After Bora-Hansgrohe Wilco Kelderman apportioned part of the blame for losing 10 minutes on Stage 9 of the Giro d'Italia to his disc brakes, his bike and wheel sponsors, Specialized and Roval, have rejected his claims.
Kelderman finished 33rd and lost 10:53 on the stage's ascent of the Blockhaus, but he was already on the back foot before the slopes began. The Dutchman was forced to stop twice on the prior descent from the Passo Lanciano to change his bike, one of which was reportedly due to a broken spoke.
After the stage, a frustrated Kelderman claimed that the broken spoke was caused by heat generated by his disc brakes.
"On the descent of the penultimate climb, I broke a spoke from my wheel. I think the disc brakes get very hot and those spokes then get warm," Kelderman explained to Dutch outlet AD (opens in new tab). "They just collapsed because of the pressure, because it was a very fast descent."
Kelderman's bike is fitted with disc brakes from the Shimano Dura-Ace R9200 range, and the spoke in question is part of the Alpinist CLX II wheelset from Roval, a subsidiary brand of Specialized, who also happen to supply Bora-Hansgrohe's bikes, helmets, and shoes.
In response to the complaints, a spokesperson for Roval has rejected the claims.
"We’re in close contact with the team and it appears a significant impact broke a spoke requiring a wheel change," Chris Wehan, category leader for Roval, told Cyclingnews. "The broken spoke was on the drive side, brake heat is not an issue and was not involved.
"The team confirmed he had hit something," reiterated Kelly Henningsen, global PR and media relations leader at Specialized.
According to Wehan, the broken spoke was caused by an intentional design consideration that sees force from impacts deflected away from the rims towards the hub.
"We design wheels as a complete system, so that when our riders do encounter a significant impact, that force is transferred down the rim away from the tire/rim pressure vessel, and to the spoke bed and spokes. This ensures the structural integrity of the wheel system and allows our riders to come to a complete and safe stop, for a wheel change."
The launch of the new wheels marked a reversion to the tubeless narrative for the Roval and Specialized brands after they were forced to go back to the drawing board in 2020.
Just months before the intended launch of the original Rapide CLX and Alpinist CLX, Peter Sagan, riding for Bora-Hansgrohe at the time, damaged a wheel during training, causing the tyre to self-remove.
Despite the wheels having already passed the necessary safety tests, Roval and Specialized say they were unhappy to take the risk that this could happen to a consumer, and instead made the surprising move to market the wheels as 'inner tubes only'.
After a redesign that seemingly includes the aforementioned deflection of impact force, Roval is now confident that the second iteration is safe to use.
Stage 9 was eventually won by Kelderman's teammate Jai Hindley, who was aboard the very same bike, groupset and wheel setup as the Dutchman.
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Josh has been with us as Senior Tech Writer since the summer of 2019 and throughout that time he's covered everything from buyer's guides and deals to the latest tech news and reviews. On the bike, Josh has been riding and racing for over 15 years. He started out racing cross country in his teens back when 26-inch wheels and triple chainsets were still mainstream, but he found favour in road racing in his early 20s, racing at a local and national level for Team Tor 2000. He's always keen to get his hands on the newest tech, and while he enjoys a good long road race, he's much more at home in a local criterium.