This time of year, cycling magazines and web sites turn their considerable attentions to cranking out article after article about the myriad little equipment changes that teams make for tomorrow’s Paris-Roubaix classic. But why should credentialed journalists have all the fun? Thanks to modern MadLib and internet technologies, we can now give you all the opportunity to create your very own Paris-Roubaix tech article the same way the the pros do.
Though MadLibs are usually a free-form exercise, we’ve inserted a few multiple choice selections (separated by an "/"), since we can’t have every team riding “Boob” wheels and “Farty” forks. You know the drill – when you see the underlined sections, insert the appropriate words of your choice, or pick your favorite selection from the list of options.
Team Name Verbs New Solution to Roubaix’s Unique Challenges
Scanning the team trucks as the squads do their pre-Roubaix reconnaissance always yields some interesting equipment choices, and this year has been no different. Many teams rolled out under sunny / threatening skies to survey the cobbles, revealing special touches for star riders and domestiques alike, all in hopes of improving their chance at glory in the storied / infamous / epic Hell of the North / Queen of Classics.
Team name has benched the team bike model they usually ride in favor of something a little more suitable for the treacherous cobbled farm roads of northern France. And with wet and slippery / dry and dusty weather forecasted, they’re likely to need all the help they can get. This year, most riders will roll out on bike sponsor’s new cyclocross / “Roubaix” / “all road” / “geriatric dentist” frames. In addition to substituting aluminum / carbon / a different carbon layup in key areas, the frames also feature extra rear wheel clearance along with long reach caliper / cantilever brakes. Out back, the chainstays are 1 centimeter longer than the team’s standard bikes and have been reshaped to provide more tire clearance / room for the 44 tooth inner chainrings. The seatstays have also been given the Roubaix treatment – bike sponsor team liason sponsor press flack name points out that the usual seatstay shape has been flattened / curved / fitted with elastomers to increase vertical compliance over the jarring pave.
All that extra clearance allows the team to squeeze in boutique maker’s / Vittoria’s beefy / plush / cushy 25c tubulars, which allow riders to drop the pressures a bit and provide a little extra comfort / relief / solace over the course’s 50+ kilometers of stones. And while they’re made by boutique maker / Vittoria, they’ve been relabeled with wheel sponsor’s logo using a Sharpie marker / thermal transfer.
Those tires are wrapped around / mounted / glued to the old school / classic / bulletproof combination of Dura-Ace / Record hubs and Ambrosio Nemesis / Mavic Reflex tubular rims. Leaving the low spoke count and carbon hoops for the more forgiving classics, team name opts for 32 spokes and brass nipples, tied and soldered by hand to give a bit of extra strength and keep everything in place should a spoke break.
Steering duties are handled by bike sponsor’s cyclocross / second tier fork. While the fork weighs more that the squad’s usual setup, it offers a steel steerer / an aluminum steerer / more tire clearance for a little extra insurance on rough roads. Team’s star rider will maneuver that fork from gutter to pothole with handlebars bolstered by a layer of extra bar tape / rubber under the tape / sponsor’s gushy tape product. While well known domestique forgoes the extra padding on the bars, he does use a ‘cross top lever for quick braking from the tops should the need arise. Domestique's bike also sports a handwritten / typed piece of paper taped to the stem / top tube with the location and length of each cobbled sector, as well as an extra seat clamp to ensure the seatpost stays put when the impacts come.
While team name spares no detail in it’s Roubaix setup, not everyone is going with such tried and true techniques. Bucking the trend, other team name rolled out on wheel sponsor’s new carbon hoops. It's hard to tell by looking, but team mechanics tell publication name that the wheels have more carbon / a modified carbon layup where it matters to give the squad a bit more forgiving ride / better strength over the cobbles, while still providing the aero advantage for a solo ride to the velodrome. The brake surface on the new wheels is carbon / aluminum, which should be a decided advantage / disadvantage if the weather turns wet / dry.
Which strategy will prove to be the right one? That might just depend on Sunday’s forecast.
So, kidding aside, who is going to win Roubaix? Hell if I know, but there are plenty of places to read the list of favorites, and those guys are favorites for a reason. But outsider-wise, I’m looking to Liquigas. They don’t have a marquis Roubaix rider, but Manuel Quinziato and Aleksandr Kuschynski have been riding above their heads all week.
For a way-long shot, I’ll look for Kevin Ista from Agritubel. At 24, he’s way too young, and he’s mostly a sprinter at this point, but why not? The 5th year pro from Auvelais, Belgium (about 16k northwest of Charleroi) has had good showings all spring. He was there in a few long breaks in the semi-classics, and bagged a shocking second place at Het Nieuwsblad/Het Volk behind Thor Hushovd. He was also second overall at the Dreidaagse van West-Vlaanderen, and won the points, sprints, and best young rider titles in the process. He also took Stage 3 of the Med Tour over former French sprint hope Jimmy Engoulvent. Agritubel wasn’t on the guest list for Flanders and Gent-Wevelgem, so his form’s a bit of a mystery at this point, and there’s no telling how he’ll hold up against ProTour competition, but you have to jump in sometime.
Hope everyone enjoys the race.