Tech Unpacking the optimisation and tech choices for 300 km of MSR
We take a look at the aero tips, tricks, and outright fails at the first Monument of the year.
Pogačar turned up to the team presentation with this Colnago V4Rs with Enve 4.5s wrapped with the same Conti TT tyres and a hefty smell of permanent marker…
As the old saying goes, Milan-San Remo is the easiest monument to finish but the most difficult to win. The new saying goes a little something like, aero, marginal gains, and conserving energy are everything.
With the ever-increasing understanding and focus on aerodynamics and the tailwind forecast for the decisive section of the race, I expected teams to roll out every aero trick in the book. It seems some didn’t get the memo.
Here is what caught our optimised eyes from this year’s “La Classicissima.”
Let’s start with the winner. Van der Poel raced aboard what appears to be an updated Canyon Aeroad. Those hoping for an entirely new frame may be a little disappointed, though. If this is a/the new Canyon Aeroad, the only notable change is a slight redesign of the seat tube, specifically the junction from seat tube to the under side of the top tube, and other minor tweaks to the head tube and bottom bracket area. Gianni Vermeersch and Quinten Hermans both opted for Canyon’s new Ultimate CFR. Undoubtedly a classy bike, but one has to question its suitability for Milan San Remo, especially for two riders most likely working in the service of others. Using basic calculators, we estimate an 800 gram saving (lets be generous) might save a rider 2-3 seconds on the Poggio yesterday, some or all of which could have been eliminated by any additional drag from a presumably slightly less aero setup. One could speculate if this was just an opportunity to advertise the new Ultimate on the biggest stage, but both riders seem to prefer the Canyon’s lighter offering having opted for the same setup in both Tierreno and the Volta Algarve earlier this season. Speaking of Canyons, Jasper Philipsen and Søren Kragh Andersen both have the pleasure of riding these rather fetching purple-y Aeroads. Both riders, like the rest of the team, are on the existing Aeroads, and not the updated model MVDP is seemingly testing. Phillipsen, like many other Shimano sponsored riders, opted for the Dura Ace C60 wheelset. Deeper wheels and more aero setups in general seem the logical choice for Milan San Remo. Yes the race is decided on the short ascent of the Poggio, but conserving energy is the name of the game for the preceding six hours. All things being equal, improved aerodynamics equals decreased energy expenditure. On a similar note, many Vittoria sponsored teams were running what appears to be a new Corsa Pro Graphene tubeless tyre. There’s no news on the new tyre as of yet, but Vittoria would surely target improved rolling resistance for any new top line addition to the Corsa range. Philipsen seemingly takes aerodynamics very seriously and is often one of the few riders opting for the Kalas x Vorteq Project RR 1.0 race suit. Identifiable by the thin tube-like detail running through the arms, the suit employs Vorteq’s “double layer” technology. Think aero base layers but incorporated into the suit. The suit is designed and optimised for the higher speeds sprinters typically hit in World Tour sprints. Attila Valter opted for Reserve’s 40|44 wheelset. Having personally ridden the excellent and deeper 52|63 wheelset weighing a mere 150 grams more, the only reason I can think of to ride the 40|44 at San Remo is for a better match to what appears to be a 28mm tyre. The 40 front rim features a 33mm external rim width, while the 52mm front rim features a 35mm external rim width. Valter’s 28mm tyre likely inflates to around 30mm on the Reserve rim and as such, gets close to the “Rule of 105” which suggests a rim width 105% of the measured tyre width is optimal to maximise wheel and tyre aerodynamics. Van Aert is another example of a rider taking equipment choices ever more seriously and his wheel and tyre combo contrasts his teammate Valter’s. Van Aert’s choice to ride with a 52-tooth 1X chainring from SRAM caught the headlines, but his decision to race with what appears to be 30 mm tyres is all the more fascinating. Van Aert was the only Jumbo rider on all-black tyres. While the rest of the team is riding the as-of-yet-unannounced new Vittoria Corsa Pro, the identity of Van Aert’s tyres remains a mystery. The tyres do feature a Vittoria logo and what appears to be the recognisable Vittoria tread. The wider tyre choice should also integrate well with the 52 mm deep and 35 mm wide Reserve front wheel. Speedplay Aero pedals are always worth a mention for the aero weenies amongst us. Speaking of tyre choice, Mike Teunissen raced with rather deep Newmen wheels but more interestingly Continental’s new GP 5000 TT 28mm. The tyres are Conti’s lightest, fastest offering but are usually reserved for time trial stages. That said, if the tyres offer a rolling resistance improvement and time/wattage in a short time trial, just think what kind of saving they might offer over 300km. Fun fact – Adam Yates recently won the mountain top finish in the UAE Tour at Jebel Hafeet using the same “time trial tyres”. Pogačar turned up to the team presentation with this Colnago V4Rs with Enve 4.5s wrapped with the same Conti TT tyres and a hefty smell of permanent marker… As far as we could tell, he started with the more typical GP 5000 S TR tyres, though. Unless this picture was taken after his crash in the neutral section. The dropper was back, but not as effectively. Wout’s sleeve wrinkles providing the marketing for Philipsen’s suit. Interestingly I didn’t spot a single rider opt for the so-called “aero crop top/aero base layer” which has proved so popular in many road races already this season. While we have not seen Jumbo opt for the trip inducing underwear, teams like UAE who have opted for the base layers in many races, chose to drop the gains for San Remo. I like to think Northwave has to make these prototype shoes for Ganna because the shoes us mere mortals ride simply couldn’t handle Top Ganna watts. Forgive the out of focus image, no camera can focus quick enough. Joking aside, a special mention for Arnaud De Lie’s reasonably priced Roadr 900 shoes from Decathlon house brand Van Rysel priced at £130, or in other words, a bout 1/3 the price of some World Tour level shoes these days. Barring UCI intervention, it seems angled levers are here to stay. Tim Wellens’ levers are among the most extreme in the World Tour peloton. Yes, that is the same Tim Wellens who over shot the first hairpin on the Poggio and aided Søren Kragh Andersen in closing the gap to Pogačar’s wheel. #JustSaying Pictures we have seen suggest Wellens has not carried the wrist padding under the bar tape across from his Lotto days. Pog himself prefers an inward angle on his levers, but not quite as extreme as Wellens. Damiano Caruso also opted for the S TR tyres, but was among the many riders to opt for deeper wheels with Caruso choosing the Metron 60 SL. Frustratingly, Metron does not list the external rim width of the 60 SL wheelset on its website. Answers on a post card to the comments section, please. With all the talk of Van Aert’s 1X, both Mads Pedersen’s 2X 56 tooth chainring and Jasper Stuyven’s 1X 54 tooth flew under the radar. The Trek-Segafredo squad unsurprisingly raced with a fleet of new Madones, but riders preference on handlebars varied between the Madone specific one piece barstem and the as-of-yet unreleased new RSL aero handlebar. The Trek riders also had Trek’s new aero helmet, another unreleased/prototype offering as-of-yet. Ryan Mullen doing the hard work for our entertainment carrying the extra aero drag of a GoPro action camera. Either that or this is an action camera take on the “Tom Compton Challenge.” A test devised for assessing the precision of aero testing by adding an object with known aero drag and identifying if said additional drag appears in the results. Race suits, aero helmets, frames and even socks are all commonplace in the peloton now. Interestingly, though, almost no one raced this year’s San Remo with shoe covers. Undoubtedly aero socks tick most of the lower-leg aero box, but shoe covers surely couldn’t hurt. Unless that is, it’s Gianluca Brambilla’s shoe covers. For whatever reason, Brambilla has decided to go at the covers with a pair of scissors to entirely expose the draggy cotton sock below and the draggy BOA dials the shoe covers are designed to hide. There’s also one random hole at the toe area. Mind blown emoji.
2023 Milan-San Remo aerodynamics Marginal gains Milan-San Remo