Over the first weekend of proper cobbled Classics we had a chance to chat with the team of multi-discipline rider Pauline Ferrand-Prevot as they were prepping her aero road bike for the women’s Tour of Flanders. Back in 2015 Ferrand-Prevot became the first cyclist in history to hold the elite World championship titles on road, cyclocross & mountain bikes at the same time. And while she’s relinquished those rainbow stripes since, she still has at least the French mountain bike title so she gets to race in her nation’s tricolore kit off-road for 2017. While some racers on her Canyon//SRAM team were opting for the lighter and more forgiving Ulitmate, Ferrand-Prevot stuck with the aerodynamic advantage of her Canyon Aeroad CF SLX, with just a few concessions for comfort on the cobblestones and climbs of the Ronde van Vlaanderen…
Editor’s note: A previous version of this article led with a photo of British champion Hannah Barnes and her Canyon Ultimate in a mix up of riders, race numbers, and red/white/blue tricolore jerseys. We apologize for the confusion.
Pauline Ferrand-Prevot’s bike is a stock Aeroad CF SLX Electric in team Canyon//SRAM’s colorful livery, with Canyon’s Pro road race geometry. What that Electric bit means is that the bike forgoes the internal cable routing ports on the driveside of the downtube for a more slippery aero profile. With a wireless eTap group, only the rear brake needs to find its way into the toptube, and even the remaining electronic shift routing ports on the headtube seattube & rear dropout get low profile rubber plugs.
Each of the team riders seemed like they were racing on a different saddle. The team is sponsored by Ergon, and Pauline (we’re gonna call her that since that’s how the team refers to her, as does her low-key toptube name decal) was one of the few to be riding an overtly Ergon branded saddle. That said, while the overall shape and profile look similar to their top road saddle with ti rails – the SRX3 Pro – Pauline’s saddle has a more simple one piece cover, thicker padding through the nose, and a large pressure relief cutout not present on any current Ergon saddle.
That saddle is bolted atop Canyon’s own D-shaped S27 Aero VCLS CF seatpost with a two-position head for variable offset. The post claims to offer a smooth ride to the otherwise stiff frame, but what was a bit more surprising was the method the team used to fix their number plates. In stead of zip ties, double-sided tape, or dedicated band clamps, they straight up drilled and tapped a hole into the carbon post and fixed a number bracket with a small screw. We’re pretty sure that voids the warranty, and while we would be a bit afraid to race a bike with a hole drilled in the carbon post, Pauline (and the others on the Aeroad) had no problems with the solution over the Flandrien cobbles.
The wide flat top of the Canyon H11 Aerocockpit CF integrated bar & stem provides plenty of real estate to stick down a good summary of the key point in the race with a small integrated Garmin mount that bolts under the front of the bar to keep track of the kms as they tick by. Look close and Superwoman logos mark out the cobblestone secteurs while little mountains mark the cobbled hellingen climbs (and don’t forget to pause for lunch.) The team all had pretty generous fat bar tape wraps, but Pauline still keeps the tape limited to where her hands tend to fall. Just hidden under the edge of the tape you’ll find a couple remote Blips for shifting on the tops.
Team wheels are supplied by Zipp, and most of the team seemed to be racing on the mid-depth 303 as a good balance between aerodynamics and a forgiving ride on the cobbles. Of course most of the cobble comfort comes from the tires, and the team are rolling on the wide 30mm Schwalbe G-One Speed tubulars. A close-up look at the front end also shows the direct-mount brakes that bring the bike back to a stop while offering plenty of room for these fat tires, which SRAM does not have available so these are debadged from the competition.
Pauline’s drivetrain is straight forward from team title sponsor SRAM. A Red eTap group covers shifting on the 11-28 cassette, although they race on the quieter (and cheaper) PG-1170 with a combination of spidered & loose cogs vs. the one-piece machined Powerdome cassette. Up front power is tracked with a Quarq+Red DZero power meter paired to standard 53/39 rings and a set of Speedplay Zero Titanium pedals (with which Pauline clips in on the new Aero Walkable cleats.)
Her PC Red 22 chain gets a fresh coat of light white grease on the bushings and pins for smooth fast running, presumably without any concerns for building up dust and dirt over the course of the 153km race.
Simple reinforced plastic Cage SF bottle cages are claimed to offer the best bidon retention over the cobbles of all those Canyon puts their name on, plus they are light and cheap to boot.
It was a pretty even mix of Canyon//SRAM riders who opted for either the Aeroad CF SLX or Ultimate CF SLX, so team mechanics were prepping a number of each.
While most of the team were racing on Zipp 303s, they had been trying out the slightly deeper 404s on the cobbles as well, although mostly paired with more narrow tires. The team also had a few sets of the whale-inspired Zipp 454 NSW wheels on hand as well. They are not offered in tubulars (or even tubeless for that matter) so they don’t see much use under the pro teams who need the performance of better tires. But they do make for one of the most expensive training wheels out there, so the Canyon//SRAM can repair a roadside flat when training if needed.
The Canyon//SRAM team manages to deliver their riders the top-level of bikes & kit that you still don’t always see in the women’s World Tour. A lot of that can be credited to an excellent staff. While their team bus is more of an RV than the tour buses of the mens teams and the team van is more Sprinter than tractor-trailer, the staff and sponsors do an excellent job of both supporting the racers and promoting the growth of women’s pro cycling.
Ferrand-Prevot pushed hard at the front of the race doing some good domestique work to reel in the break, but it didn’t pan out in the end. She has also been doing a bit of hopping back and forth to the mountain bike. A win & a couple of second places on the trail bode well for good results on & off road, but now it seems it is time for her to road World Tour races, before the XC World Cups later in the spring & summer.