Desire: Zipp 303 Firecrest Carbon Clincher

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Forged by the Spring Classics, Zipp proved there is a place for carbon on the pave with the 303.

Photographs: Zipp/Victor Lucas

The idea of carbon deep section rims thundering – or more appropriately, crashing – over the pavé sectors of Paris-Roubaix or the Tour of Flanders used to be enough to set even the most experienced racer’s teeth on edge.


Until, that was, a breakthrough was made. Zipp have been at the forefront of this reinvention of the wheel.

The company’s ‘eureka’ moment came in 2006 during a Roubaix reconnaissance with Team CSC. The sector of choice was a certain cobbled trench in an old mining town: Wallers-Arenberg.


The guinea pig? A 25-year-old Swiss Classics specialist on the eve of his first Hell of the North victory named Fabian Cancellara.


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After months of development the prototype wheels were seemingly ready to tackle the notorious sector, one of a number that the 303s were due to face that day.


However within moments the wheels were wrecked and it was back to the drawing board with a new found respect for the Roubaix pavé.

Four years later and Zipp were back to take on the cobbles. The Swiss specialist, then 29, powered away from the peloton to take a Flanders-Roubaix double: the first such win on any sort of carbon wheelset.

From tricky beginnings, Zipp continued to prove that carbon and cobbles could be a successful match. In 2012 Tom Boonen won just about every cobbled classic going on carbon Zipps and success continued at Paris-Roubaix when in 2014 Niki Terpstra powered to a solo victory.

How you adapt your bike for the cobbles is a topic of debate in clubhouses up and down the land and a discussion that will not be tackled today. However, what is clear is that your wheels are a good place to start.


And starting right at the top, the 303 Firecrest Carbon Clinchers are perfectly built for spring. In line with modern convention, they are also now disc brake ready.


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A wider brake track allows a wider tyre: ideal for tackling exposed Flandrian roads where rough roads and crosswinds are the cyclist’s companion.


The Zipp golf ball esque rim dimples are quickly becoming Zipp’s trademark and are once again utilised to create a beautiful looking wheel.


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