Tour de France 2020

Tour tech: Julian Alaphilippe takes historic win on clincher tires

Specialized pushes the envelope, and on Saturday the bike brand nabbed a Tour de France stage win with the Turbo Cotton clincher tires.

Pro riders use tubular tires; amateurs ride clinchers, right? Normally, yes, but on Sunday at the Tour de France Frenchman Julian Alaphilippe made history with what is almost certainly the first Tour stage win in modern times on clincher tires.

Alaphilippe rides for Deceuninck–Quick-Step, which is sponsored by Specialized for frames, wheels, tires, helmets, and shoes. And he was riding on a pair of Specialized Turbo Cotton clincher tires.

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We have seen a few top time trialists such as Tony Martin use clinchers for time trials, because of the minute but measurable savings in rolling resistance and, arguably, aerodynamic drag compared to tubulars. But road pros have long stuck with tubulars for a few reasons, including that you can ride a tire that is glued onto a wheel fairly safely in the event of a puncture. A flat clincher, or a flat tubeless tire, might come off the wheel if you rode it too long or too quickly after flatting.

Today, Julian Alaphilippe put his clincher tire first over the line today, and into the history books.

Alaphilippe won stage 2 of the Tour de France on Specialized Turbo Cotton clincher tires – a first. The clincher shown here is the Specialized S-Works Turbo. Photo: Wout Beel

“We’ve known how fast Turbo Cotton clinchers are, winning many time trials with them, thanks to their low rolling resistance,” said Ricardo Scheidecker, Deceuninck–Quick-Step’s technical and development director, adding that the team has been testing the clincher set-up on road bikes since a team camp in June.

The new Specialized S-Works Tarmac SL7, bucking the trend of tubeless or tubeless-compatible wheels on high-end road bikes, comes stock with clincher-only Roval CLX wheels.

Alaphilippe racing to the win on stage 2. Photo: Tim de Waele / Getty Images

A few riders and teams have experimented with tubeless wheels and tires in the WorldTour. Saurday’s stage 1 winner, Alexander Kristoff (UAE), for instance, won the 2019 Gent-Wevelgem aboard tubeless tires — but then suffered a couple flats on them weeks later at Paris-Roubaix.

But if a rider has won a modern stage of the Tour de France on clincher tires before Alaphilippe, VeloNews certainly has no knowledge of it. (Michelin clinchers were raced in the late 1980s and early 1990s — we are researching a story on those tires now.)

Alaphilippe raced on the Roval Alpinist CLX clincher wheels for stage 2.

You see clincher tires all the time on amateurs’ bikes. But on WorldTour pros’ bikes? Um, pretty much never in racing.