Paris-Roubaix Femmes tech: How did teams set up their bikes for a day in hell?

Paris-Roubaix is like no other race on the calendar, leading riders to set their bikes up in unique ways

Clock05:40, Sunday 7th April 2024
Paris-Roubaix sees riders set their bikes up in ways not seen anywhere else in the season

© GCN

Paris-Roubaix sees riders set their bikes up in ways not seen anywhere else in the season

Paris-Roubaix, or the 'Hell of the North' as it is also known, is renowned for being a hotbed of technological experimentation. The unique and testing demands that the mix of tarmac and pavé put on bikes and riders opens the door for equipment choices that you won’t see anywhere else on the road calendar.

2024's edition of the women's race proved to be no different. While there were no gravel bikes on show, unlike in the men's race were Israel-Premier Tech will use the Factor Ostro Gravel, there were plenty of interesting tech choices, including a general trend towards larger tyres in excess of 32mm.

Here are all of the interesting trends and set-up choices we spotted at the race.

Multiple teams opt for 35mm tyres

In the weeks leading up to Roubaix, there was little in the way of discussion around the tyres that riders would use for the race, with the general consensus settling on 32mm. On race day, however, the teams using 32mm tyres looked somewhat outgunned by the multiple teams who had ventured up to 35mm.

Both SD Worx-Protime and AG Insurance-Soudal were spotted using Specialized’s S-Works Mondo endurance tyres in up to 35mm widths. Not only is this encroaching on gravel bike territory, it also pushes the Specialized Tarmac’s clearance to the limit with the manufacturer only officially rating the frame for use with a maximum tyre width of 32mm.

SRAM teams are almost exclusively using one-by

With the exception of Human Powered Health, all of the teams running SRAM at the race had opted to run the brand's Red AXS groupset with a single chainring. With the course of Paris-Roubaix as close to flat as the Spring Classics get, the decision makes a lot of sense. By ditching the inner chainring and the front derailleur, teams can make more of a concerted effort to pursue chain retention.

Movistar were among the teams that had replaced the front derailleur on their Canyon bikes with a chain guide in the hope that this would prevent the chain from slipping off the chainring over the pavé.

Canyon-SRAM Schwalbe gravel tyres

Another Canyon-sponsored team, Caynon-SRAM, went one step further than the 35mm tyres used by some teams through their Schwalbe G-One gravel tyres that were fitted to some of their rider's bikes. The lightly treaded gravel tyre was used by some riders based on the increased traction and confidence they gave on the pavé.

The high volume G-One tyre allowed riders to run pressures that wouldn’t look all that out of place on a mountain bike, with some riders running their tyres as low as 2.5 bar (35psi). Running pressures this low with a high-volume tyre can dampen out a lot of the harshness of the cobbled sectors. When asked about the choice of gravel tyres, one of the team's mechanics said, “I think the combination of having more comfort means you will need less watts to go over the cobbles.”

Unreleased Prologo bar tape

Fans of Paris-Roubaix of yesteryear will remember the era of double-wrapped bar tape to try and help riders keep control of their bikes. At this year's edition, double-wrapped tape looked to have all but disappeared, however in its place was the use of gel or gravel-specific bar tape. The riders from EF Education-Cannondale, including last year's winner Alison Jackson, used unreleased Prologo bar tape.

The new tape features the brand's CPC (Control Power Control) texture that aims to increase grip and control on the bars. The inclusion of the CPC material acts as part of a dual-density solution, providing a soft and grippy outer surface paired with a firm tape underneath. Prologo has been using CPC on some of its performance saddles for over a decade now and this new bar tape looks to be an alternative to tacky tape for riders looking for a more secure feel on the bars.

Endurance bikes are now outliers at Paris-Roubaix

Walking around the paddocks, things were surprisingly normal in regards to bike choice. The teams of SD-Worx Protime, AG Insurance-Soudal, Movistar, Canyon-SRAM and Fenix-Deceuninck all had the choice to run an endurance bike, which in previous years would have been the natural choice, but instead all opted for their standard road race machines.

Not a single rider in the race who had access to Specialized’s Roubaix bike chose to use it, with SD-Worx Protime saying, “When you see how fast the Tarmac is as a bike aerodynamically, that makes a big difference on the asphalt and in the race generally. This bike [Specialized Tarmac SL8] is so good, it is worth a try.”

After testing the Tarmac SL7 last year alongside the Roubaix, the team decided to go for the Tarmac SL8 with high-volume tyres over the less aerodynamic Roubaix.

The only exception to this rule was Lidl-Trek, where the overwhelming majority of riders chose to use Trek’s Domane endurance bike. This uses Trek’s IsoSpeed decoupling system to increase vertical compliance at the rider's contact points with the bike.

Carbon bottle cages are no match for metal or plastic

On any other race day, you would be hard-pressed to find a Women’s WorldTour pro bike that wasn’t fitted with carbon fibre bottle cages. They offer a little bit of a weight saving but are also simply an incredibly ‘pro’ finishing touch to a bike.

For Paris-Roubaix, aesthetics were put aside with functionality featuring far higher up the list of importance. The pavé between Denain and the velodrome in Roubaix is known for claiming the bottles of riders as they hurtle along trying to keep in touch with the riders around them. In an attempt to retain their precious bottles, a significant number of teams were using plastic or metal bottle cages. These more solid options hold bottles firmly in place, reducing the potential for losing vital fluids to the cobbles.

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 the Classics season, make sure to head to our racing homepage.

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