A glance at a picture of Tadej Pogacar’s 2021 Tour de France race bike might have led you to believe that we could have done a quick cmd+c, cmd+v of his 2020 winning bike and clocked off for an early lunch - but a second glance would have shown you a shift in the Slovenian’s preferences.
Last year Pogacar had a very ‘traditional’ setup on the Colnago V3Rs. A Campagnolo Super Record EPS 12-speed groupset, Bora One tubular wheels and a nice set of Campagnolo’s Super Record rim brakes flew up the Champs Elysees with the yellow jersey aboard.
In 2020’s decisive stage, the La Planche des Belle Filles time trial that provided one of the most dramatic finishes ever in the race’s history, Pogacar made several changes, including using a cassette usually chosen by junior racers, special lightweight tyres, and he even removed his power meter and computer so that he could ride on feel alone.
While 2020 was a Tour-winning bike for the purists, Pogacar has turned more towards a modern setup for this year’s race, switching over to the disc-brake Campagnolo Super Record EPS groupset and the new Bora Ultra WTO tubeless wheels for most of the stages.
We spoke to Campagnolo’s Nicolo Ildos to get the juicy details on his 2021 race bike:
road.cc: Can Campagnolo summarise all the new products Pogacar was using in the 2021 Tour de France compared to last year?
Campagnolo: The main component changes occurred due to Tadej’s switch to disc brakes for most stages. For all but two stages, he chose disc brakes rather than rim brakes on his SR EPS 12 speed groupset, a move that really helped in the poor weather at this year’s Tour.
He also opted for our new Bora Ultra WTO, using either the 45mm or the 60mm profile depending on the day’s terrain. Unlike other teams, Tadej was our dedicated rider for the yellow jersey so it made sense for the rest of the team to mirror his component choices when he picked disc brakes. It just means that if there was an issue in the heat of the race, he could grab a teammate’s bike and it would be identical.
How much did newer technology such as disc brakes and tubeless wheels contribute to Pogacar’s victory?
Marginal gains are key in cycling today, so the tech on and off the bike is crucial. Aerodynamics are fundamental to perform at the maximum level, so the new Bora Ultra WTO wheels were a big step for saving watts; not just for Tadej but for the whole team, allowing his teammates to be there when needed.
Disc brakes offered Tadej and the team extra safety while braking, a fundamental skill especially on such a crazy tour with a lot of crashes. Poor braking performance might increase your chances of crashing while in the bunch.
What size rotors and what type of brake pads did Pogacar use?
At the rear, he chose a 140mm rotor as braking power isn’t so important here. At the front, he prefers the larger 160mm rotor. There isn’t a huge weight difference, but there is a notable increase in stopping power which can come in handy when riding in a nervous peloton.
In terms of the pads, these are just our standard Super Record pads. They cope really well with the mixed weather and are consistent when the rain starts to fall.
What chainring and cassette sizes did Pogacar use? Were there any changes depending on the terrain stage by stage?
Up front, he uses a standard 53-39 chainset for most stages in the mountains and on the flats. He might ask for a 54 if there was a day where there was going to be a tail crosswind, but this isn’t too common.
Tadej likes to spin his legs so usually chooses an 11-29 cassette, but on some of the harder mountain days he did go for an 11-32. The stage that finished in Andorra featured a particularly spicy final climb, so the 11-32 was appropriate.
His TT bike is quite different. With no climbing, a 58T 1X chainring was chosen as it’s a bit more aerodynamic and also allows for a better chain line for a few extra watts saved. All of his bikes use a 172.5mm crank length.
Why the switch to rim brakes for the mountain stages?
His main concern was the weight – the rim brake groupset is around 200g lighter, and the tubular tyres he chose for these stages are also lighter than the tubeless tyres he was using for the other stages.
Can you summarise the benefits of the new Bora Ultra WTO wheels that Pogacar was using?
His wheels were standard ones that the public can buy themselves, and the best thing about the new Ultra WTO hoops is improved aero performance. This comes in the form of a few clever features. Firstly, the rims are designed to be aero-optimised with 25mm tyres, which the team commonly uses for road stages. There are some more subtle differences too, such as the internal nipples and improved front hub design, which all save a few watts.
Finally, there have been improvements to the rolling resistance using CULT bearings. We’ve improved the handling thanks to a wider internal channel, and the wheels are 100g lighter compared to the standard WTO range.
Were there any stages in particular where the equipment really offered a performance advantage?
We’ve seen how frantically each stage has been raced this year, with breakaway attacks continuing for over 100km on some stages. Generally, all of these fast stages require high aero performance simply so that Tadej can save as much energy as possible for the finales. Even riding in the peloton, you want to be aero.
For time trials the wheels are a key factor – according to our testing, the Bora TT disc rear and the Bora WTO 77 on the front is the fastest setup on the market. The sublime power that Tadej has helps a bit too!
We also shouldn’t underestimate the reliability of the components – Tadej had no issues with his bike throughout the whole Tour, groupset and wheelset. A failure at the wrong time might make you lose the race, We test our products as thoroughly as possible to guarantee reliability whatever the conditions.
What feedback have you had from Pogacar himself on his Campagnolo equipment?
He loves all of it! He’s been really influential in the product development of the Bora Ultra WTO wheels, and he’s impressed with the speed. If he didn’t believe in the benefits of the tubeless wheels and the disc brakes then he wouldn’t have been using them for the majority of the Tour.
He also likes that he can switch between disc brakes and his more traditional setup when he sees fit.
From a technical perspective, what sets Campagnolo apart from other component manufacturers?
It’s hard to compare yourself to others, but trying to be as honest as possible, we think it’s our attention to detail, quality control and on-field race support that sets us apart.
We’re also really proud of the fact that our manufacturing has remained in Italy. It doesn’t simply keep us true to our heritage, it also allows us to quickly develop products and control their quality.
When the dust had settled on the cobblestones of Paris, Pogacar stood comfortably on the top step of the podium. His nearest rival was over five minutes down and it is looking like the Slovenian, who is still only 22 years old, could make it three wins in his first three appearances at the race. Besides the question of whether that has ever been done before, it’ll be very interesting to see what bike and components he picks for next year.
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Son of a Marathon runner, Nephew of a National 24hr Champion, the racing genetics have completely passed him by. After joining the road.cc staff in 2016 as a reviewer, Liam quickly started writing feature articles and news pieces. After a little time living in Canada, where he spent most of his time eating poutine, Liam returned with the launch of DealClincher, taking over the Editor role at the start of 2018. At the weekend, Liam can be found racing on the road both in the UK and abroad, though he prefers the muddy fields of cyclocross. To date, his biggest race win is to the front of the cafe queue.