Single-ring road bikes will be raced in the pro peloton for the first time in 2018. The Irish pro road team Aqua Blue Sport will compete on the 3T Strada, an aero disc-brake road bike notable for its absence of a front derailleur, 3T announced the news at Interbike.
Aqua Blue Sport is UCI Professional Continental Team, not a top-level WorldTour team. Still, the team's planned use of a 1x road bike for competition will be a landmark in pro cycling.
Some racers, such as former world time trial champion Tony Martin, have used 1x drivetrains in races against the clock, but 1x bikes for mass-start racing has thus far been limited to the frays of cyclo-cross and gravel.
The 3T is a unique road bike that combines a few trends: wider tires (it can handle up to 28mm), aero shaping, hydraulic disc brakes and a single chainring paired to a wide-range cassette.
As for brakes, there is no rim-caliper Strada. It's a disc-only machine.
"We at Aqua Blue Sport are very much attracted to innovation and people who are moving cycling forward. What Gerard Vroomen and 3T have designed is truly a step forward bicycle design. We are delighted to bring this bike to the professional ranks and ride it in the world's biggest events," said Aqua Blue Sport owner Rick Delaney.
Aside from racing the bikes, the team will also become an online retailer of the 3T Strada and other 3T products at www.aquabluesport.com. The site will help fund the team.
Gerard Vroomen, 3T's co-owner and former Cervelo co-founder, said the Aqua Blue Sport team is a good partner for 3T.
"Aqua Blue Sport is doing something different and that is exciting. We watched Aqua Blue Sport's successes on the roads with victories at the US National Championships, the Tour of Austria and La Vuelta," Vroomen said. "Even more importantly, they recognize that the pro-cycling business model has to change and their innovative new funding model is a great idea."
3T will make an Aqua Blue Sport Edition Strada that the team begin racing in January.
Disc brakes and single rings in the pro peloton
The UCI posted the 3T Strada on its list of approved frames and forks in August.
Disc brakes have been a contentious issue for two seasons within the WorldTour peloton. Initial trials in the early part of the 2016 season were stopped following an injury to Movistar rider Fran Ventoso in April.
However, following the hiatus, the trial continued and the 2017 season saw the first victories occur on disc-brake bikes. Tom Boonen (Quick-Step Floors) took victory at Vuelta a San Juan, followed by Marcel Kittel (Quick-Step Floors) winning at the Dubai Tour.
Kittel went on to take the first Grand Tour stage victory on disc brakes.
This year's Tour de France prologue also saw Tony Martin (Katusha-Alpecin) complete the prologue on a single chainring drivetrain, but the design has not been seen on road bikes in the modern era.