The winner’s bike at Paris-Roubaix
Due to its many and extremely rough cobblestone sectors, Paris-Roubaix is widely considered as cycling’s true acid test for both riders and their equipment. After almost 20 years of racing in the dry, the Classic was contested in the rain again this year - and Sonny Colbrelli rode to a much-celebrated victory on his Merida Reacto. The modifications made to his bike to safely cope with mud puddles and cobbled sectors are surprisingly subtle.
Of the total distance of 257.7 kilometres between Compiègne and Roubaix, 55 kilometres were on cobbled sectors this year. And since the rain had started falling heavily on Saturday in the Northeast of France, riders were facing particularly harsh conditions on race day, taking to the start in full rain gear. Six hours later, Sonny Colbrelli was the strongest and most cunning rider in a three-man sprint in Roubaix’s Velodrome, crowing an already stellar 2021 season with his first win. On his way to victory, the 31-year-old European champion rode the Merida Reacto aero road bike that had only seen a few modifications.
To conquer the Hell of the North, Sonny Colbrelli combined the Reacto with the Metron 55 wheels from team supplier Vision that feature deep-section rims for better aerodynamics at high speeds. For the best possible combination of traction and puncture protection on the cobbled sectors, the team mechanics mounted Continental’s brand-new GP5000S TR tyres. With a generous width of 32 millimetres, these tyres offer plenty of volume, comfort and safety. Thanks to the tubeless build with added sealant, the air pressure could be lowered without having to fight additional rolling resistance.
Apart from Marco Haller, all riders of Team Bahrain Victorious opted to ride a conventional combination of drop bars and stems from FSA at Paris-Roubaix. The main reason for this is that the cross-section of conventional handlebars offers a safer grip on the roughest cobblestones than the flattened, wing-shaped cross-section of FSA’s one-piece Metron 5D unit. Sonny was using FSA’s K-Force Compact Carbon drop bars mounted to an alloy ACR stem.
To minimise fatigue in the hands and lower arms, team mechanics put two layers of Prologo handlebar tape on the cross-section of the handlebar, with a single layer in the drops and the bends. Apart from the adjusted gearing - Colbrelli opted for an 11-25 cassette and cranks with a 54/42 ratio - there were no changes to the electronic Di2 shifting or the hydraulic disc brakes from Shimano’s Dura-Ace groupset. The same goes for Prologo’s Nago C3 saddle that is Sonny’s choice throughout the year.
Images: Bettini Photo, Merida Europe, Team Bahrain Victorious