For the first of the big four weekend Olympic-length cross-country World Championships, New Zealander Samuel Gaze lined up on the Nové Město na Moravě start with the other U23 men. With a third place rank in UCI XC for the season, Gaze got a good front row starting place and rode near the front of the race from the start aboard a fairly standard Specialized S-Works Epic World Cup 29er. That’s not to say that the bike isn’t pretty tricked out, it’s more that Specialized actually sells some pretty race worthy cross-country bikes. Gaze’s bike build isn’t exactly stock though, and he does get a unique paint job. Take a closer look below the fold, plus an update with actual race weight…
The S-Works Epic is one of the winningest full suspension bikes to take on the top levels of competition, and Sam Gaze certainly did the bike justice, as he has done through the World Cup season this year. In fact we were here in May last year for the most recent World Cup race on this same course, which was won on essentially the same bike under Jaroslav Kulhavý.
Sam Gaze’s bike is in a unique robin’s egg blue that at first glance is easy to confuse with the Trek women’s team bikes. But the big red S-Works logos and Brain suspension – the modified Rock Shox RS-1 up front and co-developed Fox/Specialized remote Mini Brain out back – lay any mix-up to rest quickly.
Gaze’s bike had its number 3 race plate zip tied to the S-Works FACT SL carbon flat handlebar. Grips appeared to be ESI silicone instead of Specialized’s own similar offering. Braking was handled by SRAM’s Level Ultimates. The tall rider’s cockpit was held together with a rather long 130mm S-Works alloy stem to get the stretched out fit he is comfortable with. Seating was handled by a 20mm offset S-Works carbon post and carbon-railed S-Works Phenom saddle.
It is often the little touches that set the elite riders’ bikes apart. While the small name and flag detail is pretty standard just to keep the team’s bikes straight, Gaze gets a bit more customization with a Carbon-Ti X-Clamp 3 seatpost clamp with his name laser etched on it. To spin his cranks, the New Zealander opts for Look’s light S-Track pedals.
Diverging from the stock S-Works Epic World Cup builds, Gaze was riding SRAM’s new 12 speed XX1 Eagle drivetrain with its 10-50 cassette, which we would imagine will probably be offered on the stock builds for 2017. Most top-level Specialized/SRAM builds use Specialized’s own cranks, but Gaze rode the carbon XX1 cranks with a 36T Eagle X-Sync direct mount ring, and a custom-made chain guide to eliminate any chance for dropping the chain. There is of course Eagle’s nice rainbow ti-nitride coated PowerLock quicklink in there too.
The little checkered flag on the seattube also reminds us that this bike uses the shorter travel 95mm World Cup suspension configuration (down from 100mm on the non-WC Epics). It also means the bike has a slightly shortened wheelbase, by just 8mm, but claimed to help handling in the tight and curvy courses of the World Cup race circuit.
Gaze won on Specialized S-Works tires set up tubeless. He was riding S-Works Renegade 2Bliss tires in a 29″ x 2.1″ width that does not appear to be available to the public.
Gaze’s race winning Epic weighed in at 10.54kg/23.24lb.
Yeah, that’s pretty much what it seems to feel like after you’ve just won a World Championship. Some mixture between ‘unbelievably thrilled’ and ‘cannot stand up’.