Dwars door het hageland proves world tour hasn't figured out tubeless

This race was contested by riders that didn’t have flats. :joy: There were ~half dozen of them.

Judging from sealant seen on the bikes/kit of riders that pulled over it looks like teams are following the ill-conceived practice popularized by bicyclerollingresistance.com & using about a tablespoon of sealant in each tire. In my opinion (and the opinion of every manufacturer) this is not enough to effectively seal.

Race results sort of support that notion as riders would ride hard through a gravel sectors and then drop off with low pressure after a few kilometers back on the tarmac.

Also, at the 75km mark Van der Poel attacked and slid out on a corner but unclipped & kept it up…then almost lost the front end again as he was just sort of rolling down the road. I thought, ‘Come on, cyclocross rider, your better than that.’ Just then, a little out of focus in the background, Intermarche led the chase through the same area and totally ate it. :rofl: :rofl: That’s gravel!

Puzzles me.

Is it just that practices (and training, frankly) at the WT level are just as much about tradition and perhaps superstition than anything else? I mean, I’m sure those guys are glad they don’t have to glue tubulars anymore. But if I can set up several road bikes and a bike that takes bigger tires (I think they call those “gravel” bikes) with tubeless based on YouTube, then surely a WT mech who is the modern day equivalent to the opening scene to A Sunday In Hell can get this right. But I’m the a—-hole on the internet.

I don’t skimp on the sealant. Park tools mustache guy says not to.


@tshortt give it a watch and let me know what you think. Maybe my biased point of view is causing me to mislead.

I think world tour teams falsely believe tubeless is lower rolling resistance than the best tubed clincher setup. And, chasing that, they’re just using a smidge of sealant. Which is indeed just a skosh better rolling resistance.

But, but, but we should all ask Van der Poel how much faster the ~tablespoon of sealant tubeless setup is vs a true tubeless setup with enough sealant to close a puncture.

I’ve heard rumors that some world tour teams use a time trial clincher tubeless setup where they just brush some sealant onto the inside of the tire. Just enough to seal the tire enough to hold air. The idea being rolling resistance is super low. But, again, you’ll be surprised how much your average speed drops if you have to stop, pull your axel, and put in a new wheel.


I’ll check it out. :+1:. Not even that long of a sector. Caused a lot of issues for the field. This might be my bias but don’t we know so much from other disciplines? :man_shrugging:

Obviously it’s a balance, and they are trying to eke out every last bit (unlike me, who just doesn’t want the hassle of a puncture), but the rolling resistance of a puncture is whatever it is when an object is not in motion. Honest question: is the decrease in RR that significant?

Before going tubeless I used to add sealant to my inner tube. Saved me a few times. That’s where I think “just a smidge” is enough

I never bothered to look on the web to see if that was making me slow. Group rides and local crits aren’t WT spring classics.

1 Like

Thanks for the heads up, what a great race to watch

AN - a-hole. There’s more than one.

But yeah, you’d think they’d be able to get it right, but weight weenie-ism has a very, very long tradition in the peloton and amongst the mechanics, so I’d bet the guys are trying to get by with the least.

I am interested in the topic of “do what the pros do” because I think there are a few situations where the amateur cycling community is ahead of the pro peloton (and this may or may not be one of them…my “don’t want to flat as inconvenience” is different than “win high level races”). I get that. But I’m also a fan, and I can remember as far back as Lemond using all this cool new tech that legitimately made a difference in races and became commonplace kit. We have longed looked to that world for tech and practices that trickle down.


Isn’t this indication though of a puncture that has sealed but only after losing quite a bit of pressure? I run a fair bit of sealant and get these quite often. If it’s not in a race I stop as soon as I notice sealant spraying out, since I’d rather get it to seal with less sealant and pressure loss by either putting a finger over the hole or sticking a plug in. But in a race situation with a team car nearby the best thing to do would be to ride on through the gravel sector which is chaotic and then a get a new bike/wheel once back on tarmac where things are a bit calmer (and running really low pressure is more of a penalty)). My experience of tubeless is that at road pressures of 60+psi only the tiniest nicks will seal without noticeable pressure loss, anything big enough for sealant to be spraying out tends to not seal until down to 20-30psi (if at all).

I think most of the teams these days are pretty data-led. There are guys like Josh Poertner and Dan Bigham working with World Tour teams, they’re going to have a bunch of analysis on optimal pressure, width, sealant, etc. I’m sure they don’t think tubeless is faster than a good tubed setup if the data doesn’t support that. But the data I’ve seen shows that from a rolling resistance perspective it’s pretty much a tie between the best tubed and tubeless setups. In which case switching to tubeless would still make sense if it’s just as fast and has other benefits like being able to run lower pressures without risking a pinch flat. Or chance of sealing at some point so you can at least ride until you can get a wheel change. Or even if it’s a 50:50 call but tubeless keeps the sponsors happy!

I guess the question is whether a minimal sealant tubeless setup (assuming that is actually what they’re running, I think it’s pretty hard to tell how much sealant is in there) is actually more or less puncture prone than running a latex or Tubolite type tube? I’ve not seen any data, but there have always been races with lots of punctures and sometimes it’s just bad luck not a bad setup.

1 Like

I haven’t watched the race and will probably try to put it on in the background at work today but while I understand that WT teams and the like are steeped in tradition and sometimes are slow to pick up the newest trends, I do find it hard to believe that they are “behind” the TR forum/amateur cycling in their understanding of these concepts. They have all of the same data (and much more) data available to them, I think they make decisions with different priority weighting, if anything.

1 Like

I’m not limiting my comment about amateurs to the TR forum/amateur cycling group. We are a very small subset (even among the ppl I know personally). There is a larger community of which we belong. I find it hard to believe too. But four high level (but amateur) riders I personally know have done some of the biggest gravel races in the States consistently, with only a few incidents here and there. They figured it out.

True, but they have to act on it. I doubt you could talk to any team w/o them saying: “oh yeah, we keep up…always trying new things, always evaluating, latest stuff, margin gains, blah, blah”. But it only took a small section on a fairly standard parcours to throw a significant portion of the field off with the same issue. At least for this race, they most certainly did not figure it out.

A thing to not overlook about the pro’s is they ride with no regard to equipment and hit things “harder and faster”.

I.E when they commit to an attack or are in a large paceline, nothing in their way is going to cause them to slow down or drastically avoid it. This changes the dynamics of how pro’s equipment will tolerate the conditions vs how an amateur’s equipment will handle it.

Even the fastest amateurs who are not on paid for equipment will err on the side of not causing massive destruction to their bike/tire/wheels even if its only subconsciously. A pro rider on the other hand knows it doesn’t matter what happens to their “things” because they will just get another one of it and will blast through the roughest rough or hit the biggest holes as it can cause disruption with the others and also allows them to focus more on the effort/power output.

That’s my $.02, amateurs’ have less problems because they approach things a lot different and typically at a lower speed also.


Very good point. :+1: (whole post, not just what I’m quoting).


One of the arguments made against inserts for amateurs is “what happens if you get a puncture that won’t seal on a long event/ ride”? But we’re making the assumption that these punctures didn’t seal because of a lack of sealant? It could also be they use far less robust tyres than an amateur may.

1 Like

Plus totally different risk-reward scale I think. World Tour riders have team cars with spare wheels/bikes, and team mates who can swap bikes or pace them back to the bunch after a problem. Amateurs are on their own, at best in a road race they might be able to get a spare wheel but likely aren’t going to get back to the bunch (think I’ve only seen it happen once) and in a gravel race they’ll be fixing it themselves so likely to cost them at least a few minutes and often longer. Plus amateurs in gravel racing at least will typically peak for a handful of big races a year, so have a pretty low risk appetite for having a race-wrecking puncture.

World Tour teams often get away with punctures or mechanicals with no impact, rider is back on a spare bike/wheel in seconds and back in the bunch a few minutes later. And with riders racing 50+ days a year and the team much more than that, they’re more likely to take risks with equipment that might just give them the edge they need to win.

1 Like

+1 on all this. If I were racing with the support of a team car, I’d be running minimum sealant as well. Road tubeless (at higher pressures) is only good for sealing tiny pinholes and you don’t need much sealant to handle those. That’s still better than running tubes, but anything bigger than a pin hole at road pressures needs a tube inserted or a team car with a new wheel. There are few things I find more frustrating on a group ride than someone trying to get their road tubeless to seal. Seals for a moment, back on the road, spray the rider behind you with sealant again, add more air to try to seal again, rinse, repeat. If it’s the right kind of hole, a plug can work, but most of the time it’s best to put a tube in if you are with a group. If I’m by myself, I’m sometimes be stubborn and pull over and add air every 10 minutes until I use all my sealant and/or finally put in a tube, but I’d never do that on a group ride.

1 Like

That is completely bananas. I believe that this amount of sealant holds up to a lab test and maybe it minimizes rolling resistance. The race for marginal gains has people forgetting about major gains and tradeoffs.

It really seems that world tour pro teams are the last to learn in some respects …

You’d think that they have all the data and thus, make the best decisions. But if you e. g. listen to Alex Dowsett, the teams he was with were quite different when it came to “believing” in aero gains and modern approaches to nutrition (as opposed to “just be as thin as you can”).

I don’t see much evidence that they are the most progressive. Tubeless wasn’t born in the pro peloton and spread to us average Janes and Joes. Ditto for disc brakes. And now that many successful pro athletes run 1x for e. g. gravel races, pro teams (mostly those sponsored by SRAM) finally start to experiment with 1x again. I don’t want to kick off a 1x vs. 2x or disc vs. rim brake debate, but I am glad teams just start experimenting and seeing what works in practice and what doesn’t.

I wouldn’t, at least not as a general rule. If I knew there were some sections with crappy tarmac or some cobbles, I would make a different choice. In Dubai where you have brand new, smooth tarmac, perhaps.

In my mind it is no different than tire choice in gravel races: for some races you don’t want the fastest rolling tire and pick a tire with more meat that is less prone to punctures.

What pressures are you running on the road? These days with hookless rims and wider tyres the pressures should be quite low.
Hooked 28mm I’m on 70psi
Hookless 28mm i’d be more like 55psi.
It’s not like we are riding 100psi, and if you are then being tubeless is pointless.

1 Like

Yeah, I just think once you get over about 40psi (ie road pressures), the amount of sealant has very little impact on whether something is going to seal or not. That’s just my personal experience, I don’t think I’ve ever had a road puncture seal at high pressure if it didn’t seal almost immediately. For the lower pressures of gravel and MTB, I use a bunch of sealant because it can actually work on significant punctures.

1 Like

Under 60 for sure on tubeless. I’ve found ~40psi to be the tipping point where it seems to just blow the latex out rather than sealing. It might seal for a moment, but once you get some flex in the tire, it just blows it out again. I’ve only been running road tubeless for a few years, so maybe I just have crappy luck or unique punctures, but I see the same thing with folks I ride with. Once you see a tire spraying for more than a few revolutions, the chance of it sealing are low. Plugs sometimes work depending on type of puncture, but most of the time it takes a tube after a battle.

I used to have some sealant shoot out when I was running like 90psi when I started, but since dropping my pressures I have had no issues ever, so much so I don’t ever carry spares or tools.
I think that the sealants have gotten a lot better these days for road, you might want to look into trying different sealants.
I used stans race for my MTB that was great but no chance getting through the valve core. Muck off is one that I used recently for road and it’s been great.