We've witnessed a stabilizing trend in equipment at Paris-Roubaix in recent years, with most teams and riders settling on the same basic formula: slightly modified road framesets that allow more tire clearance without having to resort to long-reach or cantilever brakes, bulbous tubular tires, and carbon frames that are almost specifically engineered just to handle the pavé.
Then there's the bike of FDJ's Frédéric Guesdon. Even as late as the eve of the race, team mechanics said the 1997 Paris-Roubaix winner was undecided as to whether he'd use one of the new carbon fiber machines provided by team sponsors Lapierre or the (very) tried-and-true platform that had faithfully carried him to the line before (including back in 2006).
Guesdon had two bikes lined up for Paris-Roubaix: Lapierre's latest Sensium model with elastomer-damped seatstays and a modified X-Lite 'cross frame he's been using since at least 2006
In the end it appears he decided to go with the carbon bike and save his trusty X-Lite for a spare. Even so, that he would even consider racing something like this is quite the testament to how different Paris-Roubaix is from other road events and a good example of the lengths teams and mechanics will go to to create something that will survive.
This machine is decidedly basic, comprising a TIG-welded aluminum cyclo-cross frame and full-carbon 'cross fork but with modern Shimano Dura-Ace 7900 running gear. While Guesdon opted for cantilever brakes back in 2006, he decided to use long-reach road calipers instead this year. Much to the chagrin of the mechanics, his frame and fork had no provisions for doing so.
So instead, they devised a crude looking setup of steel plates that sandwiches the fork crown and rear brake bridge with a long nut and bolt. The caliper is then mounted to another set of holes beneath. Though seemingly effective, this solution greatly reduces the radial tire clearance that the 'cross frame is intended to supply in the first place – interesting, to say the least.
FDJ mechanics can't be credited for the most elegant solution here but they did come up with a way to attach a long-reach road brake caliper to the front end of Frederic Guesdon's Lapierre
Mechanics also had to come up with a sponsor-correct solution for the headset as Shimano have never made one to work with a 1-1/8in threadless steerer. Out came the machine tools again; this time they milled a threaded Deore XT headset to work with a tapered compression ring.
Guesdon took an expectedly conservative approach to the rest of the build, which includes traditional box-section Ambrosio Nemesis aluminum rims laced with straight-gauge DT Swiss Champion spokes and brass nipples to Dura-Ace 7800 hubs (three-cross, of course) and shod with aggressively treaded 28mm-wide tubulars.
Frederic Guesdon's 'Hutchinson' tubulars feature an aggressive tread design and an actual casing width of 28mm
The spec includes a PRO aluminum bar, aluminum stem and carbon-and-aluminum seatpost, a K:ium-railed Fi'zi:k Aliante saddle and sturdy Elite Ciussi Gel bottle cages. Lest we state the obvious, such a setup is heavy, weighing 8.64kg (19.05lb) as pictured.
Guesdon was one of the oldest riders competing in this year's Paris-Roubaix and, with no disrespect to the Frenchman's talents, few people were expecting him to win. The 39-year-old went on to finish an impressive 11th despite suffering a puncture. “There's always Frédéric Guesdon," said team manager Marc Madiot – himself a Paris-Roubaix champion in 1991 – before the race. "He's indestructible."
Shimano never made threadless headsets so instead of going with another brand, FDJ mechanics modified an old Deore XT headset to fit
Complete bike specifications
- Frame: Lapierre X Lite CX
- Fork: Carbon cyclo-cross
- Headset: Shimano Deore XT 1-1/8in, modified to threadless
- Stem: PRO Vibe 7S, 130mm x -6°
- Handlebar: PRO PLT Anatomic, 42cm (c-c)
- Tape: Bike Ribbon cork
- Front brake: Shimano BR-A550
- Rear brake: Shimano BR-A550
- Brake levers: Shimano Dura-Ace STI Dual Control ST-7900
- Front derailleur: Shimano Dura-Ace FD-7900-F
- Rear derailleur: Shimano Dura-Ace RD-7900
- Shift levers: Shimano Dura-Ace STI Dual Control ST-7900
- Cassette: Shimano Dura-Ace CS-7900, 11-23T
- Chain: Shimano Dura-Ace CS-7900
- Crankset: Shimano Dura-Ace FC-7900, 175mm, 53/41T w/ Spécialités TA Alize 41T inner ring
- Bottom bracket: Shimano Dura-Ace SM-BB7900
- Pedals: Shimano Dura-Ace SPD-SL PD-7900
- Rims: Ambrosio Nemesis tubular, 32-hole
- Front hub: Shimano Dura-Ace HB-7800
- Rear hub: Shimano Dura-Ace FH-7800
- Spokes: DT Swiss Champion w/ brass nipples, 3-cross
- Front tire: "Hutchinson" (Dugast Paris-Roubaix tubular, 27mm?)
- Rear tire: "Hutchinson" (Dugast Paris-Roubaix tubular, 27mm?)
- Saddle: Fi'zi:k Aliante TwinFlex w/ K:ium rails
- Seatpost: PRO PLT Carbon Composite
- Bottle cages: Elite Ciussi Gel (x2)
- Computer: PRO SX4-W
- Other accessories: Deda Dog Fang chain watcher
- Rider's height: 1.85m (6ft 1in)
- Rider's weight: 73kg (161lb)
- Saddle height, from BB (c-t): 785mm
- Saddle setback: 83mm
- Seat tube length, c-t: 550mm
- Seat tube length, c-c: 490mm
- Tip of saddle nose to C of bars (next to stem): 592mm
- Saddle-to-bar drop (vertical): 95mm
- Head tube length: 142mm
- Top tube length: 570mm
- Total bicycle weight: 8.64kg (19.05lb)