Spring Classics tech gallery: Wide tyres and prototype equipment

We take a closer look at just what is being used by the pros this Classics season

Clock09:11, Sunday 24th March 2024
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The spring Classics are in full swing over in Belgium this week with both the Brugge-De Panne and E3 Saxo Classic acting as the prelude to Gent-Wevelgem and the cobbled Monument of the Tour of Flanders coming a week later.

The cobbled Classics are unlike any other races on the calendar and require a different approach to bike set-up and equipment. Wide tyres were on display from almost every team with some teams looking to push the limits of what was possible to run. It wasn’t just tyres that were on display this week with teams trialling prototype equipment.

The helmets of the professional peloton have garnered widespread attention in recent weeks with both Ineos Grenadiers and EF Education-EasyPost debuting as of yet unreleased road helmets that look to blend traditional aero road helmets with time trial specific ones. More recently Visma-Lease a Bike revealed an all-new TT helmet that certainly had people talking.

One thing is for sure if this week is anything to go by, this is only the beginning of this new wave of aero-optimised helmets. Ahead of the women’s Classic Brugge-De Panne, the entire EF Education-Cannondale team were seen wearing the unreleased helmet.

Tyre width is something that has been steadily increasing and no truer is that than when the racing takes on the cobbles of northern Europe. It is common for teams to use 28mm tyres in most races these days making the most of the lower rolling resistance, better puncture protection and lower tyre pressure that they allow.

For the E3 Saxo Classic, 28mm were apart from one exception (Team Flanders-Baloise) the narrowest tyres in use. Less than half of the field were using 28mm with most of the teams settling on 30mm. That was apart from Ineos Grenadiers and some riders from Astana Quazaqstan who were seen to be using 32mm tyres - something that would have been unthinkable only a few seasons ago.

The team of Uno-X Mobility had some prototype tech on display at Classic Brugge-De Panne and E3 Saxo Classic in the shape of a new aero cockpit from team sponsor Dare. Specifics regarding the details of the bar were thin on the ground but it has been confirmed to be faster than the current integrated cockpit used by the team and it has been developed with input from the team. The new bar's interesting profile looks to make the most of the relaxed regulations around equipment design that came into effect last year.

Towards the end of 2023, the UCI announced that it would be clamping down on riders turning their brake levers inwards in their eternal hunt for aero gains. The reason behind this was one of safety concerns that the levers had not been designed to be used in such a configuration and that access to the brakes might be obstructed. At the start of 2024, we saw the UCI taking matters seriously at the Tour Down Under with UCI officials seen to be measuring riders' lever positions. Since then things seem to have taken a more relaxed turn with plenty of riders still sporting turned-in levers before the races this week.

Uno-X Mobility was not the only team showcasing some prototype tech this week. Both the men’s and women’s Lidl-Trek teams were spotted using a new tyre from Pirelli marked up as ‘Prototype’. The new tyre has been developed in conjunction with the team and feedback from the riders. Although the new tyres are claimed to be 28mm in width when mounted to the team's Bontrager Aeolus RSL 51 rims, they measure much closer to 30mm.

The E3 Saxo Classic is often seen as a dress rehearsal for the Tour of Flanders with the parcours including much of the same roads as its Monument sibling. Looking to go a few places better than he did in last year's edition of the Tour of Flanders where he finished inside the top 10 is Fred Wright. As the reining national champion of Great Britain his team bike has had the full national champion makeover with a union flag motif emblazoned across the top tube and seat tube of his bike.

A new edition to the professional peloton for 2024 is the bike used by TotalEnergies, making the switch from Specialized after Peter Sagan retired from road racing last year. For 2024 the team will be riding the Melee from Enve.

Although a well-known brand by cycling aficionados it is most commonly associated with its carbon wheelsets rather than its frames. That is for good reason as Enve only entered into the frame-building game in 2021. With everything from the frame to the bars and the wheels provided by the American brand, this is certainly one sought-after bike.

One-by is becoming more and more widely adopted by the peloton or at least that is the case for the four SRAM-sponsored WorldTour teams. Before Wednesday's Classic Brugge-De Panne the whole of team Movistar were seen to be using a single-ring setup, as too were Bora-Hansgrohe. Given its history with one-by, it would also have been safe to assume that had they been racing then so too would Visma-Lease a Bike, who were not present for the race.

With the cobbled bergs of Belgium on the menu for Friday’s E3 Saxo Classic, all teams were back on the more conventional two-by set something that is a testament to the ease of setup of the SRAM Red groupset. The fully wireless nature means that all it takes to switch between configurations is to swap out the chainset and reattach the front derailleur.

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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