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Race tech: Carbon, carbon everywhere at Tour of Flanders

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Ag2r ran 32mm-deep Reynolds carbon tubulars across the board on its Kuota KOM machines for Ronde van Vlaanderen.

Ag2r ran 32mm-deep Reynolds carbon tubulars across the board on its Kuota KOM machines for Ronde van Vlaanderen. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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Team Veranda's Willems - Accent is sponsored by Belgian bike company Zannata.

Team Veranda's Willems - Accent is sponsored by Belgian bike company Zannata. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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Lampre-ISD riders used a mix of wheels - including these Campagnolo Neutron aluminum tubulars - but all were wrapped with 24mm-wide Vittoria tires.

Lampre-ISD riders used a mix of wheels - including these Campagnolo Neutron aluminum tubulars - but all were wrapped with 24mm-wide Vittoria tires. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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Lampre-ISD team mechanics wrapped each Campagnolo Ergopower lever with a small rubber band - presumably to prevent rattling on the cobbles.

Lampre-ISD team mechanics wrapped each Campagnolo Ergopower lever with a small rubber band - presumably to prevent rattling on the cobbles. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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Lampre-ISD's team bikes comprised a near-even mix of integrated and non-integrated versions of Wilier's Cento 1 Superleggeras.

Lampre-ISD's team bikes comprised a near-even mix of integrated and non-integrated versions of Wilier's Cento 1 Superleggeras. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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This Lampre-ISD rider gets double-wrapped bars to help take the sting out of the cobbles.

This Lampre-ISD rider gets double-wrapped bars to help take the sting out of the cobbles. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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The mostly carbon fiber construction on Europcar's Campagnolo Super Record rear derailleurs are a stark visual contrast from the old polished aluminum designs.

The mostly carbon fiber construction on Europcar's Campagnolo Super Record rear derailleurs are a stark visual contrast from the old polished aluminum designs. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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French national champion Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) gets to ride this specially painted Colnago C59.

French national champion Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) gets to ride this specially painted Colnago C59. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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Europcar is using Campagnolo Super Record groups on their Colnago C59s.

Europcar is using Campagnolo Super Record groups on their Colnago C59s. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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Europcar's new Colnago C59 lugged carbon fiber bikes look great in white and green.

Europcar's new Colnago C59 lugged carbon fiber bikes look great in white and green. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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Slick-treaded tires may theoretically offer better traction under ideal conditions but riders at Ronde van Vlaanderen generally prefer a bit of tread for the cobbles.

Slick-treaded tires may theoretically offer better traction under ideal conditions but riders at Ronde van Vlaanderen generally prefer a bit of tread for the cobbles. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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Euskaltel-Euskadi may have gone conservative on wheels but carbon fiber saddle rails are apparently just fine.

Euskaltel-Euskadi may have gone conservative on wheels but carbon fiber saddle rails are apparently just fine. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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Euskaltel-Euskadi removed the decals from this aluminum box-section rim but it looks like a Mavic Reflex to us.

Euskaltel-Euskadi removed the decals from this aluminum box-section rim but it looks like a Mavic Reflex to us. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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Euskaltel-Euskadi went the conservative route for its Ronde van Vlaanderen wheels, opting for Roubaix-style aluminum box-section rims laced to standard Shimano Dura-Ace hubs.

Euskaltel-Euskadi went the conservative route for its Ronde van Vlaanderen wheels, opting for Roubaix-style aluminum box-section rims laced to standard Shimano Dura-Ace hubs. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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Interestingly, Euskaltel-Euskadi used Shimano's standard Dura-Ace group in De Ronde instead of their more usual Di2 electronic transmissions.

Interestingly, Euskaltel-Euskadi used Shimano's standard Dura-Ace group in De Ronde instead of their more usual Di2 electronic transmissions. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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Euskaltel-Euskadi riders used Orbea's latest Orca during the Ronde van Vlaanderen.

Euskaltel-Euskadi riders used Orbea's latest Orca during the Ronde van Vlaanderen. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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Ambrosio's Nemesis rim makes yet another appearance at a cobbled classic, here on the Wilier Cento 1 of the Lampre-ISD team.

Ambrosio's Nemesis rim makes yet another appearance at a cobbled classic, here on the Wilier Cento 1 of the Lampre-ISD team. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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The Selle San Marco saddle on this Lampre-ISD machine bears no model identification - perhaps because it's not currently in the company catalog.

The Selle San Marco saddle on this Lampre-ISD machine bears no model identification - perhaps because it's not currently in the company catalog. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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Team Veranda's Willems - Accent is sponsored by Belgian bike company Zannata.

Team Veranda's Willems - Accent is sponsored by Belgian bike company Zannata. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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RadioShack took the conservative approach to wheels at Ronde van Vlaanderen with aluminum box-section tubular rims and traditional stainless steel spokes and nipples.

RadioShack took the conservative approach to wheels at Ronde van Vlaanderen with aluminum box-section tubular rims and traditional stainless steel spokes and nipples. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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RadioShack took the conservative approach to wheels at Ronde van Vlaanderen with aluminum box-section tubular rims and traditional stainless steel spokes and nipples.

RadioShack took the conservative approach to wheels at Ronde van Vlaanderen with aluminum box-section tubular rims and traditional stainless steel spokes and nipples. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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Even though RadioShack's Trek Madones use internally routed cables - meaning they're already well shielded from the elements - team mechanics still use fully sealed SRAM Professional System cables from Gore Ride-On.

Even though RadioShack's Trek Madones use internally routed cables - meaning they're already well shielded from the elements - team mechanics still use fully sealed SRAM Professional System cables from Gore Ride-On. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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This RadioShack bike was fitted with aluminum bars and a molded carbon fiber stem for Ronde van Vlaanderen.

This RadioShack bike was fitted with aluminum bars and a molded carbon fiber stem for Ronde van Vlaanderen. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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This RadioShack bike was fitted with aluminum bars and a molded carbon fiber stem for Ronde van Vlaanderen.

This RadioShack bike was fitted with aluminum bars and a molded carbon fiber stem for Ronde van Vlaanderen. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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fi'zi:k coats the carbon fiber shell of the k:1 with a layer of shock absorbing elastomer but even so, we're still slightly surprised to see this on a Ronde van Vlaanderen bike. Perhaps even more impressive is that not just one Rabobank rider was using it, either.

fi'zi:k coats the carbon fiber shell of the k:1 with a layer of shock absorbing elastomer but even so, we're still slightly surprised to see this on a Ronde van Vlaanderen bike. Perhaps even more impressive is that not just one Rabobank rider was using it, either. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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Rabobank went for 25mm-wide Corsa Evo CX tires while most other Vittoria-sponsored teams opted for 24mm Paves.

Rabobank went for 25mm-wide Corsa Evo CX tires while most other Vittoria-sponsored teams opted for 24mm Paves. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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Rabobank went for 25mm-wide Corsa Evo CX tires while most other Vittoria-sponsored teams opted for 24mm Paves.

Rabobank went for 25mm-wide Corsa Evo CX tires while most other Vittoria-sponsored teams opted for 24mm Paves. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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The Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 wiring harness is run internally on Rabobank's Giant TCR Advanced SL machines.

The Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 wiring harness is run internally on Rabobank's Giant TCR Advanced SL machines. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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Rabobank used a mix of mechanical and electronic Shimano Dura-Ace groups in this year's race.

Rabobank used a mix of mechanical and electronic Shimano Dura-Ace groups in this year's race. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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Rabobank brought their familiar Giant TCR Advanced SL machines to Ronde van Vlaanderen.

Rabobank brought their familiar Giant TCR Advanced SL machines to Ronde van Vlaanderen. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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Chain watchers have become virtually standard equipment as seen on this Lampre-ISD bike.

Chain watchers have become virtually standard equipment as seen on this Lampre-ISD bike. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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Aluminum bars are clamped in an aluminum stem (albeit with a carbon faceplate) on the Lampre-ISD team bikes.

Aluminum bars are clamped in an aluminum stem (albeit with a carbon faceplate) on the Lampre-ISD team bikes. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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The Euskaltel-Euskadi team doesn't even try to hide these FSA ceramic bottom brackets on their otherwise Shimano-equipped bikes.

The Euskaltel-Euskadi team doesn't even try to hide these FSA ceramic bottom brackets on their otherwise Shimano-equipped bikes. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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Euskaltel-Euskadi team mechanics added some electrical tape to the riders' Elite carbon fiber cages to lend a better grip on the bottles.

Euskaltel-Euskadi team mechanics added some electrical tape to the riders' Elite carbon fiber cages to lend a better grip on the bottles. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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BMC used a mix of carbon and aluminum wheels at Ronde van Vlaanderen but rode their SLR01 Team Machine bikes across the board.

BMC used a mix of carbon and aluminum wheels at Ronde van Vlaanderen but rode their SLR01 Team Machine bikes across the board. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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An SRM power meter is fitted to Marcus Burghardt's bike of team BMC.

An SRM power meter is fitted to Marcus Burghardt's bike of team BMC. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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BMC team bikes had their Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 batteries affixed to mini-mounts below the down tube.

BMC team bikes had their Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 batteries affixed to mini-mounts below the down tube. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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Astana wrapped its Corima carbon rims with 24mm-wide Veloflex Roubaix tubular tires.

Astana wrapped its Corima carbon rims with 24mm-wide Veloflex Roubaix tubular tires. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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Astana's Specialized S-Works Tarmac SL3 machines get fresh new paint jobs for the 2011 season.

Astana's Specialized S-Works Tarmac SL3 machines get fresh new paint jobs for the 2011 season. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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Astana team bikes are equipped with Specialized's own S-Works carbon cranks and chainrings.

Astana team bikes are equipped with Specialized's own S-Works carbon cranks and chainrings. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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Astana was one of many teams at the 2011 Ronde van Vlaanderen to put its riders on carbon rims.

Astana was one of many teams at the 2011 Ronde van Vlaanderen to put its riders on carbon rims. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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Astana's Corima rear hubs also use aluminum flanges on a carbon fiber body but the driveside spokes are rotated 90 degrees from the norm.

Astana's Corima rear hubs also use aluminum flanges on a carbon fiber body but the driveside spokes are rotated 90 degrees from the norm. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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The French Corima wheels on Astana team bikes use unique carbon fiber and aluminum hubs along with an interesting way of anchoring the J-bend spokes.

The French Corima wheels on Astana team bikes use unique carbon fiber and aluminum hubs along with an interesting way of anchoring the J-bend spokes. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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Gore Ride-On sealed cables have proven to be extremely popular in the pro peloton for their combination of a silky feel at the lever plus excellent all-weather performance that holds up well to multiple washings.

Gore Ride-On sealed cables have proven to be extremely popular in the pro peloton for their combination of a silky feel at the lever plus excellent all-weather performance that holds up well to multiple washings. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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Ag2r was among the majority of teams at Ronde van Vlaanderen putting at least some of its riders on carbon rims.

Ag2r was among the majority of teams at Ronde van Vlaanderen putting at least some of its riders on carbon rims. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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Ag2r is using SRAM Red BB30 cranksets and Red front derailleurs, but with stiffer steel cages instead of the consumer-spec titanium ones for faster shifting.

Ag2r is using SRAM Red BB30 cranksets and Red front derailleurs, but with stiffer steel cages instead of the consumer-spec titanium ones for faster shifting. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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Ag2r is one of few SRAM-sponsored road teams that pass over the PG-1070 cassette in favor of the lighter Red model, which runs more loudly and is more prone to clogging with debris.

Ag2r is one of few SRAM-sponsored road teams that pass over the PG-1070 cassette in favor of the lighter Red model, which runs more loudly and is more prone to clogging with debris. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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The BMC team wore these decals on their chain stays to draw attention to the disaster relief effort in Japan.

The BMC team wore these decals on their chain stays to draw attention to the disaster relief effort in Japan. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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BMC used Shimano's electronic Dura-Ace Di2 group on their carbon fiber Team Machines.

BMC used Shimano's electronic Dura-Ace Di2 group on their carbon fiber Team Machines. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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Cofidis fitted team bikes with Rotor chain watchers but the logos were sanded off so as not to offend official team sponsors.

Cofidis fitted team bikes with Rotor chain watchers but the logos were sanded off so as not to offend official team sponsors. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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Cofidis's massive carbon fiber integrated stems on their team-issue Look 695s were the exception to the aluminum stem norm.

Cofidis's massive carbon fiber integrated stems on their team-issue Look 695s were the exception to the aluminum stem norm. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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Vittoria's 24mm-wide Pave Evo-CG are very popular with teams during the spring classics.

Vittoria's 24mm-wide Pave Evo-CG are very popular with teams during the spring classics. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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The Look E-Post on Cofidis team bikes is not only impervious to slipping but also lends some vibration damping courtesy of the elastomer inserts in between the mast head and frame.

The Look E-Post on Cofidis team bikes is not only impervious to slipping but also lends some vibration damping courtesy of the elastomer inserts in between the mast head and frame. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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The stunning crank on Cofidis's Look 695 is molded as a single unit from one end of the arm to the other - including the bottom bracket spindle.

The stunning crank on Cofidis's Look 695 is molded as a single unit from one end of the arm to the other - including the bottom bracket spindle. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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Look's 'BB65' bottom bracket shell houses an enormous 50mm carbon fiber spindle.

Look's 'BB65' bottom bracket shell houses an enormous 50mm carbon fiber spindle. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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Cofidis riders were mostly on aluminum wheels but Leonardo Duque decided on ultralight Fulcrum RacingLight SLR shallow-section carbon tubulars instead.

Cofidis riders were mostly on aluminum wheels but Leonardo Duque decided on ultralight Fulcrum RacingLight SLR shallow-section carbon tubulars instead. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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Cofidis riders were on Look's latest 695 model for Ronde van Vlaanderen.

Cofidis riders were on Look's latest 695 model for Ronde van Vlaanderen. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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A lot of bikes at Ronde van Vlaanderen sported little crib sheets to help keep track of key sections.

A lot of bikes at Ronde van Vlaanderen sported little crib sheets to help keep track of key sections. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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No surprises here: Marcus Burghardt's (BMC) bike is fitted with an aluminum bar and stem for Ronde van Vlaanderen.

No surprises here: Marcus Burghardt's (BMC) bike is fitted with an aluminum bar and stem for Ronde van Vlaanderen. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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Shimano Dura-Ace Di2-equipped BMC SLR01 frames featured internal routing for the wiring harnesses.

Shimano Dura-Ace Di2-equipped BMC SLR01 frames featured internal routing for the wiring harnesses. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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Some BMC riders ran Roubaix-style wheels for Ronde van Vlaanderen. While the rims bore big "Easton" decals, they were obviously from Ambrosio.

Some BMC riders ran Roubaix-style wheels for Ronde van Vlaanderen. While the rims bore big "Easton" decals, they were obviously from Ambrosio. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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Marcus Burghardt (BMC) used Easton EC90 SL carbon tubulars during the Ronde van Vlaanderen.

Marcus Burghardt (BMC) used Easton EC90 SL carbon tubulars during the Ronde van Vlaanderen. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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The carefully shaped carbon fiber tubing in the rear end of BMC's SLR01 Team Machine provides a noticeable degree of flex and comfort over rough ground.

The carefully shaped carbon fiber tubing in the rear end of BMC's SLR01 Team Machine provides a noticeable degree of flex and comfort over rough ground. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)
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Like most teams at Ronde van Vlaanderen, Ag2r swapped its normal carbon fiber cages for studier aluminum ones - in this case Ciussi Gel models from team sponsor Elite.

Like most teams at Ronde van Vlaanderen, Ag2r swapped its normal carbon fiber cages for studier aluminum ones - in this case Ciussi Gel models from team sponsor Elite. (Image credit: Jonny Irick)

Whether by virtue of the surprisingly dry conditions, improving technology, or changing rider and team attitudes - perhaps all three - the 2011 Tour of Flanders saw more riders starting and finishing on carbon wheels than we've noticed in years past.

By our count, roughly three-quarters of the 25 participating teams put at least a few (and in some cases all) of its riders on composite hoops - and notably, Nick Nuyens (Saxo Bank-Sungard) won the event using Zipp 303s.

Bontrager looks to have made a successful cobbled debut for its new 50mm-deep wheels and Corima's carbon wheels made an appearance underneath the Astana riders. Mavic had a carbon-infused field as well including its still-as-yet-unofficial 40mm-deep M40 carbon tubulars, R-Sys shallow-section wheels with hollow carbon spokes, and Cosmic Carbone SLRs with their aluminum rims and carbon fairings (primary M40 tester Thor Hushovd notably used these instead). Not surprisingly, Zipp-sponsored teams opted for the company's now well proven 303 carbon tubulars across the board after their impressive showing at last year's Paris-Roubaix.

In all fairness, most of those wheels were still wrapped in wider-than-usual tubular tires measuring 25mm and up, and there was still the rash of Roubaix-style aluminum Ambrosio and Mavic box-section rims with tied-and-soldered steel spokes used by more traditionally minded teams such as Quick Step and Vacansoleil-DCM. A smaller contingent opted for softer riding frames, too, and a handful of riders even used 'cross bikes.

In addition, some bars were also double-wrapped for additional cushioning and most teams had heavier-duty cages fitted to prevent bottle ejection while streaking across the pavé (though we still saw plenty of bottles on the ground).

For the most part, though, it was business as usual for one of the most exciting editions of the Tour of Flanders in recent memory.

This article first appeared here on BikeRadar.