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One last lead-in to Paris-Roubaix

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Columbia-Highroad's Scott Addicts were nearly stock

Columbia-Highroad's Scott Addicts were nearly stock (Image credit: James Huang)
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Michael Schär's Trek Madone

Michael Schär's Trek Madone (Image credit: James Huang)
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A carbon 'cross fork

A carbon 'cross fork (Image credit: James Huang)
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Robbie McEwen (Katusha) chose his aero Ridley Noah

Robbie McEwen (Katusha) chose his aero Ridley Noah (Image credit: James Huang)
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Columbia-Highroad's Scott Addicts were nearly stock but not quite.

Columbia-Highroad's Scott Addicts were nearly stock but not quite. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Many riders opted for the standard seatpost instead of the integrated one, saying it provided a comfier ride over the cobbles.

Many riders opted for the standard seatpost instead of the integrated one, saying it provided a comfier ride over the cobbles. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Cavendish, however, went full-on with his usual integrated version, seen here with the rare low-offset Ritchey head.

Cavendish, however, went full-on with his usual integrated version, seen here with the rare low-offset Ritchey head. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Columbia-Highroad bikes were fitted with a hybrid mix of Shimano Dura-Ace 7800 and 7900.

Columbia-Highroad bikes were fitted with a hybrid mix of Shimano Dura-Ace 7800 and 7900. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Rear derailleurs were mostly of the 7800 variety and Scott also provided the riders with custom one-piece aluminum driveside dropouts with non-replaceable hangers.

Rear derailleurs were mostly of the 7800 variety and Scott also provided the riders with custom one-piece aluminum driveside dropouts with non-replaceable hangers. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Dura-Ace 7900 brakes were fitted with Shimano's newest carbon-specific pads.

Dura-Ace 7900 brakes were fitted with Shimano's newest carbon-specific pads. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Gent-Wevelgem's smoother roads brought out deep-section wheels for a lot of riders.

Gent-Wevelgem's smoother roads brought out deep-section wheels for a lot of riders. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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As always, Columbia-Highroad makes use of several wheel makes including HED, Zipp and Shimano.

As always, Columbia-Highroad makes use of several wheel makes including HED, Zipp and Shimano. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Astana's Michael Schär is so tall that Trek had to build a custom aluminum bike for him.

Astana's Michael Schär is so tall that Trek had to build a custom aluminum bike for him. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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The top tube is said to be longer what is usually found on a 62cm frame…

The top tube is said to be longer what is usually found on a 62cm frame… (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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…yet the head tube length is more akin to a 56cm size.

…yet the head tube length is more akin to a 56cm size. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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The custom-turned head tube allows Schär to use the same tapered Madone fork as his teammates.

The custom-turned head tube allows Schär to use the same tapered Madone fork as his teammates. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Much of the tubing for Schär's bike is borrowed from Trek's XO 'cross bike platform.

Much of the tubing for Schär's bike is borrowed from Trek's XO 'cross bike platform. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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According to team liaison Ben Coates, Schär's bike was fully designed, mitered, welded and painted at their Waterloo, Wisconsin headquarters.

According to team liaison Ben Coates, Schär's bike was fully designed, mitered, welded and painted at their Waterloo, Wisconsin headquarters. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Even with the super long top tube, Schär still runs a 140mm stem slammed right on top of the Cane Creek headset.

Even with the super long top tube, Schär still runs a 140mm stem slammed right on top of the Cane Creek headset. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Schär has to use SRAM Rival aluminum crankarms instead of the usual Red carbon ones since he needs a 180mm length.

Schär has to use SRAM Rival aluminum crankarms instead of the usual Red carbon ones since he needs a 180mm length. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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SRAM 'Red' front derailleurs with retrofitted stiffer steel cages are becoming a common sight in the pro peloton.

SRAM 'Red' front derailleurs with retrofitted stiffer steel cages are becoming a common sight in the pro peloton. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Schär uses a Bontrager handlebar with a 'Variable Radius' bend.

Schär uses a Bontrager handlebar with a 'Variable Radius' bend. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Trek's stout composite Bat Cages hold bottles tight over the cobbles.

Trek's stout composite Bat Cages hold bottles tight over the cobbles. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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A little grease is applied to the chain for wet weather.

A little grease is applied to the chain for wet weather. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Schär rode Gent-Wevelgem with shallow box-section tubulars.

Schär rode Gent-Wevelgem with shallow box-section tubulars. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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A carbon-wrapped aluminum Bontrager ACC seatpost holds on to a Bontrager inForm saddle.

A carbon-wrapped aluminum Bontrager ACC seatpost holds on to a Bontrager inForm saddle. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Milram's Niki Terpstra set out from Deinze with a Focus Mares Team 'cross bike - perhaps to break it in for Sunday's Paris-Roubaix.

Milram's Niki Terpstra set out from Deinze with a Focus Mares Team 'cross bike - perhaps to break it in for Sunday's Paris-Roubaix. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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The 'cross frame provides plenty gobs of clearance.

The 'cross frame provides plenty gobs of clearance. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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The front end is fitted with a carbon 'cross fork and TRP CR950 carbon cantilever brakes.

The front end is fitted with a carbon 'cross fork and TRP CR950 carbon cantilever brakes. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Cables are routed on the top tube to help protect them from road grime while Gore sealed cables take care of the rest.

Cables are routed on the top tube to help protect them from road grime while Gore sealed cables take care of the rest. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Top mounted brake levers allow for extra control as Terpstra attacks the cobbles.

Top mounted brake levers allow for extra control as Terpstra attacks the cobbles. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Terpstra's Focus Mares Team 'cross frame is outfitted with a SRAM Red BB30 crank.

Terpstra's Focus Mares Team 'cross frame is outfitted with a SRAM Red BB30 crank. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Milram sprinter Gerald Ciolek used his usual Focus road machine for Gent-Wevelgem.

Milram sprinter Gerald Ciolek used his usual Focus road machine for Gent-Wevelgem. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Ciolek rides in a low and long position that includes a slammed 140mm FSA stem.

Ciolek rides in a low and long position that includes a slammed 140mm FSA stem. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Ciolek also runs his saddle with a lot of setback to help him put down the power.

Ciolek also runs his saddle with a lot of setback to help him put down the power. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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A SRAM/SRM power meter keeps track of Ciolek's watts.

A SRAM/SRM power meter keeps track of Ciolek's watts. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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A chain watcher provides some handy insurance.

A chain watcher provides some handy insurance. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Ciolek apparently prefers the stiffer steel 'Red' cage as well.

Ciolek apparently prefers the stiffer steel 'Red' cage as well. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Ciolek headed out with Mavic Ksyrium SL tubular wheels wrapped in Continental rubber…

Ciolek headed out with Mavic Ksyrium SL tubular wheels wrapped in Continental rubber… (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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…while some of his teammates opted for Lightweights.

…while some of his teammates opted for Lightweights. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Robbie McEwen (Katusha) chose his aero Ridley Noah for the run into Wevelgem.

Robbie McEwen (Katusha) chose his aero Ridley Noah for the run into Wevelgem. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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The fork uses split blades that are said to decrease aerodynamic drag.

The fork uses split blades that are said to decrease aerodynamic drag. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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The seat stays are given a similar treatment and Ridley boldly claims the new Noah to be "the fastest (road) bike in the world."

The seat stays are given a similar treatment and Ridley boldly claims the new Noah to be "the fastest (road) bike in the world." (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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McEwen prefers a traditional bend bar.

McEwen prefers a traditional bend bar. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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The sturdy integrated seatpost head is adjustable fore-aft.

The sturdy integrated seatpost head is adjustable fore-aft. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Katusha teammates apparently have their choice of a number of Ridley steeds from this Damocles…

Katusha teammates apparently have their choice of a number of Ridley steeds from this Damocles… (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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…to this Team SL.

…to this Team SL. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Rabobank rider Nick Nuyens is on a Giant TCR Advanced SL this year.

Rabobank rider Nick Nuyens is on a Giant TCR Advanced SL this year. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Giant have opted for press-fit bottom bracket cups that allow for a lighter system and provide more real estate for the down tube and chain stays.

Giant have opted for press-fit bottom bracket cups that allow for a lighter system and provide more real estate for the down tube and chain stays. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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But what's this block of wood for, Nick?

But what's this block of wood for, Nick? (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Rabobank teammate Juan Antonio Flecha uses an extended seatmast head for some reason - even though the seatmast isn't cut too short.

Rabobank teammate Juan Antonio Flecha uses an extended seatmast head for some reason - even though the seatmast isn't cut too short. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Shimano's new 35mm-deep Dura-Ace carbon tubulars are becoming more common these days.

Shimano's new 35mm-deep Dura-Ace carbon tubulars are becoming more common these days. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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BBOX-Bouygues Telecom riders used Time's new RXR Ulteam frames.

BBOX-Bouygues Telecom riders used Time's new RXR Ulteam frames. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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A closer look at the seat cluster provides some clues as to how this frame is put together.

A closer look at the seat cluster provides some clues as to how this frame is put together. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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The down tube takes on a slight arc on its way from the head tube to the bottom bracket shell.

The down tube takes on a slight arc on its way from the head tube to the bottom bracket shell. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Time's headset system uses a threaded collar instead of the usual compression plug.

Time's headset system uses a threaded collar instead of the usual compression plug. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Yup, you're seeing correctly: clinchers.

Yup, you're seeing correctly: clinchers. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Caisse d'Epargne's Pinarello Prince bikes have now been around a while but they're still among the most striking machines around.

Caisse d'Epargne's Pinarello Prince bikes have now been around a while but they're still among the most striking machines around. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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The curved Onda FPX fork blades are one of the Prince's most recognizable features.

The curved Onda FPX fork blades are one of the Prince's most recognizable features. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Similar shapes are found out back.

Similar shapes are found out back. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Caisse d'Epargne is one of few teams outfitted in Campagnolo Super Record - most of the others are using standard Record.

Caisse d'Epargne is one of few teams outfitted in Campagnolo Super Record - most of the others are using standard Record. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Gent-Wevelgem's minimal cobbles justified deeper wheels and narrower tires.

Gent-Wevelgem's minimal cobbles justified deeper wheels and narrower tires. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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This crank is fitted with standard gearing for now but Sunday will almost certainly bring a bigger inner ring.

This crank is fitted with standard gearing for now but Sunday will almost certainly bring a bigger inner ring. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Silence-Lotto have moved to Canyon frames for 2009.

Silence-Lotto have moved to Canyon frames for 2009. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Leif Hoste is probably thankful for these minimal seat stays come the cobbles.

Leif Hoste is probably thankful for these minimal seat stays come the cobbles. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Ritchey have already integrated their handy one-bolt head into a zero-offset alloy seatpost but this is the first we've seen of a carbon fiber version.

Ritchey have already integrated their handy one-bolt head into a zero-offset alloy seatpost but this is the first we've seen of a carbon fiber version. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Hoste runs a surprisingly generous stack of headset spacers beneath his stem.

Hoste runs a surprisingly generous stack of headset spacers beneath his stem. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Hoste's bike is fitted with Campagnolo Record 11 gear.

Hoste's bike is fitted with Campagnolo Record 11 gear. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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No deep-section wheels here; just a proven Mavic Ksyrium SL tubular to get Hoste through the day.

No deep-section wheels here; just a proven Mavic Ksyrium SL tubular to get Hoste through the day. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)

Race tech: Gent-Wevelgem, April 9, 2009

Columbia-Highroad's custom steeds for the Classics

Team Columbia-Highroad has checked an interesting list of options for its Scott Addict road machines this spring. In addition to the more rigid fork lay-ups that several riders have chosen - including star sprinter Mark Cavendish - most of the team has also opted for conventional seatposts instead of the usual integrated setups.

Team officials say the standard posts offer a softer ride over rough roads so the riders are willing to overlook the weight penalty for some extra comfort here in Belgium. Though not a huge issue for Gent-Wevelgem's mostly paved parcours, it certainly was welcome last Sunday at the Ronde van Vlaanderen. Cavendish was one notable exception with his integrated Ritchey seatmast head in a rarely seen short-offset configuration.

Top-level teams frequently request stiffer one-piece non-replaceable rear derailleur hangers for snappier shifting and though Scott had already provided the team with stouter bolt-on units earlier in the season, it seems that that wasn't quite enough as nearly all of Columbia-Highroad's frames sported new one-piece construction. Given the production frame's carbon fiber dropout design though, this change wasn't exactly a simple plug-and-play for the Scott engineers.

Scott looks to have nearly completely replaced the usual carbon bit in favor of a machined alloy piece that is presumably either co-molded or bonded into the surrounding structure. The result is decidedly clean looking and without a close inspection, most folks would never be the wiser.

Columbia-Highroad is also running a mix of Shimano Dura-Ace 7800 and 7900 componentry at the moment. Most of the setup is from the newer package but many of the riders were using the older 7800 rear derailleurs. Cassettes and chains were also a mix of old and new but that is perhaps more due to stock on hand since the team needs so many of them.

Team officials wouldn't confirm as much but the rear derailleur swaps are presumably due to the older model's more durable - and stiffer - pulley cage. Given the abuse these bikes have been subjected to over the past few days, a little extra durability and resilience is likely more than worth the handful of extra grams in this case.

Michael Schär's custom Trek

Trek offers its Madone frame in an admirably wide range of sizes though it still isn't enough to accommodate Astana rider Michael Schär, who stands a towering 1.96m tall (6' 5"), has exceptionally long arms, and also rides with an unusually long and low position. A custom bike was simply the only way to go here.

According to team liaison Ben Coates, Schär's frame - designed, mitered, welded and painted in Trek's Waterloo, Wisconsin headquarters - features a longer top tube than a stock 62cm Madone but a head tube more akin to a 56cm yet even with this extreme geometry, he still runs a 140mm-long Bontrager stem slammed right on top of his Cane Creek headset.

The Alpha 2 aluminum tubing is mostly borrowed from Trek's XO cyclo-cross platform with a giant TTX time trial top tube lending extra rigidity to the rangy front end. Coates says the head tube, however, is custom turned so that Schär can still use a standard Madone fork with its tapered alloy steerer.

Schär's bike is otherwise rather standard and filled out with a variety of Bontrager kit, including a set of shallow-section aluminum tubular wheels, a carbon-wrapped ACC seatpost, alloy bar with VR semi-anatomic bend, and an inForm saddle. Componentry needs are filled with a complete SRAM Red group with the sole exception of Rival crankarms since Red isn't offered in Schär's required 180mm length.

Milram previewing equipment for Paris-Roubaix?

Gent-Wevelgem isn't a particularly demanding course in terms of cobbles and most riders, including Milram sprinter Gerald Ciolek, set off from Deinze aboard standard road machines. Teammate Niki Terpstra, however, didn't just use a modified road bike with cantilever brakes and extra clearance; he used a actual 'cross frameset in what was possibly a planned get-to-know-you session for Sunday.

In usual 'cross bike fashion, Terpstra's carbon Focus Mares Team frame features extra-wide tire clearances and cantilever brakes both front and rear, along with top tube-routed cables and supplemental top mount brake levers. Gore fully sealed derailleur housing keeps out road grime and mud for more consistent shift performance while Speedplay's pared-down 'Paris-Roubaix' pedals (currently only for pros but set for consumer release this fall) are fitted to the ends of the SRAM Red BB30 crankset.

If Wednesday's soggy conditions continue through the weekend, we may just see more of this sort of thing come Sunday.

Speed machines for Gent-Wevelgem

Most of the riders at Gent-Wevelgem used the same compliant box-section aluminum wheels on Wednesday as they did for the Ronde van Vlaanderen. Gent-Wevelgem's mostly reasonable roads - with just a few sections of interspersed cobbles - prompted several to bring out the full-blown speed machines.

Perennial fast guy Robbie McEwen (Katusha) threw caution to the wind by opting for his aerodynamic Ridley Noah, whose deep-section tubes and novel split fork blades and seat stays are primarily meant to reduce drag, not yield over the bumps. We found the previous Noah to already be one of the most unyielding machines we'd ridden in some time and even if this new one is moderately cushier, it is still a rough ride and demonstrates the extent to which McEwen was willing to go to get some extra speed on the way into Wevelgem.

McEwen also set off with a set of deep-section Campagnolo Bora Ultra Two carbon tubulars.

We're not sure what to think of the Nick Nuyens' (Rabobank) Giant TCR Advanced SL though. In spite of its oversized tubes, the frame is actually surprisingly comfortable by itself but Nuyens - or more likely, one of the team mechanics - stuffed a block of wood in between the top of the integrated seatmast head and the bottom of the saddle shell, effectively making his Selle Italia Flite Team Edition saddle as hard as a rock.

But why?

At 1.77m tall and 68kg (5' 10", 150lb), Nuyens isn't particularly heavy so it's unlikely the block was fitted to slow excessive shell sag over time. It is conceivable though that it is on hand to prevent a broken saddle in the event of an especially hard impact but again, that scenario is unlikely especially given that other team riders aren't so equipped.

Apparently he just likes it that way.