To prepare for the 18 cobbled bergs of the 101st Tour of Flanders, riders dropped the pressure in their tubulars a little bit — and a few opted for 28mm casings instead of the standard 25s. BikeRadar took a close look at the bikes of all 25 teams.
Rim brakes remain supreme
While the Tour of Flanders course celebrates Belgian cobbles, the pro peloton does not regard it as extreme as the following week's Paris-Roubaix, where disc brakes can offer clearance for ultra-wide tires to deal with the stones. At Flanders, we only saw five disc bikes, and none of those had tubulars wider than 28mm.
Stijn Devolder rode a Felt FR1 with SRAM eTap Hydro and his Veranda’s Willems–Crelan teammate Dries De Bondt raced on the older SRAM Red Hydro.
Team Sunweb, which recently debuted Shimano Dura-Ace discs in the peloton, had three disc bikes.
Quick Step's Tom Boonen raced a new Specialized Roubaix, which is sold as a disc bike — but his version was configured for rim brakes.
Tubular widths and pressures
The peloton has recently moved from 23mm to 25mm tubulars for normal racing. For Paris-Roubaix, riders will often go as wide as they can, with 28mm or 30mm tubulars being squeezed into frames. For Flanders, most choose 25s, but seemingly more riders than last year opted for 28mm. Continental's Competition RBX was a popular choice for both 25 and 28mm widths.
As with width, air pressure at Flanders is another in-between story, with mechanics topping off tires between 5.5 and 6.5 bar (80-95psi). Normal race conditions warrant pressures around 8 bar / 115psi, varying of course for rider weight and preference. For Paris-Roubaix, riders will go as low as 4.8 bar / 70psi.
Dura-Ace 9000/9100 mismatches continue
Shimano's new 9100 group hasn't made its way completely into the peloton yet. The 9100 cranks were initially in short supply, and while Shimano tells us they are now delivering in full, many teams still had bikes with 9100 or 9150 groups built with 9100 cranks. Sometimes that can be chalked up to the delivery of crank-based power meters, such as Pioneer and Stages, which were also affected by the earlier delivery issues. Team Sky had full 9100 and 9150 setups with Stages, however.
Big computers, big gears and... a route sticker on the down tube?
Pros are just like the rest of us in that they have different preferences. Whether it is saddles or lever position or computer choice, there is no single right answer.
Still, it's always fun to see some of the more extreme setups. At Flanders, it was surprising to see a monstrous 11-32 cassette on Cyril Lemoine bike. Was that because he had a 54/42 setup? Most everyone else seemed content with the standard 53/39 and 11-28.
A few riders like big Ian Stannard race with the big Garmin Edge 1000 computers.
Both of these things we have seen before. But a route sticker of key race elements like cobbled climbs placed on the down tube? That is not something we have ever seen.