Classics Time

February 26, 2010
Cold, rain, mud, cobbles – not the sort of environment most cyclists look forward to. But this is my favorite part of the cycling calendar, both to ride outside myself and to watch as a fan. And since we started the TestTeam, it is also the busiest period for testing, because what better place to test products than in bad weather on bad roads. The past four days we had around a dozen partners join the team at our Belgian base to test new prototypes with the riders. I’ve never seen so many new products in one spot, and “luckily” the weather cooperated by swinging from beautiful to nasty and back with regularity.

Of course we also had the next version of the superlight frame there, with some lay-up changes based in part on Thor’s feedback from last months tests, and so we continue to improve that frame and learn for the future. We also did some good work on new tires and tire pressure optimization, the key to a good ride in Flanders and Roubaix.But it all starts with the Omloop Het Volk (or Nieuwsblad) this Saturday. Last year Thor won it, the first ever cobblestones win on an aero bike. For years we were told the aero bikes couldn’t be ridden on the cobbles, we knew this was mostly a mental issue but those are often the most difficult to overcome. New team, new riders, no preconceived notions, and in the end almost all riders rode the S2 on all cobblestone races except Paris-Roubaix. There they rode the RS for more tire clearance. This year will be similar, except that they will mostly ride the S3, with some opting for the R3sl and then the R3 for Roubaix.

What to expect on the racing side? The win in the team classification at Qatar – which despite its high temperatures and exotic locations is a good barometer for these Belgian races – showed the TestTeam is strong again, but for most riders the goals lie a little further into the future than this weekend. Most pundits seem to list Quickstep and Cervelo as the teams to watch here, but I think one should not overlook Sky and Saxobank. They will be very strong in the Spring Classics (well, throughout the year really). Sky will have a blazing start just like we had last year, it’s amazing what happens when you put talented riders in a new, fresh environment. It just brings them to life. And of course Saxobank has an extremely talented line-up of riders, with Cancellara, O’Grady and Breschel to name but three, so they will be a force to be reckoned with. Toss in Lotto and it should make for some exciting racing. Now let’s just hope for some real Flemish weather and let the racing begin.

In the meantime, I’ll go for a few training rides myself this weekend to get ready for the first TestTeamTravel events. Just like last year, I promise people I will ride the Classics with them as an incentive for myself to start training. Last year this didn’t really work, and I ended up doing the Flanders cyclosportive and the Roubaix course with next-to-no training. They were both amazing trips, but I still remember how I felt afterwards, so this year I am a little more committed to the training part. So far …

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