Cervélo TestTeam's special R3 machines for Paris-Roubaix bear almost no difference from the bikes that the company has provided to its sponsored teams since 2006 – which in this case, is a good thing. After all, the only slightly modified frames boast an enviable track record with wins in both 2006 and 2007, a second-place finish in 2008, and another third place position last year on a similar RS model.
Save for a new paint scheme, Thor Hushovd's R3 is a virtual carbon copy of its predecessors with 10mm-longer chain stays and increased rake on the fork for a longer and more stable wheelbase that measures almost exactly a full meter. The longer stays also lend additional tire clearance out back while a wider fork crown accomplishes the same goal up front. Otherwise, Cervélo principal Gerard Vroomen says the carbon lay-up, tube shapes and angles are identical to those of the stock R3 that consumers can buy currently complete with the company's trademark 'Squoval' profiles and pencil-thin seat stays.
Cervélo TestTeam has made a switch in componentry, however, leaving behind the complete Shimano Dura-Ace 7800 package it used in the past and moving to SRAM Red. Notable exceptions from the full group on Hushovd's bike include the quieter and more mud-tolerant PG-1070 cassette, Shimano carbon-specific brake blocks, and the clever Rotor 3D crank that the Norwegian strong man helped inspire since he thought the Agilis model wasn't stiff enough.
Gearing is typical Paris-Roubaix with 53/44T chainrings matched to an 11-23T cassette and Hushovd's bike is also fitted with SRAM's latest PC-1091R chain with more aggressively chamfered outer plates for smoother running. Even though team sponsor Rotor makes a chain watcher, Hushovd goes without here – perhaps a habit gleaned from his old Crédit Agricole mechanic Pascal Ridel, who told us two years ago that the tight chainring spacing provided enough security.
Rolling duties are handled by Zipp's latest 303 carbon tubulars and giant 27mm-wide Vittoria Pavé Evo-CG tubulars, both specifically geared towards survival through Paris-Roubaix's notorious cobbles. In the case of the former, Zipp says the new rim's wider rim bed, larger-radius edges and revised fiber blend lend themselves to fewer pinch flats and rim breakages. As for the tires, their fine file tread may help provide a little extra grip on the slippery stones and when it comes to Paris-Roubaix, there's simply no substitute for air volume.
Unlike many riders in the peloton, Hushovd doesn't bother with additional padding for his hands or even double-wrapped bars – apparently the R3's relatively cushy ride and the big tires will suffice.
Finishing things off are an alloy traditional-bend handlebar, forged alloy stem and carbon seatpost from 3T, standard Speedplay Zero Stainless pedals, a fi'zi:k Arione CX k:ium saddle, a pair of trusty Elite Ciussi Gel bottle cages and a CycleOps Cervo 2.4 computer.
Some Paris-Roubaix bikes we've profiled have been inordinately heavy – over 8.2kg (18.1lb) in fact. Hushovd's bike, however, weighs in just barely above the UCI-mandated minimum at only 7.10kg (15.65lb) but given the flat parcours, weight ultimately doesn't matter quite as much as usual. Previous performances have shown this setup to be adequately durable, though, so little if anything has been lost in the gram-shaving process.
All things being equal the reduced mass certainly doesn't hurt and in Paris-Roubaix, every little bit helps.