Lining up on the start grid of the Cyclocross World Championships in Luxembourg yesterday, the green treads of Wout van Aert’s tyres caught the attention of the UCI’s cameraman.
In a mechanical and puncture-plagued race, Van Aert only punctured once, against his main rival Mathieu van der Poel’s four flats, the last of which put paid to his aspirations of winning.
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The distinctive green tread on Van Aert’s tubulars was extracted from a set of classic Michelin Mud tyres, which haven’t been made since 2002. They have a reputation for excellent grip in muddy conditions and proved ideal for the testing conditions in Bieles, where a thaw had turned the snow and ice of the day before into a mudfest. It also brought to the surface a lot of rubble from the reclaimed industrial site, which was responsible for the numerous mechanicals.
Van Aert’s Crelan-Charles team is managed by 2009 and 2012 world champion Niels Albert, who apparently has a cupboard full of the tyres from his time racing. Van Aert’s handmade tubulars use a tubular casing from A Dugast, with the tread off the Michelin clincher tyres bonded to them by a Dutch tyre making specialist.
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Van Aert had used the same tyres in 2015 at the World Championship in Tabor, which was run in similar thawing icy conditions. That time, he came second to van der Poel.
There was already a flourishing market on eBay for the Michelin tyres even before van Aert’s win. There are likely to be a lot of others hunting in the back of their cupboards for discarded green rubber.