By Martyn Herman
LONDON (Reuters) - Former Tour de France champion Bradley Wiggins believes Team Sky have developed a "game changing" bike for the forthcoming cobbled classics, starting at this weekend's Tour of Flanders.
Wiggins, along with seven team mates, will ride a bike partly developed by car manufacturer Jaguar and featuring a unique suspension system on the rear of the frame.
"I've never ridden anything like it on cobbles before, which is the most extreme terrain you can ride a bike on," Wiggins, the 2012 Tour champion, said in a statement announcing the new Pinarello DOGMA K8-S.
"The way it feels, its aerodynamics, stiffness, and improved flex in the rear, is game-changing for cycling."
The 264km Tour of Flanders, starting in Bruges on Sunday, is traditionally one of the most bruising races on the UCI calendar, with numerous sections on bone-shaking cobbles.
Wiggins, along with team mate and cobbles specialist Geraint Thomas, will contend for the title, and the 2012 Olympic time trial gold medal winner says the bike could give them the edge over their rivals.
"This is the first time anyone has gone out there, looked at the demands of the cobbles, and made a bike specifically for that job," he said. "It was really noticeable in testing between the guys on the K8-S to the others that weren't.
"It gives us lots of confidence and a huge advantage."
Champion for the past two years, Swiss Fabian Cancellara will not take part this year, leaving the race wide open.
Alexander Kristoff (Katusha), Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Sep Vanmarke (Lotto) are among the favorites.
(Reporting by Martyn Herman; editing by Toby Davis)