After we went behind the scenes with the Team Sunweb women, we also caught up with their men’s team at the start of the Ronde van Vlaanderen. While most of the pro teams were sticking with rim brakes for the cobbles and climbs of Flanders, Sunweb mixed in a few men on the Giant Defy Disc as a bit of a last effort race test of the setup in case foul weather next weekend would necessitate the disc bikes at Paris-Roubaix. Sunny Belgian weather kept the bikes clean, but it was still a successful shake down of the new Dura-Ace R9100 Di2 components with hydraulic disc brakes. Check out a video as De Backer gets ready for this coming Sunday into Roubaix…
We took a close look at the Defy Advanced SL of Belgian racer Bert De Backer, who was among three of the team on disc brakes. While the Tour of Flanders itself isn’t really a true goal for the rider, he has performed consistently well in Paris Roubaix nearing the top 10 for the last three years, so is something of a dark horse hopeful for Sunweb this coming weekend.
De Backer is one of a select few riders to have raced on the new Dura-Ace R9170 hydraulic disc brake Di2 groupsets. After some of the early trumped up fury surrounding disc brakes again this season, just a small handful of riders took the start of the Tour of Flanders aboard disc brakes.
Outside of the 9000 series crankset (and 11-28 9000 cassette) because of team sponsor Pioneer’s power meter, De Backer’s bike build was otherwise complete with the new R9100 Dura-Ace groupset. We’ve seen versions of the new Pioneer power meter with the new cranks since last fall, and even estimates of spring delivery, but it seems that the teams are still content to use the perfectly functional setups they already have on hand for some time longer.
Key out of the new group of course are the Dura-Ace branded hydraulic disc brakes, with their lower profile flat mount calipers and new generation finned Freeza Ice Tech rotors. Another holding point for pro team adoption though is still stock of the tubular disc brake Dura-Ace wheels to work with the now standard 12mm thru-axle frames & fork like the Defy. Sunweb were still rolling on non-series carbon wheels sporting a SM-CXRIM rim product code suggesting a carryover carbon rim from cyclocross racing days, and built on the non-series disc brake hubs. Glued on those wheels are the same fast rolling and supple 25mm Graphene+ Vittoria Corsa tubulars that we saw on Coryn Rivera’s race winning bike.
The bikes cockpit is fairly straight forward with the new Dura-Ace R9170 Di2 levers and no sight of any remove shift buttons. Although with the bars wrapped all the way to the stem it wasn’t really possibel to see what bar De Backer was riding, besides the fact that it was alloy. The rest of the team were riding Giant branded bars, but they also stuck with 31.8mm bars. De Backer clearly is riding Fouriers’ 35mm stem, and since Giant doesn’t currently sell a 35mm bar it is quite possible that the bar is from Fouriers as well.
De Backer’s bar is held in place with a rather long CNC machined 6066 aluminum stem from team sponsor Fouriers. That gves him plenty of room to take on a detailed course cheat sheet listing each of the 18 Hellingen – the cobblestone climbs that make Flanders unique. Fouriers also makes the alloy out front-style mount for the teams/ Giant-branded NeosTrack GPS cycling computers. Neatly tucked under the stem is an extended plate headset spacer that allows the team mechanics to securely mount the Di2 Junction-A box without a rubber band around the stem. Apparently the new bar end mounted junction boxes are still in rather short supply and will require mechanics to drill holes in handlebars until more bar options are available besides Shimano’s own Pro brand.
De Backer’s saddle sits atop Giant’s standard offset ISP head. It isn’t entirely clear what saddle he is riding, but it appears to be made by Velo (with their small V logo on the nose) and includes tick padding, a large deep channel, cutout, and titanium alloy rails. His number plate is held simply in place with a small mount double-sided taped to the ISP and then zip-tied on for good measure.
When you are about to spend 260km and 7 hours racing across Belgian roads and cobbles, it’s alway important to give a quick check to your own tires to make sure your team mechanics aren’t being overly cautious against flats.
TCRs & pre-race prep
While De Backer and a couple of his teammates were on the Defy to get a feel for it racing ahead of next weekend’s Paris-Roubaix. The majority of the team were on their do-it-all TCR Advanced SL frames. The team has disc brake versions of the TCR, but except for racing in poor weather it is easiest to stick with the rim brake bikes.
One last check by the UCI to make sure no Sunwebbers are trying to sneak their way to the finish with a concealed motor. And a last go around by the team mechanic to make sure everyone’s tires are topped off so they’ll hit the ideal pressure when they hit the cobbles later in the day.