Pro gravel bike: Nicolas Roche's Bianchi Impulso Pro

SRAM components, close-ratio gearing and celeste colourway on Irishman's bike for the UCI Gravel World Championships

Clock12:13, Wednesday 18th October 2023
Nicolas Roche's Bianchi Impulso Pro


Nicolas Roche's Bianchi Impulso Pro

You might be surprised to see the name Nicolas Roche being featured as a pro bike, especially on gravel, but the Irishman, who retired from the WorldTour at the end of 2021, is one of the growing list of converts to off-road racing.

Roche ended his distinguished 17-year road career two years ago, after which he spent the following year as a directeur sportif for UCI Continental team Trinity Racing.

Towards the end of 2022, Roche set up his own gravel racing team, NR GRVL, as he felt that, at 37, he wasn’t quite done with racing, even if he was happy to leave the WorldTour in the past.

In 2023 he became the latest addition to the growing legion of former road professionals who are turning their hands to gravel racing. Alejandro Valverde, Laurens Ten Dam and Peter Stetina have all shared a peloton with Roche and trodden this path, ending successful road careers with the desire to race still burning strong.

Roche recently competed in the UCI Gravel World Championships in Italy, where he finished just outside the top 30, 22 minutes down on eventual winner Matej Mohorič.

He did so aboard an Bianchi Impulso Pro gravel bike, which is the thoroughbred offering from the Italian brand, complete with the iconic celeste colourway.

Bianchi's race-orientated gravel bike

Launched in 2021, the Impulso Pro is the race-oriented gravel bike from Bianchi with the fast-paced roots of racing embedded deep in the ethos of the bike's design.

The bike has a maximum recommended tyre width of 38mm, relatively narrow by gravel standards which could be limiting on more aggressive gravel.

You would typically expect a gravel bike to have a tyre clearance of 40mm or above, with 38mm coming close to the capabilities for some endurance road bikes, with both Canyon and Pinarello offering clearance for 35mm tyres on their road bike platforms.

SRAM-dominated components

Roche had his Bianchi Impulso kitted out with a full complement of SRAM Red road components for the drivetrain, a nod to the fast pace of the course the World Championships took place on.

A 50/37t double chainset was paired to a 10-33t 12-speed cassette, offering a fairly close ratio set-up for a gravel bike and a lot narrower than other riders opted for.

Carrying on the SRAM theme was the SRAM Red Quarq power meter and the Zipp 303 Firecrest wheels, both of which are supplied by subsidiaries within the SRAM umbrella.

The final touch from the SRAM arsenal was the Time XC 12 pedals; these are the lightest off-road specific pedals that Time offers, mixing a titanium axle with a carbon main body. Time was acquired by SRAM and the Rossignol Group in February 2021, bolstering the SRAM catalogue to include road and mountain bike pedals.

Mounted to the Zipp 303 wheelset was a pair of 38mm Vittoria Terreno Dry tyres with their graphene 2.0 technology which Vittoria say "takes the original Graphene compound foundation that Vittoria built, and functionalises the advancements in performance, for each specific application".

This means that: "Graphene 2.0 pin-points each performance metric, and increases it disproportionately to the rest." The ultimate benefit of the second-generation of graphene tyres is that "Vittoria is now able to apply Graphene in such a way that it can achieve a performance boost specifically for speed, wet grip, durability, and puncture resistance."

Bianchi has designed the geometry of the Impulso with fast-paced gravel racing in mind, with steeper head tube and seat tube angles than the more adventure-esque Arcadex frameset that it also offers.

This allows the bike to have a more immediate and responsive characteristic, which in some ways bucks the trend of the new wave of gravel bikes.

Finishing off the bike is a Hammerhead Karoo 2 bike computer mounted to an out-front mount, along with a CO2 inflator and plug tool strapped to the top tube for a quick puncture repair in the event of the tubeless system failing to seal any punctures out on course.

Bike Specification
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    Impulso Pro

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