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by Dave Everett
April 3, 2018
What a race! This year’s edition of the Tour of Flanders was as good as ever, with Quick-Step dominating as they have for pretty much the rest of the season so far, Sagan being marked out of the final contention, and Mads Pedersen showing his future potential in only his first elite version of the event.
As always, though, the Tour of Flanders isn’t just about what happened in terms of the race results. Although much of the real cobble-busting kit is saved for Paris-Roubaix, there was still plenty of interesting tech on hand here as well, and we’ve mixed up our coverage a bit this year with videos instead of the usual galleries. This way, you not only get to see the gear the guys used on Sunday, but also get a feel for the personalities and atmosphere around the race.
Earlier in the week, we were invited to hang out with the Trek-Segafredo team for two days at their hotel – the same one the riders, mechanics, and the rest of the staff occupy on the outskirts of Brugge year after year. There, in the carpark that serves as a temporary mobile service course, we took a look at the custom painted Trek Madone used by joint team leader John Degenkolb.
Degenkolb’s “Chasin’ Aces” paint scheme was inspired by his hunt for a third monument to add to his Milan-San Remo and Paris-Roubaix wins. He will be using the same bike throughout the rest of the season, but there were a few changes for Flanders. He normally uses the standard Madone integrated one-piece cockpit with a 130mm effective stem length, but switched to Bontrager’s softer-ride IsoCore carbon bar and separate 140mm-long stem here. He also swapped crank length, preferring a 170mm setup over his usual 172.5mm one. The new Aeolus XXX 6 wheelset also had custom graphics to match the frame.
We also had a quick chat with current Danish national road champion Mads Pedersen, who went on to take a stunning second place in the race. He did his best at trying to sell us his team-issued Trek Madone, a bike he says he’ll use throughout the season, save for Paris-Roubaix, where he’ll use a Domane RSL. In his own unique style, Mads told us why he always chooses the Madone, and also reveals what colour is the fastest. He’ll be a true salesman in the future if he decides to go down that path after his racing days.
The cobbled classics are all about the tyres – lots and lots of them, in fact. We spoke with Trek’s team mechanic, who gave us a quick rundown of how many tubular wheels the team need for the race, and how many weeks before the big day he and the rest of the mechanics have to start gluing them.
Over at the Bora-Hansgrohe press conference, team bike sponsor Specialized announced a new range – the Sagan collection – and the main man himself was there to show off what the California powerhouse will be offering up. The line takes inspiration from Sagan’s love for American muscle cars, and we found out that CyclingTips may very well have had a small part in igniting that inspiration.
The range includes S-Works Tarmac SL6 bikes in rim-brake and disc-brake versions, an S-Works Roubaix endurance bike, and a more financially accessible Roubaix Comp model – all exclusively offered in a bold gold-and-black paint scheme. For those that like a bit of gravel grinding, there will also be a Diverge frameset in the collection, too, in a slightly more tame glittery black and grey. If you really want to stand out, there are even S-Works 7 shoes and the all-new Evade II helmet to match the bikes. It’s all very bling and all very Sagan.
Sagan started the race on a rim-brake version of the Tarmac SL6, which was a better match for the neutral service support on the day than the disc-brake version, and also simplified things with the team since the mechanics only had to carry one type of wheelset. Despite some black tape hiding the logos, it was clear that Sagan preferred a Zipp SL Sprint stem over what the team usually use, too.
Usually, we publish the bikes when they’re clean and fresh for action, grabbing shots on the start line of the race. This year, though, we grabbed them after the rain-sodden edition. Check out the video to see what survived and what didn’t.
Lastly, if you’ve not already seen the article that was published on Sunday, here’s another chance to check out the all-new Ultegra RX Di2 rear mech. This was tested by several of the Trek-Segafredo team in the build-up to the race on their Roubaix battling bikes, the Domane SLR. It brings mountain bike tech to the road by incorporating a one-way clutch on the pulley cage, preventing chain slap and dropped chains – perfect for the cobbles of Flanders and Roubaix.