HTC-Columbia star sprinter Mark Cavendish will race his first Ronde van Vlaanderen on Sunday aboard a carbon fiber Scott Addict slightly adjusted to better handle the rough cobbles and often treacherously slick conditions typical of the Belgian spring classic.
Dimensional changes are subtle, amounting to just a few millimeters of additional wheelbase for stability and a touch more tire clearance at either end to accommodate the relatively fat 25mm Continental Pro Limited ProTection tubulars. Subbing in for the usual integrated seatmast is a softer-riding PRO Vibe conventional telescoping carbon post.
In addition, team-only one-piece dropouts with a non-replaceable derailleur hanger are fitted to the rear end and Scott's HMF carbon fiber blend is used instead of the stiffer HMX mix usually used on Cavendish's standard road bike – meaning this one is heavier, but also likely more damage tolerant as well.
Several of the component choices are unique to Cavendish's Flanders bike relative to those of his teammates. For one, he continues to use the standard Shimano Dura-Ace 7900 group instead of the electronic Di2 version used by most of the HTC-Columbia team. According to the team mechanics, Cavendish and the other sprinters on the squad prefer the feel and tactile feedback of the mechanical levers and are thus willing to forego some of the convenient Di2 niceties such as the recently introduced top-mounted remote shifters.
Conditions allowing, Cavendish will also run deep-section HED carbon tubular wheels while most of the other guys will run the Ambrosio box-section aluminum rims typical of the harsher cobbled races.
Other component highlights include aluminum-bodied Shimano Dura-Ace SPD-SL pedals and the company's prototype carbon-specific brake blocks, the SRM power meter with updated 7900-compatible chainring spider, a fi'zi:k Arione CX Carbon saddle, and familiar finishing kit from PRO with Cavendish's trademark massive Vibe Track stem and anatomic-bend Vibe 7S aluminum bar.
Cav's position has changed slightly from previous seasons, too. While the saddle height and bar positions are virtual matches from the end of last season, the explosive sprinter now sits ever so slightly further forward with a setback decreased from 46mm to 41mm.
Cavendish officially says that he's not in this year's race to win, though he expressed similar sentiment prior to last year's victory at Milano-Sanremo, proving that he's not just a sprinter. If past runnings of De Ronde are any indication, though, stranger things have happened.