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Twenty additional bikes and around 60 extra wheels.
That’s what Jumbo-Visma is counting on to protect its position on the Tour de France cobblestones on Wednesday.
The Tour’s leading team is emptying its service course in a bid to prevent a repeat of the disaster that saw Wout van Aert and Christophe Laporte skid across the Paris-Roubaix cobblestones on buckled rear wheels this spring.
“If you ride over loose stones without air in your tire, every rim will break,” Jumbo-Visma mechanic Dirk van de Ven told Het Nieuwsblad. “We’re opting for other wheels that we have tested. Always without air in the tires, they will eventully give out under the pressure. But our tests show you can continue riding on this rim for longer with a flat.”
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Crumbled Shimano Dura-Ace R9100 carbon wheels put a handbrake on the Paris-Roubaix hopes of Tour de France yellow jersey Van Aert and top wingman Laporte this April.
The two classics heavyweights pummeled over the harshest sectors of Roubaix’s pavé on empty tubular tires that couldn’t hold the heat of the cobbled “Hell.”
“I rode near the front of the group when entering the Arenberg but I rode too much to the side and quickly hit a rock,” Van Aert said at the time. “I rode 50-60kph over those cobbles on a dead flat and damaged my wheel. When I halted my wheel broke to pieces.”
Jumbo Visma isn’t running any risks for Wednesday’s stage 5 of the Tour de France.
The 20 kilometers of cobblestones on tap for the ride toward Arenberg Porte du Hainaut are a fraction of the horrorshow served up at Paris-Roubaix, but are enough to prove more costly to GC ambitions than any HC summit.
With Van Aert sitting on a solid classification lead and climbing captains Primož Roglič and Jonas Vingegaard safe in the midst of the pack of favorites, Jumbo-Visma pulled 60 extra sets of wheels and 20 fully built bikes just for the hotly hyped stage.
All of the Dutch crew’s available mechanics will be on hand to serve out spare wheels across Wednesday’s 11 cobblestone sectors.
Jumbo-Visma is also switching out the team’s low-slung Cervélo S5 Tour de France machines for the more relaxed, multi-terrain Caledonia 5 frame.
“It’s slightly longer and gives riders more comfort. In theory it is not as fast as our other bikes, but the riders can save just a little more energy on the cobblestone sections,” Van de Ven told Nieuwsblad.
“They have already had some time to get used to it during training in Copenhagen and on Monday they also rode it over the cobblestones. So they are prepared for today’s ride.”
Anything could happen on the stones of northwest France. Jumbo-Visma is hoping it covered every eventuality.
Malheureux accident de Christophe Laporte sur le secteur pavé de Saint-Python, plus de peur que ne mal c’est là que l’on reconnaît un professionnel, courage à tous les coureurs !! @lequipe @France2tv @Paris_Roubaix @LAPORTEChristop pic.twitter.com/JCaaduiPW8
— haegeman nolan (@nolan_haegeman) April 17, 2022