The cobbled Belgian semi-classic Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, to many cycling fans, signals the start of the ‘real’ European road racing season (apologies to any warm-up stage races on the Med).
And while Dylan van Baarle and Lotte Kopecky both put down serious markers for the upcoming classics campaign with impressive solo victories, the 2023 edition of Omloop may prove most memorable for the WorldTour debut of an innovative, and intriguing, piece of equipment.
Former Hour Record holder Victor Campenaerts, a longstanding proponent of unusually large chainrings, super-wide tyres, and narrow, turned-in handlebars, is well-known for his technological experimentation.
But the Belgian Lotto-Dstny rider has decided to up the ante for 2023, becoming the first rider to race using Classified’s PowerShift rear hub since Uno-X tested the potentially ground-breaking front derailleur-killing design last year – and deciding to pair it with an absolutely huge 62-tooth chainring.
Reviewed by road.cc last year, Classified’s internally geared system allows for a single-chainring setup (1x) with all of the benefits of a double (2x) setup, and none of the drawbacks of either, providing the rider with aero and efficiency gains derived from a single, large chainring up front.
Inside the rear hub is a two-speed gear system that gives the rider 100 per cent of whatever chainring that has been fitted, and then a reduction gear of around 70 per cent of that chainring, which essentially does the job of the ‘missing’ smaller chainring, basically creating the effect of having the front derailleur hidden away in the rear hub.
> Review: Classified Powershift Kit & Wheelset
Campenaert’s startlingly huge 62T setup – only two teeth off Filippo Ganna’s Hour Record chainring – means the 31-year-old took on the cobbled bergs of Flanders today effectively using a 62/42.5 setup, but with the aero and drivetrain advantages (the bigger the chainring, the less friction created, and therefore less energy expended by the rider) associated with a large 1x system, as well reducing the likelihood of the chain dropping thanks to the K-Edge chain catcher.
What about punctures? Surely if Victor gets too many then his day is done, because the team can't carry a whole other set of Classified-compatible wheels... and wouldn't it all need re-pairing?
Not so, points out David Bavin-Hobbs of Classified, who told road.cc: "Lotto DSTNY do carry spare Classified wheels for all of Victor’s races, as do the neutral service cars.
"If Victor gets a puncture then it would be just as easy as any team to switch a wheel over. It is the thru-axle that is paired to the shifter, not the wheel. So like any team, the mechanic would remove the thru-axle (actually faster because you don’t need a tool), switch the wheel and put the same thru-axle back in. There is no more pairing needed."
The Lotto-Dstny team car was also spotted with a second bike fitted with the same Classified 62T setup, so Campenaerts was guaranteed wheel changes as quick as any of his teammates either way, according to Classified.
Combined with his narrow, turned-in hoods and very wide Vittoria Corsa Pros (the Belgian was rumoured to be riding a 30mm front and 32mm rear tyre setup), Campenaerts’ Ridley Noah Fast was sure to prompt a few raised eyebrows at today’s start line in Gent.
So, how did he fare on his wacky new setup?
Victor (middle, in the red) putting those 62 teeth to good use
Well, the 31-year-old certainly looked sprightly as the race began to heat up towards the finish, and briefly put in a dig alongside Stefan Küng on the tough, cobbled Molenberg with just over 40km to go.
However, while the Belgian’s precocious 20-year-old teammate Arnaud De Lie was able to win the sprint for second behind Van Baarle – despite having to chase back on after a nasty crash and attacking in the closing kilometres (in short, the boy’s one to watch) – Campenaerts was eventually foiled by one of the cobbled classics’ oldest tricks.
We’ve all been there…
On the slippery cobbled slopes of the Muur van Geraardsbergen, a good old-fashioned compression forced several riders, including Campenaerts, to clip out and walk their bikes to the top, with the Belgian eventually coming home in 62nd.
It just goes to show – no matter how fancy and ground-breaking your bike is, and how many teeth you have on your chainring, we all have to get off and push sometimes…
Tony Blackburn? Isn't he dead yet? Why do third-rate celebs think their witterings are worth listening to?
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