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Cobbles win again: Specialized apologizes for Terpstra’s Roubaix crash

Niki Terpstra crashes out of Roubaix due to component failure, and his bike sponsor Specialized accepts blame for incident.

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Quick-Step rider Niki Terpstra never made it to the Roubaix velodrome during Sunday’s Paris-Roubaix. The 2014 Roubaix champion crashed on the bumpy Maing to Monchaux-sur-Écaillon sector of cobbles, just the ninth set of pavé that riders encountered during the 260km race.

The crash was caused by a faulty pre-production steerer cartridge that works only with Specialized’s FutureShock system, Specialized representatives said. Photos on social media show Terpstra’s stem and handlebars completely detached from the rest of the bike as he fell. The story was first reported by Cycling Weekly.

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The FutureShock system relies on a cartridge between the stem and the steerer that allows the cockpit to move in response to road input. According to Specialized, Terpstra requested a rigid component so his handlebars did not move, so Specialized developed such a piece. A pre-production rigid cartridge ultimately made it onto Terpstra’s bike due to a communication error. This cartridge was not approved for racing use. Quick-Step’s seven other riders used the non-rigid FutureShock system during the race.

It’s not the first time the Roubaix cobbles have unmasked component weaknesses in grand fashion, and Terpstra joins a growing list of riders who had their day on the cobbles derailed by mechanical calamities. George Hincapie famously hit the deck during the 2002 edition of Paris-Roubaix after his steerer tube snapped.

During the 2011 campaign, Tom Boonen’s water bottle shook loose, jettisoned, and landed lodged between his rear wheel and frame. That mechanical came just a few kilometers after Boonen’s chain became wedged between his cassette and frame, which forced him to change bikes. And in 1994 Johan Museeuw snapped a chain stay on his eye-catching full-suspension bike, effectively ending his race.

Read the full statement from Mark Cote, Specialized’s leader of global marketing:

Heading into Paris-Roubaix, a few of our riders asked to try a rigid cartridge as well as the fully-active Future Shock on their new Roubaix bikes. In response to this, we developed a pre-production rigid steerer cartridge and later an approved engineered cartridge for the race.

In the days leading up, Niki Terpstra chose to race the rigid option. Unfortunately, a missed communication on the Specialized team resulted in the pre-production part remaining in Niki’s bike instead of being replaced by the approved engineered part. Ultimately, this failed during the race. All other riders raced on Future Shock equipped bikes.

Rider safety is always our first concern and we are relieved that Niki was not seriously injured. This was an isolated incident and does not present any further risk to our riders.

All of us at Specialized sincerely feel the weight and responsibility of our mistake. Both Mike Sinyard and I apologized in person to Niki and the team. We wish him the fastest recovery possible.