We've witnessed a stabilizing trend in equipment at Paris-Roubaix in recent years with most teams and riders settling on the same basic formula: slightly modified road framesets that allow more tire clearance without having to resort to long-reach or cantilever brakes, bulbous tubular tires, and carbon frames that are almost specifically engineered just to handle the pavé.
Then there's the bike of FDJ's Frédéric Guesdon.
Even as late as the eve of the race, team mechanics said the 1997 Paris-Roubaix winner was still undecided on if he'd use one of the new carbon fiber machines provided by team sponsor Lapierre or the (very) tried-and-true platform that has faithfully carried him to the line before - all the way back from 2006, in fact.
This machine is decidedly basic, comprising a TIG-welded aluminum cyclo-cross frame and full-carbon 'cross fork but with more modern Shimano Dura-Ace 7900 running gear. Brakes clearly posed a tougher challenge, though, as while Guesdon opted for cantilevers back in 2006, he's decided to use long-reach road calipers instead. Much to the chagrin of the mechanics, Guesdon's frame and fork have no provisions for doing so.
So instead, they devised a crude looking setup of steel plates that sandwich the fork crown and rear brake bridge with a long nut and bolt and then the caliper is mounted to another set of holes beneath. Though seemingly effective, the solution also greatly reduces the radial tire clearance that the 'cross frame is intended to supply in the first place - interesting to say the least.
Mechanics also had to come up with a sponsor-correct solution for the headset as Shimano has never made one to work with a 1 1/8" threadless steerer. Out came the machine tools again, this time milling a threaded Deore XT headset to work with a tapered compression ring.
Guesdon has taken an expectedly conservative approach to the rest of the build, which includes traditional box-section Ambrosio Nemesis aluminum rim laced with straight-gauge DT Swiss Champion spokes and brass nipples to Dura-Ace 7800 hubs (three-cross, of course), aggressively treaded 28mm-wide tubulars, a PRO aluminum bar and stem, a PRO carbon-and-aluminum seatpost, a k:ium-railed fi'zi:k Aliante saddle, and sturdy Elite Ciussi Gel bottle cages.
Lest we state the obvious, such a setup is also heavy, weighing a relatively substantial 8.64kg (19.05lb) as pictured.
Guesdon is one of the oldest riders competing in this year's Paris-Roubaix and with no disrespect to the Frenchman's talents, few people are expecting him to win. Nevertheless, team manager Marc Madiot - himself a Paris-Roubaix champion in 1991 - still thinks the 39-year-old rider can make an impressive showing.
"There's always Frédéric Guesdon," he said. "He's indestructible. He's always there in this race but honestly, I don't think he can still win it but a top-10 result is possible. The warm and dry weather conditions are good for him."
UPDATE: This article was written before the start of the race and we’ve only managed to find one image of Guesdon from Sunday since then and he’s on the carbon bike. Even so, that he would even strongly consider racing something like this is quite the testament to how different Paris-Roubaix is from other road events and still a good example of the lengths teams and mechanics will go to create something that will survive.
This article first appeared here on BikeRadar.