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Alejandro Valverde ran 55psi at Strade Bianche

The veteran Spaniard took second on the day running Zipp's NSW tubeless wheelsets at lower pressures

Joe Robinson
11 Mar 2022

Aeonian cyclist Alejandro Valverde rode to second place at Strade Bianche last weekend and did it while running tyre pressures of just 55 psi.

That’s right, the seemingly eternal pro – who at 41 acheived his best finish at the race on what was his final attempt before he retires at end of the season – did so by riding Zipp's hookless and tubeless 353 NSW wheel at 53.7psi in the front and a 454 NSW in the rear at 55psi in the rear. 

For a 61kg, old school climber from the Murcian coastline who has been racing since the early 2000s, that seems pretty insane. Yet Zipp’s parent brand, SRAM, confirmed in its website that it was Valverde’s decision.

It said that the veteran had worked closely with Movistar’s Head of Performance Patxi Vila to optimise rim depth, tyre size and tyre pressure choice ahead of the race’s white gravel parcours. 

Zipp launched its 353 NSW wheelset in April 2021 to much fanfare and cynicism when it revealed the wheels would only be compatible with tubeless tyres by virtue of its straight-sided, hookless rim walls and a wide 25mm internal rim depth.

It also came with the recommendation of 72psi being the max pressure for the wheelset and a tyre pressure calculator that specifies ideal pressure based upon various metrics, namely rider weight and tyre width.

Valverde's decision to go 53.7psi on the front and 55psi on the rear while using 28mm Continental GP5000 TL tyres slightly defied Zipp’s tyre pressure calculator but the brand says it was fairly close.

Tubeless technology has been floating around the peloton for some while now with teams such as Katusha-Alpecin and Team BikeExchange both having used the technology in various circumstances. 

But let's be honest, the fact a rider such a Valverde is embracing tubeless technology is a big deal. 

This a stark contrast to what Valverde would have likely ridden at the beginning of his career way back in 2002. Back then he would have been on mechanical gearing with rim brakes on box-section wheels that were running 23mm tyres at 120psi, even in the wet. 

In fact, this old school approach to technology still existed with Valverde and his Movsitar team up until fairly recently. 

Remember that horror crash Valverde had in the opening day’s time trial at the 2017 Tour de France in Dusseldorf, Germany? The one where he slid out in the pouring rain and broke his leg?

Well, Cyclist has long understood from various sources this was due to Valverde running tyre pressures of over 100psi despite the conditions due to scepticism within the team around running lower pressures for better grip without effecting speed.

Fast forward five years and Valverde is running tyre pressures at likely half of what he did earlier in his career.

I guess it goes to show you can teach an old dog new tricks.

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