The midweek Scheldeprijs race outside of Antwerp, Belgium, features a course that’s pancake flat. But it makes up for the lack of climbing with a few sections of pave to test the peloton’s mettle. Most teams in attendance used the race to test out bikes and equipment prepped for the more demanding conditions of the Paris-Roubaix for the weekend.
Many of the cobbles on the Tour of Flanders route are limited to climbs, so the speeds over them are slower than speed carried on the flatter courses of Scheldeprijs and Roubaix. Also, the cobbles of Flanders are said to be smoother, rounder, and smaller than the large, coarse, and widely spaced stones of Roubaix. The need to carry speed over this flatter but rougher course is a big part of the rationale behind the special bike preparation.
Not every rider nor every team rode a bike outfitted for the cobblestones, but here are a few of the specially spec’ed bikes that we spotted. We heard about Ridley X-Night cyclocross frames under Katusha riders, and maybe even a new Pinarello in the Sky camp, but we’ll have to look for those closer to their date with destiny in Compiegne this weekend.
Both Fabian Cancellara and Matti Breschel rode Specialized Roubaix bikes. This team is fortunate to have the Roubaix in their arsenal, as it’s already built to smooth rough roads and provide a comfortable, stable ride, but not every rider on the team chose to pedal it.
The remainder of the bikes appeared little different from usual, with SRAM Red components, FSA bars and stems, and Zipp 303 wheels.
Team Milram uses Focus Izalco bikes which debuted last year at the Tour de France. 3T made a special, custom sized Funda Pro fork to fit the Izalco’s 1 – 3/8th-inch lower headset bearing. Here in Belgium, the team’s Izalco bikes are fitted with special forks to soften the numbing vibration of rough roads.
Team mechanic Arie DeBaker could only tell us, “It’s a special fork for the races this year in Belgium,” and gave no details. But it looks like a basic carbon fork (no surprise) with curved blades and a smaller crown, and possibly carbon dropouts with aluminum inserts. We’ll try to get more details in the next few days.
Like the Milram bikes, some of the HTC-Columbia Scott Addict rigs were fitted with different forks. In this case, the standard Addict fork was replaced with Scott’s CR1 fork, which is built to flex and absorb vibration.
The HTC-Columbia bikes are also notable for the prototype carbon fiber pedals used by some of the riders.
Garmin’s Johan Van Summeren chose the Scheldeprijs for a final test of his Paris-Roubaix cobblestones bike. Team mechanic Kris Withington said, “They’ve been training with this bike, but he decided to race with it.”
Notable visible features on the Felt include the obvious selection of a complete Shimano Dura-Ace 7800 parts kit. “We think the shifters will be better (than Shimano’s electric Dura-Ace parts),” said Withington. “The cable routing is more resilient in bad weather,” and less sensitive to contamination, he said.
In addition to the drivetrain and shifters, the Felt frame is built with slacker geometry in the head and seat tubes, plus an extra 2cm in the top tube, according to Withington. The rear dropouts effectively add length to the chainstays and thus add wheelbase and stability to the bike. The chainstays and fork both feature additional clearance for larger tires and mud.