For over a decade, carbon has dominated the pro peloton but on stage 21 of this year’s Tour de France, one rider raced on a steel bike.
Oliver Naesen of AG2R La Mondiale rode most of the stage on a brand new Eddy Merckx Corsa, part of a new range of high-end steel bikes from the Belgian brand.
Oliver Naesen’s 2019 Tour de France Eddy Merckx Corsa specs
Naesen’s bike isn’t some pseudo-vintage Eroica special — it’s got a completely modern build with a Shimano Dura-Ace R9100 groupset, Rotor power meter cranks and deep-section Mavic carbon tubular rims.
Weight: 7.6kg (claimed)
Frame: Eddy Merckx Corsa Stainless Steel Road Rim, Columbus Spirit HSS and Columbus Xcr tubing
Fork: Eddy Merckx Stockeu69 carbon
Groupset: Shimano Dura-Ace R9100 mechanical, Rotor 2INpower crank, KMC chain
Wheels: Mavic Cosmic Pro Carbon
Tyres: Vredestein Fortezza Senso T tubular
Finishing kit: Deda Superzero bar and stem, and Zero100 seatpost, Fizik Antares R1 saddle, Look Kéo Blade Carbon pedals
The choice of steel is distinctly modern, too: the Corsa’s frame is built from a combination of stainless Columbus Xcr and Columbus Spirit HSS, both high-end tubesets that Merckx claims can create a frame almost as light as a carbon one, but much more comfortable.
Naesen, who finished the Tour in 68th place overall, had originally intended to ride the whole of the stage to Paris on the new bike but, perhaps ironically given the choice of a mechanical groupset, he ended up swapping to one of the regular team bikes on the Champs-Élysées after having shifting problems.
A steel bike at the Tour? Madness!
It’s more than two decades since steel made regular appearances at the upper levels of pro cycling. In the early 2000s aluminium was all the rage and, in more recent years, carbon has taken over completely.
It’s genuinely notable when a team chooses to put a rider on something different, even if it is little more than a marketing exercise. A recent example was when Peter Sagan showed up at the 2019 Tour Down Under with an aluminium Specialized Allez Sprint; and a few years ago, UCI Continental team Madison-Genesis raced exclusively on Genesis Volare frames made from high-end Reynolds tubing.
We’ve been racking our brains to try and work out when steel was last raced at the very top of the sport and the best we can come up with was when Team CSC chose the Cervélo Super Prodigy for the 2003 edition of Paris-Roubaix. Can you think of a more recent example? Let us know in the comments.
At the 2003 Paris-Roubaix, CSC riders including Tristan Hoffman rode the steel Cervélo Super Prodigy Lars Ronbog / FrontzoneSport via Getty Images
Eddy Merckx Corsa range: premium steel bikes for road and gravel
The Corsa Road Rim can be customised to some extent, if the ReadyMade options aren’t quite to your taste. Eddy Merckx
Naesen’s Corsa is part of Eddy Merckx’s new MyCorsa range, which includes road frames with rim or disc brakes, plus a gravel option with discs.
Riders can customise their frames to some extent, opting for internal or external cable routing and tweaking other details to suit the final build.
Because this is 2019, Corsa is offering a fancy steel gravel bike too. Eddy Merckx
We don’t have full pricing at this time, but Merckx says that MyCorsa framesets start at €3,299.
For riders with slightly shallower pockets, the Ready Made range includes three fixed spec models and much smaller price tags.
To find out more, head over to the MyCorsa’s website.