Race tech: Road Tubeless makes appearance at the Tour de France

Plus tyre sealant update, new Mavic brake track, and more

Bucking trends in the consumer market, riders at this year’s Tour de France are again almost exclusively rolling on traditional tubular tyres.

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Why? Teams cite their lower weights, better ride quality, enhanced cornering capabilities and heightened safety (they can be ridden totally deflated mostly without fear of separating from the rim).

Ag2r-La Mondiale and Francais de Jeux are notable standouts, though, the former running standard tube-type clinchers and the latter on Hutchinson’s Fusion 3 Road Tubeless tyres – mostly on spares in both cases, though.

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Bobble

Hutchinson’s Fusion 3 Road Tubeless

We’ve seen clinchers at the Tour de France before but this is the first time we recall seeing Road Tubeless – whether on mains, spares, or otherwise – at road cycling’s grandest stage. Whether or not it’s a sign of things to come remains to be seen but it’s a noteworthy occasion from a tech perspective nonetheless.

More on (the lack of) tyre sealant at Le Tour

Teams may not be using preventative tyre sealants at the Tour de France but it sounds like that isn’t because they’re not interested in it. Garmin-Transitions rider Steven Cozza himself sent BikeRadar’s sister website Cyclingnews a message saying the squad have looked into the idea in the past.

One test session in particular involved the guys “smashing wheels trying to hit the largest potholes” they could. Cozza reports that the sealants they tried (both Stan’s NoTubes and Effetto Mariposa Caffelatex, according to team mechanic Kris Withington when we followed up with him prior to Stage 7) both worked but not as quickly as they needed them to, particularly for more catastrophic failures like pinch flats. 

According to Cozza – whose account was backed up by Withington – the slow self-repair was okay in terms of saving a tyre or being able to limp along for a while but not good enough to remove the need for a wheel change. The team did run several riders in Paris-Roubaix with sealant this year, but mostly support riders who weren’t overly hindered by the extra 50g per tyre.

It sounds like the concept is hindered by the lack of a specific formula that addresses the particular needs of road racers. Stan’s NoTubes already offer a blend with a shorter shelf life that caters to top-level mountain bike racers, and a similarly dedicated variant designed to work better on pinched high-pressure tubulars might just do the trick – maybe something with more plugging material?

HTC-Columbia ink bearing deal with Ceramicspeed

It’s never too late for business, even at the Tour de France. HTC-Columbia mechanic Jan Lindberg tells us the team signed a formal sponsorship deal with Danish bearing company Ceramicspeed on the day of the opening prologue.

Since then, the entire fleet of team bikes has been equipped with low-friction ceramic bearings in the bottom bracket and hubs, while the derailleurs get complete ceramic-equipped alloy pulley wheels. Based on what we’ve seen before, we’re guessing at least some team riders were already running ceramics but now it’s official with decals and all.

Okay, now it’s official: ceramicspeed are providing ceramic bearings to htc-columbia: okay, now it’s official: ceramicspeed are providing ceramic bearings to htc-columbia
James Huang

Okay, now it’s official: Ceramicspeed are providing ceramic bearings to HTC-Columbia

Star sprinter Mark Cavendish has returned to his winning ways with victories in Stages 5 and 6 but it’s worth noting that both successes came aboard his old Scott Addict – not the new samurai-themed Project F01 aero bike that he started on at this year’s Tour. According to team marketing and communications head Kristy Scrymgeour, the issue isn’t with the bike itself (which is said to have tested even stiffer than the Addict) but rather the fit. 

Mark cavendish (htc-columbia) used his old bike for both stage wins in this year’s tour de france but based on the changes we’ve seen, it’s for fit reasons, not because of the bike itself. we expect to see him back on the new rig soon: mark cavendish (htc-columbia) used his old bike for both stage wins in this year’s tour de france but based on the changes we’ve seen, it’s for fit reasons, not because of the bike itself. we expect to see him back on the new rig soon
James Huang

Mark Cavendish (HTC-Columbia) used his old bike for both stage wins in this year’s Tour

We noted in his Pro Bike feature that Cavendish moved his position further forward on the new bike but Scrymgeour says he has since reverted. Cavendish first tried subbing in a slightly shorter stem on his custom-painted machine but it sounds like the modest 5mm decrease wasn’t quite enough. According to Scrymgeour, the team were waiting for a properly sized replacement to arrive and ‘Cav’ was expected to switch back then.