Vitus Pro Cycling Team, powered by Brother UK will face the most demanding tyre test of the year with confidence, as they roll out this Sunday for the Rutland-Melton CiCLE Classic on Schwalbe tubeless tyres.
The team has used Schwalbe’s Pro One Evo TL MicroSkin rubber since the beginning of the season, most recently at the UCI-sanctioned Tour du Loir-et-Cher, where team manager and owner Cherie Pridham said the self-sealing technology had saved her team from at least four punctures on the gravel-sectored fourth stage.
Now, as the team prepares for a race billed as “Britain’s Belgian Classic”, and which takes the bone-jarring pavé of Paris-Roubaix as another key influence, Vitus Pro Cycling Team, powered by Brother UK will again look to its Schwalbe tubeless tyres for an advantage in the most mechanically demanding race on the domestic calendar.
“This is our first season with tubeless tyres, and I’m delighted to say that the Schwalbe Pro One Evo TL MicroSkin has already proved its value. At the Tour du Loir et Cher, the technology saved us from at least four punctures, on the fourth stage with its gravel sectors. When our mechanics inspected the bikes after the stage, they could see that the sealant had done its job on a number of tyres,” she said.
Sunday’s CiCLE Classic, famed for its demanding gravel sectors, will be the first time that Vitus Pro Cycling Team, powered by Brother UK, will compete on rough surfaces in the UK.
At last year’s race, the Brother UK neutral service crews replaced more than 30 wheels, and Pridham brought a host of volunteers to support her riders, equipping each with spares. This year, she will deploy a similar strategy, and hope for a favourable result from the pre-race draw for convoy position.
Additionally, the team will gain a significant boost in confidence from the evidence gained in France for the self-sealing technology of their tubeless Schwalbe tyres.
“Racing on Schwalbe Pro One Evo MicroSkin tubeless tyres is definitely going to help, even if the CiCLE Classic will always be a race where you need Lady Luck on your side. Thanks to Schwalbe UK, we’ve got the best equipment we can give to the team, and hopefully that will give us an advantage on Sunday,” Pridham said.
Schwalbe UK technician Tim Ward has been instrumental in the team’s transition to tubeless tyres. During a pre-season visit to the team’s service course in Derby, he worked with two mechanics to fit sixty-six tubeless tyres in a marathon seven-hour fitting session. He also attended the team’s recent training camp in Calpe, to meet the riders in person and present the advantages of tubeless technology, which he said would of especial benefit at the CiCLE Classic.
“The CiCLE Classic is the biggest domestic road race of the year for Schwalbe UK, and one of only four UCI-sanctioned races on the domestic calendar. We’ll have three vehicles in the race convoy on Sunday, as well as the broom wagon,” he said.
“Our tubeless technology has already proved its value to Vitus Pro Cycling Team, powered by Brother UK at the Tour du Loir et Cher, and I’m sure it will be of benefit in the CiCLE Classic, where running lower pressures without loss of grip or traction and with a reduced risk of pinch flats will be critical. Pinch flats are the most common type of puncture in that race, in our experience; it can be very easy to break a wheel at the CiCLE Classic.”
The narrow tracks that are the race’s signature provide a two-fold challenge: not only do they significantly increase the likelihood of punctures, but they also make it more difficult for team vehicles to reach stricken riders, especially for vehicles allocated a position from the middle to the back of the race convoy.
“Some of the roads are just about wide enough to pass, and so it takes much longer to reach the front of the race, if we’re called up from a position towards the back of the convoy,” Pridham explained.
“If you’re moving up on the right to get to riders, you’ve got to make sure you have passing room; that’s often not the case at the CiCLE Classic and the rider has to wait at the side of the road. Trying to follow a rider through on a gravel sector is nigh-on impossible and you can have riders from other teams stopping in front of you. It’s chaos, and so the pre-race draw for the convoy is critical.”
Team selection for the 2019 CiCLE Classic will be confirmed later today, but Pridham has a number of cards to play from a significantly strengthened squad. Nine new signings for Vitus Pro Cycling Team, powered by Brother UK, made in the closed season, include Ed Clancy OBE, Scott Thwaites, Graham Briggs and Ali Slater.
Follow our social media channels on Sunday April 28 for updates from the 2019 Rutland-Melton CiCLE Classic