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Race tech: Fresh new gear on display at Tour of Flanders

Movistar hits the cobbles with new Campagnolo electronic group

Movistar will take Campagnolo's new electronic group on its cobbled debut at the Ronde van Vlaanderen with the entire team so equipped at the start in Brugge, Belgium.

Though Campagnolo continues to be coy about the group's release as a consumer product, all of the bits are impressively well finished and look to be simply undergoing final testing before being made available to the public (we're guessing at this year's Eurobike show).

At least conceptually, there are a number of similarities to Shimano's Dura-Ace Di2 package on Campagnolo's group, including shift buttons placed in familiar positions analogous to the mechanical version, a rechargeable battery mounted below the bottle cage on the down tube, a tiny control box zip-tied to the stem, and powerful stepper motors housed inside each special derailleur with conventional limit adjust screws.

Campagnolo's battery is noticeably larger than a Di2 one but looks to have some additional features. The charge port is accessible without removing the battery from the mount and there's also an LED indicator in the opposite corner.

Interestingly, the battery also includes a loop for a short tether (as seen on one Movistar bike). Whether that's actually intended to save a self-ejecting battery during a ride is unclear (and it seems strange if that were the case), Movistar mechanics were nonetheless seen securing each battery to the down tubes of the riders' internally routed Pinarello Dogma frames with some electrical tape at the start area in Brugge – hopefully just to prevent rattling over the cobbles.

Trek experimenting with steel rear derailleur hangers

Breakaway rear derailleur hangers have saved countless frames since their inception but even with the best designs, they're often not as stiff as one-piece dropouts with integrated hangers. This can result in compromised shift performance given the tightly spaced cogs and occasionally finicky setup of modern 10- and 11-speed drivetrains but in a race situation, a hanger that an everyday consumer might want to break off (saving a frame) could also signal the end of the day for a pro who might prefer a damaged – but still rideable – bike instead.

Leopard Trek team bikes were equipped with machined steel hangers at the start of this year's Ronde van Vlaanderen in lieu of the standard aluminum ones on consumer bikes. According to Trek pro road team liaison Ben Coates, Trek is currently experimenting with several different hangers to determine the best balance of strength and stiffness for optimal performance – with stronger and stiffer giving better shift performance and durability in a crash but too much of a good thing possibly leading to a damaged dropout (and a dead frame).

Team bikes were also fitted with Bontrager's trick DuoTrap speed and cadence sensor integrated into the non-driveside chain stay and the bikes of some key riders – notably that of Ronde van Vlaanderen favorite Fabian Cancellara – was also outfitted with Shimano's gold-anodized Yumeya titanium bolt kit for a little extra bling factor.

New wide-profile wheels from Bontrager and Mavic plus

First it was Zipp and HED, and now Bontrager and Mavic who have jumped into the wide-profile carbon wheel fray with new models taking to the cobbles at this year's Tour of Flanders.

We'd seen Bontrager's new wheels before on Andy Schleck's bike at the Leopard Trek training camp in Mallorca back in January but the fact that they're here at De Ronde offers up evidence of Trek's confidence in their strength on the cobbles – though we'll have to wait and see if they'll still be in use for the ultimate test of road wheel durability next Sunday at Paris-Roubaix.

Just to recap, the new Bontrager carbon rims feature the same 50mm depth as the current Aeolus 5.0 but with a fatter 25mm width and a more rounded nose. The bladed spokes also use external rather than internal nipples, too, and they're laced to Bontager carbon-bodied hubs with guts borrowed from DT Swiss.

Team wheels were fitted with 25mm-wide Schwalbe tubulars for Ronde van Vlaanderen but we expect the riders to switch to fatter rubber come Sunday.

Meanwhile, Mavic's new medium-depth carbon tubular wheels were found on the bikes of Omega Pharma-Lotto, Liquigas, and Garmin-Cervélo. Measuring a modest 40mm deep, the so-called "M40" wheels boast a wider profile for better tire support and presumably improved strength. Based on claims from competitors' comparable wheels, we expect Mavic to tout better aerodynamics with wider tires, too.

Mavic laces the rims to brand-new – and sleek-looking – alloy-bodied hubs front and rear with 24 bladed stainless steel spokes and external nipples for easier servicing.

Mavic's new Exalith sidewall treatment was also widespread in the peloton, likely on account of their claimed better braking performance in the wet. These were absent on the company's new all-carbon M40 wheels but most of the Cosmic Carbone SLRs, Ksyrium SLs, and R-Sys wheels we spotted at the start were equipped with the uniquely textured surface.

Finally, Vision snuck a mysterious shallow-profile carbon tubular wheel (or perhaps a rebadged rim from a third party?) on to the front of Filippo Pozzato's Katusha team bike, too. The carbon tubular rim measures around 30mm in depth and is laced to Vision's standard aluminum front hub with 20 straight-pull bladed stainless steel spokes and external brass nipples.

Then again, the rear wheel on Pozzato's bike wore a Vision label but also didn't match up with the company's current 50mm rim offering so we're not exactly

Lapierre's new Sensium cushions the pavé

It's well known that the cobbles of De Ronde van Vlaanderen aren't nearly as brutal as the worse of Paris-Roubaix but even so, they're hardly glass-smooth, either. Several FDJ riders headed toward Meerbeke aboard Lapierre's new Sensium model, a full-carbon frame that uses specially shaped tubes, more relaxed geometry, and a small elastomer embedded in the seat stay wishbone to lend extra vertical flex as compared to the company's top-end Xelius model.

Naturally, there's also a tapered head tube, a heavily reinforced bottom bracket area, and internal cable routing, too.

Assuming all goes well at Ronde van Vlaanderen, we're guessing we'll see more FDJ riders on the Sensium come Paris-Roubaix where the riders will want every bit of help they can get.

This article first appeared here on Bikeradar.

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