This weekend’s Tour of Flanders and the fast-approaching Paris-Roubaix Classic will see the Cervélo Test Team try out some new equipment from Cervélo, Zipp, Vittoria and other suppliers. Details are being kept quiet for now but general manager Thomas Campana believes the development work done over the last few months will net the team’s riders a tangible advantage in the cobbled races.
Cervélo had previously supplied its sponsored riders with modified R3 frames but this year’s Classics bikes will be based on the RS, which already comes stock with longer chain stays, a taller head tube, and a slightly softer rear end courtesy of subtly curved seat stays that promised to help take the sting out of the cobbles.
Campana declined to give specifics, saying that the team had decided not to release any information until after Roubaix. “We have internal information that we want to keep as secret as possible until those races are over. What I will say is that we will have an advantage over other teams. We have a new RS bike which the riders are very happy with, and we are looking forward to both Classics.”
“We went through some very good testing this week,” Campana continued. “The new equipment is ready, the feedback we are getting is very positive. We rode the last 120 kilometres of Paris-Roubaix and the last 140 of the Tour of Flanders, getting our riders to try out a combination of bikes and equipment and give us feedback. They were using rival bikes, our own equipment, plus the new equipment…all of them were very happy with what we have developed for them for the cobbled Classics.”
Carbon frames have become the norm even on the brutal cobbles of Paris-Roubaix but traditional box-section aluminium tubulars have still been the wheels of choice. Though they’re heavier than carbon rims, their bulletproof durability has typically made up for the extra heft – and many riders who have dabbled with carbon hoops on the cobbles have often had little luck.
Cervélo Test Team partner Zipp, however, think they have finally figured out the magic formula though it remains to be seen whether the new rims will be shallow for maximum compliance or more aerodynamic to lend more of an advantage on other sections.
“When you go on the cobbles, you are looking very closely at what you can use in terms of wheels and tyres,” Campana stated. “We are looking at a new product from Zipp that we have been testing for several weeks, going to the cobblestones with the engineeers. We have got exceptional results there. Basically, we don’t want to be going with alloy rims to Paris-Roubaix…using carbon fibre is our goal.”
According to Campana, Cervélo Test Team riders will also head to the Classics with new Vittoria tyres that were specifically designed to handle the cobbles.
Cervélo Test Team have a diverse range of sponsors and suppliers – including Škoda, Zipvit, 3T, Rotor, Speedplay, Castelli, fi’zi:k, 2XU, Quarq, Catlike, Elite, Nokon, Morgan Blue, Reporter and Sportblam – though one conspicuous omission is a groupset supplier. In spite of the greater financial burden, the team prefer to purchase their own for greater freedom of choice.
In fact, though the team have been running Shimano Dura-Ace groupsets this whole season, they have notably swapped generations, having first started with 7800, then switching to 7900 only to return back to 7800.
“We are using the 7800 group simply because the shifting is better on the Rotor rings,” said Campana. “We have a lot of bikes with the 7800, and we built up some bikes with the 7900, but the riders’ choice is actually to turn back to the 7800 because it shifts better.”
Rotor is the official chainset supplier but recent months have witnessed changes there as well with substitutions from both SRAM and FSA seen on some bikes at various races such as the Tour of California.
“There were some comparison tests going on during the races with regards to stiffness,” said Campana. “We got a new crank from Rotor and there were some issues for the big riders...they had the feeling that maybe it was not stiff enough. So we gave them the possibility to compare...we had some SRAM cranks on, some FSAs on, so that they could get a feeling for what is best.
“It enabled to see if it really was the crank [that was giving that sensation], or if it is was an effect of the Rotor rings.”
According to Campana, the change is only temporary and the team will soon return back to Rotor for all of their riders. “We got news recently that there is another new crank development on the way; a much stiffer version. We want to test it, try it during training, and use the finished version as soon as is possible.”
While the team unfortunately didn’t offer up any images, rest assured that we will be on site for the Spring Classics and gather up our own shots in short order. Regardless, it sounds like this year’s cobbled races will see markedly different Cervélo rigs than in years past. Stay tuned!