The ‘Hell of the North’ is a fitting nickname for Paris-Roubaix. It earned its infernal subtitle after World War I, when the race took place in a war-torn landscape, but the description still matches. Its brutal parcours, the high risk of crashing and relentless jagged cobbled sectors all combine to make it one of the most difficult races on the calendar.
To make things even more challenging for the riders, and more riveting for us watching at home, the cobbles of Roubaix are slowly infiltrating in to other races, most notably the Tour de France in 2022. On stage five, the peloton will tackle 11 sectors of bone-jarring cobblestones in around 75km, a dangerous day for GC contenders.
Should they face wet weather, like we had in the 2021 edition of Paris-Roubaix, and the famed stones are greasy as the rain combines with dusty farm roads to form thick mud. Just show a photo of the faces caked in dirt, or the wounded riders fighting to reach the velodrome, to any non-cycling fan and the cobbles of Roubaix serve as proof that cycling is one of the toughest sports out there. So why make it harder than it needs to be?
In a sport where the strength and depth of the peloton is only increased each year, every small gain is worth searching for. Making a those cobblestones just a little bit more comfortable could be the difference between an emphatic victory and being disheartened in the team bus.
This is something that Italian manufacturer Prologo has cottoned on to. Ahead of the curve and in tune with the changing demands of professional races as event organisers go more off-piste when it comes to routes, be it with cobbles or gravel, Prologo has unveiled a revolutionary product in the world of cycling gloves.
Prologo’s new “Energrip” gloves use the company’s patented CPC (connect, power, control) technology, give riders enhanced grip and absorb ground vibrations. Remember Lizzie Deignan lifting her arms in victory at the inaugural Paris-Roubaix Femmes and revealing blood stained bar tape and blistered hands? She’d have probably enjoyed a much smoother ride with Energrip. The game-changing gloves allow riders to go harder and longer without experiencing the usual discomfort from storming over rough and bumpy surfaces.
The CPC technology’s 3D-printed polymers are placed strategically on the palm of the glove to ensure that vibrations transmitted from the bike to the body are absorbed before they transfer that bone-jarring feeling to the rider. It’s proven, too, with electromyography studies showing that the Energrip absorbs 10 per cent more vibration than gloves with a non-CPC palm. The polymers also aid grip, allowing full control and giving more confidence to the rider while navigating tricky terrain. Add in inserts on the index finger to aid optimum braking control, and there’s no excuse to not be munching the cobbles or cruising over the gravel.
Increased padding doesn’t mean extra bulk, however. Cooling channels inside the glove reduce heat and sweat, while a nylon and polyester mesh back provides insulation for colder weather. This combination means that Prologo’s Energrip gloves are made for variable conditions – be it riding up a climb or facing wind chill on the descent. No need for pockets stuffed with a spare pair of gloves.
Worn by Bahrain Victorious, as well as Women’s WorldTour team EF-Tibco-SVB, the Energrip is one step closer to smoothing out the cobbles and rough terrain of modern racing and training. Mountain bike teams like Cannondale Factory Racing favour the gloves, too, as they provide optimum support for tough off-road conditions. It seems that Prologo’s Energrip is the perfect weapon in any rider’s armoury to conquer the rough stuff. Cobbles, let’s be having ya.