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Stefano Cattai: "Paris-Roubaix is the biggest test for any racing frame". (Foto by Georges Luechinger)
Stefano Cattai: "Paris-Roubaix is the biggest test for any racing frame". (Foto by Georges Luechinger)

BMC Riders as Model Testers at Paris–Roubaix

8. April 2009


For the Queen of all Classics racing, the Swiss bicycle manufacturer is equipping its racers with special bicycles designed to be more robust and absorb more of the road vibrations caused by the famed cobbles.

No bicycle race makes a high demand on the materials.  Nowhere is a cyclist more dependant on the reliability of his support as he is at Paris-Roubaix.  The Hell of the North has created myths but also demands its fair share of destroyed bicycles and busted dreams. 

This race provides a special challenge for BMC, the Swiss bicycle manufacturer based in Grenchen which has provided the title sponsor for the American-Swiss BMC Racing Team.  Thanks to a Wild Card invitation, the Pro Continental team will start the epic 259 km long race which contains 27 cobbled sections.  Stefano Cattai who is responsible for being the liaison between the manufacturer and the racers, will be accompany the team.  "Paris-Roubaix is the biggest test for any racing frame," says the former professional who will be on hand also to supervise the mechanics and assist them in their efforts.  "It is the best place to look to see how the new materials are performing."

While other manufacturers have their entire teams racing on the same bicycle model for Roubaix, BMC will have half its crew riding the classic full carbon ProMachine SLC01 over the Roubaix cobbles, while four other members will be testing the new SLX model.  This permits a direct comparison of the previously developed model and the newly developed version.  "The new model is extremely rigid though nevertheless more comfortable," Cattai described the newer model made of carbon and aluminium.  The Swiss team members Danilo Wyss and Martin Kohler and the American racers Tony Cruz and Taylor Tolleson will each race the SLX.

Special parts not available for retail are the exception

In principle, all parts tested over the roads covered by the Paris-Roubaix will be available to the normal consumer.  However, there are a few exceptions with regards to the components from other suppliers.  The most important difference is with the fork supplied by the American manufacturer Easton.  "The fork has a larger opening and the weave of the carbon allows for a somewhat softer ride," Cattai explained.  In addition, the fork arch is somewhat broader.  The fork was tested over the cobbles for the first time during the Belgian race 3 Days of West Flanders at the beginning of March.  "We were entirely content with the result."  Subsequently, the forks were stored away to save for use during the Paris Roubaix. They will be used next only on Friday when the riders take them out to inspect the cobbled sectors of the course.

Another special component in preparation for the Queen of the Classics will be the chain rings supplied by Campagnolo.   While the team usually runs a 39/53 combination, for Paris-Roubaix BMC will install a 44/53.  The new rings help guide the chain through the derailleur when shifting from one ring to another.  This therefore decreases the danger of chains jumping unexpectedly.  All other components either are now or will be available to the general market within the year, such as the aluminium rims from DT Swiss and the broader 25mm tubular tires (Collé) from Continental.  The next generation of BMC bicycles is already under test.