Irish Pro Conti team Aqua Blue Sport made waves by being the first professional team to race a 1x road bike drivetrain on their 3T Strada bikes. Now over the weekend they had something else new – racing on the first road bike tubulars from the rebirth of Pirelli in cycling.

Pirelli 28mm P Zero pro-only road race tubular tires

courtesy Aqua Blue, photo by Stefano Sirotti

A technical partnership between Pirelli & Aqua Blue is said to give them exclusive access to the new road tubulars before they come to market, at least for the time being.  The team started racing on the new tubulars over the weekend at the Amstel Gold race.

We’ve heard rumors of Pirelli expanding their road offerings after the promising debut of their P-Zero clincher tires last summer. While we would have expected tubeless versions of their tires to show up first, Pirelli prides itself on a racing heritage. And the pros have yet to be convinced of tubeless, even with all of the empirical studies showing the clear performance gains of tubeless’ lower rolling resistance.

Like they do in motorsports racing, Pirelli promises the relationship with Aqua Blue will help them continue to develop their cycling tire tech. Not simply a sponsorship deal, they plan to use the team as a real world R&D lab, so we’ll expect to see more and more prototype tires tested in pro racing.

The team is now racing a new 28mm Pirelli PZero Velo tubular, said to have been optimized for aerodynamics on the oversized tube shaping of the 3T Strada. The subtle tread pattern along the shoulders of the prototype tubular is most similar, but not identical to the standard PZero Velo silver clinchers on which the team regularly trains. We assume that they use the same SmartNet Silica nanotech that Pirelli puts in the rest of the PZero Velo lineup. The team tires get a yellow hot stamp, which under Pirelli motorsports conventions might suggest a soft compound, but we suspect here it is just a special edition color to show that it is different.

There is no word yet on if these tubulars will be made available to consumers. But based on our discussions with Pirelli last fall, we do expect to see news of road tubeless versions coming this summer.


  1. jonny on

    The Ardennes terrain was a perfect show case for 1x elimination. It was clear aqua blue suffered from the terrain shift, works great at first and then after 150 km, legs become complete concrete with no ratios to ease the very slight difference between pain, flow and speed. This showed as soon as the first bridge was made and motors went up, legs seized. Aqua Blue was last in team ranking just edging Nippo. Still a cool dad bike though.

    • Carl on

      Never heard the phrase “dad bike” before, but 1x seems especially promising to me on the American criterium circuit where courses are either flat or have short punchy hills that never require moving out of the big chainring.

    • JBikes on

      People get blinder vision on tests showing lab rolling resistance numbers not realizing that you are comparing between two very high end options.
      Furthermore tests can never account for the psychological benefit of the feel of light wheel/tire combos (tubulars). Racing is dynamic unless one is taking TT’s or tri’s

      • Veganpotter on

        Numbers don’t lie but people go with their wrong minds. Rolling resistance tests showed really high pressure wasn’t fast many years before the peloton started lowering the PSI in mass. The weight savings from tubies have been quantitatively proven to be less important than the RR and drag numbers. That said, the only true benefit of tubulars is being able to ride on a flat.

        • Crappendale on

          In all fairness being able to ride a flat tubie is a hugely enormous advantage to clinchers or tubeless because there are such massive time and effort losses for having to wait for the team car to get to the front of the convoy. Additionally I’m still not sold on the safety of carbon clinchers capability to withstand heat of world tour level descents.

    • Cory Benson on

      We do gloss over the fact that there are plenty of super high-end tubulars handmade from ultra-supple materials. Very few tubeless tires match that level of quality and feel with their mostly heavier, stiffer, and usually vulcanized construction.


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