Saddles, paint, and chainrings: Tour of Flanders tech gallery

All about the bikes and tech on show at the start of De Ronde

There was a nervous buzz of energy at the start of the Tour of Flanders, first as the men’s peloton prepared for things to kick off in Antwerp, then as the women followed suit from Oudenaarde a few hours later. Each person in each team had their own job: the press officers organised media interviews, the soigneurs prepared bottles, the sports directors examined maps of the race route and the riders stayed quiet on their team buses, trying to calm the nerves. Of all the jobs to do ahead of one of the biggest races of the year, team mechanics have one of the most important.

Bikes were taken off the roofs of team cars and placed into stands outside the buses, ready for riders when they eventually would roll to the start line. The mechanics checked tyre pressures and wiped off any rain droplets from shiny frames, making sure each rider's bike was set up to their specific liking. The Tour of Flanders isn’t a race that requires as much specific technology as Paris-Roubaix which takes place a week later, but mechanics still have their work cut out for them. Tyre sizes and pressures have to be right for heading up steep bergs and rattling over cobbles and gears have to be tuned ready for hard changes under heavy load. 

Ahead of the 2024 edition of De Ronde, Rouleur had a look around the team paddock to see what bikes and equipment teams were using to take on the iconic Monument.

Mads Pedersen was using his custom painted Trek Madone SLR in a ‘red smoke’ colourway, with the Danish flag printed at the rear of the frame. The Gent-Wevelgem winner’s bike had a SRAM Red groupset with a Quarq power meter and 56/43 chainrings. Part of the SRAM ecosystem, Pedersen uses TIME XPRO 10 pedals, a Bontrager Verse Pro saddle and Bontrager Aeolus RSL wheels, which were dressed with what look to be prototype Pirelli Tubeless tyres.

In order to aid his especially aggressive aerodynamic position on the bike, Pedersen was using a Madone one-piece handlebar with TT bar tape and a negative stem, which mechanics said had a -17 degree tilt.

Both EF Education men’s and women’s teams were using Cannondale SuperSix EVO Lab71 bikes with a new a black and pink colourway to match the team’s retro special-edition Flanders jersey

Known as a rider who looks for every aero gain, breakaway-specialist Victor Campenaerts of Lotto-Dstny had added grippy rubber patches to the tops of his handlebars, presumably to make his position more comfortable when he hooks his hands around the brake levers. The UCI ruled out the ‘puppy paws’ position a few years ago, but Campenaerts has constantly been looking for ways to get around this regulation, often seen adopting different hand positions to help him get as low as possible on the bike.

SD Worx’s Lorena Wiebes had SRAM wireless blips fitted on the inside of her handlebars so that she can change gear when on the drops in her sprint position. The Dutch rider is able to get extremely low when she launches her powerful sprint, and having the option to shift gears without needing to alter her aerodynamic tuck is a benefit in fast finishes. 

Wiebes bike also featured big chainrings with a 50/37T combination at the front, compared to the likes of Vollering who were using a 48/35T combination.

Interestingly, much of the women’s peloton were using non-sponsor correct saddles. Alice Towers of Canyon//SRAM had a Specialized Power Saddle on her Aeroad, albeit with the Specialized logo scratched out on the rear of the saddle.

World champion Lotte Kopecky was also, surprisingly, using a Syncros Belcarra saddle rather than a Specialized saddle, despite the work that the brand is known to have done specifically surrounding women’s saddles. Syncros is within the Scott Sports organisation, and it’s fair to expect that the Specialized would not be especially pleased with the world champion opting to use a seat from a rival brand. If your name is Lotte Kopecky, however, it seems that you can make your own demands about these things.

This is what Demi Vollering will be looking at during the 2024 edition of De Ronde, with the handwritten notes possibly referring to her fuelling strategy with nutrition brand Maurten – the 320 drink mix is a popular product from Maurten with 80g of carbs per 500ml serving.

Mischa Bredewold’s bike stood out compared to the pink and purple Specialized S-Works Tarmac SL8’s of her teammates. The European champion’s machine was painted in all black, with some subtle nods to her stars and stripes jersey placed tastefully on the inner of the forks.

In contrast to Wiebes, Arlenis Sierra who rides for Movistar – another SRAM sponsored team – had her wireless blips placed on the underside of her handlebars, meaning they are better placed for when climbing on the tops. The Cuban rider was also opting to use Garmin Edge 1040, despite some of her teammates going for the smaller 840 models. While Sierra could take a slight weight and aero penalty with the bigger computer, the screen will be clearer for maps and navigation if she wants to be aware of the twists and turns in Flanders.

The Uno-X Mobility DARE team bikes all had the Norwegian flag printed on the chainstays in a nod to the team’s heritage.

UAE Team Emirates bikes had Carbon-TI chainrings – super light carbon fibre chainrings with the team name laser cut into the carbon.

Finally, the bright pink paint jobs on the Canyon//SRAM team bikes were popping in the bright Belgian sunlight and deserve a mention. While there's less wacky patterning on these Aeroad models than we've seen the team use in the past, the simplicity and eye-catching colour is extremely effective – it will be hard to miss these in the peloton.

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