Robbie McEwen (Katusha) remains one of the world’s fastest finishers on the road. This year he’s adding some of the nasty, northern European Classics to his race calendar – events like last weekend’s Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders) and this Sunday’s Paris-Roubaix. McEwen, like many of his fellow competitors, will be racing on board cyclocross bikes. Many of them will closely resemble the manufacturers’ stock ‘cross designs (except for the non-knobby tires, of course), while others will be road/cross mix-ups, perhaps with road forks and a front dual-pivot caliper road brake.
McEwen, who took second in Wednesday’s Scheldeprijs semi-classic in Belgium behind American Tyler Farrar (Garmin – Transitions), is clearly on good form, but recognizes that Paris-Roubaix isn’t his cup of tea. Despite the recent result, McEwen acknowledged the real reason for his inclusion on the Roubaix team in a humorous tweet: “Me riding Roubaix is a tactical choice for my team. My world ranking gives us good car position in the convoy, about sixth. Without me there, we’d be 21st.”
McEwen’s bike sponsor, Ridley, is certainly no stranger to cyclocross. They sponsor both the Telenet-Fidea and Sunweb-Revor pro ‘cross teams. Last year the majority of Katusha’s riders were on board Ridley X-Fires, but their superstar contender Filippo Pozzato, who was second in Roubaix behind Tom Boonen last year, may once again be the sole rider to opt for the more traditional Ridley Damocles road setup.
Milram riders will likely be on Focus Mares cyclocross bikes more reminiscent of Chris Jones’ rig than their typical road setups, and other Pro Tour teams are likely to follow suit with bike selections. Also keep your eyes peeled for in-line brake levers (more than is currently en vogue for pro ‘crossers), double- or triple-thick handlebar tape, plenty of cantilever brakes, sealed cable housing and some dirty faces – you just might mistake it for a cyclocross race (with a few first hours of uneventful racing).