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Tour Tech: Climbing wheels for the queen stage of the 2012 Tour de France

  • By Caley Fretz
  • Published Jul. 12, 2012

TOUSSUIRE, France (VN) — With standard-issue pro bikes sitting at or near the 6.8kg (14.99lb) UCI weight limit, even with deep, aerodynamic wheels, riders no longer have a need to make wholesale bike or component swaps for days in the mountains. Drilled or one-off components and riders swapping to extra-light frames at the base of a big climb are mostly a thing of the past.

The emphasis, instead, has turned to reducing rotating weight while keeping bikes right at the weight limit. That means when the road turns up, wheels are the first to slim down. With complete wheelsets often weighing in within spitting distance of 1100 grams, mechanics often have to add weight elsewhere.

The methods vary: expander plugs usually used for carbon fork steerers can be loaded up with weights and shoved in hollow bottom bracket spindles; heavier, second-tier cassettes can be used instead of high-end versions; carbon bottle cages can be swapped out for aluminum or steel versions. Mechanics focus on keeping the weight low on the bike for a minor improvement in handling, and keeping it largely stationary to keep the moment of inertia as low as possible.

Using these methods, riders can use the lightest wheels available to them. Here’s a look at what they picked.

The big three

Shimano, not traditionally a wheel giant, has pushed hard in the last two years to put its drivetrain-sponsored teams on its wheels as well. Sky, Euskaltel-Euskadi, Orica-GreenEdge, Argos-Shimano, FDJ-Big Mat, and Rabobank are all on Shimano wheels at the Tour, putting the Japanese company well in the lead in the sponsor count.

Teams are mostly on Shimano’s C24 rim, built up to either old Dura-Ace 7900 hubs or the new Dura-Ace 9000 version. Shimano isn’t planning to sell the most common iteration here at the Tour: a C24 tubular rim, laced with 16 front spokes and 20 rear to a Dura-Ace 9000 hub. The company will sell a clincher and a carbon clincher C24 next year, but no tubular.

A few riders on each team chose the slightly deeper, slightly heavier, and slightly more aerodynamic C35 tubulars, which will be sold with the new Dura-Ace 9000 group next year. The top riders from each Shimano-sponsored team picked the C24’s, though.

Orica, oddly, is using the deeper and wider Dura-Ace 9000 C50 exclusively.

French manufacturer Mavic, whose headquarters in Annecy is only 40km from the start of Thursday’s big stage, follows Shimano. Liquigas-Cannondale, Katusha, and Garmin-Sharp are all on Mavic wheels, using the carbon-spoked Cosmic Carbon Ultimate sets almost exclusively in the mountains.

All the team Cosmics are labeled “Special Service Course.” Mavic selects the lightest to come off the line and hands them over to its pro teams, marking them with this sticker.

A few select riders get the special all-carbon R-Sys Ultimate, which uses the same carbon spokes as the regular R-Sys wheels but pairs them to carbon hubshells and shallow, box-section carbon rims. Nobody has let us weigh a set yet, but we’ve been told they come very close to 1000 grams. Sylvester Szmyd of Liquigas and Yuri Trofimov were both on sets on Thursday, and Ryder Hesjedal won the Giro on the same wheels in May.

Campagnolo also sponsors three teams at the Tour, with Movistar, Lotto-Belisol, and Europcar all rolling on its wheels. The climbing wheel of choice is the Hyperon Ultra 2, a 1230-gram, ultra-low-profile tubular wheel with classic construction. Just about every member of all three squads was on the Hyperon on Thursday.

Slightly smaller players

Zipp and French manufacturer Corima both sponsor two squads. Saxo and Omega Pharma are both on Zipp, splitting between the 35mm 202 wheels and the 45mm 303 Firecrests.

The top GC rider on both squads — Levi Leipheimer on Omega and Chris Anker Sorensen on Saxo — had 202s mounted up before Thursday’s stage, while most of their teams were on the deeper, more aerodynamic 303.

Corima sponsors Astana and Saur-Sojasun with its wild-looking Viva MCC ‘S,’ which uses a 24mm carbon rim paired with carbon spokes that slot into an aluminum hub shell. A few riders were using the Winium +, which uses the same rim but with more normal aluminum hub and spokes.

Easton sponsors only one team at the Tour, but it’s a rather big one. BMC rides the EC90 SLX in the mountains, and every rider had a pair mounted up Thursday morning. The low-profile wheels sit just below 1200 grams.

Reynolds offers its sole squad AG2R two different options for the big mountain days. The first is a classically constructed, 32mm carbon rimmed wheel called the Thirty Two. At less than 1100 grams, these are the lightest Reynolds offer. The second option is Reynold’s more technically advanced RZR 46, which mates a 46mm carbon rim with carbon spokes and a carbon hub. Riders on AG2R were split evenly between the two different sets.

American Classic sponsors the French Cofidis squad, and seven of its eight remaining riders were on the 38, a 38mm carbon tubular. The remaining rider, Rein Taaramae, used a pair of Mag300 wheels, which use an ultra-light magnesium rim. We don’t have a weight for them, but based on known hub and spoke weights and our assumption that the rim weighs near 300 grams, they seem likely to come in around 1100 grams, similar to the 38’s, but offering up the much better braking of a metallic brake surface.

Last, but certainly not least, is FFWD and its Vacansoleil squad. Riders picked a wide mix of FFWD for Thursday’s stage, but the true climbing wheel is the F2R.

Climbing wheels of the Tour

Shimano Dura-Ace C24 tubular

1250 grams (claimed)

24mm deep tubular carbon rim, laced to new or old Dura-Ace hub

Teams on them: Sky, FDJ, Rabobank, Euskaltel, Argos, Orica

Notable riders: Bradley Wiggins, Chris Froome (Sky); Sandy Casar, Thibault Pinot (FDJ); Robert Gesink, Laurens Ten Dam (Rabobank)

Shimano C50 tubular

1450 grams (claimed)

50mm deep, 24mm wide rim laced to new Dura-Ace 9000 hub

Teams on them: Orica for the mountain stages, every Shimano squad for flat and rolling stages

Mavic Cosmic Carbone Ultimate

1190 grams

40mm deep carbon tubular rim, carbon spokes, carbon bub shell and flanges

Teams on them: Liquigas, Katusha, Garmin

Notable riders: Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas); Dennis Menchov (Katusha); Christian Vande Velde, Dan Martin (Garmin)

Mavic R-Sys Ultimate

~1000 grams

30mm deep carbon tubular rim bonded to carbon tubular spokes bonded to a carbon hub shell. Unavailable to the public

Teams on them: Teams on them: Liquigas, Katusha, Garmin

Notable riders: Sylvester Szmyd (Liquigas); Christian Vande Velde or Dan Martin (Garmin)

Campagnolo Hyperon Ultra 2

1230 grams (claimed)

20mm carbon tubular rim laced to carbon Campagnolo hub shell. Uses CULT ceramic bearings.

Teams on them: Movistar, Europcar, Lotto-Belisol

Notable riders: Thomas Voeckler, Pierre Rolland (Europcar); Alejandro Valverde (Movistar); Jurgen Van den Broeck, Jelle Vanendert (Lotto)

Zipp 202

1100 grams (claimed)

32mm carbon tubular rim laced to Zipp’s 88 and 188 hubs

Teams on them: Omega Pharma-Quick Step, Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank

Notable riders: Levi Leipheimer (Omega); Chris Anker Sorensen (Saxo)

Zipp 303 Firecrest

1200 grams (claimed)

45mm carbon tubular laced to Zipp 88 and 188 hubs

Teams on them: Omega Pharma-Quick Step, Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank

Notable riders: all the domestiques on Omega and Saxo

Corima Viva MCC ‘S’

1150 grams (claimed)

24mm carbon tubular rim molded to carbon tubular spokes molded to a carbon hub shell. Spokes are in a paired pattern.

Teams on them: Astana, Saur-Sojasun

Notable riders: Jerome Coppel (Saur-Sojasun); Janez Brajkovic, Fredrik Kessiakoff (Astana)

Easton EC90 SLX

1175 grams (claimed)

25mm carbon rim laced with 18 front and 24 rear spokes to Easton’s R4SL hubs

Team on them: BMC

Notable riders: Cadel Evans (BMC)

Fulcrum Racing Light XLR

1220 grams (claimed)

20mm carbon tubular rim laced with 20 front spokes and 24 rear to carbon-shelled Fulcrum hubs.

Team on them: Lampre-ISD

Notable riders: Michele Scarponi (Lampre-ISD)

Bontrager Aeolus 3 D3

1150 grams (claimed)

35mm tall, 27mm wide carbon tubular with 18 front and 24 rear spokes

Team on them: RadioShack-Nissan

Notable riders: Fränk Schleck, Chris Horner, Andreas Klöden (RadioShack)

Reynolds Thirty-Two

1090 grams (claimed)

32mm carbon tubular, 20 front DT Aerolite spokes and 24 rear

Team on them: AG2R

Notable riders: Nicholas Roche (AG2R)

Reynolds RZR 46

1185 grams (claimed)

46mm carbon tubular rim with carbon spokes and carbon hub shell and flanges

Team on them: AG2R

Notable riders: Jean-Christophe Peraud, Christophe Riblon (AG2R).

American Classic 38

1180 grams

38mm carbon tubular rim laced to the ultra-light American Classic hubs

Team on them: Cofidis

Notable riders: Samuel Dumoulin (Cofidis)

American Classic Mag300

Unknown weight

300-gram magnesium rims, the only non-carbon rims on the road on Thursday, laced to American Classic’s ultralight hubs. Our guess is the set sits somewhere around 1100 grams, but offers up the improved braking of a metallic brake surface.

Team on them: Cofidis

Notable riders: Rein Taaramae (Cofidis) is the only rider on these wheels

FFWD F2R

20mm carbon tubular rim laced to FFWD’s hubs

Team on them: Vacansoleil

Notable riders: Johnny Hoogerland, Marco Marcato (Vacansoleil)

 

FILED UNDER: Bikes and Tech / News / Road / Tour de France TAGS: /

Caley Fretz

Caley Fretz

Tech Editor Caley Fretz can usually be found chasing races along the backroads of Europe or testing bikes and gear in the mountains outside Boulder, Colorado. If you can't find him there, check the coffee shop across from VN World Headquarters.

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