World champion Peter Sagan led his Tinkoff team on a reconnaissance ride of the Paris-Roubaix cobbles on Friday morning, setting off from a Lidl car park in Denain and following the race route over 90km to the Carrefour de l’Arbre.
Testing equipment was a key objective on the day’s outing; with the Paris-Roubaix Challenge sportive taking place on the Saturday before the race, Friday is the final chance the pro riders get to spend some quality time with the secteurs pavés.
Sagan’s teammate Adam Blythe, riding his third Paris-Roubaix, talked Cycling Weekly through the modifications that he and his team had made to their machines ahead of Sunday’s final cobbled classic.
Tinkoff’s standard issue model for the classics, with a longer wheelbase and front and rear fork inserts for additional comfort on the cobbles and rough roads of northern Europe. “It’s just like the bike you would buy in the shop,” Blythe said.
“Today is just a case of having a feel for the bike,” he added. “We don’t have anything major to look out for, the main problem is getting clogged up, but I just think it’s a case of making sure the bike’s alright, rather than trying to find any problems.”
Tinkoff rode 30mm tubular tyres made by a famous (but tiny) French firm and fitted in the Brittany factory with a distinctive tread made by American brand Specialized. They were glued to Roval CLX40 rims.
With dry conditions, riders can afford to run with tight clearances around the brake calipers and forks. However if rain falls and the cobbles become muddy, it’s a different story. Teams will switch to 28mm or even 25mm in the worst conditions.
“I think 30mm is what Peter rides so if he has a problem then we can give him our wheel and it’s the same as what he’s had before,” Blythe explained. “We can change to 28s if it’s getting clogged up too much.”
With team mechanics fitting double bar tape (“I might take it off, to be honest,” Blythe said), many of Tinkoff’s riders rode with Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 sprint shifters mounted on the tops to facilitate gear changes when riding over the cobbles. Blythe opted for an electronic groupset however Sagan went for mechanical.
A standard issue bit of kit for anyone riding the cobbles in order to stop the vibrations of the road surface shaking the chain off the inner ring, particularly when shifting down from the big ring. Blythe’s is made by SRM, whose power meters are used by Tinkoff.
Unlike the Tour of Flanders, which features steep cobbled climbs, the parcours for Paris-Roubaix is largely flat, particularly in the final hours of racing over the key cobbled sectors.
Tinkoff’s riders ran with their standard 11-speed groupset with an 11-25 cassette on the back and 53 tooth big ring up front. “I’ve put a 44 ring on the inside,” explained Blythe.
Sandpaper on the bottle cages
Along with their counterparts on other teams, Tinkoff mechanics have an eye for detail, with little strips of sand paper stuck onto the bottle cages to stop water bottles from rattling around and flying loose on the cobblestones.
“I didn’t even know it was there,” said Blythe. “That’s the mechanics job, not mine!”
Everybody wrap ya hands and say ‘yeah!’
Many riders opt for varying methods of wrapping their hands to protect against rubbing and vibrations. Blythe had wrapped his fingers and thumbs with blue Kinesio tape.
“It’s to stop my fingers vibrating. It’s a comfort thing really,” he explained. “It’s not really about them getting cut up, it’s just the vibration that hurts.”