Hot new tech spotted at men's and women's Gent-Wevelgem

There was more than just pro bikes on display at the start of the cobbled Classic

Clock12:27, Tuesday 26th March 2024
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The cobbled Classics have most certainly arrived with both E3 Saxo Classic and Gent-Wevelgem taking place last week providing the prelude to the cobbled Monuments of the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix.

With the unique demands that come from racing over the cobbled roads of northern Europe comes the need for equally unique equipment choices. These races typically see riders using setups that aren’t seen elsewhere in the road season. We spent some time in the paddocks ahead of Gent-Wevelgem to find out just what tech was on display.

Ineos Grenadiers were seen to be wearing the new and currently unreleased aero helmet from Kask. It has been spotted a few times in the early part of the season, looking to blend design features of a traditional aero road helmet and a TT helmet. Much like the POC helmet used by the EF Education-EasyPost and EF Education-Cannondale teams, the Kask helmet sports a dropped profile on the sides of the helmet that covers a portion of the rider's ears.

With no specific data currently available for the aero benefits of the helmet it is hard to know just what savings it offers, however, the ear covers certainly were no bad thing with the temperature sitting in single digits over the weekend.

One of the bikes that caught our eye the most whilst making our way through the paddock was a staff bike on display at Lidl-Trek. Even when parked up next to eight team-edition Madone SLRs this bike managed to garner the most attention. It uses a Domane SLR frameset as the starting chassis but then looks to incorporate elements of gravel and mountain bike tech to create one of the most bling bikes in the paddock.

Mounted to the Bontrager Aeolus RSL 62 wheelset is a pair of Pirelli Cinturato Gravel tyres that make the most of the Domane’s generous tyre clearance. Up top the cockpit takes the shape of something that would be far more at home on a cross-country mountain bike. A flat Bontrager bar and SRAM Code RSC brake levers firmly bring this Domane SLR into Frankenbike territory.

The Specialized-sponsored teams of Bora-Hansgrohe and Soudal Quick-Step had a prototype saddle on display that looked to be an update to the Phenom saddle. The new saddle uses Specialized’s proprietary ‘Mirror’ 3D-printing manufacturing technology. This is not the first time we have seen this technology with the brand already offering it on its S-Works Power and S-Works Romin saddles.

There was a surprising amount of Shimano’s second-tier electronic groupset Ultegra on display ahead of Gent-Wevelgem, especially from a selection of the women’s teams.

Typically the groupset used on pro bikes is a two-horse race between Shimano’s flagship Dura-ace Di2 or SRAM’s top-tier Red AXS. The presence of Ultegra highlights two very interesting points. Firstly, just how good Ultegra is and secondly that even for teams competing at the highest level of our sport, the cost of some equipment is a stretch too far for their budgets.

Pro riders are well known for their aggressive, low and stretched-out riding positions. One bike that caught our eye was that of Jules Hesters from the Flanders-Baloise team. In the modern era of one-piece cockpits, we rarely see cockpit setups similar to those used around a decade ago.

Hesters is one such rider bucking this trend with the use of a monster stem that measures in at 150mm. With the rest of the team using more common one-piece cockpits Hesters clearly has some specific bike fit requirements that fall outside of what is on offer from a one-piece setup.

For all the latest from the world of cycling tech make sure to head to our dedicated tech news section and to keep up to date with all the racing over this classics season make sure to head our racing homepage.


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