Two of Jumbo-Visma’s Shimano Dura-Ace R9100 carbon rear wheels folded under their riders at Sunday’s Paris-Roubaix. The wheels were being ridden with flat tyres and showed just how harsh the cobbles can be on expensive equipment.
Punctures in Paris-Roubaix are expected and professional riders won’t think twice about continuing to ride on a flat tyre until they are able to get a new wheel from one of their team helpers.
But while this is fine, for the most part, on the smooth tarmac of a normal road race, the jagged cobbles of the Hell of the North can cause some spectacular equipment failures.
Jumbo-Visma switched from the latest Shimano Dura-Ace R9200 equipment to the older R9100 groupset and wheels for Paris-Roubaix. The reason for the change isn’t overly clear, though the rumour circulating in the start area before the race was that the team favoured the older groupset due to a number of issues with dropped chains.
The reason for the switch back to the old wheels is a little simpler. The new wheels will only accept a 12-speed cassette due to the design of the freehub. But Jumbo-Visma’s riders lined up in Compiegne on the R9100 wheels shod with 30mm tubular tyres featuring Dugast casings and Vittoria Corsa compounds.
The issue for Van Aert occurred in the Arenberg sector. It is incredibly rough and begins with a slight descent, making it particularly dangerous. Firstly, Van Aert punctured and somehow communicated the fact to his teammate Timo Roosen. The Dutch champion waited for Van Aert and it is here that we suspect Van Aert slams his back wheel into one of the protruding cobbles.
Elsewhere on the course, one of the pre-race favourites, Frenchman Christophe Laporte was having a similar issue. We would suspect the same scenario played out with a puncture to the rear tyre before the wheel failed after striking a cobble. Laporte styles it out nicely, surfing his bike before starting a long run in cleats to the end of the sector.
The failures might make a case for tubeless tyres. These can be run with a foam insert inside to give a little bit of impact protection in the event of a puncture on the cobbles.
That said, this isn’t the first time that we’ve seen broken wheels at Paris-Roubaix and it certainly won’t be the last.
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