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By Matt Pacocha
You can’t rest on your laurels in the world of cycling.
The old adage that you’re only as good as your last race appears to apply doubly in the product world these days. Barely have consumers had time to get their hands on the stuff introduced at Interbike, when new, lighter, faster (and probably pricier) product is making early appearances in the peloton.
This year’s Mallorca Challenge turned into a prime opportunity for manufacturers to try out new gear on teams and to offer reasonably orchestrated “sneak peeks” at the some beautiful product that will likely appear in shops by year’s end. Mavic debuted a new wheel, Easton had prototypes of its new wheel under the Astana squad and, despite the absence of a Mallorca time trial, the Saunier Duval-Prodir boys had their new SRAM TT gear at the ready this week.
Mavic released a brand new wheel to the public under the Cosmic banner. The new set is called Cosmic Carbone Ultimate and Mavic has positioned the wheel as its top-of-the-line all-round race wheel.
“It’s designed to be the lightest aero wheel that we have for hardcore racing,” said Sean Sullivan, Mavic’s marketing director. “This is a totally new approach to wheels for us, it has carbon spokes, carbon rim and carbon hub. We’ve been working for a little over two years on this project with our racers and the technology is dialed in and we’ve got the production capabilities so why not throw the switch right now? We wanted to get it out there as soon as possible, especially for our racers.”
The wheel only comes in a tubular configuration and weighs 1185 grams. Its rim height is 40mm and it’s molded from 12K carbon fiber. The most interesting aspect is that the wheel does not use a mechanical spoke attachment system. The spokes, also made from carbon fiber, are molded to the rim and the hub. The spokes on the front wheel actually continue from one side of the rim through the high flange hub to the opposite side of the rim.
Mavic claims that the materials and construction method combine to form a wheel that is very stiff. The front wheel can not be trued, but the rear can be by means of a unique hub-mounted nipple system. Because the rim and spokes are molded together they are impervious to water, giving the wheelset added advantage in poor conditions or in cyclo-cross. The wheelset will be available in June to the tune of $2750.
David Millar showed up in Mallorca with his Scott Plasma TT rig for a little early season prep’ work. The SRAM-equipped bike gave us a glimpse at that company’s new time-trial components, including new bar-end shifters and aero brake levers.
The levers on both are molded from carbon, while the mounts are made of anodized aluminum. The indexed rear shifter works only with SRAM Exact Actuation rear derailleurs, while the front friction shifter and works with any manufacturer’s front derailleur. SRAM employees said the brake levers weigh 99 grams a pair and the shifters are 139 grams a pair. The cable routing for the brake levers is internal.
Since the new components will be officially released to the U.S. market at the Tour of California, Michael Zellmann, SRAM media manager declined to comment on the European unveiling at the Mallorca Challenge. He did say that SRAM has been ramping up it commitment to the road market.
“As we further our road commitment we want to ensure that we have every possible component available for every potential road discipline,” he said. “We are constantly asked what’s next and this is one of our answers.”
No one said a word about retail pricing or availability in Mallorca. Stay tuned.
Easton EC90 SLX wheels
Astana brought a new wheel to the Mallorca Challenge and the team is currently in possession of the entire first pre-production run of Easton EC90 SLX prototypes. The new wheel is poised to compete with Zipp’s 202, Bontrager’s Race XXX Lite and Lightweight’s Ventoux. Labeled EC90 SLX, the new wheel features a 24mm carbon tubular rim made specifically to minimize weight. This will be the team’s go to wheel for climbing stages and hilly races.
“The first tooling started after the Interbike and Eurobike shows and all of the first production went straight to Astana to make sure they had them in time for their first team camp,” said Jeff Schneider, Easton’s marketing manager. “We’re actually starting on the Easton production now. We are hoping to have a mid-season release… to hit around April.”
Easton does not have a production weight on the wheels, but the SLX 24mm rims have a target weight of 250 grams. The team’s rims came in a bit heavier at 270 grams because of a special request, the team wanted external nipples on the rim.
“Originally they [Astana] thought that they would race the 56s [Tempest II] most of the time, which is better for us because of the signage,” said Schneider. “But they’ve come back and said that they really like the 24s [EC90 SLX] and they want to stick with them for a good portion of their racing. We are trying to convince them that they can use those during the classics too. Obviously, in the classics, it depends what the weather is like. If it’s really wet, muddy and things like that, then they are a little bit more concerned. [If it’s bad] they’re pretty bent on having 32-hole aluminum wheels for those [conditions] just because they’re so paranoid.”
The production wheels will have internal nipples and will feature Easton’s R4 hubs, which were released at last fall’s Interbike tradeshow. Easton’s engineers have not settled on a spoke count, but say it will be either 18 or 16 double-butted straight-pull spokes on the front wheel paired to 20 in the rear. A retail price has not been set.