The Tour de France is the ultimate test for riders and their equipment, and wheels take some serious abuse over the three weeks. They have to be rugged enough to survive the Stage 5 cobbles, light enough to climb the highest peaks, and aerodynamic enough to gain those extra few millimetres at the finish which can make the difference between marking a rider’s name in history and getting a telling off by the DS (directeur sportif).
Riders can switch between wheelsets as the Tour goes on and here are some of the most noteworthy that we've spotted in this year's race.
Time Trial Wheels
As this year’s race kicked off with a time trial that’s where we’ll start as well. The time trial brought us plenty of new tech, from Specialized balaclavas to huge helmets and visors.
Filippo Ganna was the pre-race favourite. Team Ineos shunned wheels from sponsor Shimano in favour of ones from Princeton Carbonworks with a wavy profile. Ganna opted for a full disc wheel at the rear labelled with “experimental prototype” and a tri-spoke front wheel that also featured a ‘wavy’ trailing edge to each of the spokes.
> Sram sues Princeton Carbonworks for patent infringement
This isn't a front wheel that we've previously spotted although it does appear to resemble the Princeton Mach 7580. Both wheels were clad in tubeless Continental GP5000TR TdF tyres that also made their appearance for the first time. You can read all about them in our Tech of the Week roundup.
> Tech of the Week (July 2022)
There were plenty of other disc wheelsets on show during the TT. For example, Team BikeExchange Jayco used this Cadex disc and four-spoke combo set up with tubular tyres.
Don't worry there were still some conventional spokes to be seen, for example on Campagnolo-sponsored teams who opted for the tubeless-ready Bora Ultra WTO 80. No prizes for guessing how deep that is...
It would be rude not to mention the Vision wheels adorning the EF Education-EasyPost team bikes, a Metron TFW at the rear and a Metron91 at the front. These have also received the Rapha-Palace treatment and are set up tubeless with Muc-Off valves. Each rider had a different colour combination, reminiscent of the Canyon-Sram women's team wheels.
Wheels for flat stages
For flat stages, we typically see wheels of around 60mm in depth, especially for the sprinters who want every aerodynamic advantage when it comes to the finale. Stage two was won by Fabio Jakobsen. He and the three teams in the race sponsored by Specialized have been using the new Roval Rapide CLX II wheels for flat and rolling stages.
> Which of these Tour de France wheelsets is best for you? Rapide vs Alpinist
The Rapides are now tubeless-ready and measure 51mm deep at the front and 60mm at the rear while weighing in at a competitive 1,520g.
Also racking up the stage wins courtesy of Wout Van Aert are the Shimano Dura-Ace C50 and C60 wheelsets. Wout appears to prefer to run his with tubs but Jumbo Visma swapped all of their riders to the tubeless version for the cobbled Stage five, likely after their troubles at Paris-Roubaix earlier in the year.
> Two Shimano tubular wheels break at Paris Roubaix
We just can't talk about the Tour de France without mentioning Tadej Pogacar and on flat stages the Campagnolo Bora Ultra WTO 45 (1,425g) with CULT ceramic bearings is his wheelset of choice.
Team UAE Emirates and AG2R Citroen can also be found riding the 60mm deep WTO 60 (1,530g) for very flat stages. Both team's wheels are missing the 'Ultra' bit of the name from the decals but the internal spoke nipples suggest they are indeed from the Ultra lineup.
> Review: Campagnolo Bora Ultra WTO 45 wheelset
You'll find the teams of EF Education-EasyPost and Bahrain Victorious using Vision Metron 60 Disc SL on the flatter stages, I don't know about you but I'm disappointed that these didn't get some funky graphics like the TT wheels. Both teams have been using these tubeless, you can see what everyone else is up to in this article:
> Are we witnessing the death of the tubular tyre?
Lotto Soudal went through some major changes this year, switching from Campagnolo groupsets and wheels to Shimano groupsets and DT Swiss wheels.
They're joined by B&B Hotels KTM using similar equipment. On flat stages, the teams are using wheels from the ARC lineup which are available in 50 (pictured), 62 and 80mm depths and have SINC ceramic bearings. The wheels use the brand's 180 hubs with ratchet EXP tech that can also be found in plenty of other wheelsets in the peloton.
> A complete guide to DT Swiss wheels
Zipp have just one team using their wheels in the TdF and that's Movistar. On flat stages, the infamous 404 wheels are most common although we've also seen 454 NSWs being used.
As things begin to go up, the 353 NSWs come out to play and we've even seen some older 202 wheels being used. Despite Zipp's heavy marketing of tubeless technology with their hookless rims, we tend to see the Movistar riders using tubulars at the Tour.
> Review: Zipp 404 Firecrest Disc wheels
Wheels for the mountains
With Specialized and Shimano sponsoring the majority of the teams, we can expect to see plenty of their wheels winning in the mountains as well.
Quickstep Alpha-Vinyl, Bora-Hansgrohe and Total Energies have all been using the Roval Alpinist CLX II for particularly mountainous stages, and with a 1,250g claimed weight for the tubeless wheelset it's easy to see why.
> Review: Roval Alpinist CLX II wheelset
Shimano wheels are sure to leave their mark on the Alps as well with Team Jumbo Visma, Ineos Grenadiers, Groupama-FDJ, DSM, Alpecin-Deceuninck and Arkéa-Samsic all using the Japanese brand's wheels.
Vingegaard's monstrous effort up the Grandon on stage 11 was undertaken on a set of Dura-Ace C36 wheels which, as their name suggests, are 36mm deep. They measure 21mm internally and 28mm externally.
Corima might not be the largest brand but they've got good representation in the peloton with both Cofidis and Astana-Qazaqstan riding their wheels. In the mountains, we've seen the MCC 32s being put to good use with the tubular pair weighing in at 1,295g. They have just 12 carbon spokes front and rear.
> Buyers Guide: 10 of the best road and gravel wheelsets
A brand that some might not be as familiar with is 'Newmen', Cube's in-house component brand. This German company develops and assembles the hubs themselves rather than using off-the-shelf parts, and Intermarché–Wanty–Gobert Matériaux has the choice of the Advanced SL R.38, R.50, R.65 or R.80 wheelsets. In the mountains it's the R.38 Streem that's being used most often with a claimed weight of 1,366g for the pair.
Four-time Tour de France winner Chris Froome will be lining up on the start line with his Israel Premier Tech team on Black Inc. hoops. Pictured are the Black inc Thirty wheels (1,390g for tubeless or 1,230g for tubular) which seem to be the team's go to for mountain stages despite Black inc. making an even lighter 'Twenty' wheelset (1,240g for tubeless).
> Review: Black Inc Twenty wheelset
The tech team have had a quick chat about which Tour de France wheels we'd most like in our garage...
Liam: "I'd have the Campag's, I think they've got the best hubs and the finish is awesome."
Mat: "Good question, I quite like the Black Incs but I'm going to go for a set of DT Swiss. I've always been impressed with the tech and find their wheels perform very well."
Jamie: "I want a set of the Rapha Palace Vision TT wheels just to put on the wall...if I actually have to ride the wheels then I'm a big fan of the Roval Rapide CLX IIs."
Which are your favourite wheels? Let us know which set you'd most like to take home if money was no object in the comments section below...
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