Prior to the 2012 Tour de France there was a fair bit of hype about Tony Martin's (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) new Specialized TT clincher tires. But then disaster struck. The current world time trial champion flatted on both the prologue and the first individual TT. We asked Specialized tire product manager Wolf vorm Walde to explain the twin failures.
According to him, it wasn't just Martin who rode the new clinchers during the prologue, but rather the entire Omega Pharma-QuickStep team. Given the close proximity of the start and finish that day, the team decided it was worthwhile to transfer the limited number of Zipp carbon clinchers from rider to rider.
However, Martin's rear tire ultimately suffered a puncture from a piece of glass. In fairness, this probably had more to do with the tire's delicate construction and paper-thin tread depth than the fact he was running clinchers instead of the usual tubulars.
Specialized supplied BikeRadar with this image of Martin's punctured prologue tire
"This cut would have damaged any tire, no matter if tubular or clincher, since the failure is not build specific," said vorm Walde. "Tony also rode a clincher during Sunday's stage on the front [where, from what we can tell, he did not suffer a flat]."
Martin flatted again during Monday's TT. In this case, vorm Walde said the failure came from within. "Latex tubes failed on the inside – tires show no damage," he said.
Despite the high-profile missteps, vorm Walde suggested the team and Specialized haven't abandoned the technology, although it seems more work needs to be done to ensure there's sufficient durability to accompany the greater speed.
"After looking deeper into it, the failures at the time trial can have different reasons," vorm Walde said. "We will start a lab endurance test with all components tomorrow. In all fairness, we need to see whether we can duplicate the failures to isolate the problem."