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With the Strade Bianche race this weekend, we take a look back at the bikes used last year

With its iconic white roads and beautiful Tuscan landscape, the Strade Bianche race has managed to cement itself as a modern classic in a very short space of time.

I visited the race last year and took the opportunity to check out the bikes and equipment the pros were racing, and the photos below show the bikes before and after the race. With the 2018 edition in just a couple of days time, we thought it would be timely to look back and remind ourselves what bikes and kit were being used and speculate about what we might see this year. Because it's races like these that brands often use to quietly debut new stuff, as Trek did with its Domane SLR back in 2016 with Fabian Cancellara actually winning aboard the new bike.

What can we expect this year? Wider tyres? Tubeless tyres maybe? Will disc brakes be a more common sight? Will any brands launch all-new bikes at the event, publicly or secretly? We'll have all the answers, and hopefully some photos, after the race has been held on Saturday.

And will the snow impact the race? We'll soon find out...

So, let's rewind the clock a year...

Michal Kwiatkowski notched up a second victory by winning the 11th edition of the race, made more challenging by heavy rain and strong winds. At 175km it might not be as long as the more established classics and monuments but it’s an action-packed race right from the beginning, and the unpaved roads that crisscross the rolling Italian hills provide an unpredictable element that contributes to the drama.

white roads.jpg

white roads.jpg

With 62km of the race conducted on the white gravel roads there was some expectation that special modifications would be made to the bikes and equipment, as we normally find at the cobbled classics, but after scouting around the team buses before and after the race and speaking to several team mechanics, we discovered most were on regular bikes. 

The white roads aren’t actually all that rough. Yes, they are bumpy and lumpy in places and there’s quite a lot of washboard rippling on the descents, but regular race bikes were used with 25 and 26mm tyres the most popular sizes we spotted, though a few had opted for 28mm tyres. There were no endurance bikes on display, and only one team chose disc brakes, but then it was only two riders and not the entire team, despite the forecast for heavy rain.

- Cannondale-Drapac break out the disc brakes at Strade Bianche - but they are the only team on them

Here then is a look at the bikes and equipment used in the race, before and after.

The bikes before the race, all nice and clean

pinarello  - 1.jpg

pinarello - 1.jpg

Most of the Team Sky bikes were fitted with the older Shimano Dura-Ace equipment, but we spotted one bike with the latest R9150 Dura-Ace Di2 groupset, though on old wheels and not the new C40 or C60 wheels with their wide profile rims that are part of the new groupset.

Cervelo R5 - 1 (2).jpg

Cervelo R5 - 1 (2).jpg

There were a healthy number of the new Cervelo R5 prototype bikes in use suggesting that it must be getting pretty close to the launch if the team are happy to have a good handful of the team racing it now.  

Cervelo R5 - 1 (4).jpg

Cervelo R5 - 1 (4).jpg

We’ll have a full story on the new bike later this week, but the key changes appear to be the new fat aero down tube and internal seat clamp

GVA BMC - 1.jpg

GVA BMC - 1.jpg

Greg Van Avermaet finished second in the race and here’s the BMC TeamMachine SLR 01 he used.

GVA BMC - 1 (3).jpg

GVA BMC - 1 (3).jpg

To mark his Olympic success the down tube logo is gold.

GVA BMC - 1 (2).jpg

GVA BMC - 1 (2).jpg

He’s using old Dura-Ace but with the brand new wheels in the shallowest C40 depth.

giant tcr  - 1.jpg

giant tcr - 1.jpg

Team Sunweb was using the Giant TCR Advanced SL race bikes with the older Dura-Ace Di2 groupset and C50 carbon tubular wheels. 

bianchi oltre xr4 - 1.jpg

bianchi oltre xr4 - 1.jpg

Lotto-Jumbo wasn’t using Bianchi’s Infinito CV endurance bike, but its latest Oltre XR4 race bike. 

canyon katusha - 1.jpg

canyon katusha - 1.jpg

Katusha had a mix of Aeroad and Ultimate race bikes. Here’s the former, with SRAM eTap and Zipp 303 wheels with 25mm wide Continental Competition tyres.

canyon katusha front brake - 1.jpg

canyon katusha front brake - 1.jpg

The Aeroad uses direct mount brakes, but SRAM doesn't make a direct mount brakes, so the team uses Shimano Dura-Ace brakes with the logos removed.

factor o2  - 1.jpg

factor o2 - 1.jpg

French team AG2R has switched from Focus to Factor bikes this year, this is the O2 model equipped with Shimano Dura-Ace groupset and Mavic Cosmic wheels.

merida scultura - 1.jpg

merida scultura - 1.jpg

The new Bahrain-Merida team was showing both Merida Scultura and Reacto bikes before the race, the former is the lightweight all-round model, the latter is an aero bike. 

srm power cranks - 1.jpg

srm power cranks - 1.jpg

All bikes were kitted out with the new SRM carbon fibre crankset, the first time the German power meter specialist has produced its own crank

trek madone - 1.jpg

trek madone - 1.jpg

The Trek-Segafredo team was split between the Madone and Domane SLR race bikes. The former does utilise the

trek madone isospeed - 1.jpg

trek madone isospeed - 1.jpg

The former does utilise the IsoSpeed decoupler from the Domane so it provides some comfort. 

trek madone tyre - 1.jpg

trek madone tyre - 1.jpg

Clearance is limited on the Trek Madone fitted with Vittoria tyres, which we presume are 25mm but there was no marking on the sidewall other than for a small brand company logo

Equipment details

uci testing - 1.jpg

uci testing - 1.jpg

Whilst checking out the Quickstep team bikes we happened across the UCI conducting tests for hidden motors using tablets. They were scanning the frames and wheels. 

trek stem instructions - 1.jpg

trek stem instructions - 1.jpg

The Trek team was big on route details tape to the stem, this one usefully shows the feed zone

slammed stem - 1.jpg

slammed stem - 1.jpg

Slammed stems are still in evidence, this one on Johann Van Zyl’s Dimension-Data prototype Cervelo R5. 

bianchi oltre xr4 - 1 (3).jpg

bianchi oltre xr4 - 1 (3).jpg

It’s useful sometimes to know when the unpaved sectors are coming up, especially if there are any team tactics to attack or go to the front at any point in the race

bottle cages - 1 (1).jpg

bottle cages - 1 (1).jpg

The white roads are bumpy in places and Team Sky took the precaution of adding grip tape to the bottle cages to prevent the bidons being ejected. 

new DA front mech - 1.jpg

new DA front mech - 1.jpg

The FDJ Lapierre team bikes had the new Dura-Ace R9150 Di2 derailleurs with current SRM Dura-Ace power meter cranksets. A K-Edge chain guard to prevent the chain dropping off. 

lapierre stem setup - 1.jpg

lapierre stem setup - 1.jpg

More route instructions taped to the long stem on this FDJ team bike. Also notice the optional Di2 shifter buttons to provide another option for changing gears, useful perhaps on the white roads.

giant tcr shifter buttons - 1.jpg

giant tcr shifter buttons - 1.jpg

This Team Sunweb Giant TCR Advanced SL had the same optional Di2 shifter unit positioned on the front of the handlebars.

ceramic speed - 1 (1).jpg

ceramic speed - 1 (1).jpg

Dimension-Data is using the interesting looking CeramicSpeed oversized pulley wheels. The system uses 17-tooth pulley wheels and is claimed to improve drivetrain efficiency.

Specialized tyres - 1.jpg

Specialized tyres - 1.jpg

Bora-hansgrohe opted for Roval CLX 50 wheels with 26mm wide Specialized S-Works Turbo tyres.

Sagan Zipp stem - 1.jpg

Sagan Zipp stem - 1.jpg

We managed to take a bit of a look at Peter Sagan’s bike atop the team car before the race, and one thing that stood out is the Zipp stem with electrical tape masking the logo, instead of the PRO stem the rest of the team is using

And the bikes after the race, dirty and a little broken in places

pinarello washed - 1.jpg

pinarello washed - 1.jpg

The mechanics were super busy after the race but a jet wash makes short work of the cleanup operation. 

dirty pinarello main - 1.jpg

dirty pinarello main - 1.jpg

The new Pinarello Dogma F10 was used at this race, rather than the K8-S with its soft tail rear suspension. 

dirty pinarello - 1 (4).jpg

dirty pinarello - 1 (4).jpg

Team Sky was mostly using Shimano’s current C35 and C50 wheels and mixing up rim depths front and rear.

dirty specialized - 1.jpg

dirty specialized - 1.jpg

The parking arrangements at the Strade Bianche weren’t ideal, so as space was limited many teams were just putting the dirty bikes on top of the cars or inside the buses and going back to the hotel to wash and prep them for the next race.

broken cannondale - 1.jpg

broken cannondale - 1.jpg

Cannondale-Drapac didn’t have a great race with several of the team caught up in a crash and damaging the bikes. 

cervelo cleaning - 1.jpg

cervelo cleaning - 1.jpg

Wheels off and the transmission cleaned on this new Cervelo R5.

broken mech - 1 (1).jpg

broken mech - 1 (1).jpg

There were lots of broken components to spot after the race, so it’s an expensive race (relatively speaking) for some teams.

trek domane dirty - 1 (6).jpg

trek domane dirty - 1 (6).jpg

We spotted several mechanics walking around trying to reunite punctured wheels with their owners.

trek domane dirty - 1.jpg

trek domane dirty - 1.jpg

 

A grubby Trek Domane SLR, but the rain and wet roads kept the bikes reasonably clean between the numerous white road sectors.

trek domane dirty - 1 (4).jpg

trek domane dirty - 1 (4).jpg

Mudguard eyelets are a right sight but even the race specification Trek Domane SLR has them. 

trek domane dirty - 1 (2).jpg

trek domane dirty - 1 (2).jpg

The new Trek Domane SLR has an adjustable IsoSpeed decoupler so you can tune how much the saddle deflects, but this rider chose the firmest setting. 

merida nibali - 1.jpg

merida nibali - 1.jpg

Vincenzo Nibali rode back to the team bus on a spare bike, and interestingly with a Corima front wheel - the Bahrain-Merida team rides Fulcrum wheels, so he must have taken a spare off the Astana team which is sponsored by Corima.

bike cleaning - 1.jpg

bike cleaning - 1.jpg

The BMC team mechanics elected to give the bikes a wash and clean after the race, and had a good setup with one mechanic jet washing and cleaning the drivetrain and another drying and lubing the moving components.

katusha lost - 1.jpg

katusha lost - 1.jpg

The narrow streets of Siena are beautiful to explore if you’re a tourist, but a headache if you’re a professional rider trying to find your way from the finish to where the buses are parked a couple of miles away.

More from the Strade Bianche soon...

David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.

12 comments

Avatar
Lazereyes [9 posts] 4 months ago
0 likes

What's the best place to watch it online ?

Avatar
rowes [103 posts] 4 months ago
0 likes

If you haven't got eurosport I'm sure there's a good website for 'cyclingfans' that may have a link.
Interested to see If Wout van Aert Can make it even more interesting now it's going to be muddy.

Avatar
Canyon48 [990 posts] 4 months ago
0 likes
Lazereyes wrote:

What's the best place to watch it online ?

Eurosport. Or, if you don't mind where/how you get a live stream, Steephill has a list;

http://www.steephill.tv/classics/strade-bianche/

Avatar
Dr_C_Ampagnolo [4 posts] 4 months ago
1 like

I have seen quite a lot of disc brake bikes in races in the beginning of this season. But it’s interesting to see the almost complete absence of them in Strade Bianche - maybe the team doesn’t trust them in these harsh conditions?

Avatar
Sniffer [502 posts] 4 months ago
0 likes
Dr_C_Ampagnolo wrote:

I have seen quite a lot of disc brake bikes in races in the beginning of this season. But it’s interesting to see the almost complete absence of them in Strade Bianche - maybe the team doesn’t trust them in these harsh conditions?

It looked like a day for discs. Suspect wheel changes are still holding discs back in races like this.

Avatar
Canyon48 [990 posts] 4 months ago
0 likes
Sniffer wrote:
Dr_C_Ampagnolo wrote:

I have seen quite a lot of disc brake bikes in races in the beginning of this season. But it’s interesting to see the almost complete absence of them in Strade Bianche - maybe the team doesn’t trust them in these harsh conditions?

It looked like a day for discs. Suspect wheel changes are still holding discs back in races like this.

In races like Strade Bianche and Paris-Roubaix, I do wonder why they don't run tubeless (or put sealant in the tubulars).

I was also quite surprised to see so few aero bikes out at Strade Binache.

Avatar
Miller [117 posts] 4 months ago
0 likes

Pro teams remain conservative in their equipment choices. Tubeless probably doesn't seem a big deal when a flat is dealt with a mechanic giving you a new wheel. Kwiatowski was quoted as saying a standard race bike is fine for Strade Bianche. So no avalanche of new tech yesterday. Great race though and nice to see some different faces on the podium. 

Avatar
kevvjj [384 posts] 4 months ago
2 likes
Dr_C_Ampagnolo wrote:

I have seen quite a lot of disc brake bikes in races in the beginning of this season. But it’s interesting to see the almost complete absence of them in Strade Bianche - maybe the team doesn’t trust them in these harsh conditions?

When the risk of a puncture is higher than normal and the road surface makes it even harder to get back on, you won't see many disc brake bikes out there - precious seconds wasted. Likewise I doubt you'll see many disc brake equipped bikes at Paris-Roubaix.

Avatar
kil0ran [923 posts] 4 months ago
0 likes

That was fun to watch. Hopefully Benoot will get to keep his bike (unwashed, like Matt Hayman's from PR a couple of years ago. That looked like a CX race in places.

Avatar
adrianoconnor [85 posts] 4 months ago
0 likes

Problem with discs in this race is that the cars are often way behind the race, so if you're waiting for your own team car with the right wheels, you might be dropped minutes back. I think that's one important reason why so many rim brakes here.

Anyway, what I want to know is why Trek put mud-guard eyes on that Domane SLR frame?! Where's the mud-guard actually meant to go with those crazy brakes and that tiny clearance?! I'm pretty sure you'd struggle to fit a guard of any sort through there.

Also, I thought SRAM had finally got a direct mount version of their brakes sorted for this season (S 900), but we're still seeing the unbranded Dura-ace?

Avatar
crazy-legs [1014 posts] 4 months ago
0 likes
wellsprop wrote:

In races like Strade Bianche and Paris-Roubaix, I do wonder why they don't run tubeless (or put sealant in the tubulars).

Tradition. A lot of the time, the riders will just ride whatever they are given but sometimes trying to get changes past the really rather traditional mechanics is the challenge.

You'd be surprised at how few pro-team mechanics are actually any good outside of top end kit - they're ace at processing large numbers of bikes in a short space of time, cleaning, re-taping bars etc but they hate anything new and different. if you put them in a normal everyday bike shop, a lot would be lost if it came to anything outside of that ultra-niche rarified bubble of pro-team bike fettling.

Equally, there are a very large number of riders who are expert at riding the bike and can obviously work the brakes and gears but who actually know very little about the kit they're using. I was at a pro-rider book launch / talk a while ago and a member of the audience asked the rider (who was on a big WorldTour team) some sort of technical question (can't remember what) and the rider was completely stumped. Just answered with something along the lines of "the team just give me the bike I'm going to use that day".

Avatar
OrangeRidley [29 posts] 4 months ago
0 likes
adrianoconnor wrote:

Problem with discs in this race is that the cars are often way behind the race, so if you're waiting for your own team car with the right wheels, you might be dropped minutes back. I think that's one important reason why so many rim brakes here.

Anyway, what I want to know is why Trek put mud-guard eyes on that Domane SLR frame?! Where's the mud-guard actually meant to go with those crazy brakes and that tiny clearance?! I'm pretty sure you'd struggle to fit a guard of any sort through there.

Also, I thought SRAM had finally got a direct mount version of their brakes sorted for this season (S 900), but we're still seeing the unbranded Dura-ace?

 

The 'crazy brakes' are on the madone aero bike - the domane is Trek's endurance bike (like a specialized Roubaix) so has bigger clearances and normal brakes.

And these are pics from last year so the SRAM brakes hadn't been launched yet.