Stage four of the Tour de France sees the peloton tackle the cobbles of Paris-Roubax, terrain that gives bikes, and riders, more of battering than they will receive on any other day of this year’s Tour.
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The bike, which has been developed in conjunction with Jaguar, comes equipped with a suspension system at the top of the seatstay, which provides 1cm of travel to take the worst of the cobbles’s battering, apparently giving a 4.6 per cent increase in performance over the team’s standard F8 road bike on rough terrain.
Like the rest of the team, Thomas’s Pinarello Dogma K8-S is equipped with Shimano Dura-Ace Di2. Although Thomas’s standard race bike is equipped with 53/39t chainrings, but for the flat terrain of the Hell of the North the K8-S comes with 53/44t chainrings, with the smaller ring only used for brief periods of recovery when the pace slackenings. The chainrings are also specially designed for the rough terrain, with broader rings to prevent the chain from jumping off.
Team Sky will be mostly using 25mm Continental Pro Ltd tubular tyres for this year’s Tour, but will be switching onto 27mm FMB tubulars, a tyre choice team mechanic claims has meant only three flats in the past four editions of Paris-Roubaix. These are paired with Shimano Dura-Ace C50 wheels, the same wheel that the team will be using for much of the flat first week.
A couple of other modifications will be made for the cobbles. Thomas will be riding with gel pads underneath his bar tape on the tops and the drops, and his steel Elite bottle cages will be wrapped with grip tape to prevent bottles from flying out on the bumpy terrain.
“I don’t think people understand how hectic the terrain is,” says Blem. “Even in a car you can hear everything banging, and it’s the same with the bikes. When you ride the cobbles as a tourist you can choose your line, but when you’re with 200 riders you can’t, unless you’re in front.
“The guys ride over anything and everything.”