Liège-Bastogne-Liège, the oldest Classic of them all, took in 262.9km of rolling Ardennes landscape on Sunday, culminating in the bitter disappointment of Dan Martin as he fell at the final corner, leaving Simon Gerrans to sprint for the win. Back in 43rd place, 22 year-old Belgian Lotto-Belisol up-and-comer Tim Wellens, the son of a Ridley dealer, marked a milestone of his own: for the first time since turning pro, he finished all three Ardennes Classics. He did it aboard the Ridley Helium SL. We grabbed his dusty, energy drink-splattered ride right after the finish to give it the once-over.
Rider name decals are just as important for the mechanics to avoid confusion
Although Ridley has a 'Classics' bike in the shape of the Fenix, the whole Lotto-Belisol team rode the race on the company's ultra-light Helium SL. The LBL parcours is distinctly hilly and almost entirely cobble-free, so a build focused on stiffness and weight rather than comfort makes sense. It is notable, for example, that Wellens' bike bucks the recent trend for wider rubber: its Campagnolo Bora Ultra Two 50mm section tubulars are shod with skinny 22mm Continental Competition Pro Ltd tubulars, the ones that ordinary mortals can't buy.
These pro-only edition tubulars are just 22mm wide - bucks the wider trend
The Helium has a full Campagnolo Super Record EPS electronic groupset with the battery concealed within the seat tube. An SRM version of the Ultra-Torque chainset takes care of power measuring duties.
Although Campagnolo has now introduced its Over-Torque press-fit compatible cranks (a natural match for the Helium's PF30 bottom bracket shell), Lotto-Belisol is still running the Ultra-Torque version with adapter cups, since SRM have yet to release an Over-Torque power meter. Citing problems with the security of Campagnolo's own PF30 cups (a complaint we've heard before), the team now uses adapters from Belgian company C-Bear.
The Lotto-Belisol mechanics seem to prefer C-Bear's PF30 cups
Wellens is turning 53/39 rings up front whilst taking advantage of the little extra bit of low-end gearing offered by Campagnolo's newly introduced 11-27 cassette. This comes as no surprise given the severity of some of LBL's climbs, notably the Côte de Stockeu which averages 12.4% for a kilometre, and which comes after 173km of racing. Taking no chances with chain security, a Campagnolo chain catcher is retained by the front derailleur mounting bolt.
At 175mm in medium, the Helium SL's headtube is on the long side for a rangy, ultra-flexible pro. As a result, Wellens needs a steep -20 degree Deda track stem in a tiller-like 140mm to achieve the huge saddle to bar drop of 150mm he prefers. We presume the single 5mm headset spacer is there to avoid creating a point load on the steerer tube, as stipulated by many fork manufacturers.
The new EPS brain mounts under the huge 140mm track stem
Finishing kit comes from Deda, topped off with Selle San Marco's carbon railed Aspide perch and Lizard Skins bar tape. An extra 4ZA seatclamp on the post prevents any slippage and keeps saddle height constant if the bike needs to be stripped and rebuilt.
We weren't able to weigh the bike, but a Lotto-Belisol mechanic told us the team's Heliums all come in around the UCI minimum weight of 6.8kg. Based on similar builds we've been able to weigh though, we think it might be a couple of hundred grams or so over.
Apart from the relatively extreme fit, Wellens' bike is largely unmodified from standard. The one thing that caught our attention was the strip of bar tape across the metal contact plate of each of the Look Keo Blade 2 pedals, which we're pretty sure is to silence the squeaking that some users experience, or perhaps to snug up the floating feel.
A little tape stuck the pedal - either it's to silence squeaky cleats or to stiffen the float