Spring Classics Wrap: Tom Boonen, Specialized, and New Bikes
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Tommeke wins Roubaix. Photographer: Courtesy of Roxanne King on Flickr.
With Liège-Bastogne-Liège on Sunday, the 2012 Spring Classics season drew to a close, and there were two big winners this year.
Tom Boonen, of the newly merged Omega Pharma-Quickstep team, swept up all three cobbled classics, with sprints from small bunches in the Tour of Flanders and Gent-Wevelgem and a decisive solo attack at Paris-Roubaix. It's vindication for the 31-year-old Belgian, who had faced criticism for a lack of big results in the past couple of years after a spate of injuries, scandals, and lackluster form. With his winning spring campaign—the Belgian also picked off the Semi-Classic E3 Harelbeke—Boonen tied the career records for Flanders and Roubaix victories (three and four, respectively) and became the first-ever rider to twice complete the Flanders/Roubaix season double.
The other clear victor was Specialized, whose bikes were ridden to five of seven classics wins. Even more impressive was the breadth of bikes with which Specialized won. Boonen took Flanders aboard a Tarmac SL4, Gent with the company's aero S-Works McLaren Venge, and Roubaix on the a revamped Roubaix platform (more on that in a minute). A few weeks later, Astana's Enrico Gasparatto grabbed the sprint at Amstel Gold on a Tarmac SL4, and his teammate Maxim Inglinsky upset the favorites at Liège-Bastogne-Liège, also aboard a Tarmac. The only classics that Specialized didn't capture were La Flèche Wallonne, which Katusha's Joaquim Rodriguez won riding a Canyon Aeroroad CF, and the early season Milan-San Remo, won by Simon Gerrans with a new Scott Foil. It's worth noting that Boonen's big haul was likely aided by Cancellara's early exit from the classics after the Swiss crashed and broke his collarbone in a Flanders feed zone.
Tom Boonen's Specialized Roubaix SL4 atop his Omega Pharma-Quickstep team car.
Specialized used the Hell of the North to debut its revised Roubaix platform, which will likely be called the SL4 if it follows the company's naming convention, though the Morgan Hill, California, manufacturer was tight-lipped about details as the bike is still in its final development phase. “We weren't quite ready to do the official launch yet but we had to do something because in order for the bike to be raced by the team it's required [per UCI rules] that we put it in front of the public,” says Sean Estes, Specialized's global PR manager. Though there are scant details about the new bike, a close look at the frame shows that the distinctive Zertz inserts, the elastic dampers placed in the seat stays and fork for quieting chattery bumps, are now bigger and plug into clefts in the carbon rather than being wholly surrounded by it as in past iterations. The company apparently has a new elastomer-style suspension seat post for the bike, too, though Boonen chose not to ride it.
Alessandro Ballan rode the new BMC GF01 to a podium finish at Paris-Roubaix.
Specialized wasn't the only company to debut a bike for the classics. BMC unveiled a new endurance ride, the GF01 (as in Gran Fondo), which Alessandro Ballan steered to third place at Paris-Roubaix. The bike revisits BMC's unique Tuned Compliance Concept (TCC), first employed on the TeamMachine, which uses three different carbon weaves to add vertical compliance, hence comfort, in the seat post, stays, and fork. More dramatic is the new Angle Compliance Concept, which uses bends shaped into the frame at the top of the seat stays, bottom of the rear dropouts, bottom of the fork ends, and top of the seat post to create directional flex and comfort in the bumps. Between the appreciable frame shaping, the slacker geometry, and the bigger 28mm tires around which the platform is built, the bike is designed for stability and comfort on rough roads and long rides. BMC's TeamMachine is already a very plush ride relative to other race-oriented bikes, so the GF01 looks set to bring a new level of comfort to high-end performance. Stay tuned for reviews of both bikes.
Trek rolled out the Domane for Fabian Cancellara's spring campaign.
Finally, Trek rolled out a cobbles-ready race bike of its own this spring, the Domane. Developed expressly for Fabian Cancellara's spring classics campaign, the bike employs a split top tube design (reminiscent of the Volagi Liscio) that bypasses the seat tube junction to meld straight into the seat stays. The company says that by decoupling the input of rider power from energy-squelching road vibrations, the frame helps minimize rider fatigue while increasing traction on rough surfaces such as cobbles. The bike proved itself early in the spring when Cancellara used it to solo to the win on the gravel roads of the Strade Bianchi. Unfortunately for Trek, the big Swiss wasn't able to post any further results on the Domane after crashing out of Flanders. But we expect to see this bike challenging Specialized's predominance at the Giro di Lombardia and other autumn classics.