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

Stevens Super Prestige Disc Di2 carbon cross bike CX Pro Bike Check disc brake carbon cyclocross race bike Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 Womens Elite World Champion Sanne Cant Zeven World Cup winner photo by Cory Benson

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.

Rolling stock

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

Stevens Super Prestige Disc Di2 carbon cross bike CX Pro Bike Check disc brake carbon cyclocross race bike Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 Womens Elite World Champion Sanne Cant Zeven World Cup winner photo by Cory Benson muddy post raceAccording 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.

Muddy crossing

Stevens Super Prestige Disc Di2 carbon cross bike CX Pro Bike Check disc brake carbon cyclocross race bike Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 Womens Elite World Champion Sanne Cant Zeven World Cup winner photo by Cory Benson muddy mid-race

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.

Up front in the drivetrain is sufficiently muddy, too. But Cant seemed to have no trouble with it.

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.

Stevens Super Prestige Disc Di2 carbon cross bike CX Pro Bike Check disc brake carbon cyclocross race bike Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 Womens Elite World Champion Sanne Cant Zeven World Cup winner photo by Cory Benson corneringAll-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.


  1. Let's Be Real on

    This a cool bike and also great effort by Can’t on the win. However, let’s not over dramatize the effects of these conditions. Racing for 10-15 minutes before power washing mud off the bike is hardly a test of di2 reliability in crappy conditions. This reads like an advertisement straight from Shimano.

  2. js on

    Given how long it’s been since Di2 became ubiquitous in top-level ‘cross, I can’t understand why they haven’t yet released a 2x compatible rear derailleur with a clutch. They have the tech, they just won’t use it.

    How many races or podiums have Shimano-sponsored riders lost due to dropped chains? Even as a casual ‘cross follower, I can think of a dozen high-profile drops – all by Shimano athletes. Remember Sven’s super-mechanical at Milton Keynes (and the awesome chase that followed)? How about Marianne Vos last year at World’s? Surely she’d be wearing Cant’s stripes right now if she’d been on a clutched RD.

    Shimano has steadily clawed back OEM Road spec from SRAM since it’s lack-luster 7900 generation of road groups – to the point it’s hard to find a SRAM-equipped bike (other than halo Etap set-up) in a major manufacturer’s line-up. Yet SRAM has a huge market share in ‘cross & gravel bikes, where 1x makes more sense and clutch RD’s are essential.

    I quite like SRAM stuff, MTB or Road, so wouldn’t want to see them squeezed out, but it’s still confusing that Shimano continues to handicap themselves in these markets by not providing a clutched RD that’s road-compatible.

    • CX on

      I’m very interested in a Di2 or Sram Etap clutch derailleur. But from what I can gather, the difficulty is fitting the clutch and electronics in the same space. Also I have been told the derailleur would have a much larger battery consumption requirement to over come the clutch strength.

      • js on

        Fair point XTR Di2 has a clutch and looks no bigger than a normal clutch derailleur. Shimano can clearly get the job done and even make it look nice. I’m sure your point about battery consumption has some merit, but with the ridiculous battery life of Di2, even if it changed the need to charging every two weeks instead of two months, it’s pretty easily overcome.

      • js on

        Fair point on the battery consumption, though the ridiculous charge life of Di2 makes that a pretty minor point.

        Shimano have made a clutched RD in XTR Di2, which really doesn’t look any bigger for it, so it’s clear they can do it – you just can’t use it with a 2x ‘cross set-up.

  3. Colin M on

    So Shimano still doesn’t have 140 6 bolt rotors? They still don’t have CX chainrings for Dura Ace? No single ring CX set up with clutch derailleur? What is with them? Do they even listen to their athletes?

  4. dustytires on

    So who wrote this piece? Cory or Stevens? Reads like an ad-vertorial over at PinkBike. I LOVE the photos of the bikes, the mud, the racers etc but this is bs marketing, not a news piece. I am going to bet big that ever single man, woman and child racing at the Zeven race, and every other muddy, world level CX pits at least 1x per lap. Maybe 2X per lap so all that grass and mud is only a factor for a few minutes, then full wash and lube. As for the life of the bearings, my guess is that by this time in the week all the bearings are either dis assembled, cleaned and greased or replaced. Every single bearing. Too much $ rides on the condition of the bikes to risk it. In other words, what they ride has nothing to do with how a product would work for the people that buy their parts like me and you, and then ride a whole race on one bike, wash it down, lube the chain Sunday night and do it again next weekend.

    • Cory Benson on

      It was I who wrote this entirely. And it was me there standing in the pits and taking photos. Cant’s bike did not get cleaned every lap (or every half) although for sure, she did get a few clean bikes. Not sure how it sounds advertorial. I did talk to the athletes, to a few mechanics and to people from Stevens, Shimano, and a number of other companies. In fact if you watch the racing you will see th bikes did suffer. Second place in the men MvdP dropped a chain on his Di2 setup and got himself dropped. But the vast majority of the athletes riding new R9170 Di2 spoke incredibly highly of the update, whether they were Shimano sponsored or bought the drivetrain on their own.

      • Robin on

        Once again I’m shocked that the BR comment section keyboard experts made assumptions and claims that were way off the mark and devoid of facts. Sadly internet comments sections are not the place the go for enlightened or informed commentary.


COMMENT HERE: (For best results, log in through Wordpress or your social media account. Anonymous/fake email comments may be unapproved or deleted. ALL first-time commenter's posts are held for moderation. Check our Comment Policy for full details.)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.