The 2014 Paris-Roubaix approaches and it’s shaping up to be an epic battle. While Fabian Cancellara is the favorite after his performance at the Tour of Flanders he doesn’t appear to be as dominant as last season. Both Tom Boonen and Peter Sagan have some fine-tuning to do but should be looking for revenge while Greg Van Avermaet and Sep Vanmarcke proved they have incredible form. There are a host of other riders no one will underestimate as well – Phinney, Terpstra, Thomas, Leukemans and even Wiggins. We reached out to two SRAM teams, Tinkoff – Saxo and Omega-Pharma – Quick-Step, to find out how they will prepare technically for Paris – Roubaix and the epic battle we will see on Sunday. What follows are the tips, tricks and tweaks directly from Rolf Aldag, OP-QS Sports and Development Manager, and Rune Kristensen, Team Mechanic and Service Course manager of Tinkoff – Saxo.
Both teams will make the switch to the Specialized Roubaix from their usual rides, the Venge and the Tarmac. This alone is evidence to just how brutal the cobbles of Paris-Roubaix are as both of these teams stuck with the Venge and Tarmac for the cobbled classics of Belgium.
In addition to the new bike, most riders will change their hood positions as well. In a position similar to a cyclocross set up the riders hoods will be raised a few millimeters to offer better visibility of the cobbles and through the field and a bit more relaxed position. On the bars themselves double bar tape is standard for all riders, while the old school garden hose sections used in past are just that, a thing of the past. A few riders will opt for vibration-damping gel inserts as well as double bar tape.
When it comes to tires we see another example of just how much worse the parcours of Roubaix are than other cobbled classics. For Flanders the teams rode 25mm tubulars made by FMB but with Specialized’s Gripton tread. For Roubaix they will switch to 27mm wide tubulars. The pressures they run are also unique to Roubaix. The spectrum runs as low as 65 psi and as high as 90 psi depending on rider weight with all riders knowing they can expect a bit of pressure drop due to all the impact by the end of the day.
Gearing for Roubaix also reflects how unique the race is. The teams will run an 11-25 or 11-26 1170 SRAM Cassette, but with the 26/25t cog locked out with the limit screw to ensure it can’t derail into the spokes. Up front the riders will use a 44/53 or 46/53 combo, no 39 necessary on the mainly flat race.
Of all the tips and tricks we learned our favorite has to be a simple solution to keeping water bottles secure over the battering French cobbles provide. Rune Kristensen sticks small strips of grip tape to the inside of the bottle cages. As the accumulated knowledge of 111 editions of Roubaix has made its way into products there is still room for the experienced mechanic to use his own know-how to keep his riders at the front.