Photos by Getty Images & Annalisa Durighello
Before the entire classics season was lost to the Coronavirus, NTT Pro Cycling had settled on what was going to be a key equipment advantage for the one-day classics and beyond. Giacomo Nizzolo landed what was sure to be the first podium for the team on road tubeless, but alas, the wheel and tire technology that provided a clear advantage would have to wait for racing to resume.
Long before carbon rims existed, or even aluminum ones for that matter, the tubular tire has been the one choice for pro road racing. That is beginning to change as teams search everywhere for marginal gains — they can no longer ignore up to a 20% reduction in rolling resistance compared to their tubulars, even if something other than glue binding their racing tires to the rim is a foreign concept.
All of a sudden, the very same tubeless system that has ruled the Saturday group ride has now caught the eye of the world’s best. The setup that carried Nizzolo to the podium is the same that is found any day of the week on the ENVE lunch ride and being ridden by our customers.
LAYING THE CASE FOR TUBELESS ON THE COBBLES
In mid-February, NTT Pro Cycling riders Michael Gogl and Edvald Boassan-Hagen arrived just outside Lille, France, for two full days of testing on the cobbles with team staff and equipment partners, BMC, Vittoria, and ENVE. Located about 15 miles from the famed Roubaix velodrome, the area allows access to some of the most iconic cobble sectors featured in a number of the classics.
Over the two days, the riders tested multiple BMC bike models in order to find the best solution for Paris-Roubaix. In addition to the bikes, they tested ENVE SES 4.5 AR with 30c Vittoria Corsa tubulars, 4.5 AR with 28c Vittoria Corsa tubeless, and 3.4 AR with 28c Vittoria Corsa tubeless (the 28c tubeless tires measure out to 30.5mm on the SES AR rims). In the end, the riders came away with a clear direction they wanted to pursue, not only Paris-Roubaix, but also the season as a whole.
The realization that tubeless could provide the supple ride quality riders are used to with tubulars while delivering a noticeable reduction in rolling resistance on the smooth tarmac was enough to have them asking to take the next step with tubeless and immediately begin using it in competition. Three-time Tour de France stage winner and top 5 Paris-Roubaix finisher Edvald Boassan-Hagen asked, “Why aren’t we using tubeless all the time?” That’s a good question.
After several weeks of riding tubeless in road race competition, Nizzolo’s podium finish at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, demonstrates that the current tire technology that many consumers have already adopted, will also be the technology of choice for the World Tour in the future. Once racing resumes, you can bet that what has been an underutilized technology in the World Tour is going to soon be commonplace.
ENVE firmly believes in the benefits of road tubeless for riders of all levels. Over the past five years we have made nearly every wheel model in our line tubeless-compatible so that everyone can benefit from greater flat tire protection, the ability to run more optimal tire pressures, and increased rolling efficiency.