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32mm rubber, tubeless galore and more prototypes from Pirelli: what tyres did the Tour de France pros use on the epic gravel stage 9?

With wider rubber on display than we've ever seen in the modern Tour de France, are the pros' one-off tyre choices for Le Tour's foray onto gravel more suitable for riding on British roads than regular road bike tyres?

The Tour de France hit the gravel roads on stage 9 with parcours that polarised the peloton. While some even deemed it "unsafe", we couldn't help but draw some similarities to the potholed UK roads. So, should we be copying the pro's one-off setups rather than their usual wheel and tyre combos to deal with below-par British asphalt?

2024 Continental Grand Prix 500 S TR tyre @PaceUp Media
(Sam Doll/PaceUp Media)

Road bike tyres have ballooned in recent years thanks to wider rims no longer constricted by rim brake callipers. Most of the teams at the 2024 Tour de France have been racing on 28mm rubber, with some even opting to race on 30mm wide tyres. 

Just like at Paris-Roubaix, Stage 9 saw riders and teams take it a step further with wide tyres galore, an even higher percentage using tubeless setups, and hardier setups designed to minimise the risk of punctures while tackling the 14 gravel sectors around Troyes.

Most riders opted for 30mm tyres, while some went as wide as 32mm, with popular choices being Continental's GP 5000 S TR and the Vittoria Corsa Pro.  

2024 Vittoria Corsa Pro Control Van der Poel TdF @PaceUp
(Sam Doll, PaceUp Media)

> Why wider tyres on road bikes are here to stay

Notably, Mathieu Van der Poel and Michael Matthews took it one step further, using Vittoria's Corsa Pro Control tyres in 32mm and 30mm widths, respectively. According to Vittoria, "the Control updates the Corsa Pro with additional grip for rain-slicked tarmac, groomed gravel stretches, and treacherous cobblestones alike."

Even teams that usually snub tubeless setups could be seen embracing the controversial tech. For example, Primoz Roglic of Red Bull–Bora–Hansgrohe and Remco Evenepoel of Soudal Quick-Step both ditched the latex inner tubes that they usually use on dry stages, donning a mixture of Specialized 2Bliss ready tyres instead.

2024 Specialized S-Works Mondo tyre @PaceUp Media
(Sam Doll/PaceUp Media)

The S-Works Mondo tyre, used by Red Bull Bora Hansgrohe riders, isn't one that we often see being used in the pro peloton, although Lotte Kopecky did win Paris-Roubaix Femmes using it. Clearly, the Specialized-sponsored athletes were happy to sacrifice some weight and rolling resistance in favour of "long miles durability, all-weather traction, and incredible puncture protection". 

While the exact width wasn't indicated on the tyres, the Mondo is available in 28mm, 32mm, and 35mm sizes, and we reckon it's likely these riders were using the 32mm option.

2024 Tour de France stage 9 Pirelli prototype tyres @PaceUp
(Sam Doll/PaceUp Media)

For most of the year, Lidl-Trek riders have been seen riding prototype Pirelli tyres. However, a couple of months ago it was revealed that these were the P Zero Race TLR RS tyres. Yesterday's stage saw Lidl-Trek riders once again using unreleased tyres, unless, of course, there are just old stock...

Visma lease-a-bike tyre - Sam Doll PaceUp Media
(Sam Doll/PaceUp Media)

So, it's clear that the peloton weren't happy to just risk it with regular road rubber for this brutal stage, that reduced some riders to carrying their bikes in sections; however, with Jonas Vingegaard puncturing and being forced to hop on teammate Jan Tratnik's bike for almost half of the stage, the modifications weren't a guarantee against mechanicals.

On the flip side of that, it's reassuring to know that the pros weren't concerned about wider tyres slowing them down, so you can be safe in the knowledge that running tyres up to and above 32mm won't make a noticeable difference to your average speeds, especially if the surface you're riding on isn't perfect... and let's be honest, a lot of British roads aren't. 

Did you spot any other interesting tyre choices? Let us know in the comments as always. 

Emily is our track and road racing specialist, having represented Great Britain at the World and European Track Championships. With a National Title up her sleeve, Emily has just completed her Master’s in Sports Psychology at Loughborough University where she raced for Elite Development Team, Loughborough Lightning.

Emily is our go-to for all things training and when not riding or racing bikes, you can find her online shopping or booking flights…the rest of the office is now considering painting their nails to see if that’s the secret to going fast…

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9 comments

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Miller | 1 week ago
3 likes

Last evening I got a PR on a 2km segment I've ridden 119 times (per Strava). I was on 32mm gp5k TL tyres at 50psi. I don't think the width slows you down on real roads, maybe the opposite.

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KDee replied to Miller | 1 week ago
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I switched from 32mm GP5000 TL's to 30mm Vittoria Corsa NXT TLR's last year. Always slower...but maybe that's just me getting older 😔

Avatar
swagman replied to KDee | 1 week ago
0 likes

So if 32mm are faster why arent the pros riding this size instead of 28mm?

Avatar
Cayo replied to swagman | 1 week ago
2 likes
swagman wrote:

So if 32mm are faster why arent the pros riding this size instead of 28mm?

Pros tend to be slow to adapt unless their sponsors encourage them to, and I imagine it's taking time to do that. After all, a narrow tyre looks like it should be faster.

Avatar
OnYerBike replied to Cayo | 1 week ago
0 likes

I'm not convinced the "pros are slow to adapt" argument still holds much water in this age of marginal gains and data-driven decision making. If you can convince a pro to wear a head-sock for aero gains, a wider tyre ought to be an easy pitch.

Whilst there is pretty consistent evidence that wider road tyres decrease rolling resistance (up to a point), that does need to be balanced against weight and aerodynamics. Wider tyres are necessarily heavier all else being equal (there is more material). Wider tyres also necessarily have a larger frontal area, but probably more importantly from an aerodynamic perspective is that the tyre needs to work aerodynamically with the rim/wheel as a whole, and as KDee says most road wheels are optimised for ~28mm wide tyres. 

Avatar
KDee replied to swagman | 1 week ago
0 likes

Probably because most aero road rims are currently optimised around 28 - 30mm tyres. Above that seems to be "all-road" territory.

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Velophaart_95 replied to swagman | 1 week ago
0 likes

swagman wrote:

So if 32mm are faster why arent the pros riding this size instead of 28mm?

 

The pro road peloton are notoriously slow to accept new tech, unlike the MTB racing world. Saying that, some are waking up to new tech.....

 

And anyway, what the pros use should be of little concern to most average riders.....

Avatar
imajez replied to swagman | 5 days ago
0 likes

swagman wrote:

So if 32mm are faster why arent the pros riding this size instead of 28mm

Narrower and harder tyre feel faster because being rattled around gives a false impression of speed, regardless of what the data shows. So riders resist comfier and faster tyres. 

Avatar
imajez replied to Miller | 5 days ago
0 likes

Miller wrote:

Last evening I got a PR on a 2km segment I've ridden 119 times (per Strava). I was on 32mm gp5k TL tyres at 50psi. I don't think the width slows you down on real roads, maybe the opposite.

The data has long shown wider/softer tyres are faster up to an inflection point that will depend on road surface and inclination upwards. 
Many years back I noticed that I diodn't go any slower on when I swapped from my 28mm road tyres to my winter 33mm CX tyres. So never went back to my 'Summer' tyres again. A shame that Specialized stopped making that wonderful tyre. The on paper faster new version was unpleasant to ride. Ruined the feel of my bike. 

Oh and a minor observation - the current yellow jersey wearer in the Tdf and IIRC the winner in every race he has entered this year, rides on tyres that measure around 33mm due to his wide internal width rims.  

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