Cross, Electrified – Shimano’s Di2 group hits the dirt

Niels Albert is on a roll. The world cyclocross champion, a rider who became the discipline’s new prince last season, started his season with four victories in the lead-up to the first World Cup in Treviso, Italy, which he went on to win. Until now, Sven Nys has been regarded as the king of ’cross, but he’s had a very different start to his season. After a top-15 placing at the 2009 mountain bike world championships, his cyclocross season had a rocky start.

By Matt Pacocha

Both Albert’s riding and the conditions were hot in Treviso

Photo: Mark Legg

Niels Albert is on a roll. The world cyclocross champion, a rider who became the discipline’s new prince last season, started his season with four victories in the lead-up to the first World Cup in Treviso, Italy, which he went on to win.

Until now, Sven Nys has been regarded as the king of ’cross, but he’s had a very different start to his season. After a top-15 placing at the 2009 mountain bike world championships, his cyclocross season had a rocky start.

Nys was only ninth in Neerpelt, Belgium, his first test, but his fortunes appeared to be on the upswing in Eernegem, where he finished third; Albert took the victory there. But at the first World Cup in Treviso, Nys didn’t even finish.

His coach, Paul Ven den Bosch, said it was Nys’ worst performance in five years, since the world championships in 2004. The DNF leaves the once-mighty Nys mired in the low end of the standings, now just 127th in the UCI rankings with only two points. Albert, on the other hand, leads the standings with 360 points.

Both Albert and Nys are on Shimano’s Di2 group, and both have the battery mounted on the downtube.

Photo: Mark Legg

These two champions, the new and the established, have one thing in common at the start of the 2009/2010 cyclocross season: component choice for the season. Both are riding Shimano’s new Di2 electric drivetrain.

Nys also has a new bike. While Albert’s bike isn’t new, it is now available in the U.S. It’s the same model that U.S. star Katie Compton is using this season.

Compton took her own victory in Treviso. And her husband, mechanic and manager, Mark Legg, was there with his camera, scoping out Albert’s Stevens Carbon Team and Nys’ Colnago Prestige as well as the Ridley X-Night used by Fidea’s Petr Dlask .

Albert’s Stevens Carbon Team Cyclocross

In cyclocross, descriptors like neutral, no frills and proven can be just as important as latest and greatest. Albert’s and Compton’s Stevens Carbon Team bikes are just that, workhorses that just plain get the job done.

The Carbon Team isn’t the lightest bike out there, but it has great mud clearance and is stiff enough to transform a world champion’s power into wins. For 2010, Sinclair Imports will be bringing the bikes into the U.S., so Albert’s bike is available to U.S. riders now. A 54cm frame is claimed to weigh 1,250 grams and the straight bladed, full carbon fork weighs 450 grams with an un-cut steerer. The frameset retails for $1,700.

Albert’s bikes feature Shimano’s Di2 group with a prototype 46-tooth Dura-Ace 7900 chainring with hollow construction that is built from two pieces of forged alloy, like its 53-tooth counterpart. Shimano and its PRO component brand also provide wheels and cockpit components. Albert uses PRO’s Vibe 7s alloy stem, Vibe OS round carbon bar with DC (internal) brake cable routing and Vibe full carbon seatpost. He rode Shimano’s WH-7850-C24 tubular wheels with 32mm standard Dugast Typhoon tires. TRP EuroX Magnesium brakes and SwissStop Yellow King pads slowed the star down after he crossed the finish line.

Albert won in Treviso on standard 32mm cotton Dugast Typhoon tires.

Albert won in Treviso on standard 32mm cotton Dugast Typhoon tires.

Photo: Mark Legg

Nys’ Colnago Prestige

Nys’s new Colnago cyclocross bike combines a monocoque high modulus carbon fiber front triangle with lugged chain and seat stays. The new frame is lighter than the older fully lugged C50 cyclocross bike and the manufacturer says it’s stiffer.

Nys rode components similar to those used by Albert, down to the wheels and tires. The major differences are a PRO PLT alloy stem, Colnago-branded seatpost and TRP’s EuroX Carbon brakes.

Nys’ Colnago C50 back up bikes

Photo: Mark Legg

Dlask’s Ridley X-Night

The Fidea team largely uses Ridley’s X-Night model, which sports a BB30 upgrade for 2010. The bike sports more of the industry’s ‘high-tech’ design features, including an integrated seatmast, tapered fork and headtube, and the aforementioned BB30 oversized bottom bracket.

Instead of a replaceable derailleur hanger, both non- and drive-side CNC machined dropouts are replaceable. This is said to produce a stiffer derailleur hanger for better shifting, but is still repairable should it be damaged. The current X-Night retails for $3,000.

Dlask and his Fidea team are sponsored by SRAM and use the brand’s Red component group. Dlask uses Time’s ATAC XS Carbon pedals and Selle Italia’s Flite saddle. Other components are from Ridley’s house brand, 4ZA, including the wheels and wide profile cantilever brakes. The most important item — the tires — are supplied by Challenge. Dlask rode the Challenge Grifo in Treviso.

Photo Gallery