Wout van Aert’s Cervélo S5 pro bike: A Monument-winning combination?

We caught a glimpse of the Belgian’s aero road bike at the Volta ao Algarve

Clock04:36, Thursday 15th February 2024
Wout van Aert's Cervélo S5 at the Volta ao Algarve


Wout van Aert's Cervélo S5 at the Volta ao Algarve

In many ways it was a typical off-season for Wout van Aert, in others it was noticeably different. While the Belgian star could still be found engaging in his annual toil around muddy fields, his winter stint of cyclo-cross racing was shorter than usual and less competitive. Like everyone else, Van Aert was routinely forced to scrap for lower podium placings amid the dominance of arch-rival Mathieu van der Poel.

By the end of his nine-race ‘cross season, van Aert had amassed three wins, besting Van der Poel only once in the Benidorm round of the CX World Cup. For many riders that would be impressive, for Van Aert it was his worst win return since the 2019/2020 season.

That won’t have set alarm bells ringing at Visma-Lease a Bike headquarters, though, as the solid but unspectacular ‘cross season was all part of the Belgian’s plan. Having previously found it “mentally difficult” to focus on the Classics after an intense ‘cross season, a new plan was hashed. The result was a shortened cyclo-cross season and one Van Aert arrived at more undercooked than usual.

It meant sacrificing results against Van der Poel, with the hope that the pendulum will swing come the Classics and, more importantly still, the Monuments. Whether this new approach pays dividends with a 2024 Monument victory remains to be seen, but if Van Aert does succeed, he’ll do it atop the Cervélo S5, a bike with strong Classics credentials.

We caught a glimpse of the Belgian’s Cervélo S5 at the start of the Volta ao Algarve, here’s what we found.

Cervélo S5: A proven Classics and Grand Tour winner

By its official release date in July of 2022, the latest version of the Cervélo S5 had already built up an enviable palmarès.

It piloted Wout van Aert through arguably his strongest spell of road racing to date, including a Classics season that included wins at Omloop het Nieuwsblad and the E3 Saxo Bank Classic. A Monument victory had looked destined to follow until Covid hampered his Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix hopes.

The bike’s success then translated to the Grand Tours where it powered the Belgian to the green jersey and played its part in Jonas Vingegaard’s GC win. Despite this, the bike went somewhat under the radar until its official release, mainly because it strikes such a close resemblance to its predecessor.

Rather than overhaul the bike, Cervélo chose to tweak the recipe and, if results are anything to go by, it’s done a good job.

The overall shape of the bike remains the same, including the curved seat tube, but most of the tubes are deeper in line with the UCI’s relaxed rules. This is most noticeable on the deep head tube, something many brands are now adopting. That’s not too surprising as the frontal area of the bike is directly in the wind and is where the most aerodynamic gains can be made, with deep head tubes clearly being an aero winner. To maximise these gains, the trailing edge of the head tube was also refined.

Moving backwards, the bottom bracket is also higher than before. Beyond the bike, the team’s colour scheme has also changed for 2023. For a full rundown on this, check out the link below.

Cervelo’s unique aero cockpit

Dedicated aero bikes like the S5 tend to take more of their design cues from time trial bikes than regular road bikes - after all, aero is the name of the game. This is reflected in the overall appearance of the bike, but especially in Cervélo’s V stem.

As the name suggests, it’s a V shape with a cut-out in the middle and looks more like something you’d find on a time trial bike. It was first introduced on the bike’s predecessor and received some upgrades alongside the latest S5, most notably shedding some grams.

Beyond that, the biggest change was a practical one that has little bearing over the pros. On the first version, the stem arrived slammed on the bike but wasn’t accompanied by any spacers, so everyday cyclists had to hope their bike shop had the right spares, otherwise they were left running a slammed set-up. Now spacers are included. It’s only a small thing but can make a big difference.

The overall shape of the handlebars was designed so that hydraulic brake hoses and shifting cables could be internally routed. This, of course, was previously possible with more traditionally-shaped stems, but these tend to have quite sharp bends which can affect shifting performance. The V stem’s shallower bends are a solution to this problem, although the S5 is now only available with electronic groupsets, so that purpose is redundant.

SRAM: 1x or 2x?

Wout van Aert’s electronic set-up of choice for the opening stage of the Volta ao Algarve was a 54/41t SRAM Red AXS chainset, paired with what we think is an 10-33t cassette. That’s the most popular set-up currently used by SRAM-sponsored riders, although they also have the option to mix things up by going 1x.

SRAM is the only major groupset brand that offers a 1x road groupset, something its WorldTour teams took advantage of in 2023. Visma-Lease a Bike, then Jumbo-Visma, were one of the main protagonists, with Primož Roglič catching the headlines when he used 1x for some of the stages during his Giro d’Italia triumph.

Van Aert used it even earlier in the season at Milan-San Remo, although he had to settle for third at the race he won in 2020, which remains his only Monument victory to date.

Reserve wheels

Visma-Lease a Bike are the only team in the WorldTour peloton that uses Reserve wheels. It’s still a new partnership which started at the beginning of last season, the same time that the team jumped across to SRAM.

The American company offers multiple wheelsets but Van Aert opted for the 52/63s. Reserve says that they were designed to be “the ultimate wheelset for sprint stages”, although the Belgian forgo his chances of a sprint on the opening stage, instead choosing to roll in safely in the bunch in 135th. Vittoria’s Corsa Pro tubeless tyres accompanied the wheels in a 28mm width.

Van Aert’s saddle of choice was the Fizik Antares, which sat atop a Cervélo SP20 Carbon.

The Belgian also had Wahoo Speedplay pedals and a built-in SRAM Red Quarq power meter.

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