Race Tech: Gent-Wevelgem, April 9, 2008
The Gent-Wevelgem course still included some nasty cobbled sections, but they still weren't as bad as those in Paris-Roubaix and there weren't nearly as many of them. Moreover, Wednesday morning in Belgium brought refreshingly clear skies, calm winds and dry roads that stayed that way nearly all the way to the finish.
As such, teams and riders went decidedly more aggressive in their wheel choices for the day. Many were still on the traditionally spoked box-section tubular rims like they did during the Tour of Flanders, but several key players cracked out the full aero hoops as they raced for the finish line.
2007 Paris-Roubaix winner Stuart O'Grady of Team CSC chose an 82mm-deep Zipp 808 rear wheel paired with a more moderate 58mm-deep Zipp 404 up front. Tire choice was a fairly standard 23mm-wide Vittoria Corsa EVO-CX tubular.
In fact, it looked like O'Grady's sole concession to the cobbles relative to his usual road setup was a pair of Bontrager harmonic dampers inserted into the ends of handlebars. While it always seemed to us that these little widgets actually did work as advertised, this was pretty much all the confirmation we could have asked for (plus it also helps that we've spotted Team High Road's George Hincapie using them before).
Like O'Grady, Hincapie opted for a deep-section Zipp carbon tubular rear mated with a medium-section (since when is 58mm considered 'medium'?) Zipp 404. The entire Milram team, on the other hand, set out on 50mm-deep Shimano Dura-Ace carbon tubulars front and rear across the board.
As for tires? It was mostly standard stuff here, although Gerolsteiner's Marcus Fothen beefed up a bit with his 25mm-wide Schwalbe tubulars.