As the peloton rolls out of Denain at lunchtime for what promises to be a thrilling third edition of Paris-Roubaix Femmes, all tech-savvy eyes will be fixed this weekend on Team DSM and Jumbo-Visma’s wheels – and, more specifically, their potentially revolutionary on-the-fly tyre inflation hubs.
The ground-breaking adjustment systems, developed by Dutch wheel firms Scope and Gravaa respectively, will allow DSM and Jumbo-Visma’s stars to change their tyre pressure at the push of a button, a potential game changer in a race which alternates between relatively smooth tarmac and treacherous, bone-rattling cobbled tracks in the blink of an eye.
However, while most of the cycling world has fixated on the latest innovative, space-age tech to be tested on the brutal pavé of the Hell of the North, one of the favourites for the men’s race, 2019 world road race champion Mads Pedersen, is eschewing even the most basic of Paris-Roubaix tech hacks: extra handlebar tape.
Additional layers of bar tape have long been an essential component of the Roubaix rider’s set-up, with many pros opting for a double or even triple wrap, often with a gel insert, in a bid to absorb some of the vibrations and provide some extra cushioning for those poor hands and arms over the relentlessly juddering farm tracks of northern France.
The effects of a day in Hell on the hands cannot be underestimated. Lizzie Deignan’s decision to go gloveless for her historic winning ride in 2021 – some riders ditch the gloves due to handling concerns stemming, incidentally, from all those additional layers of handlebar tape – famously saw her triumphantly enter the Roubaix velodrome with her hands and bars covered in blood.
But for Deignan’s fellow Trek-Segafredo rider, Pedersen, his hands don’t seem to be of much concern, as the Dane has seemingly ignored the oldest of old-school shock dampening approaches and instead opted for a standard bar tape set-up on his otherwise Roubaix-ready Trek Domane.
According to Danish TV commentator Dennis Ritter, who posted a photo of the 27-year-old’s minimalist bar tape on Twitter, Pedersen says the reason is simple: “A waste of weight”.
Most riders and teams doing Paris-Roubaix use double layer of handle bar tape or a gel to absorb the vibrations from the cobbles. But not Mads Pedersen: “Waste of weight”, as he puts it. pic.twitter.com/8CZpgayuyK
— Dennis Ritter (@RitterTV2) April 8, 2023
Not that weight will play too much of a role on the pancake-like parcours of Roubaix, of course…
As some fans pointed out on social media, however, the possibility of blisters may well prove a more decisive factor:
Blisters waiting to happen in any case 🤷♂️
— Martin Skajaa Wøldike (@Martinwoldike) April 8, 2023
Say goodbye to feeling things with your fingers 😬
— David 🚴♂️ (@HaaaaWords) April 8, 2023
Mad Mads Pedersen at it again
— emma bianchi (@cyclartist) April 8, 2023
Pedersen, who memorably took the rainbow jersey in atrocious conditions in Harrogate in 2019, has been on stellar form throughout this year’s classics campaign, finishing sixth in Milan-Sanremo before putting together a string of top fives in his favoured Flemish cobbled classics, culminating in a strong third at last week’s Tour of Flanders.
However, despite his obvious class on the cobbled bergs of Flanders, the 27-year-old is yet to crack the top 50 at Paris-Roubaix and even failed to finish the last two editions.
Perhaps this new raw and ready approach to bar tape will break Pedersen’s duck at the Hell of the North?
Ryan joined road.cc as a news writer in December 2021. He has written about cycling and some ball-centric sports for various websites, newspapers, magazines and radio. Before returning to writing about cycling full-time, he completed a PhD in History and published a book and numerous academic articles on religion and politics in Victorian Britain and Ireland (though he remained committed to boring his university colleagues and students with endless cycling trivia). He can be found riding his bike very slowly through the Dromara Hills of Co. Down.