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The Cobbled Classics: Talking all things tires

6. April 2018 — BMC Racing Team Stories
BMC Racing Team Stories

Weather, race clothing, and tire pressure. Three of the guaranteed topics of conversation at the rider dinner table during the classics.

The cobbled classics are almost over but the queen of the classics is yet to come. At 256.3km, with 29 cobbled sectors totalling 54.5km of the course, Paris-Roubaix is as mythical as they come. The names Carrefour de l’Arbre, Trouée d’Arenberg and Mons-en-Pévèle are famous for their brutality and with that brutality comes bad luck and the need for the best equipment.

Punctures and mechanical problems can make or break a race which is why BMC Racing Team’s performance team has worked closely with Vittoria Tires to make sure Greg Van Avermaet and his teammates have the best tires possible for tackling the cobbles and the normal roads come Sunday.

Rubber Side Down: the Vittoria Corsa Control

Keeping things rubber side down on the cobbles can be a challenge. Just count the number of crashes during the classics. With this in mind, Vittoria released the Corsa Control tire late in the 2017 season as a tire specifically designed for the cobbled classics.

Vittoria Marketing Executive Cristian Bellini explains why the Corsa Control is the best option for the BMC Teammachine at Paris-Roubaix.

“Whether the competition is held on cobble stones, in rainy or slippery conditions, or on rough and poor road conditions, the Corsa Control is designed specifically for such purposes. Using the finest 320 TPI CoreSpun-K casing with aramid reinforcement as well as a thicker tread, this new tire is every competitive rider’s best bet to face such challenges and come out ahead unscathed.”

“Stronger and more puncture-protected than ever, the Corsa Control still offers the flexible casing and 4 compound-tread to offer the best performance in speed, grip, durability and puncture protection.”

From the lab to the cobbles

BMC Racing Team is always looking for ways to improve performance which often comes down to equipment, BMC Racing Team Head of Performance, David Bailey said.

“Since the beginning of our relationship with Vittoria we have collaborated on a number of projects to better understand the optimal performance of their tires with our specific bike set-up for different races. During this period, we combined rolling resistance testing, both in the lab and on the road, with their own product development process plus feedback from our riders to produce the Corsa Control tire specifically for the cobbled classics.”

“From the first use it was clear this tire meets our requirements for these technical races providing excellent grip and comfort without increased rolling resistance and with fewer punctures.”

Feeling the pressure?

With the tire choice made easy by Vittoria, the next question from a rider to their mechanic is always going to be about tire pressure. BMC Racing Team Head Mechanic Jean-Marc Vandenberghe explains the importance of tire pressure in the cobbles.

How important is tire pressure?

“Tire pressure is really important for the riders’ performance because you need to find a balance between a pressure that will be good on the normal pavement and the cobbles. You need to be comfortable on the cobbles, but you also need to keep the rolling resistance because the majority of any race is normal roads. So we are not only thinking about the cobbles when we decide the tire pressure for the classics.”

How does rider weight affect tire pressure?

“Tire pressure also depends on the weight of the rider. If you have a guy of 60kg, we would use a half bar less than normal, or if you have a tall rider of 80kg, we may use a half bar more. But we try to find the balance between what the riders want and what our leader Greg Van Avermaet has, because it is also important that if the other riders need to give him a wheel, he is not then riding with one bar more or less than normal.”

No two classics are the same in terms of the parcours. How does this change the tire pressure?

“In Gent-Wevelgem, we ran a higher tire pressure because the riders only raced on the Kemmelberg twice and it wasn’t very long, and because of the gravel zones, the Plugstreets, where you can run a normal tire pressure. The average tire pressure for Tour of Flanders was around 6 bars in the front and 6.2 bars in the back, which is around one bar lower than Gent-Wevelgem. For Paris-Roubaix, most riders will have 5 bars in the front and 5.3 bars in the back which is more suited to the parcours and the tricky cobble sectors.”

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