FIUGGI, Italy (VN) — Following a string of wet-weather crashes this spring, Team Sky is testing new tires at the Giro d’Italia.
The team, which has no official tire sponsor, has used Veloflex tubulars throughout most of its short history. But every Sky Pinarello in Italy this month has its carbon fiber Shimano wheels wrapped in Continental rubber. The 25mm Competition tubular is the tire of choice.
The team is not using the ProLtd version of the Competition, which is provided to sponsored teams, suggesting that Sky is buying its tires from Continental.
“We just began testing them,” said a Sky mechanic prior to Saturday’s stage, which rolled out of the hilltop town of Fiuggi under threatening skies and occasional showers.
Mechanics wouldn’t answer when asked if the swap was triggered by the abundance of crashes the team has had in wet weather over the last few years. “It’s just something we’re trying,” one said.
Nevertheless, Sky riders have had a string of race-altering crashes in wet conditions in recent seasons. Bradley Wiggins crashed on a wet downhill corner in the Giro in 2013, losing time and effectively ending his race. Chris Froome went down twice on the slick roads of the fifth stage of last year’s Tour, putting the nail in his Tour de France coffin before he even hit that stage’s cobblestones.
The cold and wet sixth stage of Paris-Nice this year was a bad day for multiple Sky riders, as team leader Richie Porte, who is now contending for the Giro d’Italia’s crown, and Geraint Thomas both fell while chasing a dangerous move containing Etixx-Quick-Step’s Michal Kwiatkowski. Porte’s crash was particularly confounding that day — he seemed to follow the same line as the rest of the group, but his wheels slipped from underneath him.
Rain often causes crashes, of course, but Sky seems to have had a particularly difficult time staying upright in wet weather. Perhaps some new rubber will help.