Tech gallery: Pro bikes at the 2012 Tour of Flanders

This story originally appeared on BikeRadar.

Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) conquered his demons for a third win at the Tour of Flanders and a huge boost in his confidence heading into next weekend's Paris-Roubaix. We profiled Boonen's Specialized S-Works Tarmac SL4 just recently so we won't repeat ourselves here but it's still worth noting that this now marks the fifth win in a row at Flanders for the big 'S' and the first for SRAM's new Red group.

Just behind was Filippo Pozzato in second – his best finish yet – aboard M Cipollini's radical RB1000 machine while Alessandro Ballan rode his TeamMachine BMC SLR01 to complete the podium.

New gear was seemingly sparse in the pits this year but we still spotted some new carbon tubular wheels from Shimano. Measuring roughly 50mm in depth, the new wheels mark a new design direction for Shimano with their wide-section rims and distinctly rounder profile than in years past. We'd heard rumblings that Shimano is making a serious push towards improving wheel aerodynamics and this looks to be the first step.

Hubs look to have improved, too, with wider flange spacing front and rear for improved side-to-side stiffness and straight-pull spokes that are more easily accessed if one needs replacing. Also carrying over is Shimano's indexed cup-and-cone adjustable bearing system.

We're not terribly excited about the hidden nipples, though. While they certainly require a smaller rim hole – thus minimizing any reduction in strength due to drilling – it'll still make for a rough time in case the wheel needs to be trued.

Enjoy this gallery from the start of this year's Ronde van Vlaanderen but rest assured this is only half of the bunch – the rest will come tomorrow.

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