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Just a few days in advance of the Tour of Flanders, BMC Racing Team chief mechanic Ian Sherburne assembled a new race bike for team captain George Hincapie. Friday marked Hincapie’s first look at the new rig, the bike he hopes will take him across the Flanders finish line first.
Hincapie and almost the entire team started this season on aluminum/carbon BMC’s racemaster SLX, but Friday before the race, Sherburne and co-mechanic Nic Vanhaverbeke polished a fleet of new teammachine SLR01s. The riders were scheduled to leave for training and inspection of the Flanders course changes.
Hincapie’s new rig is painted in U.S. national champion colors, similar to his racemaster. The bike is new from BMC for 2010 and features a full carbon frame and fork. The fork, seatpost, and seatstays are designed to attenuate road vibration, a characteristic which, if effective, will be welcomed by all the team riders on the cobbles.
For the most part, the team bikes are fitted with stock equipment from team sponsors Campagnolo, Continental, Selle Italia, and Easton. But the mechanics brought a few special pieces of equipment just for the cobbled classics. One-off Easton wheels, K-Edge chain catchers, fat Continental tubulars, and, on Hincapie’s bike, Gore RideOn cables, hint at the challenges faced by both bikes and riders.
The wheels are distinctive as Easton decals cover most of the Ambrosio 32-hole rims. Sherburne made no effort to disguise the fact that the wheels were made from Easton hubs laced to Ambrosio rims, saying, “There are special requirements and conditions for these races that don’t even exist in America.”
He pointed out that modern wheel development has focused on rigid carbon wheels with aerodynamic profiles and fewer spokes, but that the rough roads of northern Europe demand rims with shallower, more compliant profiles and a higher spoke count. In addition to adding strength to a relatively flexible rim, he said the higher spoke count also reduces the chance a wheel will wind up significantly out of true if a single spoke breaks.
“Sponsors have to go outside the normal catalogue to supply gear,” for these special races, Sherburne said. He gave a lot of credit to Easton who made a special production run of hubs to accommodate the higher spoke count. Easton also laced the wheels in-house with 32 butted 14/15-gauge spokes laced radially on the front wheel and 2-cross/radial on the back.
“These are the wheels we’ve been using for the classics,” he said, but of course the team has access to Easton’s entire line, and Hincapie at least appeared to be checking out the EC90 aero on Friday’s recon ride.
Most of the team bikes were also fitted with Easton’s EC90 carbon fiber handlebars.
“The Easton bars are bombproof. We haven’t had any problems,” said Sherburne. It’s common in the ProTour to see aluminum bars on most team bikes, but BMC obviously has faith in the strength and durability of their components.