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Tyre pressures, gravel-specific components and Tom Pidcock’s race winn – Rouleur

Tyre pressures, gravel-specific components and Tom Pidcock’s race winn – Rouleur

While gravel riding might once have been an alien concept to many, there’s no denying that the discipline has skyrocketed in popularity over recent years. Strade Bianche could be seen as a sort of pioneer of this trend; it’s a race which sent the peloton on the white dust roads before it was cool or fashionable. The Tuscan event places interesting demands on team mechanics who have to make choices to ensure that their team’s riders don’t suffer from mishaps like punctures or chain drops as they judder over the gravel.

Speaking ahead of the 2023 edition of the race, many mechanics explained that as gravel, or all-road riding, has become more popular among the average cyclist, most brands are now creating bikes with enough compliance, flexibility and dampening properties to tackle the rough stuff which has made the job of a mechanic slightly easier when it comes to preparing for Strade Bianche. Modern bicycles that the professionals use today are robust enough to survive the bumps and jolts of off-road riding, without too many changes needing to be made. While once the bikes of professional riders might have had specific amendments which tailor them to tackle gravel, nowadays, the key choices that need to be made include tyre size, pressures and gear ratios.

Milling around the start area of Strade Bianche this year, we spoke to teams about what choices they’d made when it came to the rubber they trusted to get them through the race safely, and spotted some interesting tech on show. Here are some of the best nuggets of information we got about what professional riders use to tackle the gravel.

Peter Sagan with a Shimano GRX rear derailleur

Image: Rachel Jary

TotalEnergies rider Peter Sagan was sporting a mix-up of Shimano components on his S-Works Tarmac SL7, opting to use a Shimano GRX rear derailleur. This is likely to try and avoid chain drop on the bumpy gravel, – it has a clutch it in which will help keep more tension in the chain. It’s also worth noting that Sagan is still riding the older, 11-speed version of Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 which is what makes this mash-up of Shimano componentry possible.

Pidcock’s winning weapon

Image: James Startt

Tom Pidcock rode his usual Pinarello Dogma F to victory Strade Bianche, seemingly trusting Pinarello’s claims that the bike is an all-rounder which can be used for varying terrain and conditions. He also used a MOST bar and stem combination, a Fizik saddle and a Garmin headunit. His…

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