Alas, Opening Weekend is now officially behind us, and what a weekend of racing it was. Whether it's Wout Van Aert's solo attack from the bottom of the Bosberg, Annemiek van Vleuten proving she's already unbeatable, or Taco van der Hoorn's stubbornness in the Kuurne breakaway, our appetites have been suitably whetted for the Spring Classics season that lies ahead.
The storylines continued beyond the riders, too, and into the bikes and equipment as they so commonly do at the first Belgian Classics of the season. Specialized's new Roval Rapide CLX wheels caught our eye early on, and a new Cervelo's S5 has been hiding in plain sight in recent weeks, but there are a number of other key plots that have rumbled on in the paddocks of the three races, which we've rounded up below.
1. Rim brakes are dead, finally
Following Ineos Grenadiers' switch to disc brakes in late 2021, this one has been on the cards for a while now, but while recent races have seen the British team swap between disc and rim, the Opening Weekend races both saw the entire team opt for disc brakes. As a result, the spinning rotors of doom - sorry, disc brakes - have finally got their monopoly in the race. In fact, the only rim brake bike we saw all weekend was atop the Ineos car.
2. Clinchers are dead, again
When Roval launched the Rapide CLX wheels in 2020, the standout feature was the lack of tubeless compatibility. Specialized pulled a U-turn on its prior narrative and instead pushed hard on promoting clincher tyres, both Deceuninck-QuickStep and Bora Hansgrohe committed to using them throughout the season despite the puncture risks and were so happy with the results that they committed to using them at the 2021 Spring Classics, including the delayed Paris Roubaix.
Despite the enormous successes enjoyed by the Specialized sponsored teams on clincher tyres, now that Roval appears to have a tubeless-ready version available, clinchers were a much less common sight at the Bora, QuickStep and TotalEnergies buses.
3. Shimano is still struggling to supply
As we reported in November, the global bike and component shortage is taking its toll on the WorldTour teams. It's unclear whether any teams are being forced to use the same bikes as in 2021, as was suggested in that report, but what is clear is that a few teams are running the previous iteration of Shimano's Dura-Ace groupset. More commonly, teams are being forced to mix and match the new groupset with the older chainset.
We asked around and the universal response from riders, mechanics and press officers was Shimano's struggle to supply product to its sponsored teams. Ironically, it was one of Shimano's closest partner teams, Team DSM, who were still using the old groupset, while the big budget teams of Jumbo Visma and Ineos Grenadiers had the best supply.
4. It's women first at Team DSM
Refreshingly, it appears the women get prioritised at Team DSM. While the men were still using the older 11-speed groupset in its entirety, the team's female contingent had a full complement of the new groupset. There could be an entirely logistical reason for why the women's team got the groupset ahead of the men's team, but nonetheless, it's refreshing to see the women's team using better equipment than the men.
5. Cobble-smoothing tech hacks aren't really a thing anymore
One of the most notable findings at Opening Weekend 2022 was actually the lack of findings. In years gone by there would be a good helping of mechanical hacks to prevent mishaps or smooth out the ride, we've seen heavier-duty-bottle cages, rubber bands holding di2 wires in place, double-wrapped bar tape and more. But this time round, there wasn't much of the sort on show. Most riders were even racing on their aero bikes, rather than lightweight or endurance models, although Daniel Oss did have a Specialized Roubaix on top of the team car as his third bike.
It goes to show the advancement in the capabilities of bikes today. Thanks to the introduction of disc brakes, rims and tyres can be widened, and the result is a considerably more supple ride. Sonny Colbrelli proved as much with victory at Paris Roubaix on his Merida Reacto aero bike, while even prior to that, Jasper Stuyven won the 2020 Omloop Het Nieuwsblad aboard the Trek Madone before Kasper Asgreen soloed to victory in Kuurne aboard the Specialized Venge.
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As the Tech Editor here at Cyclingnews, Josh leads on content relating to all-things tech, including bikes, kit and components in order to cover product launches and curate our world-class buying guides, reviews and deals. Alongside this, his love for WorldTour racing and eagle eyes mean he's often breaking tech stories from the pro peloton too.
On the bike, 30-year-old Josh has been riding and racing since his early teens. He started out racing cross country when 26-inch wheels and triple chainsets were still mainstream, but he found favour in road racing in his early 20s and has never looked back. He's always training for the next big event and is keen to get his hands on the newest tech to help. He enjoys a good long ride on road or gravel, but he's most alive when he's elbow-to-elbow in a local criterium.