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103rd Paris-Roubaix - PT
France, April 10, 2005
The bikes of Hell - the weird, the conservative and the 'courageous'
Part two - Discovery Channel and T-Mobile
No other race hammers bikes like Paris-Roubaix and no other race showcases the inventive solutions that manufacturers and mechanics come up with to try and help their riders get across the line in the Roubaix velodrome. Gerard Knapp takes a look at the bikes that will carry the hopes of Discovery Channel and T-Mobile riders.
Discovery rolls out suspension Treks
Helping big George Hincapie from the Discovery team seemingly float over the cobbles on Sunday will be a new Trek bike that uses a suspension insert fitted at the top of the seatstays.
Although the rear triangle is not actually articulated on any kind of pivot, it's expected the OCLV chainstays will flex enough to take the edge of the nastiest cobbles, while not detracting from the power the riders put into the pedals.
This piece of 'back-to-the-future' experimentation by the American bicycle maker was perhaps the most outrageous aspect of otherwise standard Paris-Roubaix machinery.
The wheels featured standard box-section rims from Bontrager, laced with 36 spokes, running 25mm tubulars that at least said 'Hutchinson' on the sidewall, even if Stijn Devolder's very traditional looking rubber - the old herringbone pattern tubular - didn't seem to have any identifiable maker.
Hincapie churns over big 175mm cranks from the Shimano Dura-Ace 10-speed group, with the SPD-SL pedals rounding out what looked like a quite standard component set, except for the Ultegra seatpost. It's interesting how this race can have the mechanics diving into the parts bin in search of something that says, "I'm unbreakable."
Erik's favourite gets another shot at the cobbles
If using one layer of cloth handlebar tape and no gloves was good enough for legendary hard-man Walter Godefroot, then at least Erik Zabel maintains the tradition by not bothering with two layers of handlebar tape himself.
On the other hand, he did request a special frame from Giant, as - oddly enough - he wanted something that was a bit more "nervous" than the standard Giant bikes that will be used by the team on Sunday. A T-Mobile mechanic said that Zabel's Classics favourite was made from aluminium, not carbon, as he wanted the top tube to be slightly shorter than standard.
Why a rider would want a faster steering bike on the cobbles could only be explained by one of the top riders in world cycling for over a decade, but unfortunately, he wasn't around when these pictures were taken.
His team-mate Stefen Wesemann, perhaps haunted by memories of mud fouling up components (okay, his pedals) and therefore his chances in previous editions of Paris-Roubaix when he was clearly one of the strongest riders in the field, does plan for the worst with his special machine.
Most noticeably, he has had cyclo-cross cantilever brakes fitted front and rear to a Giant that also has additional clearance between the rear wheel and the seat-tube, unlike the tiny gap on Zabel's bike (in fact, the gap is so close on Zabel's machine that the paint had been rubbed off after he used it the previous weekend in the Tour of Flanders).
Wesemann's machine uses a Deda Newton bar and stem, with the latter drilled out to accommodate the front brake cable of the cantilever brake. Up front, Wesemann does go for two layers of bar tape, while at the rear, the cantilever brake is simply mounted to a standard Giant road frameset. The fork may have come from a 'cross bike, but the rest of the bike was definitely a road machine.
For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here
Images by Gerard Knapp/Cyclingnews.com