Belgian teams Quickstep and Omega Pharma-Lotto will be trying out their Paris-Roubaix bikes on Thursday and Friday before the "Hell Of The North" on Sunday. Both squads will base themselves in Compiègne for the start of the greatest of all cobbled Classics, and will make their reconnaissance rides before the week-end.
Quickstep, whose three-time winner Tom Boonen is again a favourite for the event, will have two new bikes at his disposal, one for Boonen and one for Stijn Devolder. "Tom Boonen and Stijn Devolder will have two new bikes. Their frames are longer than the usual road bikes," Quickstep mechanic Kevin Desmedt told La Dernière Heure.
A longer frame may contribute to a lower position on the bike and therefore a lower centre of gravity, which is one of the key factors to riding in Paris-Roubaix. On the cobbles, rider stability and smoothness are vital in order to stand a chance of actually finishing in the Roubaix velodrome, let alone winning the event.
"The other riders will have their normal bikes, but they will be adapted to the circumstances to dampen road shock," Desmedt added.
The Quickstep team, heavily under pressure to save its spring classics campaign with a Roubaix victory, will recon the parcours on Friday, from the Bois de Wallers-Arenberg sector to Gruson, just after the famous Carrefour de l'Arbre.
Omega Pharma-Lotto, on the other hand, chose to use aluminum bikes at the Queen of the Classics coming up this Sunday. Only one rider, Greg Van Avermaet, will keep his carbon bike.
"Greg Van Avermaet prefers a carbon frame," said Lotto mechanic Steven Van Olmen. "The advantage of aluminum bikes is a greater feeling of comfort on the cobbles. The riders will have the choice between 25mm or 28mm tyres. We will decide this after the recon on Thursday."
The Belgian team will head out on a test ride today, starting from the Bois de Wallers-Arenberg sector and finishing after the last stretch of pavé inside the town of Roubaix, just before entering the velodrome.