Classics Tech: Stybar tests tubeless, Mads adds 1x chain catcher

Amongst dozens of tubulars and double-ring drivetrains, the bikes of Zdenek Stybar and Mads Pedersen stood out at Gent-Wevelgem.

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DEINZE, Belgium  (VN) — Two pieces of gear caught our eye as we strolled through the tech pits at Sunday’s Gent-Wevelgem. Zdenek Stybar (Deceuninck-Quick Step) was testing 28mm Specialized tubeless tires, and Trek-Segafredo mechanics had added a modified K-Edge chain catcher to the bike of Mads Pedersen, who is racing with a single front chainring.

“We have tried tubeless a few times,” said Quick Step director Tom Steels. “We are still in the phase where we are trying how it feels in races.”

While his six teammates all raced 26mm Specialized S-Works Turbo tubulars, Stybar started Gent-Wevelgem on 28mm S-Works Turbo tubeless tires. The Czech champion seemed to do well with the tires—Stybar made it through all 251.5 kilometers of wind and cobblestones without a flat tire. 

As for the team’s thoughts on the difference, Steels said he couldn’t compare. “The guys say they both feel good,” he said.

Single-ring insurance: “The house isn’t going to burn, but…”

Pedersen first tried SRAM’s single-ring set-up with the company’s wide-range 10-33 cassette in December, and has been sold ever since, making him unique in the WorldTour peloton this classics season. For Friday’s E3 Binck Bank Tour, Pedersen’s teammate John Degenkolb reportedly exchanged his 1x setup for a standard double chainring. The Pro Continental Aqua Blue Sport squad raced entirely on SRAM 1x groups last year, using 3T Strada machines built for the purpose.

This year, though, Pedersen is a lone figure with with solitary ring. So why does he do it?

“It’s lighter, faster and more aero with just one ring and no front derailleur,” Pedersen said, adding that he has not needed more gear options at races this year. “Not so far. With 48/33 I have plenty to climb with.”

Pedersen said his teammates initially gave him some grief about his choice, “but now they understand.”

Asked whether SRAM paid him a bonus for promoting the 1x group by racing it, Pedersen laughed. “Man, I wish they did,” he said. “That would be nice. But no.”

At Gent-Wevelgem, Pedersen’s bike had a modified K-Edge Cross Single XL braze-on chain catcher on his Trek Madone Disc. It appears the team had chopped off the top part of the mount, presumably in Pedersen’s desire to cut down on the drag. 

Trek-Segafredo technical director Matt Shriver said that while Pedersen “has done 12,000 miles and hasn’t had a single chain drop,” it doesn’t hurt to have a back-up.

“The house isn’t going to burn down, but you still should have insurance on the house,” Shriver said.

Asked for his thoughts on racing tubeless, Shriver said Trek is exploring options. “It’s definitely something we have an eye one,” Shriver said. “It makes sense; you can get lower rolling resistance with tubeless and, depending on the model, better aerodynamics. The concern for the team remains about being able to ride a flat tire for a couple Ks.”

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