While a poor workman may blame his tools, it seems that at this year’s Giro d’Italia world class bike riders are also choosing to point the finger at their equipment when things don’t go to plan.
Take Wilco Kelderman. The Bora-Hansgrohe rider entered stage nine seventh on GC, 1-55 down on the maglia rosa. The Apennines stage of the Giro d'Italia 2022 route - to Blockhaus - was an opportunity to make up ground. Instead Kelderman lost over 10 minutes.
But it wasn’t the fierce ramps of the mighty Blockhaus that caused the Dutchman to unravel. Instead he was forced to stop twice on the descent off the Passo Lanciano, eventually changing his bike, with broken spokes the issue.
After he had rolled over the finish line in 33rd, Kelderman told the Dutch news outlet AD (opens in new tab)that disc brakes were to blame. “On the descent of the penultimate climb, I broke a spoke from my wheel. I think the disc brakes get very hot and those spokes then get warm," Kelderman said. "They just collapsed because of the pressure, because it was a very fast descent."
But not so says Roval, who supplies the Bora-Hansgrohe team with its wheels, in this case its brand new Alpinist CLX II wheelset.
"We’re in close contact with the team and it appears a significant impact broke a spoke requiring a wheel change," Chris Wehan, category leader for Roval, told Cyclingnews (opens in new tab). "The broken spoke was on the drive side, brake heat is not an issue and was not involved.”
Roval is a subsidiary of Specialized who also equip the German-based WorldTour team with their bikes, for most stages in the shape of the Tarmac SL7, as well as its shoes and helmets. It too was quick to dismiss Kelderman’s claims.
"The team confirmed he had hit something," said Kelly Henningsen, global PR and media relations leader at Specialized.
Interestingly, Wehan went on to explain that the broken spoke is by design, with the Roval wheels deliberately deflecting the force of an impact away from the rim, helping to maintain its structural integrity. Certainly, a broken spoke is a far safer ‘fail’ than a broken rim.
In fact, Roval’s new wheels were developed, in part, as a response to team rider Peter Sagan damaging a wheel in training in 2020, just a few months ahead of the intended launch of the original Alpinist CLX wheels. The incident saw Sagan’s tyre ‘self-remove’ as result of the damage, enough to send Roval designers back to work despite the wheels having already passed the required safety tests.
But Kelderman wasn’t the first rider in this year’s Giro to get a little hot under the collar with his kit. On stage five Colombian sprinter Fernando Gaviria missed out on the victory when a drivetrain issue saw him stuck in the 14t sprocket. Unable to find a bigger gear he was beaten to the finish line by Groupama-FDJ’s Arnaud Démare.
Crossing the line Gaviria was visibly annoyed, banging the wheel of his Colnago V3RS on the ground. He was then seen remonstrating with his UAE Emirates soigneurs, with a camera microphone picking up an expletive-laden summation of events in Italian. “Che bici di merda,” he said. His bike, apparently, was “sh*t”.
In subsequent interviews, Gaviria at first seemed to double-down on his claims that his bike was the true culprit without going into detail. “I can’t say anything because I’ll get told off,” he said. “I can say absolutely nothing about the bike.”
However, after cooling down a little, he acknowledged his frustration at not winning on a day when he had the legs to win. “The anger and the frustration is because I wanted to win,” he said “It’s stupid to get annoyed, but that’s racing."
He also seemed to initially backtrack on the role of the bike in the stage result, before bringing up another mechanical, this time of teammate and lead-out man Max Richeze.
"It’s not just the bike,” Gaviria said. “It’s things that happen in racing. We didn’t have Richeze in the final, his chain came off at 1km, and we couldn’t do anything.”
While Gaviria, his team and Colnago were presumably keen to move on, with more sprint-friendly stages still to come, a French website decided to throw a little gas on what were now surely mere embers. The cyclesetforme.fr website published an extensive article that compared the frame and wheel performances of a number of the team’s competing in the Giro.
Gaviria’s Colnago V3RS Disc, the same bike that Tadej Pogačar piloted to success in the last two editions of the Tour de France no less, was described as a “watt sinkhole”, with the website claiming that the bike will consume "15 more watts when ridden at 45kph in modest wind angles" when compared to the Canyon Aeroad, ridden by the likes of Alpecin-Fenix’s Mathieu van der Poel and Movistar’s Alejandro Valverde
With 11 stages remaining in this 105th edition of the corsa rosa, there’s plenty more triumph and tragedy to come. Given the events of the first ten days of racing it will be interesting to see just how much of this heartache is attributed to the tool rather than the tradesman.
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Luke Friend has worked as a writer, editor and copywriter for over twenty years. Across books, magazines and websites, he's covered a broad range of topics for a range of clients including Major League Baseball, the National Trust and the NHS. He has an MA in Professional Writing from Falmouth University and is a qualified bicycle mechanic. He fell in love with cycling at an early age, partly due to watching the Tour de France on TV. He's a passionate follower of bike racing to this day as well an avid road and gravel rider.
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