The 2018 edition of the Tour of Flanders lived up to its reputation as one of the most exciting races on the calendar.
Cobbles, terrible weather, crashes and aggressive racing for 265km ended with a victory for Dutchman Niki Terpstra (Quick-Step Floors) after an attack with Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) on the final ascent of the Kruisberg, before attacking again for a solo victory.
At the start line in Antwerp, BikeRadar checked out all the bikes and gear pulled out to combat the cobbles and weather of the second Monument of the season.
Keeping the drivetrains running smooth
With 265km of racing and 23 sections of either Kasseien or Hellingen, every watt counts and the last thing any rider wants is an inefficient drivetrain. The wet weather on the morning of Easter Sunday ensured that the teams weren't taking any risks with chains drying out, and lubricants were applied liberally at the start line.
Wax-based and wet-weather-specific lubes were the order of the day, with Team Dimension Data using the distinctive blue Muc-Off C3 Wet Ceramic lube. Meanwhile, Oliver Naesen used a yellow lube to match his Factor O2 in the colours of the Belgian national champion.
Wider rubber… but not that wide
Unlike the brutal pavé of Paris-Roubaix, the cobbles - kasseien - of Flanders aren't as extreme. However, there is plenty of them nonetheless and every rider we saw switched from their usual race tyres to either wider or more robust rubber.
Continental Competition RBX, Vittoria Corsa Control, S-Works Hell of the North and the handmade FMB Paris-Roubaix tubulars were the order of the day with riders racing on a mix of 25-28mm tyres.
Disc brakes versus rim brakes
Despite the wet conditions and challenging terrain, not a single rider started the race on disc brakes to the best of our knowledge. A few teams had riders' spare or third bikes equipped with discs but none were spotted at the start line in Antwerp or finish line in Oudenaarde.
Aero-specific versus all-rounders
Mathew Hayman famously became the first rider to win Paris-Roubaix on an aero-specific frameset in 2016 and although aero gains have been proven by a variety of parties, sometimes the pros just prefer an all-around race bike.
Bahrain-Merida and Mitchelton-Scott rode their aero-specific Merida Reacto and Scott Foil respectively, with the exceptions of Vincenzo Nibali and Matteo Trentin riding the all-around race bikes in a Merida Scultura and Scott Addict. Interestingly, both riders were still in the bunch at the sharp end of the race.
Quick-Step Floors riders all rode the new Specialized Tarmac SL6 and had three riders in the top 10, with Peter Sagan also adding a fourth Tarmac into the top-10 standings.
Are thigh warmers the secret to winning De Ronde?
While the rain had largely dried up by the time the peloton hit Oudenaarde for the last time, the start line in Antwerp was a far more miserable affair when it came to the weather.
Neck gaiters, arm and leg warmers, rain jackets and overshoes were common, but perhaps Niki Terpstra's secret to victory was the homemade thigh warmers. Essentially just shortened knee warmers, Terpstra cut his warmers to just above the knee ensuring his thigh muscles had enough coverage to keep the cold temperatures at bay.
Custom derailleurs and mechanical shifting
Astana joined AG2R La Mondiale in customising their Shimano Dura-Ace R9150 rear derailleurs with CeramicSpeed's OSPW oversized jockey wheels. The system claims to reduce friction and improve drivetrain efficiency.
While electronic shifting is the norm at the top level of the sport, multiple Grand Tour and Monument winner Vincenzo Nibali opted for a mechanical Shimano Dura-Ace R9100 groupset on his Merida Scultura, while his teammates ran the electronic Dura-Ace R9150 Di2.
Click or swipe through the extensive gallery above to see all the tech on show from the second Monument of the year.
Thank you for reading 5 articles this month*
Join now for unlimited access
Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription
Join now for unlimited access
Try your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1