New Zipp 303 carbon rims take to the cobbles
Several riders at this year's Ronde van Vlaanderen - from teams Cervélo TestTeam, Garmin-Slipstream and Saxo Bank - set off from the start in Brugge aboard a new version of Zipp's versatile 303 carbon tubular rim.
The new rims use a toroidal profile that noticeably bulges in width at the midsection and also appear to abandon the parallel braking surface in favor of the angled ones used on the 1080. Based on what Zipp have previously said about the 1080, the new 303 shape is presumably more aerodynamic than before and according to Zipp-sponsored 'cross rider Joachim Parbo (Leopard Cycles) - who conveniently happened to be on hand at the start and has been riding them all year - they are also much more resistant to impact damage though at this point in time it's unclear how.
Interestingly, the new 303 rims we spotted at the start were molded without Zipp's trademark aero-enhancing dimples but it's a safe bet that they'll reappear on production versions.
Carbon rims in general, however, were still the minority with just six of the 25 teams eschewing the standard-issue aluminum box-section tubulars in search of lighter weight and/or extra speed. Team Columbia-Highroad looked to be mostly on deeper-section HED carbon rims while Rabobank and Skil-Shimano were on shallow Shimano carbon hoops.