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Road Racing

Cervelo confirms it’s making a cyclocross bike, but what will it look like?

Wout van Aert and Marianne Vos will eventually get new Cervelos to suit their palmares.

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Jumbo-Visma’s official switch from Bianchi to Cervelo took effect on January 1, and the initial round of the team’s new road bikes has already been delivered. But while the company has a reasonably broad array of bikes in its catalog — especially when you consider the larger Pon Holdings corporate umbrella, which also includes Santa Cruz and Focus — Jumbo-Visma cyclocross superstars Wout van Aert and Marianne Vos have resorted to repainted Bianchis to close out the season.

While the stopgap measure has generated the expected stir on social media, we also now know that it’s indeed a temporary solution. Cervelo has confirmed that a dedicated cyclocross bike is currently in development.

While the paint is different than it used to be, Wout van Aert is still on the same Bianchi he was racing on just a few weeks ago. Photo: Anton Vos/Cor Vos.

“There are definitely lots of rumors and speculation circulating about cyclocross bikes under Wout Van Aert and Marianne [Vos],” said Cervelo product director Maria Benson. “Cervelo and Jumbo-Visma together have intentionally been quiet about any plans for bikes to support these world champions, out of respect for both Bianchi and Team Sunweb. Now, with the changeover after January 1, we can be open about the fact that we are working with the Jumbo-Visma technical team, as well as Wout and Marianne directly, to develop a cyclocross bike that is capable of carrying them into the rainbow stripes once again.

“As I’m sure you are aware, normal development times still apply to this project, which is why both riders are utilizing familiar bikes for the remainder of the 2020/2021 cyclocross season.  We (Cervelo) are excited and proud to partner with Jumbo-Visma and we look forward to achieving many successes together.”

While it’s somewhat understandable for Wout van Aert to be using a camouflaged version of his old Bianchi, it’s a stranger situation for new signing Marianne Vos, who went from racing a Giant TCX to a Bianchi that isn’t even labeled as such. Photo: Anton Vos/Cor Vos.

Round tubes FTW

Ok, Cervelo is developing a cyclocross bike. Big deal, right? After all, it’s not like the cyclocross segment is either red-hot or chock-full of innovation at the moment. However, the fact Cervelo has finally committed to the segment is interesting for a few reasons.

For one, while Cervelo-labeled machines have certainly done their fair share of laps around a cyclocross course, the company has never offered a true cyclocross race bike to the everyday public; everything to date has been a modification of something else. For example, multiple-time American national champion Jonathan Page raced a prototype R3 Cross back in 2007, but only two samples were ever built, and the model was never released. More than a decade later, Sunweb riders have been spotted on Cervelo Asperos both this season and last, but even those sported some modifications to make the geometry better suited for ‘cross.

So what might this new Cervelo look like? 

Interestingly, Sunweb rider Joris Nieuwenhuis has more recently switched from his previous Cervelo Aspero gravel bike to a Scott Addict CX. This shouldn’t be entirely surprising, however, given that the team was just about to switch bike sponsors from Cervelo to Scott when this image was taken. Photo: Tim van Wichelen/Cor Vos.

Cervelo’s new ‘cross bike will likely have more in common with Page’s old R3 Cross prototype (and the production Scott Addict CX that Subweb – now Team DSM – switched to) than the current Aspero. Among the expected attributes are a greater emphasis on the traditional performance metrics of low weight, tuned stiffness, and purpose-built geometry. Lower weight is more influential in cyclocross than any sort of aerodynamic frame shaping given the frequent accelerations and demanding running sections, after all, and while the Aspero’s tube shapes may very well be faster in a wind tunnel or CFD simulations, what’s more important in this arena is that the frame offers a little more compliance to help keep the modest contact patches on the ground. As is, the Aspero is a decidedly versatile machine, but ride quality isn’t one of its strong points.

Claimed frame weight on the Aspero is currently about 1,100 grams. But with this new dedicated ‘cross bike, something closer to 900 grams wouldn’t be out of the question.

Sunweb rider Joris Nieuwenhuis raced cyclocross last season on a modified Cervelo Aspero. Photo: Anton Vos/Cor Vos.
Fully hidden cabling is becoming standard issue for high-end road bikes, but it’s of questionable benefit for cyclocross given the amount of maintenance required. Consider, for example, that nearly every fully internal system requires all of the lines to be disconnected just to replace an upper headset bearing. Photo: Gregory van Gansen/PN/Cor Vos.

The geometry will undoubtedly be the biggest departure. The Aspero is fairly new-school as far as gravel bike dimensions go, with a low bottom bracket and a relatively long front end. Whatever Cervelo’s new ‘cross bike will be called, it’ll likely feature a more traditional bottom bracket drop (meaning it could be as much as 10 mm higher off the ground than the Aspero), a shorter top tube, and potentially dartier steering characteristics. 

Official tire clearance isn’t likely to be all that different since the Aspero is already on the more modest end as far as gravel bikes go. However, Cervelo would be wise to incorporate more room to prevent mud build-up given the more demanding conditions. 

As for other details, you can certainly bid adieu to superfluous things like rack and fender mounts, extra mounts for additional bottles or a top tube feed bag, and with no need to accommodate 650b wheel-and-tire setups, the Aspero’s Trail Mixer adjustable fork tips are sure to go away.

This is all speculation, of course, as Cervelo isn’t willing to provide any details just yet. 

“It’s too early to talk about any details, sorry,” said Benson. However, she did leave a bit of a hint.

“JP placed 10th and 2nd at cyclocross worlds in 2006 and 2007, respectively, so one could assume that we might lean on that development history as well.”

Yep, color us intrigued. This could be good.

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