Ballan's Roubaix Le Roi special

"It is very similar to the normal Le Roi but we have beefed it up in the high stress points," said...

Tech feature: Alessandro Ballan's Le Roi Roubaix ride, April 18, 2007

"Look it's daddy," were the words of one and a half year-old Stella Ballan when she saw her dad, Alessandro, win the Ronde van Vlaanderen. That was six days ago, and since then the 27 year-old Italian has been home to Italy and has returned to northern France for his next objective, the Paris-Roubaix. For the Sunday in Hell Ballan will needed a special machine, Gregor Brown of Cyclingnews took a look at his Wilier Le Roi.

"It is very similar to the normal Le Roi but we have beefed it up in the high stress points," said Wilier's Andrea Galstaldello in Compiègne, on Saturday morning. The Italian was on hand to witness the team that uses his bikes and also to join them on its morning training ride.

Pointing at the stays he noted, "The chain stays have been elongated from 40.5 to 42.0; this will provide more comfort for Ballan on the cobbles."

In addition, on the seat stays, there were mounts for cantilever brakes but Ballan and the team opted for un-marked (probably Shimano) brakes. We confirmed with the head mechanic, Antonio Biron, about this. "We normally use Campagnolo but these brakes allow for more clearance with the tires and any possible mud build-up."

The riders of the 105th Roubaix did not encounter rain or mud but, instead, dry and dusty cobbles. To carry him to a possible victory Biron has mounted Vittoria Pro-Team tubulars, Special Pavé, in size 27mm. "We will have a man leap-frogging along to the different cobble sections with spare wheels and one spare bike for Ballan," continued Biron.

Surprisingly, Ballan used Campagnolo Neutron wheels as opposed to hand-laced boxed rims that are typically used by the riders. The wheels look sturdy, 24 cross-laced rear spokes and 22 radial-laced spokes, but Cyclingnews suspected a change could have been made at the last moment.

"We will have two spare bikes available, one on the car and one with the team helper going from section to section with the wheels. ... Both bikes are the steel frames that where produced for last year's Roubaix. [See last year's tech piece on Ballan's 2006 Roubaix bike.]

Galstaldello also confirmed a carbon steer in Ballan's fork, varying from some teams who use aluminium. The fork is designed with additional rake for comfort. "The total bike weight comes to 8.3 kilograms," he said.

Ballan used a standard 11-23 gear cluster in back and 53-46 chain rings up front. The 46, up from the normal 39 used, which allowed for better gear ratios over the mostly flat parcours.

The carbon Wilier Le Roi frame was strangely drilled and tapped seat tube. "I drilled the holes and then put screws in to hold the seat post in place," answered Biron when asked. "If we did not do that the seat would shift down by one centimetre during the race."

Finally, Ballan, like his teammates, used mountain bike style brake levers mounted on the top of the handle bars. This gave easy braking options from the tops of the bars, where most of the riders rest their hands while hammering over the pavé.

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