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Spinning in (mostly) circles at the Tour de France

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Alternatively, Marcus Burghardt

Alternatively, Marcus Burghardt
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There were no decals on Burghardt's wheels

There were no decals on Burghardt's wheels
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Sastre may have permission from

Sastre may have permission from
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Agritubel's Geoffrey

Agritubel's Geoffrey
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The team's wheels are actually a hybrid

The team's wheels are actually a hybrid
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This rim looks to be borrowed

This rim looks to be borrowed
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The rear hub, though, is definitely a Roval

The rear hub, though, is definitely a Roval
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Team Columbia's Kim Kirchen headed out for stage 8 on a set of Zipp 404 rims laced to Shimano Dura-Ace hubs.

Team Columbia's Kim Kirchen headed out for stage 8 on a set of Zipp 404 rims laced to Shimano Dura-Ace hubs. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Teammate Kanstantsin Siutsou used the same rims but his were laced to a set of ultralight American Classic hubs.

Teammate Kanstantsin Siutsou used the same rims but his were laced to a set of ultralight American Classic hubs. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Alternatively, Marcus Burghardt made like George Hincapie and went with a set of HED Stingers.

Alternatively, Marcus Burghardt made like George Hincapie and went with a set of HED Stingers. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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There were no decals on Burghardt's wheels but these hubs are a dead giveaway.

There were no decals on Burghardt's wheels but these hubs are a dead giveaway. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Speedster Gerald Ciolek went with a set of Lightweights from CarbonSports.

Speedster Gerald Ciolek went with a set of Lightweights from CarbonSports. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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As if that already weren't enough there were also deep-section Shimano Dura-Ace wheels on top of the car…

As if that already weren't enough there were also deep-section Shimano Dura-Ace wheels on top of the car… (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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…and shallow-section ones, too.

…and shallow-section ones, too. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Can't figure out how to attach that magnet? A little bit of tape works just fine.

Can't figure out how to attach that magnet? A little bit of tape works just fine. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Carlos Sastre (CSC-Saxo Bank) goes elliptical with Rotor's Q-Rings.

Carlos Sastre (CSC-Saxo Bank) goes elliptical with Rotor's Q-Rings. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Sastre may have permission from the team and FSA to run his preferred Q-Rings but the logos are still blacked out.

Sastre may have permission from the team and FSA to run his preferred Q-Rings but the logos are still blacked out. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Agritubel's Geoffrey Lequatre goes non-round, too, with O.symetric's harmonic chainrings.

Agritubel's Geoffrey Lequatre goes non-round, too, with O.symetric's harmonic chainrings. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Quick.Step's Stijn Devolder is rolling on pseudo-Roval wheelsets this season.

Quick.Step's Stijn Devolder is rolling on pseudo-Roval wheelsets this season. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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The team's wheels are actually a hybrid of Roval and Campagnolo wheel components.

The team's wheels are actually a hybrid of Roval and Campagnolo wheel components. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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This rim looks to be borrowed from Campagnolo's Hyperon.

This rim looks to be borrowed from Campagnolo's Hyperon. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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The rear hub, though, is definitely a Roval but the spoking pattern has been altered to a conventional 1:1 configuration.

The rear hub, though, is definitely a Roval but the spoking pattern has been altered to a conventional 1:1 configuration. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Devolder's front wheel is a tubular version of Specialized's new alloy wheel for 2009.

Devolder's front wheel is a tubular version of Specialized's new alloy wheel for 2009. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Material is milled away in between the spokes to shave a few grams.

Material is milled away in between the spokes to shave a few grams. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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The carbon-bodied front hub saves about 40g relative to its all-aluminum counterpart.

The carbon-bodied front hub saves about 40g relative to its all-aluminum counterpart. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Other Quick.Step team members were using the matching alloy rear wheel.

Other Quick.Step team members were using the matching alloy rear wheel. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Devolder was also sporting Specialized's new carbon cages.

Devolder was also sporting Specialized's new carbon cages. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Devolder runs surprisingly little handlebar drop compared to what we're used to seeing in the pro ranks.

Devolder runs surprisingly little handlebar drop compared to what we're used to seeing in the pro ranks. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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But what about those shoes? These Nikes must fit Devolder's feet really well.

But what about those shoes? These Nikes must fit Devolder's feet really well. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)

Race tech: Tour de France, July 13, 2008

Spinning in (mostly) circles at the Tour de France

Army of wheels for Team Columbia

Most Pro Tour teams are somewhat limited in their choice of equipment by their sponsorship agreements. While there are always obvious exceptions to the rule, a few squads instead prefer to use their own cash in certain situations in order to gain ultimate freedom. For example, CSC-Saxo Bank purchases all of its Shimano componentry to eliminate any conflicts with its long-time drivetrain sponsor, FSA. Even so, it's still all Dura-Ace all the way (save for the cranksets and Zipp wheels) and it's no surprise that none of the team bikes were equipped with the latest Dura-Ace 7900 iteration at this year's Tour.

Alternatively, Team Columbia foregoes an official wheel sponsor such that its riders can choose from any number of different wheels come race day. We originally thought the team would switch to Zipp after last year's Tour but we counted no fewer than six different wheel models on team bikes just at the start of stage 8: race leader Kim Kirchen sported Zipp 404 rims built on to standard Dura-Ace hubs; sprinter Gerald Ciolek departed with CarbonSports Lightweights; Marcus Burghartdt used HED Stingers; Kanstantsin Siutsou's Zipp 404 rims were laced to American Classic hubs; and both deep and shallow versions of Shimano's Dura-Ace carbon wheelsets were littered about and mounted on spare bikes atop the team cars.

While this strategy obviously comes at a much higher cost for Team Columbia, it's hard to argue with the results. The team finished 1-2 in Saturday's rainy stage 8 sprint finale with Mark Cavendish in first and Ciolek second. Maillot jaune Kirchen finished safely in the main bunch and reinforced Columbia's first-place standing in the team classification.

So is it all worth it? Apparently so.

Non-round chainrings making headway in the pro ranks

We once counted on CSC-Saxo Bank veteran Bobby Julich being the sole rider in the peloton using non-round rings but even though he wasn't included on the team's Tour squad this year, the total number of riders so-equipped has still doubled from one to two.

Julich's preferred O.symetric brand is now represented by Agritubel's Geoffrey Lequatre while his CSC-Saxo Bank teammate, Carlos Sastre, has also jumped on the non-round bandwagon with Rotor's Q-Rings from his native Spain. Sastre had them mounted on both his primary and spare bikes this year after successfully testing them himself and apparently receiving the 'ok' from his team to use them in competition. Rotor actually claims a number of Pro Tour riders use its rings in training but aren't allowed to use them when it counts (we can personally vouch to include Garmin-Slipstream's Magnus Backstedt in that category). Even so, Sastre's Q-Rings are stealthily finished in anodized black instead of the usual champagne hue of production bits and all of the Rotor logos have been covered over.

Both Rotor and O.symetric claim their rings provide rather heady physiological advantages, namely increased power coupled with reduced exertion (otherwise known as free speed), although the Rotor design is notably less radically shaped than O.symetric's 'harmonic' form.

Either way, both Sastre and Lequatre have likely gone up against a fair bit of sponsor resistance to run their preferred equipment so whether the performance gain is real or imagined, each of them feels it's well worth the effort.

A closer look at Quick Step's new Specialized Roval-Campagnolo hybrid wheels

Specialized announced back in January that its Quick.Step team would at last be rolling on its in-house Roval wheelsets this season along with a few others built with "Specialized-engineered hubs and spoking patterns alongside Campagnolo-engineered rims and spokes/nipples systems."

As it turns out, the latter category is apparently limited only to carbon tubular wheels like the one we spotted to Stijn Devolder's machine at the start of stage 7. Devolder's rear wheel was labeled as a 'Roval Alpiniste SL Carbon' (a production model) and indeed used the (near) production-spec SL hub and DT Aerolite spokes. However, the rim is clearly borrowed from Campagnolo and the 24-hole spoke lacing was a standard 1:1 two-cross/radial pattern instead of Specialized's 2:1 configuration.

Up front, it looked like Devolder was running a tubular version of Specialized's new 2009 aluminum wheel, complete with milled-out rim, carbon-bodied hub and exposed spoke nipples. We found the matching rear on a teammate's bike the morning of stage 8 and in spite of Specialized's claims, that one used a standard 1:1 lacing pattern as well.

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