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Scheldeprijs: Two distinct tech approaches for pre-Paris-Roubaix race - Gallery

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Stybar has bare Shimano Di2 sprinter shifters for shifting with his thumbs, plus bar-top brake levers

Stybar has bare Shimano Di2 sprinter shifters for shifting with his thumbs, plus bar-top brake levers (Image credit: Ben Delaney/Immediate Media)
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An all Pro front end for Team Sky is complemented by the Garmin power meter

An all Pro front end for Team Sky is complemented by the Garmin power meter (Image credit: Ben Delaney/Immediate Media)
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The pro-version of the new Roubaix has direct-mount caliper brakes, which allow for 28mm tires with plenty of clearance

The pro-version of the new Roubaix has direct-mount caliper brakes, which allow for 28mm tires with plenty of clearance (Image credit: Ben Delaney/Immediate Media)
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Sagan even had 28mm tubulars on for the sprinter's race

Sagan even had 28mm tubulars on for the sprinter's race (Image credit: Ben Delaney/Immediate Media)
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Peter Sagan used Scheldeprijs to test his Roubaix for Roubaix

Peter Sagan used Scheldeprijs to test his Roubaix for Roubaix (Image credit: Ben Delaney/Immediate Media)
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Bahrain-Merida had all but one rider on discs

Bahrain-Merida had all but one rider on discs (Image credit: Ben Delaney/Immediate Media)
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The Mavic Comete Pro Carbon SL is nto yet on the Mavic website. We have asked the company and will add info as soon as we have it

The Mavic Comete Pro Carbon SL is nto yet on the Mavic website. We have asked the company and will add info as soon as we have it (Image credit: Ben Delaney/Immediate Media)
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Are these wheels new? They are new to us

Are these wheels new? They are new to us (Image credit: Ben Delaney/Immediate Media)
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Langeveld raced Scheldeprijs on his Roubaix bike, the Cannondale Synapse, while other teammates opted for the SuperSix EVO, in rim and disc options

Langeveld raced Scheldeprijs on his Roubaix bike, the Cannondale Synapse, while other teammates opted for the SuperSix EVO, in rim and disc options (Image credit: Ben Delaney/Immediate Media)
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Cannondale's Wouter Wippert is one of a handful of riders fond on Vision's integrated stem/aero handlebar

Cannondale's Wouter Wippert is one of a handful of riders fond on Vision's integrated stem/aero handlebar (Image credit: Ben Delaney/Immediate Media)
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Sagan uses a blacked-out Zipp stem on his Roubaix, which appears to have a lower-than-stock head tube

Sagan uses a blacked-out Zipp stem on his Roubaix, which appears to have a lower-than-stock head tube (Image credit: Ben Delaney/Immediate Media)
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Sagan uses a PRO seatpost instead of the stock CG-R Specialized model, which offers about twice the flex of a normal carbon post

Sagan uses a PRO seatpost instead of the stock CG-R Specialized model, which offers about twice the flex of a normal carbon post (Image credit: Ben Delaney/Immediate Media)
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Defending champ and 2017 winner Marcel Kittel took the line aboard a Venge.

Defending champ and 2017 winner Marcel Kittel took the line aboard a Venge. (Image credit: Ben Delaney/Immediate Media)
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Dura-Ace discs were a long time coming, but now they are being raced by the world's best

Dura-Ace discs were a long time coming, but now they are being raced by the world's best (Image credit: Ben Delaney/Immediate Media)
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Like Sagan, Boonen also has the ultra-stiff Zipp stem

Like Sagan, Boonen also has the ultra-stiff Zipp stem (Image credit: Ben Delaney/Immediate Media)
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Sprinter shifters peek through

Sprinter shifters peek through (Image credit: Ben Delaney/Immediate Media)
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Boonen runs thick SupaCaz tape right up to the stem

Boonen runs thick SupaCaz tape right up to the stem (Image credit: Ben Delaney/Immediate Media)
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If Kittel is number one, then who is number two? That would be retiring legend Tom Boonen. The race started in his hometown of Mol in honor of his pending retirement

If Kittel is number one, then who is number two? That would be retiring legend Tom Boonen. The race started in his hometown of Mol in honor of his pending retirement (Image credit: Ben Delaney/Immediate Media)
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Kittel went rim and aero for Scheldeprijs

Kittel went rim and aero for Scheldeprijs (Image credit: Ben Delaney/Immediate Media)
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Custom graphcis for Kittel's Specialized saddle

Custom graphcis for Kittel's Specialized saddle (Image credit: Ben Delaney/Immediate Media)
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Kittel also favors the integrated Vision bar

Kittel also favors the integrated Vision bar (Image credit: Ben Delaney/Immediate Media)
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Langeveld stands 178cm / 5-foot-10, so 51cm is quite a small bike for him

Langeveld stands 178cm / 5-foot-10, so 51cm is quite a small bike for him (Image credit: Ben Delaney/Immediate Media)
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Cannondale's Sebastian Langeveld ditched his top cap to get his position dialed on the Cannondale Synapse

Cannondale's Sebastian Langeveld ditched his top cap to get his position dialed on the Cannondale Synapse (Image credit: Ben Delaney/Immediate Media)
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Cannondale-Drapac first raced disc bikes at the Ruta del Sol, and has had at least two in every race since

Cannondale-Drapac first raced disc bikes at the Ruta del Sol, and has had at least two in every race since (Image credit: Ben Delaney/Immediate Media)
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Lotto-Soudal Marcel Siberg normally runs 38cm bars. Ahead of Paris-Roubaix, he swtiches to 40cm, which are still relatively narrow

Lotto-Soudal Marcel Siberg normally runs 38cm bars. Ahead of Paris-Roubaix, he swtiches to 40cm, which are still relatively narrow (Image credit: Ben Delaney/Immediate Media)
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53/44 is a common combination for Scheldeprijs and Paris-Roubaix

53/44 is a common combination for Scheldeprijs and Paris-Roubaix (Image credit: Ben Delaney/Immediate Media)
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A new Roubaix with rim brakes (and a low head tube) is a pro-only thing

A new Roubaix with rim brakes (and a low head tube) is a pro-only thing (Image credit: Ben Delaney/Immediate Media)
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Peter Sagan adjusts the rim brakes on his direct-mount Specialized Roubaix

Peter Sagan adjusts the rim brakes on his direct-mount Specialized Roubaix (Image credit: Ben Delaney/Immediate Media)
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Another look at how to set up the Shimano shifters

Another look at how to set up the Shimano shifters (Image credit: Ben Delaney/Immediate Media)
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Former French champion Arnaud Démare gets a custom paint job

Former French champion Arnaud Démare gets a custom paint job (Image credit: Ben Delaney/Immediate Media)
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Zdenek Stybar's race bike

Zdenek Stybar's race bike (Image credit: Ben Delaney/Immediate Media)
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Lotto's Tony Gallopin likes to be stuck in place

Lotto's Tony Gallopin likes to be stuck in place (Image credit: Ben Delaney/Immediate Media)
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Saddles aren't the only place for grip tape, you know. Lotto installs a little cobbles insurance on their bottle cages

Saddles aren't the only place for grip tape, you know. Lotto installs a little cobbles insurance on their bottle cages (Image credit: Ben Delaney/Immediate Media)
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Sprinter Andre Griepel and his teammate Moreno Hofland raced the Ridley Noah SL on Wednesday. The rest of the team was already on the Fenix SL for the cobbles

Sprinter Andre Griepel and his teammate Moreno Hofland raced the Ridley Noah SL on Wednesday. The rest of the team was already on the Fenix SL for the cobbles (Image credit: Ben Delaney/Immediate Media)
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But deep aero wheels were more common

But deep aero wheels were more common (Image credit: Ben Delaney/Immediate Media)
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A few disc bikes were to be found at Scheldeprijs

A few disc bikes were to be found at Scheldeprijs (Image credit: Ben Delaney/Immediate Media)
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Not a cobbles handlebar

Not a cobbles handlebar (Image credit: Ben Delaney/Immediate Media)
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Team Sky's Christian Knees tried a new bare climbing switch switcher placement for the cobbles, as the tape was wrapped right up to the stem

Team Sky's Christian Knees tried a new bare climbing switch switcher placement for the cobbles, as the tape was wrapped right up to the stem (Image credit: Ben Delaney/Immediate Media)
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Here is Stannard's backup bike, with the elastomer

Here is Stannard's backup bike, with the elastomer (Image credit: Ben Delaney/Immediate Media)
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The Pinarello Dogma K8-S normally has an elastomer for suspension. Stannard's has a hydraulic setup

The Pinarello Dogma K8-S normally has an elastomer for suspension. Stannard's has a hydraulic setup (Image credit: Ben Delaney/Immediate Media)
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Ian Stannard decided he didn't need the 'Tourism' mode for Scheldeprijs, so this remote was removed, but the automatic HiRide hydraulic suspsension adjustment stayed

Ian Stannard decided he didn't need the 'Tourism' mode for Scheldeprijs, so this remote was removed, but the automatic HiRide hydraulic suspsension adjustment stayed (Image credit: Ben Delaney/Immediate Media)
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Endurance bikes typically mean tall head tubes, which often means sharp-angled stems for pros

Endurance bikes typically mean tall head tubes, which often means sharp-angled stems for pros (Image credit: Ben Delaney/Immediate Media)
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Zdenek Stybar's set up

Zdenek Stybar's set up (Image credit: Ben Delaney/Immediate Media)

This article first appeared on BikeRadar.

Sandwiched between the cobbled classics of the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix, Scheldepris serves as part Roubaix gear check, part sprinter's race. As such, the collection of bikes and gear here on Wednesday is like no other race in the world.

There are two distinct types of bikes at Belgium's Scheldeprijs: full-on aero machines for those racing for the win, and endurance machines with interesting Roubaix-specific details like suspension, bar-top brake levers and creative satellite shifter placement for those looking to dial in their setups for the coming Sunday.

Riders testing their Roubaix bikes raced them Wednesday as they will be built Sunday, except in most cases for different wheels and tires. The standard setup is 25mm for normal racing and 28mm for Roubaix.

Hydraulic rear suspension system

The biggest gear news was Ian Stannard's hydraulic rear suspension system with an automatic tuning system built into the seat tube. The upstart company HiRide has been working with Pinarello for the past year and a half on the system, which integrates into the Dogma F8-S.

The HiRide system can work with a remote switch on the handlebars, but Stannard raced it in auto mode, with the six-axis accelerometer/gyroscope in the seat tube sensing changes in the road surface and adjusting the suspension accordingly, from fully locked out to fully open.

Rim or disc?

This year there were a few disc bikes at Scheldeprijs, primarily endurance bikes as you'd expect for Roubaix, but also a few aero bikes like Specialized's Venge.

Cannondale-Drapac has two disc Super Six EVOs — normal road race bikes — and then a Synpase endurance bike with rim brakes.

Cannondale first raced with discs at the Ruta del Sol, and has had at least two riders on discs at most races since then. For Paris-Roubaix, all Cannondale riders will use Synapses, in a mix of disc and rim.

Shimano's new direct-mount brake calipers allow for plenty of clearance for 28mm tires.

Widening the handlebars

While going up a size in tubulars is standard for Roubaix, one Lotto-Soudal rider has another width change for the Hell of the North: his handlebars. Normally Marcel Sieberg runs the extremely narrow 38cm bars; for Roubaix he bumps 'way' up to 40cm.

"When you're riding on the tops of the handlebars, you get more control with a wider hand position," said Lotto mechanic Stephen Van Olmen.

Other riders don't change their handlebars, but many do make fuller use of their bars than they do at other times in the year, either by running thick tape up close to the stem, adding Shimano Di2 satellite shifters or adding brake levers.

Quick Step's Zdenek Stybar, for instance, has both bare sprint shifters and brake levers next to the stem for use from the bar tops.

Team Sky's Christian Knees normally runs his Di2 climbing switch on the back of his handlebar near the stem. For Roubaix, he opted for tape wrapped closer to the stem, and has a bare climbing switch affixed to the side of his K-Edge Garmin mount. This way he can shift his rear derailleur in both directions with his right thumb when riding on the tops.

On the other end of the spectrum, there were a number of Vision integrated bar/stem combos for the sprinters. Cannondale's Wouter Wippert, for instance, won a kermesse on them and has used them ever since.

Making tall bikes short

Endurance bikes are different from race bikes in a few ways. They have longer wheelbases and partly because of this they were the first style of bike to incorporate disc brakes. They often incorporate comfort features such as softer rear ends or even actively moving suspension system's like Trek's IsoSpeed or Specialized's new Future Shock.

But endurance bikes are almost always considerably taller on the front end than race bikes, which presents a challenge for racers, who like to be long and low on their machines.

So, riders, mechanics and brands have a range of fixes. One is to use a smaller frame than normal, and run a longer stem to the desired position. Forget just removing spacers — many riders remove the frame's top cap, exposing the bearing beneath.

Aggressively angled stems are another option to get the handlebar low on a tall head tube.

Finally, there is the 'build it for racers in the first place' option. Sometimes this means pro-race-only frames that aren't sold to the public, much less advertised. Giant's Defy Advanced SL, for instance, that Subweb is racing, looks to have a markedly shorter head tube than the consumer model.

Sometimes companies make and sell a pro option, such as Trek's new Domane SLR, which launched with a pro-geo rim frameset and now comes in a disc version, too.

And sometimes pros just get their very own style of bike, such as the direct-mount Roubaix frameset that Tom Boonen and Peter Sagan are racing. This is most definitely not something Specialized has in its online catalog.

And…. skinnier tubulars for Roubaix?!

Finally, it all comes down to where the rubber meets the road — the tubulars. Teams have long held special wheelsets and tubulars in reserve for just one race a year, Paris-Roubaix. Handmade tubulars by Dugast and FMB are quite popular with teams, as are Continental's newer Competition RBX.

In the last two years we saw not only 28mm but even 30mm tires being raced. John Degenkolb won on 30mm in 2015.

The thinking is that more volume equals more suspension, more comfort and, some might argue — more efficiency on the nastiest of cobbled sectors.

The limiter in the past had always been tire clearance inside the brake calipers. Cannondale-Drapac head mechanic Geoff Brown kept a supply of 10-year-old inexpensive Shimano calipers on hand just because their long reach allowed for 30mm tubulars.

So this year, with the advent of disc brakes kicking down the door on tire width, Cannondale has chosen to go… narrower for its tires.

"Last year we had 30mm tires, and afterwards the guys complained that it was too cushy," Brown said. "They didn't like the feel, and decided that they didn't need it. So we are using 28mm this year."

Stay tuned to BikeRadar and Cyclingnews throughout the week for ongoing race and tech coverage of Paris-Roubaix.