VeloNews' Matt Pacocha picks out three solid choices for a broad spectrum of conditions.
Challenge Grifo Pro
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.
Mafia Racing’s Jake Wells is the working class hero of last week’s CrossVegas. A look at his Felt race bike.
Professional bike racing in the U.S. is different from just about every European country. When they say "pro" there, it means everyone in the race makes money doing it. Not so in the U.S. For some, becoming a professional means little more than cherry picking a few smaller races and paying USA Cycling $150 for an elite license. It was easy to see the differing ability levels at CrossVegas, as almost half of the field ended up lapped.
Rabobank rider Bram de Groot is a good sport. The Belgian came to Las Vegas to race CrossVegas, though he hasn’t raced cyclocross in years. To open up his legs for the race, Giant’s Andrew Juskaitis took him for a mountain bike ride on Interbike’s Outdoor Demo Caldera loop — almost two hours of dry, loose trail embedded with rocks as sharp as razor blades. De Groot had never ridden a mountain bike in his life. It was 6 p.m. when he climbed on the big bike, with ace mountain bikers Adam Craig and Carl Decker for riding partners.
Giant Bicycles brought a prototype TCX Advanced SL carbon bike to Interbike for Adam Craig to race in Wednesday night’s CrossVegas event, and VeloNews took an exclusive first look mere hours after team manager Frank Trotter finished building it.
A special request by Cannondale pulled several of us out to Interbike’s Outdoor Demo at an uncomfortably early hour on Monday and then to a “secret location” billed Area 88 — actually a local self-storage unit — via vintage Mercedes Unimog to see a “proof of concept” prototype of the manufacturer’s Simon suspension fork. The Simon is a computer-controlled, electronically damped suspension fork, a project without a specific release date. Cannondale engineer Stanley Song has poured five years of undivided attention into the project.
Editor's Note A version of this review first ran in VeloNews.com last December, too late for most cyclocross racers to make tire buying decisions for the race season. Matt has reviewed the information to make sure it is still relevant, and re-written parts. Watch for Matt's review of some new Vittoria cyclocross tubulars soon — and look for the VeloNews issue containing the US Gran Prix of Cyclocross Guide on newsstands October 1.
During the middle part of the 2009 racing season the Subaru-Gary Fisher team gave Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski, a racer with a preference for hardtails, a new full-suspension bike. To the surprise of many he raced it in some of the biggest events during the second half of this season. JHK rode Fisher’s new Superfly 100 in two world cups, the marathon national championships, which he won, and the last two stops of the Pro XTC series (where he won the overall series).
There is the right tool for every job, and on some race courses that ‘right tool' may be a 29er, or a full-suspension bike or maybe even — gasp — a 26-inch hardtail.
Editor's Note: For more on Matt's test protocol and tools and a review of three of his favorite 29ers, see Singletrack.com. The 26-inch wheeled hardtail mountain bike is, indeed, dead. OK, so I’ve been intentionally stirring the pot this summer with that proclamation. What you’re about to read is no exception.