Servais Knaven (Team Milram) may have finished 12' 47" down on Paris-Roubaix winner Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank) but in the process, rolled his way into history by tying the record of sixteen starts at the queen of the classics. Even better, though, Knaven has incredibly finished all sixteen times and even won the event in 2001.
That kind of experience comes with a wealth of knowledge and Knaven was unsurprisingly prepared for whatever Sunday brought his way. He finished in the Roubaix velodrome aboard his usual Focus Izalco road bike but muddy conditions would have seen him on his Focus Mares carbon 'cross machine instead.
We caught up with Knaven's alternate bike three days prior to the start of this year's running and so it still wasn't quite finalized but it's clear what the Dutch rider was aiming for. Even when fitted with traditional box-section Ambrosio aluminum tubular rims and fat 28mm-wide Continental tires, there was heaps of clearance at either end for mud and road debris to pass through. Adding to the generous clearances were Avid's new Shorty Ultimate cantilevers brakes with their uniquely configurable high or low profile stance, CNC-machined aluminum construction and light weight.
Additional safeguards included top tube routed cables to protect them from mud and debris (though they weren't sealed) and a machined aluminum chain watcher clamped underneath the front derailleur mounting bolt.
Otherwise, much of the rest of the gear was similar to what Knaven normally uses, including a SRAM Red drivetrain, Speedplay Zero Stainless pedals, and cockpit components from FSA and fi'zi:k. Interestingly, that also included a Red cassette, too, whose distinctive PowerDome construction most other teams passed over on Sunday for its propensity to pack with mud. Chainrings were still the usual 53/39T variety but mechanics were preparing to install a larger 44T inner ring after we left the team hotel.
In spite of the beefier frame and the setting aside of the team's usual Lightweight all-carbon deep-section wheels, Knaven's spare rig was still quite light at just 8.02kg (17.68lb) as pictured here. Drivetrain efficiency likely wouldn't have been far off from his road-going Izalco, either, given the Mares's large-diameter tubes throughout and oversized BB30 bottom bracket.
Race day brought dry conditions and relatively clear roads, though, so ultimately this bike went unused – perhaps a good thing considering Knaven had only ridden it five or six times according to the team mechanic. But at age 39, Knaven has demonstrated that he still has what it takes to finish Paris-Roubaix, rain or shine.
Knaven left the door open for yet one more Paris-Roubaix shortly after he finished on Sunday but more recently, he's now announced that he will retire this August.
Cheers to you, Servais. Paris-Roubaix won't be the same without you.