The days before Tour of Flanders are typically spent with mechanics carefully gluing fresh tubulars to rims but the odour of mastic will not be wafting the the Deceuninck-QuickStep compound this season as the Belgian squad have broken with tradition and will race the Ronde on clinchers.
After a reconnaissance of the famed Tour of Flanders cobbled climbs near Oudenaarde on Friday, Deceuninck-Quickstep opted to go with similar clinchers to what Julian Alaphilippe rode to his Tour de France stage win in Epernay last year, the Specialized Turbo Cotton - but in the Hell of the North model that is 28mm wide.
Alaphilippe is one of the major favourites to win the Tour of Flanders this season after making the winning breakaway in 2020 only to crash out when he hit a race motorbike.
"After one 'transition' year of testing, and with already several years racing clinchers in TT as the fastest option, in 2021 we decided to move forward with clinchers for all types of racing," Ricardo Scheidecker, Technical and Development Manager for Deceuninck-QuickStep said in a Specialized press release on Saturday.
"Based on the data we have collected from extensive testing, we arrived to the level of being very comfortable with our choice knowing that we have the fastest setups, even for the demanding Cobbles Classics. Clinchers are part of the future in terms of performance and the combination with the new generation of Roval wheels is perfect. Our staff and riders involved in this process are very happy and pleased with the work developed together with Specialized to achieve this path."
Specialized-sponsored teams Bora-Hansgrohe and Deceuninck-Quickstep announced in January they would race on clinchers except for the Classics, where tubulars have been most desired for their ability to be run at lower tyre pressures, softening the ride over the cobblestones and still being rideable after a puncture.
Alaphilippe was spotted training with the Turbo Cotton on Friday, using the tyre with a 320TPI polycotton casing and "exclusive Gripton compound and BlackBelt puncture protection".
It won't be the first time that clinchers will be used in the Tour of Flanders; Alexander Kristoff was on Vittoria Corsa tubeless clinchers when he raced to third place in the 2019 edition behind winner Alberto Bettiol. But he later regretted his choice after suffering numerous punctures in Paris-Roubaix that year.
Deceuninck-QuickStep will be using Roval Rapide CLX wheels, which, if they're using stock wheels, are not tubeless compatible. They'll likely run the Turbo Cotton with latex tubes, which also offer lower rolling resistance than lightweight butyl inner tubes.
Specialized claims the Turbo Cotton provides a 20 per cent decrease in rolling resistance and 15 per cent drop in damping when compared with other tyres designed for the cobbles.
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