Marianne Vos rode a set of prototype Dugast cyclo-cross tires to victory at the penultimate World Cup round in Ponte-Château, France. The new model is called the Pipisqualo and it excelled on the wet French grass marked with treacherous off-cambers and slippery corners.
“In the sections that I watched it was evident that she was gaining ground [with the new tire],” said Stu Thorne, owner of the Cannondale prepared by Cyclocrossworld.com team. “She was, maybe, losing a couple of seconds in the steep muddier sections, where she had to stay seated, but she was clearly faster in all of the other sections; it was five seconds a lap… I’m not saying it was all from the tire, but I do think the tire made a difference.”
The new tire combines the center tread from the original Pipistrello with the Rhino mud tire’s tall 3mm side knobs. In Italian ‘squalo’ means ‘shark’ and the new tire is intended to bite like one in the corners. The latest Pipi isn't intended to replace the current model with its simple ‘radius-control’ cornering feature; that tire is too valuable to the Europeans when encountering their infamous sand courses.
Marianne Vos rode sucessfully rode the Pipisqualo on Ponte-Chateau's wet grass
Thorne believes the new tire will excel on the dry, fast courses found in the US. He specifically named Gloucester, MA, CrossVegas, the USGP races in Madison, WI and Louisville, KY as well as some of Colorado’s dry courses. “In the US, it was disappointing that [the old Pipistrello with diamond side knobs] went away,” said Thorne, who's excited to include the new tire in his team’s quiver.
The prototype Pipisqualo tires are said to take 16 hours to make and are currently in the hands of Vos, as well as Sven Nys, Zdenek Stybar, Kevin Pauwels and, most recently, Katie Compton and the Cannondale-cyclocrossworld.com contingent. “Currently, they [Dugast] are hand cutting the Pipistrello tread and they're hand cutting the Rhino tread,” said Thorne, who's also the US distributor for Dugast.
The tread strips are then vulcanized together by hand and glued to a standard Dugast cotton casing. Despite the seemingly straightforward design of the tire tread made up of borrowed components, there have been no fewer than four different revisions to the width of the center ‘file’ section and subsequent placement of the cornering knobs.
The new tire combines the Pipistrello's center tread with the Rhino's aggressive side knobs
The aim is not only to build the fastest tire, but also one that inspires confident cornering. “They’re able to experiment with the width of the center section or where the [cornering] knobs lie on the radius to give it different cornering characteristics,” said Thorne.
Thorne said Dugast owner Richard Niewhuis is close to cutting a production mold for the tire and, once it's opened, the treads will be made out of a single compound of rubber, which will likely be the same black compound used in the current Pipistrello, Typhoon and Rhino models.
“I have a greater appreciation for the cost now,” said Thorne, after his first visit to Nieuwhuis’s workshop in Denekamp, the Netherlands, during the team’s latest trip to Europe. “I’ve always thought they were expensive… the appreciation that goes into these tires is phenomenal. It was an eye-opening experience. It’s incredibly detail oriented; it’s pretty amazing from a technical perspective."
“I mean the dude makes his own [latex] tubes in the shop,” Thorne continued, in reference to Niewhuis’s process. “He buys surgical quality [latex] tubing, it’s medical grade, the same stuff they use to rebuild arteries with…. He buys it in lengths and it gets cut, he glues it together, snips a hole in it and glues a valve stem in it, done – it’s amazing.”
If all goes according to Dugast’s production plan, the new tire should be available for sale sometime in July or August and its price should fall in line with Dugast's other standard cotton tires – around US$120.