A long time coming even before it was postponed, Paris-Roubaix Femmes is finally upon us. Giving the women’s peloton its own Saturday in Hell, whoever makes it across the line at the Roubaix velodrome first will secure themselves a premier spot on what is guaranteed to become one of the most contested roll calls in cycling.
With monumental wins at the Ronde van Vlaanderen and Liège-Bastogne-Liège behind her, Lizzie Deignan would appear to be a rider in with a solid opportunity of getting her name down early. Ahead of the race, we got to check out her custom-built Trek Domane in the spec with which it will take on the 116 km long race.
Based around Trek’s well-proven Domane platform, this features ISO speed decouplers which allow both seatpost and fork to flex independently of the rest of the bike. Letting it isolate its rider from shocks, this is sure to be a boon on the race’s notorious cobbles.Already a winner in the men’s race, as radical as the bike is Deignan's choice of a single front chainring. Opting for a single 50t chainring on the front, this is paired to Sram’s wide-ratio cassette that begins with a tiny 10t sprocket and looks to extend up to what we assume is 33t. Offering 12 sequential gears and electronic shifting, it’s a system that manages to provide the range normally afforded by twin chainring set-ups, but with easier shifting and fewer components.
Given the danger of swapping positions on the bars during the hurly burly of the race’s most contested sectors, it’s unsurprising to see supplementary remote shifters on the top of the bars complementing the tabs behind each brake lever. However, more unusual is that these appear to have been glued rather than strapped into place.Ensuring the bike’s chain stays locked in place over the cobbles, a K-Edge chain retainer also watches over the front of the drivetrain.
Tubeless tyres straight off the shelf
With rain threatening to exacerbate conditions on what is already a fearsome course, Deignan’s whole set-up aims to provide maximum utility from a minimum number of components. This approach appears to also extend to the wheels. A race that’s notoriously hard on both bikes and riders, an ill-timed puncture has decided more than a few editions of the men’s version.
It’s perhaps for this reason that Deignan has elected to use tubeless rather than tubular tyres. Fitted to Bontrager’s Aeolus RSL wheels, Deignan has gone off-brand by opting to use Pirelli’s P-Zero Race TLR tyres. Appearing to be the same models available to consumers, it follows Julian Alaphilippe’s use of conventional clinchers and latex tubes at the recent World Championships.However, in comparison, Deignan’s 30c wide tyres appear to be set up tubeless. Drastically cutting the likelihood of pinch punctures, assuming her mechanic is following the instructions, they’ll have been fitted with sealant inside that could also fix punctures before all the air escapes the tyres.
Likely a good bit heavier than traditional but more esoteric glue-on tubulars, assumedly the benefits in terms of reliability are now thought to outweigh the penalties in terms of weight and rolling resistance.At the front of the bike, Deignan opts for a conventional bar and stem combo with simple external cable routing. Slammed right onto the headset cover, support at the other end of the bike is provided by Bontrager’s Ajna Comp cut-out saddle.
Part of the powerful Trek-Segafredo squad, its riders have spent the last week extensively reconnoitring the route and experimenting with their equipment. We’ll know if they’ve found the perfect combination on Saturday.
Update – Saturday 2nd October 23:05 CET: They did. Congratulations Lizzie Deignan