Team Ineos riders have been spotted swapping their sponsor-correct Shimano Dura-Ace wheels in favour of Lightweight Meilenstein Obermayer wheels for stages five and six of the Tour de France.
The German ultralight, handmade hoops are also expected to be used in the remaining mountain stages of the 2019 race.
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Lightweight’s Meilenstein Obermayer tubular wheels have a (frankly ridiculous) claimed weight of 935g, which presents a significant saving over the team’s usual Dura-Ace 9100 C40 wheels (1,355g, claimed).
Even the C24 — Shimano’s lightweight wheelset — comes in at 1,110g for the pair. 175g is a good chunk of weight to lose from a wheelset and could potentially offer an advantage in the mountainous stages to come.
Stage six marks the first summit finish of the 2019 Tour, with the final climb of La Planche des Belles Filles pitching up to a maximum of 24 percent, although Ineos riders were also spotted using the wheels on the rolling parcours of stage five.
As well as a ridiculously light weight, the wheels also boast a slightly ridiculous price tag of around £4,900 (approx $6,150/AU$8,800) depending on which model you opt for.
It’s also worth noting that, in 2019, aero concerns trump pretty much all else in pro cycling. For the team that prides itself on marginal gains to choose to use a wheelset with a decidedly old-school and not particularly aero-friendly V-shaped profile is significant.
Is Lightweight a sponsor of Team Ineos?
We’re not sure of Lightweight’s exact relationship with Ineos, although we suspect the company isn’t an official supplier. Before today, we understood Shimano to be the sole wheel supplier for Team Ineos.
However, it appears the situation has changed. In response to a request for comment for this article, a Team Ineos spokesperson said the team “can confirm we will use wheels from two brands during this year’s Tour. Shimano remains our main supplier and they are a valued partner for Team Ineos”.
This cagey response probably shouldn’t come as a surprise because infractions from sponsor-correct components are increasingly rare and, if they happen at all, they’re normally (badly) concealed.
Whether Ineos riders will continue to use Lightweight wheels after the Tour, or this is a one-off arrangement, remains to be seen.
If Lightweight is not sponsoring the team, buying a set of wheels for each rider (and their spare bike) at full retail value would have cost the team roughly £80,000. Marginal gains indeed!
Do any other pro teams use Lightweight wheels?
For the time being, no.
While Lightweight wheels have a long history at the Tour — fans of mid-’90s racing will fondly recall the likes of Jan Ullrich riding them — they are a very small German brand that would have very limited marketing resources compared to the likes of Shimano.
Either way, for the sake of nostalgia alone, we welcome the brand’s reintroduction to the upper echelons of bicycle racing.
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