Paris-Roubaix has always been a proving ground for radical and experimental setups and that was no different at the inaugural edition of the Paris-Roubaix Femmes women’s race, with Lizzie Deignan winning aboard a Trek Domane with 1x gearing, 30mm tubeless tyres and disc brakes.
Deignan swapped Trek’s lightweight-aero Emonda for the Domane endurance bike for the cobbles of northern France. But while we’re used to seeing riders switch frames for the pavé, the rest of Deignan’s build was less familiar.
These images show Deignan’s bike straight from the finish line, caked in mud from the 17 secteurs of cobbles. Deignan, a former winner of the Tour of Flanders, attacked on the first section of pavé to take a dominant win, staying clear for more than 80km.
1x for the Hell of the North
Disc brakes may now be standard in professional cycling, and we expect every team in Sunday’s men’s race to use discs following Ineos-Grenadiers’ move away from rim brakes, but 1x drivetrains have failed to have a significant impact on the road outside of time trials (and a failed experiment by the Aqua Blue Sport men’s team in 2018).
However, Deignan’s Trek-Segafredo women’s team opted for a 1x setup for Roubaix, pairing a 50-tooth front chainring (fitted with a Quarq power meter) with a 12-speed 10-33t cassette and SRAM’s wireless electronic Red eTap AXS rear derailleur.
With the 116k Paris-Roubaix Femmes predominantly played out over flat roads, Deignan had little need for a front derailleur, though the British rider had a K-Edge chain catcher in place to provide some additional security over the harsh cobbles.
The tide is turning for tubeless
As for tyre choice, the 2021 editions of Paris-Roubaix could be the races where tubeless tyres truly make their mark at road cycling’s top table.
Professional cyclists have used tubular tyres since the dawn of time, with handmade Dugast and FMB tubular tyres a common sight at the cobbled Classics in years gone by, but that commitment is beginning to show signs of waning.
Julian Alaphilippe won last weekend’s men’s World Championship road race on clincher tyres and inner tubes – his Deceuninck-QuickStep team have been using clinchers through the 2021 season – and tubeless tyres will see widespread use across this weekend’s Roubaix races, both in Saturday’s Femmes edition and Sunday’s men’s race to come.
Deignan’s Bontrager Aeolus RSL 37 wheels were fitted with 30mm-wide Pirelli P-Zero Race TLR tyres, providing additional comfort and flat protection over the cobbles, as well as the opportunity to run lower pressures in the slick conditions.
Blips on the bars, but no blips for Deignan
Other notable features of Deignan’s bike include SRAM’s blip shifters on the handlebar – allowing for quick shifts from the tops, where riders normally prefer to place their hands when bouncing over the pavé – and a Wahoo Elemnt Bolt computer.
Details of the key cobbled sections are taped to the 2015 world champion’s stem, with the hydraulic hoses running underneath for a semi-integrated setup.
Trek’s Domane frame is more familiar than the rest of the build but still well worth mentioning, having been used to great effect in the Classics since it was first launched in 2012. The third-generation Domane SLR, introduced in 2019, features Trek’s comfort-enhancing IsoSpeed technology at the front and rear of the frame.
The rear IsoSpeed is based in the top tube, having been moved from its seat tube location on the previous edition of the bike. The L-shaped seatmast is braced by the top tube, with an elastomer to add damping and a hidden slider to adjust compliance.
It’s a design first seen on the Trek Madone SLR and now ported over to the new Trek Checkpoint gravel bike, launched earlier this week (though the Checkpoint’s IsoSpeed isn’t adjustable).
Bloody but victorious
While Deignan’s bike had plenty of built-in cushioning through big tyres and IsoSpeed, with the headset placed in a rocker cup to add comfort at the front of the bike, the cobbles of Roubaix still took their toll, with blood visible on the 32-year-old’s bar tape. Riding Paris-Roubaix without gloves will do that.
The final touch to mention is Deignan’s race number, filthy on the seatmast after 30km of muddy cobblestones.
But, despite being handed the number 13 for the day, there was no stopping Deignan as she made history in Roubaix.