Friday, December 8, 2006

Pre-Race Selections

The professional cycling calendar spans almost twelve months, exposing PROs to every possible weather and course condition imaginable. From slippery cobbles in the spring to melting tar in the summer, it's the job of the team mechanic, DS, and the rider to select equipment based on the day's needs. As mentioned in other areas of this Blog, the little things are what make the difference. No race better illustrates the importance of equipment selection than the Queen of the Classics. Paris Roubaix is a fascinating race because of the variables that exist, and selecting the proper equipment for the day can mean the difference between a win and a DNF.

Pictured here is Ludovic Auger (Fra) and his Française des Jeux Lapierre carbon, or upon closer look Aluminum frame. This bike is unique in that it has been modified to accept cantilever brakes and was built to accommodate additional tire clearance. At first glance, Ludovic's machine is more like a cross bike than a traditional roadbike. Many teams build special "one-off" bikes for PR; cantilevers, longer chainstays to allow for additional tire clearance and a longer front-center. The longer wheelbase provides a bit more stability on the rough surfaces of PR.

Tire selection is critical at PR and many mechanics and PROs alike prefer tubular tires to a clincher. The tub allows for a more supple ride while reducing the risk of a "snake bite" puncture so common with clinchers. Since a wheel change is as simple as throwing your arm in the air, the inconviences of tubulars are nonexistant. The Vittoria Pave EVO CG is a 24mm tire, providing some additional shock absorption and the tread compound is softer, giving the tire additional grip in the famous Belgium/Northern France spring weather.

Team mechanic handy work is evident on the brake hanger fitted around the steerer tube. I love the clean look of the brake hanger. Mechanics are a creative bunch, set a mechanic loose with a file and Bridgeport and lookout!

One of the most PRO aspects of this photo is the double tape. Those bars are puffier than Johnathon Vaughter's face at the 2001 TDF.

Since PR is a realatively flat course, most PROs opt to run a close ratio chainring set-up, ditching the common 39 in favor of 42t - 46t.

The small things really do make up the difference, often the Spring forecast in Europe is unpredictable at best causing the teams to scramble up to the last moment to make an equipment selection. This is similar to the world of F1 where the threat of rain begs the question, rain tires or slicks? As much fun as it is to see the race action unfold I am often captivated by the tactical aspects of equipment selection.

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