Five tech highlights from Serenissima Gravel

Following their outing at the recent Gravel World Championships, the road pros returned to gravel racing once again at Serenissima Gravel, and they made some interesting tech choices

ClockUpdated 09:14, Saturday 14th October 2023. Published 19:01, Friday 13th October 2023
A wide range of gravel and road bikes were used at Serenissima Gravel


A wide range of gravel and road bikes were used at Serenissima Gravel

The pinnacle of the gravel racing season may have been last weekend's UCI Gravel World Championships but that didn't stop a number of WorldTour pros from tackling the Serenissima Gravel this week. Also held in Veneto, but with a flat and fast circuit for the riders to tackle, equipment choices varied drastically amongst the bunch.

From WorldTour teams using set-ups identical to what they'd use on the road, to riders with some of the latest gravel tech on the market, GCN spotted plenty of eye-catching bike set-ups on the start line.

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Wide gravel tyres and deep rims

Whilst the white gravel tracks of northern Italy are no match for the gnarly conditions found at Unbound, plenty of teams opted for a fairly wide tyre choice.

Astana Qazaqstan's Simone Velasco, who finished fifth on the day, opted for a 38mm Vittoria Terreno Dry tubeless tyre on his Wilier Triestina Rave SLR gravel bike. Also keen to reduce their rolling resistance, Uno-X riders tackled the Gravel Serenissima on 35mm Schwalbe G-One RS tyres paired with 62mm-deep DT Swiss ARC 1400 rims.

Lotto Dstny's Arjen Livyns lined up for the 149km race on DT Swiss rims, the gravel-specific GRC 1400 model to be precise. He paired them with 38mm Vittoria Terreno Dry tyres.

However, although plenty of riders toughened up their rims and tyres for the race, Lidl-Trek and Arkéa-Samsic seemed unphased by the rough terrain. The prior WorldTour team stuck with their normal Pirelli P Zero Race tyre, only upgraded to the 30mm version to combat the gravel.

Whilst many riders chuckled under their breath upon seeing the set-up choices at the start, Arkéa-Samsic's Anthony Delaplace had the last laugh after earning a fourth-place finish on the day.

Training bikes with old-school components

If there's one tech observation from this week's Serenissima Gravel that sums up the 'spirit of gravel' then it has to be Uno-X's laid-back approach to the race.

With their main focus on the Giro del Veneto and Veneto Classic road races sandwiching the event this week, the team arrived at the start on their gravel bikes that they use to train on whilst at home in Scandinavia.

What looked to be Dare's GFX Oasis gravel bike was fitted with components that clearly weren't the latest and lightest on the market. Metal bottle cages and old-school metal SPD-SL pedals were the two standout features on the riders' bikes.

Speaking to GCN, Fredrik Dversnes, who finished third on the day, admitted: "We don't top-spec our bikes for this race but it definitely proves that it works good enough.

"That bike will be with me back home when I do winter training in Norway," he added."

Gravel frames, road frames and cyclo-cross frames

From Alpecin-Deceuninck riding on their newly released Canyon Grail and Lidl-Trek taking on the race on their Trek Madone SLR road frames, to Lotto Dstny's Frederik Frison riding aboard his teammate and race-winner Florian Vermeersch's cyclo-cross bike, there was lots of variation.

Frison's Ridley X-Night SL cross' bike was kitted out with a Shimano Dura-Ace drivetrain, featuring a 46/39t chainring and a gold chain. Vermeersch's name on the down tube had been conveniently taped over.

Its not quite clear why Frison opted for Ridley's cyclo-cross frame instead of their designated gravel bike, the Kanzo Fast, which was used by other riders on the team.

Read more: Florian Vermeersch’s Ridley Kanzo Fast: Gravel World Championships Pro Bike

Easy-access sealant for the inevitable punctures

Bidons weren't the only bottles that the riders were carrying on their bikes around the gravel circuit in northern Italy, with a number of them taping sealant to their seatposts too.

With support vehicles unable to follow the race across its often narrow and rough terrain, there are typically only a few places to get help from your team. This has meant that riding with a bottle of sealant attached to your bike has become a common hack within gravel racing.

Although sealant already in the tyres should plug any initial punctures, that extra bottle of sealant comes in handy when the challenging terrain causes the tyre to deflate once again.

Sealant being taped to the frame by no means helps the aesthetics of the bike, though. This is where Alpecin-Deceuninck's riders benefited from Canyon's 'Aero Load System' added to its recently launched Grail gravel bike. GCN saw Silvan Dillier stuff several bits of kit into his down tube storage compartment just in case he needed to undertake a quick repair job mid-race.

Read more: All-new Canyon Grail gains in-frame storage and seamless bar integration

1x drivetrains to lay down the power

It wouldn't have been a gravel race without some hefty 1x drivetrains on show, now would it? 1x systems are common in gravel racing due to both their durability over rougher terrain thanks to 'narrow-wide' chainring teeth and, quite simply, fewer parts to break or cause an ill-timed mechanical out on the circuit.

The flat course meant that a number of riders opted for 1x chainrings on the larger end of the scale. Tudor Pro Cycling had a least one rider using a SRAM 50-tooth X-Sync chainring.

Meanwhile, Lidl-Trek's Jacopo Mosca had an even more extreme set-up for tackling the dirt. The Italian's road bike was fitted with a 52-tooth version of SRAM's X-Sync. Interestingly, we couldn't find this chainring size when browsing the manufacturer's website.

For more tech news and features, head over to the tech section on the GCN website, linked here.

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