this year, and thanks to more dedicated efforts on the R&D side for cycling’s biggest one-day race, bigger companies such as Continental and Vittoria now seem to be the dominant force in the pro peloton, even on the cobbles.
One new brand we spotted was Wolfpack tyres. After talking with the Astana mechanics, it would seem the new brand is from one of the people who helped Continental and Specialized develop tyres in the past, and has now decided to go it alone and start his own company.
The Wolfpack brand comes from the man that helped develop many of the tyres for Continental and Specialized. According to Astana team mechanics, he’s now decided to go it alone. Astana riders were only experimenting with these, though, and raced on FMB at Paris-Roubaix.
Corima has been a long-time sponsor of Astana team. Riders used 28mm-wide FMB tubulars mounted to 47 WS carbon wheels.
Lotto-Soudal is using Vittoria tubulars this season.
Heinrich Haussler and the Bahrain team used Continental Competition Pro Limited PTX tubulars in 28mm, a firm favourite with many teams.
AG2R-La Mondiale were yet another team on Continental Competition Pro LTD tubulars in 28mm.
Campagnolo fitted the Movistar team with custom blue decals on their Bora Ultra 35 wheels. And again, more Continental Competition Pro LTD tubulars in 28mm.
Were these prototype 28mm Hutchinson tubulars, or tires from another brand with a Hutchinson hot patch applied? Hard to say.
Hutchinson has been a long-time sponsor of all incarnations of the Direct Energie team. The headquarters is not far from Paris.
Well-used Mavic tubulars on the Vital Concept team’s Orbea Orca bikes.
Tan sidewalls are definitely the go-to option for the race, so to see Fortuneo-Samsic buck this trend almost seemed odd.
Sep Vanmarcke was on 30mm Vittoria Corsa Control tubulars.
Those endurance road bikes may provide more comfort and more predictable handling than the riders’ usual dedicated road racing machines, but they also often have shorter reaches and taller stacks, too. We spotted a lot of riders on 140mm-long stems as a result, as well as plenty of -17° angles to help bring the bars back to their original position. FSA was a go-to company here, as one of the only easy sources for that size. Teams officially sponsored by FSA could proudly display the company logo, but others (such as Arnaud Demare of Groupama-FDJ) went with black electrical tape instead.
Chainring choice is critical for Paris-Roubaix’s flat parcours, too. Pretty much across the board, all riders used either a 44/53T, 44/54T, 46/53T, or 46/54, with either an 11-25T or 11-28T cassette. A few of the smaller Pro Continental teams were spotted with a few bikes using a more standard 39/53T.
One might also assume that it would only be those smaller teams running older components, but even top teams like Lotto-Jumbo broke out some outdated gear – a fleet of previous-generation Shimano Dura-Ace C50 carbon tubular wheels – for Paris-Roubaix’s unique requirements.
Sep Vanmarcke was using a 44/53T chainring setup.
The most popular chainring choice was 44/54T, but several used 46/54T.
Power2Max supply power meters for Movistar. Chainring choice for many of the Movistar squad was 42/54T.
Arnaud Demare used 43/54T chainrings.
It’s not all Dura-Ace for the Shimano sponsored pros. Astana used 11-28T Ultegra cassettes.
Many of the chainring sizes have almost no practical applications outside of Paris-Roubaix, so sponsors often have to resort to very small special-production batches to suit the one-day event.
Aero and huge, this Vision chainring was a 54-tooth, matched to a 42-tooth inner.
There were very few teams using disc brakes this year, with Trek-Segafredo, Direct Energie, EF-Drapac, and Sunweb as the three stand-out teams that fielded a full roster of riders on disc-specific bikes. A lot of this is down to neutral service support, and the fear of having to wait that extra few minutes for a disc wheel. We have to wonder how long it’ll take until we see the full peloton move away from rim brakes, however, if only for the extra clearance they provide. Perhaps Mother Nature will ultimately be the deciding factor: another dry year will probably see rim brakes again, but one mudfest could be all that’s necessary to push teams to switch over.
Overall, there was little new technology on display. Other years we’ve seen weird, wonderful, and on occasion, products that have been a bit too far out there for use a second year. Have the professional peloton finally found what is ideal for the race’s demanding course? Is Paris-Roubaix really just a matter of double-taped bars and bigger tyres? Not if manufacturers have anything to do with it.
The Cofidis riders ran their normal bikes, with just a few subtle changes.
There was a surprising number of Cofidis riders using zero-setback seatposts.
A very neat race number mount on the Cofidis Kuota bikes.
Cofidis swapped from Orbea bikes last year to Italian firm Kuota this year. They’re using the Khan for all road races, and ran the Michelin Power Competition tubulars in 27mm at Paris-Roubaix.
Heinrich Haussler was team leader for the Bahrain-Merida team.
Dura-Ace callipers can’t fit around some higher-volume tyres, so some teams resorted to non-series Shimano brakes to provide enough clearance.
Haussler had sprint shifters next to his stem.
Haussler used the more cobbles-friendly Merida Scultura from the start line, instead of switching to it mid-race from the aero Reacto model as was the original plan.
Mechanics applied a strip of handlebar tape, held on with additional wraps of electrical tape, to some Look KeO pedals to limit cleat movement.
Lotto-Soudal is sponsored by Selle Italia, so the logos on Marcel Sieberg’s Specialized Power saddle were removed.
Astana was aboard the Argon 18 Gallium. This bike was first seen at the Tour de France last year under Fabio Aru.
As with many teams, Astana had double-wrapped bars for most riders.
The team usually use FSA callipers. The change to TRP must mean the FSA callipers don’t have the clearance for the tubulars, though this even looks a little close.
Lady luck needs to be on your side for Roubaix. But it’s hard to argue that Silvan Dillier definitely made his own when riding to an amazing second place.
There were four riders from AG2R-La Mondiale on the new Factor O2 bike, covered with a special-edition David Millar Chpt III paint scheme.
Black Inc have an updated look and an updated stem, and again, the 140mm length seems to be on trend.
A small bit of tape hopefully kept the Garmin computers from rattling about.
Arnaud Demare had a custom paint scheme on his Lapierre Pulsium.
The Movistar team had a mix of riders on Canyon’s Ultimate CF SLX and the Aeroad CF SLX.
That paint scheme is pretty damn neat.
Direct Energie are sponsored by Wilier this year, and used the Cento 10 NDR. It was the first time that particular model saw action at Paris-Roubaix.
The rear end of the Wilier Cento 10 NDR includes pivots and an elastomer to make things a little more plush.
Astute saddles are quite new to the peloton. The Italian company also sponsor Dimension Data this year.
Past Paris-Roubaix winner Mat Hayman’s Scott Foil for this year’s edition.
Hayman used a 44/53T chainring setup.
When there’s not enough room on the team roof rack.
Sunweb was one of only a handful of teams on disc brakes.
140mm rotors for Sunweb.
Several riders had GoPro cameras on their bikes.
It’s not all top-end equipment. Fortuneo-Samsic were using SRAM Force callipers on their Look bikes.
Fortuneo-Samsic’s bike of choice from French manufacturer Look.
Another FSA K-Force stem, this time with the logo hidden under black tape.
Lotto-Jumbo only pulls out Bianchi’s Infinito CV endurance bike for Roubaix.
It wasn’t that long ago that you would never see a carbon fibre seatpost at Paris-Roubaix.
Lotto-Jumbo had many riders on the older model of the Shimano Dura-Ace C50 wheelset.
The Cannondale Synapse is the bike of choice for Sep Vanmarcke.
Cannondale were another team on disc-brake bikes.
Classic deep drops for Sep Vanmarcke.
Sprint shifters tucked away next to the stem.
And more sprint shifters on the inside of the drops.