Race tech: Spotted at the Scheldeprijs

A few new bits from the last warm-up to Paris-Roubaix

Acqua e Sapone races Scheldeprijs on clinchers

We've seen bigger European teams running clinchers in major events before – FDJ on Hutchinson Road Tubeless at Paris-Roubaix last year, Ag2r during Stage 3 of last year's Tour de France – and we can now add Italy's Acqua e Sapone to the list.

The team arrived at the Scheldeprijs with Bottechia's EMME2 Team bikes – the main change from consumer versions being the integrated seatmast in lieu of the standard telescoping post.  The carbon framesets were dressed up with a variety of high-end kit that included Shimano Dura-Ace 7900 mechanical groups, Deda bars and stems, Selle San Marco saddles, Look KéO pedals, and – yep – DT Swiss RR 1850 alloy clincher wheels wrapped with tube-type Vittoria Open Pave Evo CG tires

Ultimately, the wheels' added weight relative to high-end carbon tubulars would have meant little on the Scheldeprijs' pan-flat course, nor would the clinchers have fared poorly on the mostly cobble-free roads.  Even so, it's interesting to see clinchers at a major international race.

Are they heavier than equivalent tubulars?  Definitely.  But given how far clinchers have progressed over the years, it's unfair to say that they perform more poorly across the board and while Acqua e Sapone's best-placed rider (Alessandro Donati) finished a modest 34th, it's at best speculation that the results would have been better with tires and rims that were glued together.

Mystery Bontrager bits on Wouter Weylandt's Leopard Trek Madone

Wouter Weylandt's new Bontrager handlebar

Leopard Trek sprinter Wouter Weylandt had a rough end to this year's Scheldeprijs but not before putting his Trek Madone to within striking distance of a possible victory.

Weylandt was riding a stock Trek Madone 6.9 with no visible frameset modifications in preparation for this Sunday's Paris-Roubaix.  Standard team-issue parts include a Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 electronic group, Bontrager's latest 50mm-deep wide-profile carbon tubular wheels, Schwalbe tires, and a Bontrager Race XXX Lite carbon fiber stem, Race X Lite carbon bottle cages, and Node wireless computer. 

A couple of other Bontrager-badged items stand out, though.  Weylandt's aluminum bar is labeled as a "Bontrager Race Lite VR" but the deep, classic-type bend doesn't match up with the characteristic VR curve nor does Bontrager currently have a classic-type bend in its handlebar range.  As it turns out, Bontrager brand manager Chris Clinton confirmed with us that the company is working with the team on developing such an item for a yet-to-be-determined consumer release.

"Yes, we are working with our Pro teams on a classic bend drop bar," he told BikeRadar.  "I don’t have details on timing, price, or final bend yet but I can say these are ours and not rebranded bars from another manufacturer."

Bontrager's soon to be released team-issue saddle

Likewise, Weylandt's Bontrager saddle isn't listed in the current company catalog but is another example of a soon-to-be-released consumer product that was developed as a result of cooperation with the team. 

"When we got on board with the Leopard Trek team as their saddle supplier, we provided the team with our current crop of inForm saddles, as well as some older Bontrager models, and solicited their feedback – saddles being a very personal thing," said Bontrager soft goods brand manager Tom Kuefler.  "Some of the riders we happy on an existing inForm saddle; others liked some of the attributes of the older RXL, but of course asked for some updates.

"We took that feedback, and using the 'chassis' of the older RXL as a starting point, adjusted the rear curvature based on our inForm scientific research (the curvature of the Team Issue saddle is consistent with the original inForm RXL saddle, which is designed for an aggressive riding posture). The riders also asked us to firm up the ride – seems some of the guys like saddles with very little if any “give” – so we added a carbon shell, solid titanium rails, and very firm Zone Density padding. And then topped it all off with a genuine leather cover."

Kuefler says the new model will ultimately be called the Team Issue.  Consumer release looks to be set for later this year.

Omega Pharma-Lotto using a wide mix of machines

Omega Pharma-Lotto's various Canyons

Omega Pharma-Lotto bike sponsor Canyon has a wide range of carbon fiber and aluminum road chassis in their repertoire and riders used all three of the company's top-end variants at Scheldeprijs: the Ultimate CF SLX, the Aeroad CF, and the Ultimate AL.  Which of the three riders chose seemed based on a number of factors: the rider's role in the race, their desired ride characteristics, and whether they were trying to get some last minute details ironed out before the ultimate test on Sunday.

The Ultimate CF SLX is Omega Pharma-Lotto's usual go-to road race platform and is also Canyon's top-end carbon frame with the highest stiffness-to-weight value in its range.  Despite the enormous main triangle tubes and chain stays and the unusually girthy 1 1/4"-to-1 1/2" front end, Canyon has managed to engineer in a remarkable level of comfort to the back end courtesy of the pencil-thin seat stays and intentionally extra-flexy 27.2mm seatpost. 

Alternatively, Canyon sacrifices some stiffness (and gains some weight) in trade for aerodynamic performance for the latest Aeroad CF, which focuses on minimizing frontal area by virtue of the teardrop-shaped tubes, more cleanly integrated fork, internally routed cables, and a slimmed-down hourglass-profile head tube.  Relative to the Ultimate CF SLX, the Aeroad also rides a little softer, too – a good trait to have on bumpy roads.

Omega Pharma-Lotto is likely to turn to the slightly tweaked Ultimate AL Pavé across the board come Sunday, though.  Though heavier than the carbon bikes and offering not quite as refined a ride in stock form, the smaller tube diameters lend additional tire clearance to accommodate the requisite wide-profile tires that are needed to handle the cobbles.  

In addition, Canyon's special Pavé machines incorporate longer top tubes than usual to push the front wheel further ahead of the rider, additional clearance on the driveside chain stay to fit a 46T inner chainring, and the OneOneFour fork borrowed from the Ultimate CF SLX for its smoother ride. 

Unless they decide to run Mavic's new M40, though, Omega Pharma-Lotto will likely trade the deep-section carbon wheels used at Ronde van Vlaanderen and Scheldeprijs for the more traditional box-section aluminum tubulars they've used in years past.

Rabobank cracks out some of its Paris-Roubaix rigs

Theo Bos used a slightly wider-than-normal 23mm Vittoria tire on his 50mm-deep Shimano Dura-Ace carbon tubular wheels

Rabobank and team bike sponsor Giant's equipment strategy for Paris-Roubaix falls in line with the most successful strategies in recent years: adopt a few subtle modifications but otherwise stay as close to your usual everyday equipment as possible.

In Rabobank's case, this means Giant TCR Advanced SL frameset equipped with different dropouts that extend the chain stay length by about 7mm plus different fork tips that do the same thing up front – worth noting, too, is that Giant's choice of plug-in aluminum dropouts and tips make such a modification fairly simple to do.

Though it's ultimately just a 14mm change in wheelbase, the end result is effective nonetheless with more stable handling and extra tire clearance to better cope with the Paris-Roubaix cobbles. 

While teams sponsored by Zipp and Mavic are expected to run carbon wheels on Sunday, we're expecting more conventional aluminum box-section tubulars to be installed on the Rabobank bikes unless Shimano has something hidden away that we haven't seen yet. 

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