oneeightthree – aieghttech – long term test bike pt.2 – S-Works SL6
After riding the Flanders Cyclo-sportive on the Saturday we were excited to see the Pro’s race the real deal on Sunday – Thanks to our friend at KBC we lucky enough to get the chance to do it in style…
We woke up only slightly later on the Sunday and jumped back in the car to Antwerp for breakfast, to see some bikes and there riders. Driving through the beautiful streets of the start city we were amazed at just how well organised everything is – before we knew it we were on the shuttle to the Team’s Start/Parking area and then getting up close to all the coolest kit.
Out of all the teams, Quick Step run the most similar bike to mine – there are rumours that one or two riders have fully custom lay-ups, but the majority of #thewolfpack were definitely running the same Ultralight S-Works Tarmac SL6 as you or I can buy in the shop (unless you’re lucky enough to borrow one). They also use identical Roval carbon clincher wheelsets to mine for training on, but for the race the mechanics prepare the tubular version – both wheels feature Ceramicspeed bearings like mine.
The team were all running the Dura-Ace crank, some with the Specialized branded 4i powermeter and some with the Shimano version – some opted for no power at all so I’m guessing they’re still testing options out. Officially the team are sponsored by Pro for finishing kit but I saw quite a mix of S-Works equipment and Pro bits, which probably has more to do with the riders individual bike fit than anything – the blue K-Edge chain catchers and Garmin mounts made the bikes look super neat and as Niki Terpstra, Philippe Gilbert and Yves Lampaert head off to sign-on they had the look of a team which were about to go and get the job done.
Specialized has also set about getting to work on an already great bike in 2018 – The “rider-first” sizing means that the Tarmac is 20% lighter than the previous version across all sizes. The paint weighs in at 10 grams and the whole FACT 12R frame ends up at 733g. Ceramicspeed bearings are used throughout by both factory male teams, on the Boels-Dolman womens team and on the customer S-Works bike. Integrated dual-mounted brakes make everything super stiff and may be one of the reasons why riders like Sagan have opted for the non-disc version.
Bora-Hansgrohe’s K-Edge mounts were clutching onto Wahoo computers which were again mostly linked up to the new Dura-Ace crank with a Specialized-branded powermeter – interestingly on Sagans bike there was some kind of sensor on his front Roval wheel which looked like it could be an integrated speed sensor (but I also wondered if it might be a data logger for measuring something wheel/tyre based – a rep from Spesh told me that it’s common for them to fit sensors to athletes bikes instead of brass weights so they can learn as much as possible). He was also running cable operated gears and brakes rather than Di2 or discs – it’s odd as the di2 front mech definitely works better on the rough stuff as I’ve found on the ‘cross bike, so it must just be personal preference.
One thing that really impressed me was the way Sagan took time before the start to talk to fans – one lady stood there for half an hour with a World-Champ hat and a pen and quietly I wondered if it might be in vain, but when the team emerged from the bus Sagan walked straight up to her and started chatting before taking selfies with just about everyone there – in comparison another rider who I’ve always liked, looked straight through a fan who was after an autograph on a jersey and then disappeared into his camper. I’ve not always been Sagan’s biggest fan but I realised then why people love him so much.
As the riders headed off to the Start in downtown Antwerp we jumped back in the car for the trip down past Oudenaarde to Ronse. To give an idea of the speeds involved I rode from Antwerp to Zottegem in just under three hours the previous day, in the car it had taken over an hour on the motorway, but the pro peloton covered the distance in just a little over 1.5 hours at a staggering 46.6km/hour. It made my 30km/hour look like I wasn’t trying! Once they were down to the hellingen they set about ripping each other to bits.
We saw the male race come past at the western end of the Hotond before walking down to the eastern end to see the women’s race which had been kept equally fast by some great Boels-Dolmans teamwork. Just before we saw them Anna van der Breggan had made her decisive attack on the Kruisberg on the way out of Ronse and made short work of the 21km home from there via the Oude-Kwaremont and the Paterberg. Unfortunately the women’s race didn’t seem to get any airtime as we retired back to the KBC tent to watch the action on the big screen, but the men’s race was now in full flow on the slopes of the Muur-Kapelmuur, being led by Tiesj Benoot.
Next up the riders headed for the finishing loop proper with riders chasing down the early break – two Dutch riders and the Danish champ, Mads Pederson got the best jump on the rest of the bunch before Nibali tried to get across and then Niki Terpstra counter attacked on the Kruisberg pretty much in front of us. Terpstra made it neatly across the gap and only Mads Pederson could go with him on the Oude Kwaremont, albeit a few seconds behind and crucially missing the slipstream. The first Dutch winner for 32 years never looked back from the Paterberg to the finish, but impressively Pedeson didn’t give in either to score 2nd place in his first attempt at the race. Last year’s winner, Philippe Gilbert, out sprinted the rest in to finish 3rd, making it two Tarmac SL6’s on the men’s podium and two in the women’s too – Great work from Boels-Dolmans and #thewolfpack.
Thanks again to Wildside and Specialized UK for the bike support and to Helly Hansen and Lazer for the kit. Massive thank-you again to Wim at KBC for driving us countless miles – his local knowledge got us to the perfect places for the sportive and the race and he really made us feel welcome in Flanders. Watch out for some more technical blogs to follow on some mods that I have planned over the next few months.
Photos by Glen Whittington.
Glen rides for the.æight.bicycle.cøllective and Southborough & District Wheelers. He races mountain bikes, road bikes, TT and ‘cross at local and national level and is currently racing his 15th season. He receives personal support from Helly Hansen, the.æight.bicycle.cøllective, Wildside Cycles, Four4th Lights , VeeTireCo and CeramicSpeed.
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