Is Remco riding rain tyres?

Evenepoel swapped bikes as rain cleared, but the details of his setup are still fuzzy.

The Giro peloton has “enjoyed” three days of rain in the opening four road stages at this year’s Giro. As is often the case, especially in Italy, the slick wet roads made for treacherous conditions. Given how difficult the conditions have been, the crashes were few and far between, at least until the final ten kilometres of stage 5.

At some point during stage four, GCN commentators mentioned Remco Evenepoel was racing with “wet weather tyres” and had changed bikes as conditions improved for faster, dry tyres. That is an interesting remark, given wet weather tyres are not really a thing in our sport.

The mention of wet weather tyres will probably elicit an image of deep-cut treads à la motorsport tyres. But with the contact patch so comparatively small on even the modern wider tyres the World Tour is now racing on, the theory goes that the compound is much more important for wet weather grip than deep grooves or specific treads. Aquaplaning is not a problem on bicycles. While often mooted, I can’t ever recall a team or manufacturer using a dedicated wet tyre for road racing.

So what, then, was the GCN crew referring to? We decided to investigate.

Expecting a non-story, we first searched for photos of Remco at both the start and finish. Perhaps it would be obvious Remco was started and finished on the same rubber. On the contrary, though, Remco started on black tyres and finished on tan sidewalls. Interest piqued!

Let’s start with what we know. Remco seemed to finish the stage on Specialized’s hugely popular Turbo Cotton tan sidewall tyres. But what did he start on?

The answer … black tyres.

Before delving further, it’s worth mentioning Specialized officially unveiled its S-Works Mondo 2Bliss Ready T2/T5 and endurance tyre with a performance focus. That’s the same tyre every Specialized squad was racing, set up tubeless, at Paris-Roubaix. Specialized lists durability, all-weather traction, puncture protection, and reduced weight among the Mondo’s strengths along with decreased rolling resistance when compared with other “endurance tyres.”

Or, in other words, perhaps the kind of tyre you might choose if you had a few hours of racing in the rain ahead of you. That tire is black.

So was Remco riding the new Mondo at the start? Seemingly not. Zooming in on photos from the start, Remco is using an S-Works Turbo T2/T5 with an inner tube (note the absence of a tubeless valve nut). The photos we have seen show the TURBO hot patch on the side of his rear tyre.

It’s at the front, though, where things get interesting. We have found clear-ish photos of both sides of Remco’s stage-starting front tyre, and the only logo visible is the “Project Black” logo. Project Black is Specialized’s term for products still in development. The brand refrains from commenting on products still in development and instead gives a standard “Project Black” statement in response to any request for comment on new products.

With a host of new tyres released by Specialized in the past ten months, it seems unlikely an additional new tyre is on the way. But with the Mondo perhaps the closest thing to a “wet weather tyre” in S-Works range, it seems equally unlikely Remco would use a Project Black-labelled Mondo on the very same day the brand officially announced that new tyre.

Specialized relies on feedback from professional athletes in both developing and testing advanced pre-production products in real-world applications. With this top-level feedback, some of these design elements and products eventually show up in future retail product offerings. We call this Project Black.

Specialized’s Project Black statement.

So are Specialized developing a wet weather tyre? Well, just to add further confusion, Remco raced the rain-sodden stage five Wednesday on the S-Works Turbo tyres with no Project Black logos anywhere to be seen. Was that stage four front wheel just a random tyre left over from either the Turbo or Mondo development process or is it a new rain tyre in the works? Time might tell.

Remco Evenepoel after his first crash on Wednesday. Photo: Luca Bettini/SCA/Cor Vos © 2023

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