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Back 5.15.2013

OPQS’s Rolf Aldag big on Carbon Clinchers

Rolf Aldag definitely is an all-arounder when it comes to cycling knowledge. He is a former pro cyclist who has worked in triathlon. He’s a student of cycling technology who understands the traditions of pro cycling and the differing needs of each rider.

We caught up with Rolf, sport and development director for the Omega Pharma – Quick-Step Cycling Team, this week at the Amgen Tour of California:

Zipp: Friday’s 19.6 mile (31.6 km) Stage 6 time trial in San Jose is a tricky one with a rolling to flat course with a steep climb to the finish. How does an unusual course like that effect wheel choice and bike setup?

Rolf: To me it’s still beneficial to roll on a TT bike with a very small gear. It might look kind of funny, a 39X28 or even go with WiFLi (Rear Derailleur) and go even bigger.

They will not hit the climb totally exhausted (because of the aero advantage from the TT bike). Otherwise, I would even consider a bike change – say, go as light as possible (for the final climb).

Zipp: You’ve been a proponent for using carbon clinchers instead of tubular wheels for time trials. Why?

Rolf: I am a big fan of numbers. Feeling is one thing, and you really have to listen to riders’ feedback. But at the end of the day if you talk about speed, the only thing you have to consider is pure numbers. So you go out for testing and you prove it…. It has been tested on the velodrome with power meters. It was been tested in a very clean environment on a drum, the rolling resistance. (Aldag said these tests found Zipp Carbon Clinchers to have a lower rolling resistance than tubular wheels.)

Zipp: California roads are many lanes wide. How does racing on these huge roads compare with racing on small European streets?

Rolf: It does make it really, really hard to create a good lead-out because constantly you have people next to you, not behind you. It’s hard to put them behind you. The only way you can put them behind you is to go fast, but you can only do that for a limited time. On narrow European streets, you just need to know where to accelerate and where to go fast and then you can relax. Here, if you want to be in the front, you better hit it late and then you better go full speed ahead…. Otherwise people swing around you and swing around you and swing around you.

Zipp: More than 20 years ago you raced in the Tour de Trump and Tour DuPont. Now you’re helping to lead the Omega Pharma – Quick-Step Cycling Team at the Amgen Tour of California. How has U.S. racing changed over that time?

Rolf: It’s difficult for me because it’s East Coast vs. West Coast. I just find it so hard to judge on that. With the setup (in the United States) it’s always nice because you’re always in big hotels, you’re together with a lot of teams but you have the space (for the team vehicles)… You’re not on a very narrow, super-complicated layout where everybody has to fight for his spot. It’s pretty relaxed. I think everybody feels that, so you have a little bit more time to spend with the riders before and after the race.

The support (in the United States), I always like it…. You don’t have that history of 100 editions of the Tour of Flanders where guys by the side of the road went there with their grandfather and great grandfather and will go with their kids and their grandchildren…. But there are a lot of enthusiastic people at the side of the road.

Zipp: When you ride, what’s your favorite wheel setup?

Rolf: 404 Firecrest Carbon Clinchers. That’s what I always use at home.