Pro bike: Servais Knaven’s Milram Focus Mares Paris-Roubaix

A mud machine for Paris-Roubaix ... just in case

Servais Knaven (Team Milram) may have finished 12’47” down on Paris-Roubaix winner Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank) but in the process rolled his way into history by tying the record of 16 starts at the queen of the classics. Even more impressively, Knaven has finished all 16 times and won the event in 2001.


That kind of experience comes with a wealth of knowledge and Knaven was unsurprisingly prepared for whatever Sunday brought his way. He finished in the Roubaix velodrome aboard his usual Focus Izalco road bike but muddy conditions would have seen him on his Focus Mares carbon ‘cross machine instead.

We caught up with Knaven’s alternate bike three days prior to the start of this year’s running and so it still wasn’t quite finalised but it’s clear what the Dutch rider was aiming for. Even when fitted with traditional box-section Ambrosio aluminium tubular rims and fat 28mm-wide Continental tyres, there was heaps of clearance at either end for mud and road debris to pass through. Adding to the generous clearances were Avid’s new Shorty Ultimate cantilevers brakes with their uniquely configurable high or low profile stance, CNC-machined aluminium construction and light weight.

Additional safeguards included top tube routed cables to protect them from mud and debris (though they weren’t sealed) and a machined aluminium chain watcher clamped underneath the front derailleur mounting bolt.

Knaven’s bike is fitted with compact-bend bars.:
James Huang/BikeRadar

Knaven’s bike is fitted with compact-bend bars

DT swiss logos are covered up on the front and rear hubs.:
James Huang/BikeRadar

DT Swiss logos are covered up on the front and rear hubs.

Paris-Roubaix must be like christmas time for ambrosio judging by how many teams were using its rims.:
James Huang/BikeRadar

Paris-Roubaix must be like Christmas time for Ambrosio

Otherwise, much of the rest of the gear was similar to what Knaven normally uses, including a SRAM Red drivetrain, Speedplay Zero Stainless pedals, and cockpit components from FSA and fi’zi:k. Interestingly, that also included a Red cassette, whose distinctive PowerDome construction most other teams passed over on Sunday for its propensity to pack with mud. Chainrings were still the usual 53/39T variety but mechanics were preparing to install a larger 44T inner ring after we left the team hotel.

In spite of the beefier frame and the setting aside of the team’s usual Lightweight all-carbon deep-section wheels, Knaven’s spare rig was still quite light at just 8.02kg (17.68lb) as pictured here. Drivetrain efficiency likely wouldn’t have been far off from his road-going Izalco, either, given the Mares’s large-diameter tubes throughout and oversized BB30 bottom bracket.

A pair of tacx tao cages were at the ready to hold on to knaven’s bottles but sunday’s dry weather meant they went unused.:
James Huang/BikeRadar

A pair of Tacx Tao cages were at the ready to hold on to Knaven’s bottles

Curiously, milram mechanics fitted sram’s pg-1090 cassette while other sram-sponsored teams opted for the more mud-friendly pg-1070 model.:
James Huang/BikeRadar

Curiously, Milram mechanics fitted SRAM’s non-mud friendly PG-1090 cassette

Race day brought dry conditions and relatively clear roads, though, so ultimately this bike went unused – perhaps a good thing considering Knaven had only ridden it five or six times according to the team mechanic. But at age 39, Knaven has demonstrated that he still has what it takes to finish Paris-Roubaix, rain or shine.

Knaven left the door open for yet one more Paris-Roubaix shortly after he finished on Sunday but more recently, he’s announced that he will retire this August. 

Cheers to you, Servais.  Paris-Roubaix won’t be the same without you.

Complete bike specifications

  • Frame: Focus Mares Cross size M
  • Fork: Focus Mares Carbon
  • Headset: Cane Creek integrated
  • Stem: FSA OS-99, 13cm x -6°
  • Handlebars: FSA Wing Pro Compact, 42cm (c-c)
  • Tape/grips: fi’zi:k dual:tape
  • Front brake: Avid Shorty Ultimate
  • Rear brake: Avid Shorty Ultimate
  • Brake levers: SRAM Red DoubleTap
  • Front derailleur: SRAM Red w/ Force steel cage
  • Rear derailleur: SRAM Red
  • Shift levers: SRAM Red DoubleTap
  • Cassette: SRAM PG-1090, 11-23T
  • Chain: SRAM PC-1090
  • Crankset: SRAM Red BB30, 172.5mm, 53/39T
  • Bottom bracket: SRAM Red BB30
  • Pedals: Speedplay Zero Stainless
  • Rims: Ambrosio Nemesis tubular, 32h
  • Front hub: DT Swiss 240s
  • Rear hub: DT Swiss 240s
  • Spokes: DT Swiss 14/15g, 3x, with alloy nipples
  • Front tire: Continental Competition Pro Limited ProTection tubular, 28mm
  • Rear tire: Continental Competition Pro Limited ProTection tubular, 28mm
  • Saddle: fi’zi:k Aliante Carbon k:ium
  • Seat post: FSA K-Force SB0
  • Bottle cages: Tacx Tao

Critical measurements

  • Rider’s height: 1.78m (5′ 10″)
  • Rider’s weight: 68kg (150lb)
  • Saddle height, from BB (c-t): 715mm
  • Saddle setback: 40mm
  • Seat tube length, c-t: 542mm
  • Seat tube length, c-c: 502mm
  • Tip of saddle nose to C of bars (next to stem): 549mm
  • Saddle-to-bar drop (vertical): 80mm
  • Head tube length: 115mm
  • Top tube length: 540mm (horizontal)
  • Total bicycle weight: 8.02kg (17.68lb)