What bike tech can we expect for the Tour’s ‘Roubaix stage’?

We look back at the tech from this year's Paris-Roubaix to see what stage 5 of the Tour might have in store.

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Team mechanics have a tough job at Le Tour. They’ve got early mornings, long days in the back of a team car, and they’re last to finish at night. But for some, the 24 to 36 hours between the finish of stage 4 and the start of stage 6 could prove the longest.

Stage 5 will see the 2022 Tour de France peloton tackle the fabled cobbles of Paris-Roubaix. For the riders that means an extra complication during the stage; for the mechanics a “Roubaix stage” equals an entirely new fleet of bikes and a change of equipment. Or does it?

The Tour’s cobbled stage is often described as a mini Paris-Roubaix in the middle of a Grand Tour, but in reality the spring Monument is an entirely different beast. It’s a similar story when it comes to the tech preparation.

While Roubaix specials have dwindled over recent years, as everyday road racing equipment becomes more versatile, the Queen of the Classics is still a tech outlier. Roubaix’s little brother Tour stage, on the other hand, presents a conundrum for the Tour teams: dust off the Roubaix bikes, or stick with their tried and tested equipment?

We decided to look back at the tech from this year’s Roubaix and predict what we may or may not see on Wednesday’s stage 5 of the Tour de France.

Bikes

While teams have a host of tech adaptions at their disposal, its the frames that are at the heart of any bike. Once a year WorldTour teams dust off their cobble- or endurance-specific frames, like the Trek Domane and Specialized Roubaix, to name just a couple. But even the Trek- and Specialized-sponsored teams have on occasion stuck with their “standard” race day rigs for Paris-Roubaix.

While Trek-Segafredo raced on the new and still unreleased Trek Domane back in April, several riders on Specialized-equipped teams decided to stick with the Tarmac SL7 rather than the cobble-specific S-Works Roubaix. Furthermore, Dylan Van Baarle won the actual Roubaix on an almost standard Pinarello Dogma F. Ineos Grenadiers staff have already confirmed to CyclingTips the team will race on almost standard Pinarello Dogma Fs.

Still, some teams may make a switch. As already mentioned Trek has a new Domane RSL and it seems certain the team will switch to the new frame for stage 5. Team DSM race coach, Matt Winston, confirmed that team will switch from the new Scott Foil to the Scott Addict, while Jumbo-Visma may roll out on Cervelo Caledonias, like they did for Paris-Roubaix.

We will be in the paddock before stage 5 to bring you all the exact details, but with race bikes getting more versatile and a “standard” frame taking the win over the ~50 km of pave in Paris-Roubaix this year, it seems less and less likely teams will need to switch to dedicated Classics bikes for the comparatively short 19.4 km of cobbles on stage 5.

Tyres

If not frames, tyres are one area we should see teams make some significant changes. Wider tyres are now commonplace, but still 28 mm is as big as we are likely to see on any other road stage. For the “Roubaix stage” expect to see almost all teams switch to 30 mm, perhaps even 32 mm, rubber.

Beyond just the extra width, most teams will hit the cobbles on tubeless tyres. Jumbo-Visma raced on tubular tyres in Paris-Roubaix, but were very much in the minority. Almost every other team had most of their riders line up on tubeless. But even Jumbo-Visma has already lined up on tubeless setups for the first four road stages of this year’s Tour de France.

At the start of stage 2 we spotted Wout van Aert and others roll out on Vittoria’s Corsa Speed 2.0 tubeless tyres. Previously considered a tyre reserved for time trial stages, the Corsa Speed was an interesting choice for road stages and shows Jumbo’s new openness to tubeless tech. If the team does roll out on tubeless tyres for stage 5 it could be a reaction to the numerous punctures and rim failures the team suffered in this year’s Paris-Roubaix.

Tyre pressure is equally as important as the actual tyres across the cobbles of Roubaix. The exact pressures riders will race with are a closely guarded secret, but expect them to be lower than the pressures used on stage 4 and somewhere in the 50-70 psi range, depending on the combined weight of rider plus bike.

Expect to see 30 mm rubber throughout the peloton on stage 5.

Perhaps the biggest change for stage 5 will be another invisible one: many teams are expected to line up with tubeless tyre inserts. While these inserts allow riders to drop tyre pressures and protect their rims in the case of impact, the biggest benefit to WorldTour riders might be the ability to ride on in the event of a puncture. On a stage where team cars can be several minutes behind the leaders, just keeping moving forward is an invaluable marginal gain.

Gearing

Lizzie Deignan won the 2021 Paris-Roubaix racing with a 1x setup.

Electronic shifting is now ubiquitous within the pro peloton, and apart from maybe Peter Sagan, we don’t expect that to change for stage 5. More likely is a shift to 1x setups. Riders on SRAM-equipped teams have raced Paris-Roubaix on 1x setups the past two Paris-Roubaix while Anthony Turgis of Team TotalEnergies raced Roubaix in April with a mix of Dura-Ace and XTR for a similar 1x setup.

While a 1x setup with no front derailleur is technically more aerodynamic, speaking with SRAM and the teams at the past two editions of Roubaix, it is the narrow-wide chainrings’ chain retention benefits that are more valuable over the cobbles. Dropping a chain is all the more likely over the extremely rough cobbles sectors, so any extra chain retention is a welcome addition. Every team will run a chain-catcher regardless of 1x or 2x chainsets, but the extra chain retention coupled with a chain guide on 1x setups offers riders an extra level of chain security.

Out back, look for teams running rear derailleurs with clutches. A clutch helps ensure derailleur and chain tension over rough ground where the weight of the bouncing chain can cause that chain to drop. SRAM teams can rely on their standard Red Etap AXS derailleurs which include a clutch as standard, while Shimano teams may opt for GRX or XTR Di2 rear derailleurs. Campagnolo riders are out of luck with no 12-speed-compatible clutch derailleur in Campy’s range.

Lastly, look out for satellite or so-called sprinter shifters, scattered across riders handlebars. Riders typically ride on the bar tops across the rough cobbled sectors and electronic shifting paired with satellite shifters up top offer riders shifting without moving their hands from that bar top position.

Accessories

With the main components of a bike covered off, there are still a few tweaks the mechanics could be preparing tonight. Double bar tape is the classic Roubaix hack, but even that is dying out in recent years as riders find comfort through reduced tyre pressures and wider rubber.

Teams often switch bottles cages for Roubaix, opting to sacrifice a few grams of extra bike weight in return for improved bottle retention. Expect to see carbon cages swapped out in favour of more classic steel cages.

Don’t be surprised to see some teams attach CO2 canisters and holders to those bottle cages, too, as Alpecin-Deceuninck did for Roubaix in April. With sealant flowing inside their tyres, having a CO2 canister to hand could be the difference between inflating a tyre almost deflated before the sealant saved the day and standing on the side of the road waiting for a replacement wheel.

While we hope every team will dust off its dedicated Roubaix tech ahead of stage 5, don’t be surprised to see a relatively boring day tech-wise as the Tour tackles the cobbles. Either way we are on the ground to check out the exact setups teams opt to race with and will have a full tech gallery following the stage.

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