Italian Lampre rider Alessandro Ballan has only been a professional since 2004 but it didn't take too long for him to leave his mark on the sport. Since racing Paris-Roubaix for the first time in his rookie year, Ballan's star has only continued to rise and he showed it by finishing third behind Tom Boonen and Fabian Cancellara in last Sunday's 106th Paris-Roubaix.
Ballan was well-prepared for the hardest classic of them all, with a one-off machine created by his team's frame sponsor, Wilier Triestina.
The nameless carbon frame is a peculiar hybrid of road and 'cross: the front triangle boasts large-diameter carbon tubes and level top tube geometry typical of road racers but the seat stay assembly is clearly borrowed from a different genre. Threaded cantilever brake post bosses are still visible there, although they're located on the underside of the tubes, indicating that the assembly has been flipped over relative to its originally intended orientation. That juxtaposition nets Ballan some much-needed tyre clearance to handle any mud, although the increased clearance requires the team to tap into the rival sponsor bin of Shimano for long-reach (and surprisingly inexpensive) dual-pivot brake callipers.
Up front, the carbon fork appears to use standard-length road blades but special dropouts create a bit more room between the tyre and fork crown. As a result, another set of long-reach Shimano callipers can be found here, too.
Much of Ballan's equipment is likewise custom-tailored for use on the pavé, in particular the wheelset. Standard 32-hole Campagnolo Record hubs are laced with straight-gauge stainless steel spokes in a classic three-cross pattern to box-section aluminium tubular rims. While the spokes aren't tied-and-soldered as we've seen on many occasions at the 'Hell of the North', team mechanics wisely opt for more reliable brass spoke nipples instead of lighter alloy.
Ballan's Lampre team is sponsored by Vittoria, who has provided him with giant 27mm-wide Special Pavé TT tubulars that should not only provide a bit more cushion over the cobbles but also a little more grip as well. We've ridden similarly wide tyres on Stuart O'Grady's (CSC) Paris-Roubaix machine from last year and can say firsthand that their ride and grip are fantastic.
Other small touches include double-wrapped handlebar tape, a single top-mounted brake lever and a little bit of drivetrain insurance in the form of a plastic chain watcher mounted to the seat tube. Not surprisingly, Ballan's cockpit is fitted with the aluminium versions of Ritchey's WCS line; no carbon to be found here. The rest of Ballan's spec includes the usual Campagnolo Record equipment although gearing is suitably adjusted with a 53/46T combination up front and a relatively tight 11-23T cluster in back.
As it turned out, Ballan's bike was up to scratch in the Hell of the North, but he didn't have the legs to defeat either the impressive Tom Boonen or Fabian Cancellara. There's no shame in being beaten by two former winners of this classic, but you can bet Ballan will be in contention for the hallowed cobblestone trophy in years to come.
- Frame: Wilier Paris-Roubaix special
- Fork: Wilier Paris-Roubaix special
- Front brake: Shimano BR-A550 long-reach w/Campagnolo brake pads
- Rear brake: Shimano BR-A550 long-reach w/Campagnolo brake pads
- Levers: Campagnolo Record QS Ergopower 10 Speed "Red"
- Front derailleurs: Campagnolo Chorus QS 10s
- Rear derailleurs: Campagnolo Record
- Cassette: Campagnolo Record 10s steel/titanium, 11-23T
- Chain: Campagnolo Record Ultra Narrow
- Crankset: Campagnolo Record Ultra-Torque, 175mm, 46/53T (Stronglight inner ring)
- Bottom bracket: Campagnolo Record Ultra-Torque
- Rims: Mavic Reflex tubular
- Hubs: Campagnolo Record, 32-hole
- Spokes: Stainless steel, 14g straight, three-cross, w/brass nipples
- Tyres: Vittoria Special Pavé TT tubular, 27mm
- Bars: Ritchey WCS Classic Road, 42cm (c-c)
- Stem: Ritchey WCS 4Axis, 130mm x -6°
- Headset: Ritchey WCS integrated
- Tape/grip: White cork, double wrapped
- Pedals: Look KeO Carbon
- Seat post: Ritchey WCS alloy
- Saddle: Selle Italia SLR
- Bottle cages: Tacx Tao
- Computer: Garmin Edge
- Total bike weight: 8.4kg (18.5lb)
- Rider's height: 1.9m (6' 3") ; Weight: 72kg (159lb)
- Seat tube length, c-c: 540mm
- Seat tube length, c-t: 592mm
- Top tube length: 580mm (horizontal)
- Saddle height, from BB (c-t): 820mm
- Saddle nose tip to C of bars: 628mm
- C of front hub to top of bars: 575mm