Tubular tyres are usually the choice of pro cyclists, even in the most demanding conditions, but three riders from one of Britain’s top teams opted for clinchers to cope with the demands of the opening round of this year’s Premier Calendar, in a race billed as ‘the hell of the East’.
Team IG-Sigma Sport registered a top five finish at the Maldon Dengie Tour earlier this month, courtesy of 2009 Rás winner, Simon Richardson.
But despite nine sections of gravel roads, included by race organisers in homage to the most grueling of the Continental spring Classics, three members of the team ran conventional clincher tyres in a bid to ward off punctures.
Head of equipment, Dan Duguid, told RoadCyclingUK the race through the Essex marshes had ‘stood out’ on the calendar during pre-season planning, and the team had prepared by placing orders with Mavic and Vredestein and testing different wheel and tyre combinations.
“The first combination was fairly straightforward: we used Ksyrium SLs on standard tubes with Vredestein Fortezza Quattro TriComp tyres,” he said. “It’s more a top end winter training tyre. It’s grippy, but quite supple in the side wall. A lot of winter tyres are quite stiff and don’t roll very well. These roll similarly to a race tyre. It’s a fast tyre, but with better puncture protection.”
This year, Team IG-Sigma Sport have been equipped with Specialized Tarmac SL4s, a race machine offering little clearance for wider tyres. Despite the rough conditions of Dengie, the London-based outfit ran 23c tyres. “The clearance on 25c tyres is quite tight at the rear,” said Duguid of the SL4. “If it’s muddy, you drag everything through, which you just don’t want from a speed or a service point of view.”
“It’s a real process,” he added. “When we built the bike and saw that the 25c tyre was incredibly tight, we decided not to run it.”
The team ran a separate set of pre-race tests with front and rear wheels from different areas of Mavic’s range rather than opting for a single wheelset, and experimented with a tubular tyre having tested the Quattro clincher tyre mentioned earlier.
“The second option we tested was a Ksyrium SR tubular, which is a shallow aluminium rim with aero spokes, with a Vredestien Fortezza Pro TriComp tyre,” said Duguid.
“At the rear we had an R-Sys aluminium rim with aluminium spokes on the drive side and carbon spokes on the non-drive side. The R-Sys gives better ‘pull’, while the Ksyrium SR is an ultra reliable front wheel.”
New tyres were fitted to each set of wheels used for the race, including the spares on the car, in an effort to minimise the threat of punctures. On race day, the riders were offered the choice of the clincher or tubular set-up. Five opted for the tubular, but three chose the clincher.
“We did have a few punctures in the race,” said Duguid. “Part of the Dengie race is expecting punctures. It was quite an even split between the Quattro and the TriComp. There wasn’t one tyre that shone above the other.
“With a race like Dengie you stand so much more chance of a puncture because of all the gravel, but at least it didn’t rain: you’re twice as likely to pick up a puncture in the wet because the stones stick to the tyres.”
While the Maldon Dengie Tour represented a particular challenge, the team will continue to test and experiment with different wheel and tyre combinations throughout the season. City centre criterium races present an entirely different set of challenges to the farm tracks of the Dengie marshes, but similar consideration is required to choose the most effective rolling stock.
“In the Tour Series, if the course is tight and twisty, we might run a Ksyrium SR,” said Duguid, “but on a circuit with longer straights, we’ll run the 80mm Cosmic Carbone at the rear and possibly the front, with the option of a Cosmic Carbone Ultimate 50mm deep rim at the front.”