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Pro bikes, April 12, 2008

Alessandro Ballan's Lampre Wilier Triestina Paris-Roubaix Special

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Photo ©: James Huang

One-off Italian machines for Paris-Roubaix

By James Huang in Compiègne, France

The seat stay assembly was clearly borrowed
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The fork crown is also equipped
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This looks like a careless mistake, but
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Like most of the riders in Sunday's peloton
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Vittoria provides Ballan with 27mm-wide tubulars
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There are no fancy 'wheel systems' to be found here
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Not even alloy nipples make the cut here.
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Italian Lampre rider Alessandro Ballan has only been a professional since 2004 but it didn't take too long for him to leave his mark on the sport. Since racing Paris-Roubaix for the first time in his rookie year, Ballan's star has only continued to rise and he is now one of the favorites to win this year's running.

Sunday's forecast looks a bit grim and easily has the potential to make for an epic race that will stand in stark contrast to last year's near-summer conditions. Ballan looks well-prepared, though, with a one-off machine created by his team's frame sponsor, Wilier Triestina.

The nameless carbon frame is a peculiar hybrid of road and 'cross: the front triangle boasts large-diameter carbon tubes and level top tube geometry typical of road racers but the seat stay assembly is clearly borrowed from a different genre. Threaded cantilever brake post bosses are still visible there, although they're located on the underside of the tubes, indicating that the assembly has been flipped over relative to its originally intended orientation. That juxtaposition nets Ballan some much-needed tire clearance for Sunday's anticipated mud, although the increased clearance requires the team to tap into the rival sponsor bin of Shimano for long-reach (and surprisingly inexpensive) dual-pivot brake calipers.

Up front, the carbon fork appears to use standard-length road blades but special dropouts create a bit more room between the tire and fork crown. As a result, another set of long-reach Shimano calipers can be found here, too.

Much of Ballan's equipment is likewise custom-tailored for use on the pavé, in particular the wheelset. Standard 32-hole Campagnolo Record hubs are laced with straight-gauge stainless steel spokes in a classic three-cross pattern to box-section aluminum tubular rims. While the spokes aren't tied-and-soldered as we've seen on many occasions at the 'Hell of the North', team mechanics wisely opt for more reliable brass spoke nipples instead of lighter alloy.

Ballan's Lampre team is sponsored by Vittoria, who has provided him with giant 27mm-wide Special Pavé TT tubulars that should not only provide a bit more cushion over the cobbles but also a little more grip as well. We've ridden similarly wide tires on Stuart O'Grady's (CSC) Paris-Machine from last year and can say firsthand that their ride and level are grip are fantastic indeed.

Other small touches include double-wrapped handlebar tape, a single top-mounted brake lever and a little bit of drivetrain insurance in the form of a plastic chain watcher mounted to the seat tube. Not surprisingly, Ballan's cockpit is fitted with the aluminum versions of Ritchey's WCS line; no carbon to be found here. The rest of Ballan's spec includes the usual Campagnolo Record equipment although gearing is suitably adjusted with a 53/46T combination up front and a relatively tight 11-23T cluster in back.

What will Sunday bring? Ballan will certainly hope conditions stay dry but Paris-Roubaix weather is notoriously unpredictable so it's impossible to say. Regardless, he has already shown that he has the form to win.


For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by James Huang/Cyclingnews.com

Full specification

Frame: Wilier Paris-Roubaix special
Fork: Wilier Paris-Roubaix special

Critical measurements
Rider's height: 1.9m (6' 3") ; Weight: 72kg (159lb)
Seat tube length, c-c: 540mm
Seat tube length, c-t: 592mm
Top tube length: 580mm (horizontal)
Saddle height, from BB (c-t): 820mm
Saddle nose tip to C of bars: 628mm
C of front hub to top of bars: 575mm

Front brake: Shimano BR-A550 long-reach w/Campagnolo brake pads
Rear brake: Shimano BR-A550 long-reach w/Campagnolo brake pads
Levers: Campagnolo Record QS Ergopower 10 Speed "Red"
Front derailleurs: Campagnolo Chorus QS 10s
Rear derailleurs: Campagnolo Record
Cassette: Campagnolo Record 10s steel/titanium, 11-23T
Chain: Campagnolo Record Ultra Narrow
Crankset: Campagnolo Record Ultra-Torque, 175mm, 46/53T (Stronglight inner ring)
Bottom bracket: Campagnolo Record Ultra-Torque


Rims: Mavic Reflex tubular
Hubs: Campagnolo Record, 32-hole
Spokes: Stainless steel, 14g straight, three-cross, w/brass nipples
Tyres: Vittoria Special Pavé TT tubular, 27mm

Bars: Ritchey WCS Classic Road, 42cm (c-c)
Stem: Ritchey WCS 4Axis, 130mm x -6°
Headset: Ritchey WCS integrated
Tape/grip: White cork, double wrapped

Pedals: Look KeO Carbon
Seat post: Ritchey WCS alloy
Saddle: Selle Italia SLR
Bottle cages: Tacx Tao
Computer: Garmin Edge

Total bike weight: 8.4kg (18.5lb)