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Careful equipment selection for the cobbles of Ronde van Vlaanderen

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Team Sky's Pinarello machines were fitted with SRM's latest Dura-Ace 7900-compatible model.

Team Sky's Pinarello machines were fitted with SRM's latest Dura-Ace 7900-compatible model.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Yet again, we see Ambrosio's Nemesis rims and Continental Competition Pro Limited ProTection tubulars, here on the bikes of Milram.

Yet again, we see Ambrosio's Nemesis rims and Continental Competition Pro Limited ProTection tubulars, here on the bikes of Milram.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Milram was using Focus Izalco bikes at this year's Ronde van Vlaanderen.

Milram was using Focus Izalco bikes at this year's Ronde van Vlaanderen.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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A stiffer steel cage is fitted to Milram's SRAM Red front derailleurs. Rotor's new chain watcher is tucked away in front, too.

A stiffer steel cage is fitted to Milram's SRAM Red front derailleurs. Rotor's new chain watcher is tucked away in front, too.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Low-friction liners and coated cables on Milram's Gore cable sets keeps shift effort low.

Low-friction liners and coated cables on Milram's Gore cable sets keeps shift effort low.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Full-length housing on the Milram Focus Izalco bikes keep the cables protected from contamination.

Full-length housing on the Milram Focus Izalco bikes keep the cables protected from contamination.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Milram's Focus Izalco frames were fitted with PressFit 30 bottom brackets.

Milram's Focus Izalco frames were fitted with PressFit 30 bottom brackets.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Double-wrapped and heavily padded bars were a common sight at Ronde van Vlaanderen.

Double-wrapped and heavily padded bars were a common sight at Ronde van Vlaanderen.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Vittoria Pave Evo-CG tires were among the most popular options at Ronde van Vlaanderen.

Vittoria Pave Evo-CG tires were among the most popular options at Ronde van Vlaanderen.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Double-wrapped bars on this Lampre-Farnese Vini bike provide a little extra padding on the cobbles.

Double-wrapped bars on this Lampre-Farnese Vini bike provide a little extra padding on the cobbles.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Selle San Marco provided Lampre-Farnese Vini with custom-covered saddles.

Selle San Marco provided Lampre-Farnese Vini with custom-covered saddles.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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At least one set of wheels in the Lampre-Farnese Vini camp were built using Mavic Reflex tubular rims instead of Ambrosio.

At least one set of wheels in the Lampre-Farnese Vini camp were built using Mavic Reflex tubular rims instead of Ambrosio.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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And as if their prevalence among the pro teams wasn't enough, Ambrosio sees fit to remind you right on the rim itself.

And as if their prevalence among the pro teams wasn't enough, Ambrosio sees fit to remind you right on the rim itself.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Like many teams, Lampre-Farnese Vini wheels were built using Ambrosio Nemesis tubular rims.

Like many teams, Lampre-Farnese Vini wheels were built using Ambrosio Nemesis tubular rims.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Lampre-Farnese Vini also used stock Fulcrum Racing Zero tubular wheels at Ronde van Vlaanderen.

Lampre-Farnese Vini also used stock Fulcrum Racing Zero tubular wheels at Ronde van Vlaanderen.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Danilo Hondo's (Lampre-Farnese Vini) Wilier Triestina Cento 1 SL waits for the start of Ronde van Vlaanderen.

Danilo Hondo's (Lampre-Farnese Vini) Wilier Triestina Cento 1 SL waits for the start of Ronde van Vlaanderen.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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The rear derailleur cable on Lampre-Farnese Vini's Wilier Triestina Cento 1 SL bikes now run externally from the bottom bracket to the rear section of housing for smoother shifting.

The rear derailleur cable on Lampre-Farnese Vini's Wilier Triestina Cento 1 SL bikes now run externally from the bottom bracket to the rear section of housing for smoother shifting.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Cobbled classics such as Ronde van Vlaanderen are often won and lost by how many spare wheels a team has and how they place them along the course. HTC-Columbia looks to have its bases covered.

Cobbled classics such as Ronde van Vlaanderen are often won and lost by how many spare wheels a team has and how they place them along the course. HTC-Columbia looks to have its bases covered.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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fi'zi:k provided Milram with custom colored saddles.

fi'zi:k provided Milram with custom colored saddles.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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The Focus Izalco features a dramatically asymmetrical seat tube.

The Focus Izalco features a dramatically asymmetrical seat tube.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Slender stays on Milram's Focus Izalco presumably makes for a relatively comfortable ride.

Slender stays on Milram's Focus Izalco presumably makes for a relatively comfortable ride.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Team Sky headed for Ninove aboard Pinarello Dogmas.

Team Sky headed for Ninove aboard Pinarello Dogmas.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Shimano's prototype carbon-specific pads are fitted to Team Sky bikes.

Shimano's prototype carbon-specific pads are fitted to Team Sky bikes.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Last year Nick Nuyens' (Rabobank) team mechanic wedged a chunk of wood in between the top of the seatpost and the bottle of the saddle shell to achieve the rider's preferred very firm feel. This year Nuyens has apparently discovered Selle Italia's carbon-hulled SLR Teknologika model instead.

Last year Nick Nuyens' (Rabobank) team mechanic wedged a chunk of wood in between the top of the seatpost and the bottle of the saddle shell to achieve the rider's preferred very firm feel. This year Nuyens has apparently discovered Selle Italia's carbon-hulled SLR Teknologika model instead.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Rabobank's entire team ran Shimano Dura-Ace carbon tubulars at Ronde van Vlaanderen in both 24mm and 35mm depths.

Rabobank's entire team ran Shimano Dura-Ace carbon tubulars at Ronde van Vlaanderen in both 24mm and 35mm depths.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Nick Nuyens (Rabobank) was using Shimano's prototype carbon-bodied Dura-Ace SPD-SL pedals.

Nick Nuyens (Rabobank) was using Shimano's prototype carbon-bodied Dura-Ace SPD-SL pedals.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Rabobank's Nick Nuyens set off from Brugge with one-piece Stealth Evo integrated bars from team sponsor PRO.

Rabobank's Nick Nuyens set off from Brugge with one-piece Stealth Evo integrated bars from team sponsor PRO.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Giant equipped the Rabobank team with its TCR Advanced SL model.

Giant equipped the Rabobank team with its TCR Advanced SL model.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Many pro riders still prefer traditional-bend bars.

Many pro riders still prefer traditional-bend bars.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Quick Step's tire of choice was Continental's Competition Pro Limited ProTection tubulars with additional sidewall reinforcement.

Quick Step's tire of choice was Continental's Competition Pro Limited ProTection tubulars with additional sidewall reinforcement.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Quick Step is officially sponsored by Dutch wheel company FFWD but as they don't make a shallow-section aluminum tubular rim, the team uses Ambrosio Nemesis rims instead.

Quick Step is officially sponsored by Dutch wheel company FFWD but as they don't make a shallow-section aluminum tubular rim, the team uses Ambrosio Nemesis rims instead.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Mavic Reflex tubular rims and Continental Competition Pro Limited ProTection tires are fitted to this Omega Pharma-Lotto team bike.

Mavic Reflex tubular rims and Continental Competition Pro Limited ProTection tires are fitted to this Omega Pharma-Lotto team bike.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Some Omega Pharma-Lotto forks were painted in the colors of the rider's home country.

Some Omega Pharma-Lotto forks were painted in the colors of the rider's home country.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Omega Pharma-Lotto's Canyon fork were painted in various schemes.

Omega Pharma-Lotto's Canyon fork were painted in various schemes.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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CycleOps computers were fitted to the Omega Pharma-Lotto team bikes.

CycleOps computers were fitted to the Omega Pharma-Lotto team bikes.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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The top tubes of the Omega Pharma-Lotto bikes were treated to a similarly wordy paint job.

The top tubes of the Omega Pharma-Lotto bikes were treated to a similarly wordy paint job.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Omega Pharma-Lotto's bikes were specially painted with a number of key spring races, locations and cobble sections.

Omega Pharma-Lotto's bikes were specially painted with a number of key spring races, locations and cobble sections.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Omega Pharma-Lotto bikes comprised a mix of carbon and aluminum plus one specially painted rig for team leader Philippe Gilbert.

Omega Pharma-Lotto bikes comprised a mix of carbon and aluminum plus one specially painted rig for team leader Philippe Gilbert.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Surprise, surprise: HTC-Columbia's cobble wheels were built with Ambrosio Nemesis aluminum box-section tubular rims.

Surprise, surprise: HTC-Columbia's cobble wheels were built with Ambrosio Nemesis aluminum box-section tubular rims.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Most Shimano Dura-Ace Di2-equipped riders at Ronde van Vlaanderen also used the company's new remote shifter.

Most Shimano Dura-Ace Di2-equipped riders at Ronde van Vlaanderen also used the company's new remote shifter.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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BMC team leader George Hincapie opted for Easton EC90 Aero carbon tubulars for his run at Ronde van Vlaanderen.

BMC team leader George Hincapie opted for Easton EC90 Aero carbon tubulars for his run at Ronde van Vlaanderen.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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George Hincapie used alloy Easton EA70 bars on his BMC SLR01 Team Machine.

George Hincapie used alloy Easton EA70 bars on his BMC SLR01 Team Machine.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Bbox Bouygues Telecom riders used a mix of Campagnolo Bora and Hyperon carbon rims.

Bbox Bouygues Telecom riders used a mix of Campagnolo Bora and Hyperon carbon rims.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Hutchinson tubulars were used throughout the Bbox Bouygues Telecom squad.

Hutchinson tubulars were used throughout the Bbox Bouygues Telecom squad.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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William Bonnet (Bbox Bouygues Telecom) used Time's older pedal style while the rest of his teammates used the new iClic model.

William Bonnet (Bbox Bouygues Telecom) used Time's older pedal style while the rest of his teammates used the new iClic model.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Time's new iClic pedal features a carbon spring for lighter weight and a snappier feel but also a trick 'trigger' mechanism that makes for ultra-easy entry.

Time's new iClic pedal features a carbon spring for lighter weight and a snappier feel but also a trick 'trigger' mechanism that makes for ultra-easy entry.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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William Bonnet (Bbox Bouygues Telecom) set off this morning on a Colnago CX-1.

William Bonnet (Bbox Bouygues Telecom) set off this morning on a Colnago CX-1.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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A Campagnolo Record crank is matched to a Chorus front derailleur on this Bbox Bouygues Telecom bike.

A Campagnolo Record crank is matched to a Chorus front derailleur on this Bbox Bouygues Telecom bike.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Most of the riders on the Bbox Bouygues Telecom team rode Colnago's CX-1 model but Sebastien Turgot opted for a Cross Prestige instead.

Most of the riders on the Bbox Bouygues Telecom team rode Colnago's CX-1 model but Sebastien Turgot opted for a Cross Prestige instead.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Key points on the Ronde van Vlaanderen course were written down and taped to this Bbox Bouygues Telecom stem.

Key points on the Ronde van Vlaanderen course were written down and taped to this Bbox Bouygues Telecom stem.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Astana's Zipp 303 rims were wrapped with Veloflex tubular tires.

Astana's Zipp 303 rims were wrapped with Veloflex tubular tires.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Astana bikes featured an intricate pattern throughout.

Astana bikes featured an intricate pattern throughout.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Mirko Selvaggi is one of the tallest riders on the Astana team and his saddle height landed his bike a ride to the Ronde van Vlaanderen start on top of one of the team cars instead of in the cargo bay of the bus.

Mirko Selvaggi is one of the tallest riders on the Astana team and his saddle height landed his bike a ride to the Ronde van Vlaanderen start on top of one of the team cars instead of in the cargo bay of the bus.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Astana's Specialized Tarmac SL3 frames were also equipped with S-Works FACT integrated carbon cranks.

Astana's Specialized Tarmac SL3 frames were also equipped with S-Works FACT integrated carbon cranks.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Mirko Selvaggi (Astana) used an 11-25T SRAM Red cassette today at the Ronde van Vlaanderen.

Mirko Selvaggi (Astana) used an 11-25T SRAM Red cassette today at the Ronde van Vlaanderen.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Astana bikes were fitted with carbon-specific Zipp Tangente cork pads.

Astana bikes were fitted with carbon-specific Zipp Tangente cork pads.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Consumers aren't the only ones who are taking hold of compact-bend bars; Astana rider Mirko Selvaggi apparently likes them, too.

Consumers aren't the only ones who are taking hold of compact-bend bars; Astana rider Mirko Selvaggi apparently likes them, too.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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George Hincapie traded in his BMC SLX01 Racemaster for the company's top-end SLR01 Team Machine.

George Hincapie traded in his BMC SLX01 Racemaster for the company's top-end SLR01 Team Machine.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Even Hincapie's AceCo K-Edge chain watcher gets the stars-and-stripes treatment.

Even Hincapie's AceCo K-Edge chain watcher gets the stars-and-stripes treatment.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Selle Italia provided George Hincapie (BMC) with this special Flite saddle.

Selle Italia provided George Hincapie (BMC) with this special Flite saddle.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Some HTC-Columbia Scott Addict frames were matched to CR1 forks with their softer SDS blade shape.

Some HTC-Columbia Scott Addict frames were matched to CR1 forks with their softer SDS blade shape.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Cerv

Cerv
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Cerv

Cerv
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Cerv

Cerv
(Image credit: James Huang)
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3T's new Dorico Team seatpost provides a full inch of setback for Roger Hammond (Cerv

3T's new Dorico Team seatpost provides a full inch of setback for Roger Hammond (Cerv
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Cerv

Cerv
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Up front, Roger Hammond's (Cerv

Up front, Roger Hammond's (Cerv
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Roger Hammond's (Cerv

Roger Hammond's (Cerv
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Roger Hammond (Cerv

Roger Hammond (Cerv
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Cerv

Cerv
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Campagnolo no longer carries these rims in its range but the Caisse d'Epargne team seems to have plenty of these on hand.

Campagnolo no longer carries these rims in its range but the Caisse d'Epargne team seems to have plenty of these on hand.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Caisse d'Epargne mechanics crafted these number holders from strips of aluminum.

Caisse d'Epargne mechanics crafted these number holders from strips of aluminum.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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As with many teams, Caisse d'Epargne keeps a fleet of special wheels used just for the cobbled classics so they tend to last a long time so while most items are retired after a season, these tend to last and last.

As with many teams, Caisse d'Epargne keeps a fleet of special wheels used just for the cobbled classics so they tend to last a long time so while most items are retired after a season, these tend to last and last.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Caisse d'Epargne brought Pinarello Dogmas to this year's Ronde van Vlaanderen.

Caisse d'Epargne brought Pinarello Dogmas to this year's Ronde van Vlaanderen.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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As usual, Caisse d'Epargne's Campagnolo brake calipers were painted to match.

As usual, Caisse d'Epargne's Campagnolo brake calipers were painted to match.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Many Caisse d'Epargne Pinarellos were fitted with one-piece integrated carbon bars and stems.

Many Caisse d'Epargne Pinarellos were fitted with one-piece integrated carbon bars and stems.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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There's no mistaking George Hincapie's (BMC) nationality but BMC apparently saw fit to make mention of where the company is based, too.

There's no mistaking George Hincapie's (BMC) nationality but BMC apparently saw fit to make mention of where the company is based, too.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Team Sky tapped French outfit FMB for its legendary tubular tires.

Team Sky tapped French outfit FMB for its legendary tubular tires.
(Image credit: James Huang)

No one in their proper mind would characterise the Ronde van Vlaanderen as an easy race but the harsh reality is that its stretches of cobbles still aren't as long or brutal on equipment as those of Paris-Roubaix and the course doesn't get quite as muddy.

As such, most riders' bikes were essentially the same as what they normally run for standard road events but still bore some common tweaks and equipment choices all aimed at the same goals: cushioning and durability over 262.3km of pounding plus stability and traction on the uneven ground.

Some riders that normally run carbon handlebars made the switch to more damage-tolerant aluminum for their run at De Ronde but unlike at Paris-Roubaix, it was more of an even distribution between the two (with some riders even running integrated one-piece carbon bar and stem combos) and more unusual additions such as top-mounted brake levers were quite rare. Double-wrapped bar tape was quite common though, with some riders also opting for extra padding underneath, too.

Tyres measured 24mm or more in width nearly across the board to provide a little extra float on the pavé with the lion's share of them being produced by Vittoria, Hutchinson or Continental – Team Sky was one major exception with its boutique FMB treads. Wet conditions at the start prompted most of the riders to request lower inflation pressures – about 90psi or so – though things quickly dried out so those numbers may have come up as the riders headed to the start line from the team buses.

Not surprisingly, hand built wheels with box-section aluminum tubular rims (mostly from Ambrosio) were the most common configuration out there but carbon was still very popular with the entire Rabobank, Saxo Bank and Cervélo TestTeam squads running composite rims exclusively and other high-profile riders such as Lance Armstrong (Team Radioshack) and George Hincapie (BMC) opting for them as well. And yes, one rider from Omega Pharma-Lotto was using Mavic's R-SYS Premium.

With but a few exceptions, the bulk of the riders were on their usual road framesets, too. Saxo Bank's Specialized S-Works Tarmac SL3s appeared to be fully standard issue as did Cervélo TestTeam's S3 aero machines. Omega Pharma-Lotto's fleet comprised a mix of carbon and alloy chassis and we saw but one proper 'cross bike in the mix under one of the BBox Bouygues Telecom riders.

A bit more variation was found in forks, though, with Team Radioshack running slightly longer crown-to-axle heights on its Madone forks (presumably with tips spliced in from another fork model) and some HTC-Columbia guys trading in their Scott Addict forks for ones from the company's softer-riding CR1 model.

Take a good look at these machines from Ronde van Vlaanderen now as things often change dramatically for this coming weekend's Paris-Roubaix. But then again, the weather forecast is calling for relatively warm and dry conditions all week so we'll have to wait and see what actually shows up on the start line.