Cross over to the SuperX

Elemently_SuperX

Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

Elemently_SuperX

More of that slick finish on the all-carbon disc fork. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

Elemently_SuperX

Toptube logo. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

Elemently_SuperX

The SuperX utilizes Shimano's flatmount for both front and rear disc brakes. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

Elemently_SuperX

Schwalbe's excellent X-One knobbies were fast and predictable. I just wish they were tubeless ready. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

Elemently_SuperX

The Shimano 105/RS505 levers worked brilliantly but the slight bulge inside the hood was a bit awkward. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

Elemently_SuperX

Grippy Cannondale gel bar tape. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

Elemently_SuperX

Fabric's excellent Scoop Shallow Elite was comfortable and easy to clean. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

Elemently_SuperX

Just can't get enough of that paint job. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

Elemently_SuperX

Instead of the heavy stock wheels, we spent half of our test period using a pair Stan's ZTR Avion Team and the difference was night and day. Photo: Stephen Lam/ element.ly

You’re probably asking why I’m reviewing a ‘cross bike now that cross season is all but over.

But hear me out for a few minutes here.

After InterBike (I know, so long ago), I was told that a SuperX was on its way directly from the show floor and I was stoked! I’ve been hearing a lot of great positive things about the SuperX and simply couldn’t wait to give it a run. But before I got the package, I got called out to cover the Loma Fire in the Santa Cruz Mountains. So the wife had fun lugging the giant box into the garage. Thank goodness the bike was light.

When I got back from the fire, the box was sitting there taking up all the space in the garage, but wait, there’s a crack in the box. Let’s see which SuperX we have here:

It was the SuperX 105 with arguably the best paint job in the entire line up. I mean, just look at the fork.

But I am not here to review paint jobs and how much it weighs. I want to ride it and maybe abuse it a little to see how much it can or can’t do.

Fast forward to February 2017, the bike is now on its way back to Cannondale and I am sad to say that I am smitten with the SuperX.

Compared to a lot of cross offerings on the market, the SuperX has a rather different geometry than most in such that the headtube notably has more slack (71 degrees) with the fork using a bit more offset. This results in the bike handling nicely on low speed technical stuff yet staying rock steady as speeds head north. I took the SuperX to the Super Moon ride (in the dark) and the more time I spent riding it, the more I realized how much confidence-inspiring the SuperX is even when I was essentially riding blindly with merely the moonlight. Its carbon fiber frame will take all your lines and soak up all your mistakes comfortably.

On the race course, the SuperX takes loose off-camber turns like a champ and the 42.2 cm short chain stay feels agile with plenty of traction at the wheel. The thru-axles (10×100 front, 12×142 rear) also make a difference on long twisty descents when I use it as a gravel bike. Speaking of riding gravel, while the SuperX is a pure-breed cyclocross race bike at heart, it will do gravel very nicely.

Now, I know Cannondale offers a bona fide gravel bike, the Slate, but I don’t care. The SuperX is arguably lighter (our test bike was weighed at a respectable 19.5lbs) and better as a gravel bike than using the Slate as a cross bike, plus I can still use my old wheels as long as 1: they’re disc and thru-axle compatible, and 2: able to re-dish the rear wheel 6mm toward the non-drive side to play nicely with the SuperX’s asymmetrical chain stay (they call it Asymmetric Integration (Ai)).

The stock Maddux 2.0 wheels, though, were a bit of a disappointment. They are tubeless ready alright, but they felt sluggish as if the bike got bogged down by a pair of boat anchors. For comparison sake, I swapped the stock hoops with a pair of Stans’ ZTR Avion Pro (of course I re-dished the rear), a $2,300 upgrade that costs as much as the SuperX 105 itself but the difference was night and day as if the red bull got its wings.

So my suspicion was confirmed: With a good set of race wheels, the SuperX will fly.

And Cannondale, the Schwalbe X-One tires had just about everything I had hoped for in an all-around cross rubber: Plenty of traction and rolls fast, but why not throw in the tubeless version instead? And while I am going to nitpick here, I am just going to say that I am not a fan of the shape of the 105/RS505 hydraulic STI shift brake lever. Functionally, it worked beautifully but the bulbous bulge located inside the lever just never felt right.

So if you’re still wondering why I am writing about a cross bike in February, it’s because…

She stole my heart and I’m ready for cross season to be all season long.


CrossVegas: Thriller in the desert

Interbike16SL1092Interbike16SL1092

Pro men at the starting grid. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

Interbike16SL0370Interbike16SL0370

Racers wait for the call-up for the Wheelers and Dealers race. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

Interbike16SL0349Interbike16SL0349

Reigning U.S. cyclocross national champion Katie Compton chatting it up with a friend Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

Interbike16SL0401Interbike16SL0401

Pink gorilla sighting. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

Interbike16SL1427Interbike16SL1427

The sandpit where only the pro men managed to ride through. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

St Louis Cardinals v San Francisco Giants

Nice shirt, dude. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

Interbike16SL0491Interbike16SL0491

Kaitlin Antonneau of Cannondale p/b Cyclocrossworld.com waves to a friend during her warmup. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

Interbike16SL0701Interbike16SL0701

The lead group of the elite women navigating the course Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

Interbike16SL0812Interbike16SL0812

Almost done. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

Interbike16SL1000Interbike16SL1000

Crystal Anthony reacts after racing CrossVegas Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

Interbike16SL1026Interbike16SL1026

FYI. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

Interbike16SL0992Interbike16SL0992

Post-race recovery. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

Getting Ready. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

Interbike16SL1154Interbike16SL1154

The crowd at CrossVegas. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

Interbike16SL1067Interbike16SL1067

(L-R) Jeremy Powers, Wout Van Aert, and Michael Vanthourenhout at the line. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

Interbike16SL1404Interbike16SL1404

Stephen Hyde getting it done in the sandpit. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

St Louis Cardinals v San Francisco Giants

Wout Van Aert cruising to a solo win. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

Interbike16SL1744Interbike16SL1744

After. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

Interbike16SL1772Interbike16SL1772

Elite women's podium. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

Interbike16SL1800Interbike16SL1800

Elite men's podium. Photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

Racing cross at a place named Desert Breeze Soccer Complex is such an irony because it was hardly a breeze. Okay, the weather at CrossVegas this year was noticeably more tolerable but it’s a World Cup damnit. There’s nothing easy about that.

during UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup CrossVegas 2016 at the Desert Breeze Complex in Las Vegas, Nevada on September 21, 2016.
When the bikes on the rack cost more than the car hauling them… photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

For the spectators, however, CrossVegas was a blast. Quality racing, great atmosphere, and plenty of hospitality. It’s also a much-needed break from listening to and giving product pitches at InterBike. Two highlights:

Sophie De Boer out sprinted Katie Compton and Katerina Nash on the finishing straight for the win while Nash worked her way to claim second after a crash in the sandpit. Impressive.

Sophie De Boer attacks for the win photo:Stephen Lam/element.ly
The moment Sophie De Boer attacks for the win. photo: Stephen Lam/element.ly

The sandpit got everyone talking about whether anyone would be able to ride through it. The announcers joked it was “the finest sand imported from Tahiti”. The elite men did it like hot knife through butter. Then there was the Wout van Aert’s solo win that was so thrilling that he made it look easy even though it was obvious the warm, dry heat affected just about everyone, including the supposedly ice-cold beers. Still, the turnout and the atmosphere was pretty cool. Can’t wait to go back next year.

The lead group of the elite women race during UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup CrossVegas 2016 at the Desert Breeze Complex in Las Vegas, Nevada on September 21, 2016.

Opening for the Pros at the Cyclocross World Cup

Cyclocross World Cup, CrossVegas
Photo: Stephen Lam/Element.ly

The start chute falls completely silent. None of us are friends anymore. The referee’s whistle cues my entry into the most painful 45 minutes I have felt since last season. One hundred of us are grinding away, already turned up “to eleven.” Not even 15 seconds pass and I hear front wheel spokes grinding on a rear derailleur two bikes to my right. Then swearing. Two guys I wont have to worry about again. I adopt the Reagan-era defense mantra of “Trust, but verify.” One hundred of us rolled the start line and I only know two other racers. Some guys have skills, some just big motors. I am hoping that clean technique plays well. I need all the help I can get.

This is CrossVegas, the USA Cycling version. One hundred Category 1,2, and 3 racers have paid to race on a course that will later host a World Cup battle of an international peloton of professional cyclocross racers. For me, however, this is simply about seeing how I measure up to my peers. As a middling Cat3 CX racer, I do not expect to blow anybody’s doors off.

The “real cyclocross” debate will never end. Some people think there has to be mud, or tree roots, or deep beach sand, or epic rain. My experience has taught me there is “fast” ‘cross and there is “technical” ‘cross. But it is never “easy.” After my first warmup lap on this year’s CrossVegas course, all I could think of was Marty McFly. “This is heavy, Doc.”

Thick, ripe, wheel-grabbingly lush Bermuda grass covered the entire 3.4km course, save the two plywood flyovers and five barrier/stairs sections. In other words, no rest for the eyes-blown-out-of-their-skulls weary. The diabolical course designer sent us up and down the ramps of this desert retention basin park walls more times than I can remember. But with each racer who pulled off the course ahead of me, crying “Uncle!!,” I mustered the motivation to pedal on. “I beat that guy.”

Cyclocross World Cup, CrossVegas
The author keeping his eye on the prize. Photo: Stephen Lam/Element.ly

With two excruciating laps down and two to go, the grenades start blowing. Fit, skinny, carbon-bike-riding young-uns start moving backwards. I relish every second. A guy wearing a hydration-bladder base-layer is complaining about the heat. At 85 degrees Fahrenheit, this is the coldest ride I have made in months. But I am dying a slow death, as well. Very shortly into Lap One, my tongue took the form of a wood rasp rubbing on the 100-grit sandpaper of my soft pallate, and a dry hack now interrupts my gasping. This is so fun. I paid money to do this.

With the ringing of the last Lap, the grudge match ensues between the five of us fighting for 50th place. Yes, 50th. I have no idea who these guys are, but the gradual sifting of racers through the grid has matched us as equals today.

I hear the announcer call the Finish Sprint as we are still just half-way through the course. Almost there. Kill me now. One guy jumps, I try to follow, and three fall off. Bury it. Stay clean through the stairs and maintain. Just maintain. I can hear the huffing behind me through the last few chicanes, but I keep my wheels gripping and grind on. I cross the line head slung down, an anonymous also-ran.

The announcers are talking about the ex-ProTour roadie who placed second and the upcoming Wheelers and Dealers race. I am nobody. Just a guy from Arizona who likes to race cyclocross. All I wanted to do was finish “under par.” I started 69th of 100 and finished 51st.

What does it all mean? Regular Joes can’t play a pickup game at the Staples Center ahead of a Laker game. Nobody plays two-hand-touch on the field in Foxborough before the Patriots. But I can race cyclocross before the best racers in the world rip up the course and remind me that I am just a regular guy with a day job. Why? Because it is there.

Cyclocross World Cup, CrossVegas
Photo: Stephen Lam/Element.ly

CrossVegas brings first cyclocross World Cup to America

Elemently_CrossVegas

Always appreciate late starts. Better yet, super late afternoon starts.

Elemently_CrossVegas

Reigning US Cyclocross Champ Katie Compton (R) chatting it up before the Wheelers and Dealers race.

Elemently_CrossVegas

What's not to love when there's a shark racing on a bicycle and a Jack Daniel's handoff?

Elemently_CrossVegas

RV awning makes a good place to stash the stationary roller.

Elemently_CrossVegas

The BKCP-Crendon boys relax by the CrossVegas cooler

Elemently_CrossVegas

Plenty of wheels for the Telnet-Fidnea cycling team

Elemently_CrossVegas

Custom paint job and custom shoes for the legendary Sven Nys. Oh and check out that slick chain guard

Elemently_CrossVegas

Warming up on the new Feedback Sports Omnium portable trainer

Elemently_CrossVegas

Erica Zevata of Maxxis-Shimano waits as her mechanic does a last minute adjustment

Elemently_CrossVegas

Sometimes the best viewing spot is away from the main crowd.

Elemently_CrossVegas

A pro man checking out the pro women's race

Elemently_CrossVegas

High-speed high-fives during course inspection

Elemently_CrossVegas

Ellen Van Loy warms up between RVs

Elemently_CrossVegas

Noosa Professional Cyclocross team mechanic Daimeon Shanks power washes one of Meredith Miller's race bikes minutes before start.

Elemently_CrossVegas

A well-organized tool case is crucial for a smooth running pit.

Elemently_CrossVegas

Photographers getting ready to shoot the women's start

Elemently_CrossVegas

Sand pit!

Elemently_CrossVegas

Meredith Miller (Noosa) and Georgia Gould (Luna) push through the sand pit

Elemently_CrossVegas

A spectator-friendly run-up

Elemently_CrossVegas

Waiting for the racers to come.

Elemently_CrossVegas

Katerina Nash solo to the first CrossVegas World Cup win

Elemently_CrossVegas

Boulder Cycle Sport / YogaGlo's Crystal Anthony rests on the grass after finishing 7th

Elemently_CrossVegas

An exhausted Arley Kemmerer at the finish

Elemently_CrossVegas

The winners of the women's CrossVegas World Cup

Elemently_CrossVegas

And here comes the pro men.

Elemently_CrossVegas

The always chaotic start

Elemently_CrossVegas

The pit at CrossVegas saw much less action compared to a typical Cyclocross World Cup which is usually held in colder and wetter conditions (and in Europe), but teams took zero chances and had multiple backup bikes and wheels

Elemently_CrossVegas

The king welcomes the racers and dusts through the sand pit with open arms.

Elemently_CrossVegas

... Another reason to have a backup at the pit.

Elemently_CrossVegas

Corne Van Kessel gives chase through the barriers

Elemently_CrossVegas

Eventual winner Wout Van Aert leads Sven Nyst through the Raleigh Ramp...

Elemently_CrossVegas

While reigning US Cyclcross Champ Jeremy Powers opts to ride on the grass instead

Elemently_CrossVegas

The top of the Sram race truck makes a nice race vantage point.

Elemently_CrossVegas

Anti-doping controls. Don't ever miss this.

Elemently_CrossVegas

The winners of the men's CrossVegas world cup

Over this past year or so I kept asking myself what draws me to want to photograph cycling. I love riding my bike and thanks to my understanding wife (love ya babe) I was able to do some very cool projects. Gravel Worlds, Tour of California, and now CrossVegas.

The beauty of photographing cycling is the access and the creative freedom it allows. With the amount of PR and handlers involved, access to pro athletes is such a rarity these days. But at CrossVegas, you can just walk up to pro guys like legendary Sven Nys and Katie Compton and say hello, check out their fancy super bikes, talk more trash, and make fun happy snappies. Trying to do that at a NFL/MLB/NBA game will result in your credential getting pulled and never to be seen again.

We at Element.ly were fortunate to go behind the scenes with Team Hincapie at this past Tour of California and we’re stoked to photograph CrossVegas given that it’s the first time that a WorldCup Cyclocross race is taking place in America.

Shooting CrossVegas after spending a day on the show floor at the annual InterBike convention is really akin to working a second job after a long day at the office. But the crowds! The crowds were amazing and the racing was straight up badass. Wout Van Aert and Katerina Nash drilled it.

Anyways, time to head back to the InterBike show floor. Enjoy the gallery and stay tuned for our InterBike coverage!


American Cyclocross Kicks Off at CrossVegas

cross-vegas
Photo: Mark Bibbey/Element.ly

In just a few short days, most of the American bicycle industry will be mulling about a Las Vegas casino convention center at Interbike, drooling over products already seen at Eurobike or on the interwebs. A more entertaining lot, however, will convene at a municipal soccer complex just a few miles west of the Strip. “Soccer?” you ask. No. Not even “futbol.”

CrossVegas has been seen by many as the start of the American cyclocross calendar. Yes, some national promoters have held cyclocross races earlier, but CrossVegas is considered the first real event. What used to be a race for Interbike attendees and U.S. elite racers has exploded into an international phenomenon that attracts racers from all over the world, including the cyclocross motherland of Belgium, and even Cuba.

This year’s event is a particularly big deal because it’s the opener for the UCI Cyclocross World Cup. That’s newsworthy because there has never been a UCI Cyclocross World Cup race outside of Continental Europe.

Every National Federation that cares about cyclocross will be sending their best athletes to race. The United States received a bonus “double” and is allowed to send 32 athletes, men and women. Many spectators will look to the Belgian and Dutch teams to dominate, but the current Women’s World Champion is French. The United States has several racers who have “home turf” advantage.

So, don’t sleep on this event if you’re anywhere in town. The best cyclists in the world are going to light up the grass like Jerry Garcia could have only wished. Plus, it’s at night, under the lights, and there is beer. And Elvis.