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Seen in the pits and the start line
By Andrew Juskaitis
With the Big Bear cross-country course offering predominantly dry, fast fireroad conditions, it was no surprise that most of pro men chose to run hardtail rigs. In fact, a straw poll of the top-20 call-ups revealed 17 hardtails and only three full-suspension rigs (two Giant NRS’s and one Specialized Epic). Coincidence or not, both the Giant and Specialized pro teams mandate that their riders ride full-suspension technology–like it or not. By the end of the race, the winner and top nine finishers rolled across the line on hardtails. Full suspension was nowhere to be found.
And while the course was predominantly groomed fireroad, the descents did throw a healthy dose of loose, sharp rocks at rider’s tires. In retaliation, most of the pro men and women chose to run some form of tubeless technology. Whether “officially” with tubeless specific tires, or non-tubeless tires sealed with Stan’s tubeless formula, most riders were not willing to run the risk of running only standard tubes. Interesting to note that all of Trek’s riders (including Roland Green) were running standard tubes to save every gram. Surprisingly, more than a few riders rolled up to the start line running Shimano’s new high-end M-956 tubeless wheelset (look for complete test in the upcoming issue #12 of VeloNews).
Ryder Hesjedal rolled-up to Saturday’s start line running the requisite compliment of Shimano hardware. Noticeably absent was the small chainring on his XTR crankset. Of note according to Shimano’s Chris DiStefano, is the fact that Shimano-sponsored athletes are required to run “complete XTR drivetrains , shifter and hydraulic disc brakes.” Unlike in years past where many Shimano-sponsored athletes mixed-and-matched Shimano components (most ran only two chainrings to reduce weight and improve chainline) 2003 contracts clearly stipulate the all-or-nothing clause. Ryder explained he, “never used his granny gear, so he had it removed to save a bit more weight.” His win today in the cross-country was so dominant, there’s no doubt his would have taken the checkered flag riding a full rigid single speed.
In preparation for Sunday’s downhill event, Hyundai/Mongoose rider Eric Carter mounted-up a semi-slick tire on the rear of his “Mongoose” downhill rig. While every bike we saw today while strolling the pits revealed some form of round-profile front and rear knobby tire, carter’s Tioga 2.3 DHS tire (the same rear tire that Nicolas Vouilloz rode to a 2002 World Championship) was a surprise find for the loose-corner downhill course. We will see if the lower rolling resistance of the rear tire pays off for Carter in Sunday’s race.
Stay tuned for more tech details of Sunday’s short track and downhill races…