Tony Martin shocked tubular tire aficionados when he won last year's UCI time trial world championships on Continental clinchers, and then repeated the feat to capture the German national title.
Martin will continue the trend at this year's Tour de France and according to new tire sponsor Specialized, the decision is one purely rooted in speed: clinchers are faster.
Tubulars are still widely favored in racing circles for a number of reasons: they're safer in the event of a puncture since they can be ridden flat; they generally offer better cornering characteristics on account of their (usually) round cross-sections; they're lighter as a wheel-tire system; and oftentimes they're more supple and thus deliver a better feel for the road.
However, in terms of rolling resistance, several studies have already shown that clinchers can sometimes perform better than tubulars, and Specialized is capitalizing on that fact with a special new TT-specific tire developed with the Omega Pharma-QuickStep team.
Specialized is basing that claim on data from independent wheel and tire test facility Wheel Energy in Nastola, Finland. According to data provided by Specialized to BikeRadar, Martin's prototype 700x24mm S-Works Turbo clincher generates 21.8 watts of rolling resistance when equipped with a latex inner tube (50kg static load, 116psi, 40km/h). An ultra-thin butyl tube moves the needle to 23.7W, a Continental TT-specific clincher with the same butyl tube logs 27.8W, and interestingly, Continental's Competition tubular tire is a touch slower at 28.8W.