Q&A with Trek-Segafredo Technical Manager Matt Shriver on the team’s Pirelli tires
Trek-Segafredo enjoyed a successful start of the 2020 season with wins across the board in both the men’s and women’s teams.
Part of the recipe for that success lies in the quality and reliability of the components our riders depend upon as they race for glory. Helping the team staying rubber side down and blitzing to the finishing line is Pirelli, one of the World’s leading tire manufacturers.
We sat down with Matt Shriver, Trek-Segafredo’s Technical Manager, to learn about the role Pirelli, the team’s new tire sponsor for 2020, played in those victories.
What type of tires does Pirelli supply the team with, and what are their main attributes?
Trek-Segafredo uses tubular tires for 95% of the races. We race on Pirelli’s P ZERO Velo which is their top-end tubular tire. We choose that tire because it has three main characteristics that we look for.
First, it’s fast, really fast. It’s a low rolling resistance tire, which means the riders have to use less energy to go at higher speeds. Then the next feature we look for is the grip. A tire that performs super well in all conditions: cornering at high speed, low speed, and all types of handling on a wide range of surfaces. So whether the terrain is a smooth road or rough pavement, it performs exceptionally well, be it in wet or dry conditions. Then the third thing is puncture protection or, in other words, resistance to flats.
It’s challenging to make a tire that has all three of those characteristics without compromising one or the other. Often if you make a tire that’s resistant to punctures, it will roll really slow, but this compound that Pirelli uses in the construction of the tires is very resistant to punctures, and it’s equally really fast while having a good grip.
With years of top-level racing expertise, Pirelli designed the P ZERO using SmartNET™ Silica, which delivers reliable grip in both dry and wet, as well as top-notch puncture resistance and mileage. Before the 2020 season came to a halt, Trek-Segafredo put Pirelli’s crowning jewel to the test in distinct racing conditions.
We’ve had the opportunity to try out the tires in different conditions this year: in the heat in the Tour Down Under but also in cold, wet conditions such as the opening weekend in Belgium. What was the feedback that you received from the riders?
We’ve raced in most conditions now, and the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. The most consistent feedback I get is how fast the tire is in all conditions, and then also how good the grip is. During Omloop Het Nieuwsblad this year, which Jasper Stuyven won, we did switch to a different tire, which is a classics tire, a reinforced version of their P ZERO Velo tires. The casing is a little bit different, as is the rubber compound, but it’s still very fast.
Why was that decision made? What were the advantages versus the standard P ZERO Velo?
For that race, we needed a little bit more protection because we’d be riding on rougher roads where the pavement isn’t consistently smooth. This specific tire has a little more puncture protection, and it’s also a little bit wider so we could run a 28 mm in races such as Omloop and Tour de Flanders. It also gives a bit more compliance and comfort.
P ZERO TT is Pirelli’s cutting-edge clincher tire designed for high speeds and providing minimal rolling resistance and aero drag. It’s the fastest and best-performing tire in the P ZERO™ Velo family. As Shriver explains, this is a welcome asset to have when the Trek-Segafredo riders race against the clock.
What tires do we typically use on the time trial bikes?
We actually use a little bit of everything, but for now we are running a specific time trial clincher tire on our front wheels. That tire is faster because it gives a lower rolling resistance, and clinchers have improved aerodynamics. So we typically use that on the front wheel. It’s a lighter tire and more aerodynamic. In the back wheel, we still use a tubular for the most part. However, there are a few riders that also use a clincher time trial tire from Pirelli in the back wheel. It’s a little bit down to the rider preference but also dependent on the course, but for the most part we are running a P ZERO TT clincher on the front wheels and a P ZERO TT tubular on the rear wheels.
So going into the classics, for example, for Paris-Roubaix or Tour de Flanders, are those distinct races in terms of the tire choice?
For Flanders, in the men’s race, the riders generally prefer to ride a 28 mm tubular tire. They do that for comfort and a little bit more durability. Just because of the rough roads, the nature of those courses and then for Roubaix they actually go even wider, up to a 30 mm tubular. That has similar protection to the 28 mm but the advantage there is you get a wider tire that you can run even lower pressure. It’s a lot smoother, more comfortable over the rough sections of the tarmac or cobblestones. That’s a big advantage because on the cobblestones is typically where the selection is made in these races. I won’t say the race is won there, but you definitely need to make it through those sections with the leaders, and having a wider tire at lower pressure is just a lot more comfortable with a lot lower rolling resistance so that you can go faster.
Do the women have identical tire preferences as their Trek-Segafredo male counterparts?
So with the women, they also ride 26 mm most of the time, even more often than the men. They prefer a narrower tire. Most of them are smaller compared to the men, and they’re not going quite as fast, so they just prefer a little smaller tire. So on the women’s side, we don’t typically ride the 28 mm often. A few of them do, but only in the really rough races where we know they have a lot of cobblestones. On the day after Omloop, I believe it was Le Samyn, they used 28 mm because that course is much rougher, and they wanted to have a little wider tire for more compliance and flat protection.
How many tires does the team typically go through in a single racing season?
With the men’s team alone, we use around 1,200 tubulars per season. And then for the women’s team, we use another 400.
Is there one key aspect of working with Pirelli that makes them stand out?
The thing that’s really nice about Pirelli is that they bring all that racing history, and there’s a lot of data behind their products. That’s something pretty unique to their brand, where they bring a lot of information and testing to their products that they then match with riders’ experiences during training and racing. That’s been really positive for us to be able to correlate what the riders are feeling to what Pirelli sees in data.