It looks like there is no rainbow curse off-road in cyclocross (which we also saw this summer in XC). Sanne Cant took another World Cup with this past weekend in the proper Zeven, Germany mud aboard her custom rainbow-themed Stevens Super Prestige, not far from the bike maker’s Hamburg headquarters.
Stevens Super Prestige Disc Di2 carbon cross bike
It was the first major cross race of the season held in truly heavy mud conditions, with significant sections of the course even on flat ground being faster to run than ride. It also happened to have been the first World Cup racing test of the newest Shimano R9100 series of Dura-Ace. While the new Dura-Ace debuted almost 18 months ago now, it didn’t really make it out to pros (or consumers, alike) until the start of 2017.
Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 R9170 drivetrain
By now new Dura-Ace is in the hands of the pro cross teams, and it has already racked up a number of elite wins. Except for some tiny customization and one small substitution, current women’s elite World Champion Sanne Cant is running a complete Dura-Ace group, in the R9170 Di2 electronic shift, hydraulic braking variant.
The one drivetrain concession made are the carry-over pre-production FC-9000 chainrings that Cant was using. Like most of the elite men, Cant is also using a 46T big ring. But as the only cross specific R9100 series chainring, they must still be in short supply, so Cant is still riding the previous generation. Although we haven’t had a chance to measure it, the older rings are rumored to be spaced a bit closer together. The result is that the chain may rub the big ring a bit while riding the little ring up front & small cog in the back, creating a bit of noise. R9100 is said to run more quietly, likely due to slightly wider chainring spacing, which in cross could increase the possibility of dropped chains, or even a chain stuck between the rings?
Cranks are standard R9100 models. Although that shiny gloss black suffers a bot even mid way through a cross season. XTR Race pedals are de rigueur for Shimano cyclocross riders, and handle mud like a champ.
Flat mount Dura-Ace calipers bring Cant’s bike to a stop, paired with 140mm rotors front & rear. The finned Ice-Tech brake pads do a good job of getting rid of heat. And with the short braking efforts (and generally cold weather) the only reason a pro crosser would run larger rotors is due to frame/fork incompatibility.
Those small 140mm rotors though, are where Cant deviates from sponsor Shimano. Her separate wheel sponsor provides rolling stock on hubs that use a 6-bolt interface. Shimano’s top-level tech Freeza or even previous generation Ice Tech brake rotors are only available in 140mm as centerlock. So instead, Cant opts for TRP’s 6-bolt, one-piece slotted rotors that claim to move water & debris away from their braking surface.
Those wheels aren’t from Shimano, but from Cole instead. And tires are the new natural silk FMB World Cup Super Mud tubulars that we saw just a couple of weeks back. She also raced on some of the newer, more open Grippo Speeds that we saw first back in October. (See the muddy bike pics below.) Even you and I can buy those handmade tires with the rainbow stripes. But you have tto be a champion to get FMB to stamp your name on them.
Custom Lynx Car Super Prestige frameset
According to the bike maker, fellow Stevens sponsored American cyclocrosser Christine Vardaros came up with the Lynx Cat name that would form the basis for Cant’s special rainbow World Champion edition paint job (which spend a good bit of time hidden under mud.)
The small but aggressive wild cat pops up all over Cant’s Super Prestige, flanked by Lynx fur-inspired rainbow stripes.
Besides the cats and healthy dose of rainbow, the rest of the bike is translucent black. On top of the raw carbon, it gives a hint of the recently updated Super Prestige‘s carbon monocoque construction when the light hits it right.
Cant’s bikes took a beating in Zeven, being ridden through deep mud and water. The Di2 drivetrain handled it rather well, never complaining, and getting washed down every other time Cant rode past the pits or so. The rear derailleur pulleys did pack up with grass and much pretty quick. Cant also rode quite a lot in the big ring:small cogs. Her thinking goes that she is best served with max chain tension, to minimize the chance of chain drops in these trying conditions.
After the race it was good to see what became of that fancy Dura-Ace drivetrain in the mud. The lightweight, hollowed-out pulleys definitely accumulated mud & debris, but seemed to still be spinning fine.
Cant didn’t have an issue since she spent most of the race off the front alone, but that new mountain bike-inspired Dura-Ace Shadow rear derailleur design seems to be getting very positive response from pro crossers. Tucked out of the way in its lower-profile configuration, apparently racers are having significantly fewer derailleur failures as a result of crashing.
With plenty of space at the fork, and neatly internal cable routing in both frame & fork, the Super Prestige didn’t really accumulate that much mud. At least not much considering how brutal the conditions were.
All-in-all the completely new, updated Super Prestige Disc Di2 has seemed to work well for World Champion Sanne Cant. We had great luck with the previous generation a few seasons ago and this one promises improvements addressing just about every issue we had. So we are going to get ahold of a bike for ourselves, so we can see how the World Cup-winning ride compares.