New Princeton CarbonWorks climbing wheels hint at clinchers for Ineos

Prototypes briefly previewed — and then deleted — on Tom Pidcock’s Instagram account.

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Princeton CarbonWorks generated quite a stir with its innovative Wake 6560 road wheels, which feature a sawtooth rim profile that supposedly offers the aero efficiency of a deeper wheel together with the crosswind stability of a shallower one. We’ve all heard that sort of thing before, of course, only in this case it seems to actually work — so much so that the Ineos-Grenadiers team has often been spotted using Princeton CarbonWorks front wheels in time trials for at least the past year.

Apparently that relationship continues to flourish, as rising Ineos star Tom Pidcock briefly posted — and then subsequently deleted — a couple of images of some new Princeton CarbonWorks Peak 4550 wheels on his Instagram account.

The new wheels retain the characteristic wavy rim profile, and based on both appearances and the company’s historical nomenclature, they feature a shallower 45/50 mm differential profile that should be better suited for the big mountains. Princeton CarbonWorks declined to comment when I asked about the new wheels, but given the 1,437 g claimed weight of the current Wake 6560s (when built with Tune hubs), it’s possible that the Peak 4550s could be closer to 1,350g, or maybe even less.

Of course, that’s still a far cry from the sub-1 kg of the ultra-expensive Lightweight Meilenstein Obermeyer tubulars that Ineos-Grenadiers has been using for the big mountain stages at Grand Tours. However, if Princeton Carbonworks can come reasonably close in weight, any remaining deficit might be offset with superior aerodynamics and lower rolling resistance. The former shouldn’t be all that hard to do given the Lightweights’ old-school V-shaped rim profile, and there’s already plenty of test data that proves the latter.

Filippo Ganna (Ineos-Grenadiers) raced on a Princeton CarbonWorks Wake 6560 front wheel at least as recently as this year’s Tirreno-Adriatico. Photo: LB/RB/Cor Vos.

More weight could theoretically be saved if those Peak 4550s were tubulars, but Pidcock appeared to be riding on clinchers (a special “Pro LTD” version of Continental’s Grand Prix 5000 TL tubeless clinchers, in fact) and there’s little to suggest anything would change moving forward. Pidcock wasn’t racing in the images he shared, of course, but Princeton CarbonWorks doesn’t currently offer tubulars for any of its wheels, and even though it’s Ineos-Grenadiers we’re talking about here, it’s unlikely a company of Princeton CarbonWorks’s size would embark down the tubular path for what is ultimately an unofficial relationship (Shimano is the team’s official wheel sponsor, after all). 

When you combine all of this together with the recent move inside the pro peloton toward clinchers to reduce rolling resistance in general, this suggests Ineos-Grenadiers might at least be considering moving away from its long-standing tubulars, even for climbing stages.

Does that seem far-fetched? Maybe it is, especially considering SRAM is currently suing Princeton CarbonWorks for patent infringement, meaning those wheels might not even exist if the claim is upheld in court. Then again, maybe Ineos and Princeton CarbonWorks know something we don’t.

We’ll find out soon enough.

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