The Tour de France starts on July 1. For UAE Team Emirates, the Tour started months ago. The team’s quest to win a third yellow jersey with Tadej Pogacar is well underway and has been since midwinter. Every day, every member of the team focuses their efforts on what can be done to prepare for the Tour.
This year, ENVE is part of that team.
It all began in late summer 2022, when the UAE team contacted ENVE. Honestly, it was a bit surreal to hear that one of cycling’s superteams was seeking a new wheel supplier, and ENVE was one of the finalists. UAE had sourced wheels from the top brands and conducted extensive testing to suss out the top performers. Of course, we couldn’t pass up this opportunity.
By the turn of the year, we had reached an agreement with UAE, and then the real work began.
As is typical for all WorldTour teams, UAE held a midwinter team camp to get the riders oriented with staff, hammer out training and race plans, and — of course — hand out new bikes and gear.
ENVE was invited to the camp to explain the different wheel options, and at the last minute, UAE asked us to bring some handlebars too to provide different options for the riders. From the outset, it was remarkable how deeply the team trusted its performance team to equip its riders with what they needed to perform at the absolute highest level.
We came armed with years of data from aerodynamic, CFD, and real-world testing. The science conclusively indicated which wheel would be best for the riders at practically any race throughout the sprawling season, especially the Tour. Traditionally, pro teams have opted to change wheels depending on terrain — shallow, light rims for climbing or deep, aero wheels for flat stages.
Instead, we simplified things for the UAE team. Our research confirmed time and again that the SES 4.5 wheelset was the fastest option for nearly any race route, apart from extended climbs steeper than 15% gradient. The rim’s aerodynamic profile affords ample efficiency at high speeds on flat and rolling terrain. At about 1,450 grams, it’s nearly as light as a pure climbing wheel. One wheelset for 90 percent of the pro race season? It seems unconventional, but the UAE team trusted our data and even validated it with their own tests and in the early season races.
The SES 4.5 was originally designed for the Northern Classics, built around a 28-30mm tire for optimal comfort, traction, and aerodynamics. That was more than five years ago, and since then, road racing technology has significantly changed. Today, that tire width is commonplace in the pro peloton, at races throughout the season.
Pogacar gave the SES 4.5 wheels the ultimate validation. After a few rides on his new setup at team camp, he informed his mechanic that he’d be taking the wheels home with him for his training bike. If the two-time Tour champ asks for something, he gets it.
Not only was a new-school rider like Pogacar impressed by the tubeless SES wheel setup, Rafal Majka gushed that he was excited to be riding 28mm tubeless road tires on ENVE wheels. You’d expect a 14-year veteran like him to say you’d have to pry his set of tubulars from his cold, dead hands, but like the rest of the team, he trusts the technology and testing data to point him to the fastest gear.
As a whole, the team strikes a delicate balance with equipment. The attention to detail is extreme and intense, but it is ego-free and completely trusting in the data and testing that proves what setup is fastest.
Pogacar embodies this approach. He was spontaneously pulled into a meeting about handlebars, which we’d packed last-minute to bring to the team camp. He looked over the SES Aero Bars, thought about it, and said he wanted them.
Like the SES 4.5 wheels. The SES Aero Bar is also a relatively unconventional design for WorldTour racing. With narrow hoods and wider drops that flare out, this handlebar is far from a standard profile. However, in the wind tunnel and at the world’s biggest races (Stephen Cummings won a few Tour stages with these handlebars), we discovered that this shape afforded an extremely aerodynamic position while riding in the hoods. Plus, riders like Pogacar liked the extra wrist clearance.
With new projects outlined and the team already having so much success in early season, our relationship with the UAE team has only begun. Now, more than ever, we’re looking forward to this year’s Tour — it could be the first time that a rider takes home the yellow jersey aboard ENVE wheels.