It’s been a couple years since we caught up with Wout van Aert’s bikes on the World Cup cyclocross circuit, so there was a lot of new kit to see on the ex-World Champion’s new 2021 Bianchi Zolder Pro cross bike. Last weekend the top-level of CX racing returned with the first World Cup round in Tábor. And after spending his summer winning stages at the Tour de France Van Aert had warned he wasn’t yet in ‘top form’, but still managed to fight back hard through the full pack of racers to claim third place.
Wout van Aert’s 2021 Bianchi Zolder Pro carbon cyclocross bike
The last few years we’ve seen Wout Van Aert racing the World Cup on Felt & Stevens cross bikes. But since his move to Team Jumbo-Visma that also gave him the spotlight on the road WorldTour, Van Aert has been riding Bianchis.
His CX race bike for Tábor is another iteration of the carbon Zolder Pro introduced early last year, just as he was signing with the new team. This being his first weekend of cyclocross racing this season, most of his bike fleet were still sporting last year’s celeste paintjob with small team edition graphics hiding the next generation frameset…
But of course Wout as a 3x CX World Champ gets at least a tiny bit of the latest & greatest, so he spent most of his time racing over the weekend on a bike with the new, louder 2021 Bianchi Zolder Pro graphics, still over classic celeste.
2021 Bianchi Zolder Pro – Tech details & What’s new!
The previous Zolder Pro refresh had been developed before Van Aert made the jump to Jumbo-Visma and onto Bianchis. It was rumored that the modern carbon cross refresh of the Zolder line was something of a prerequisite for the Belgian rider to leave his World Championship winning Stevens Super Prestiges. But it looks like there were more updates to be made.
The new cross bike gets a completely reshaped rear triangle, with dropped seatstays for improved comfort and the removal of the vestigial seatstay bridge for better mud clearance.
The geometry of the bike has been tweaked again as well Contrary to some initial suggestion we received from Bianchi, geometry does appear to carry over unchanged in this latest 2021 update, with a relatively slack 71-71.5° head angle in the middle sizes and a steep 74-74.5° seattube, plus nice short 425mm CX chainstays. It also gets a higher bottom bracket for better crank clearance, varying from 53-62mm across the six size range (48-58cm).
Up front the fork got minor revision, trimming down the crown (and losing the old fender mount) with a more square off design inside to boost tire clearance to 40mm – also helpful for heavy cross mud.
Interestingly, Wout asked Bianchi to lower the bottle bosses on the seattube, so they wouldn’t get in the way while shouldering the bike.
The bike keeps the tapered carbon steerer, pressfit BB86, downtube internal cable routing & flat mount disk brakes, but gets a cleaner update for its 12mm thru axles with replaceable alloy thread inserts.
Wout van Aert’s pro race setup
Van Aert is racing a complete Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 R9100 drivetrain with closely-spaced CX pro 46/39T chainrings on 172.5mm cranks. Plus, what could be a slightly slimmer, unlabeled set of next gen XTR pedals?
His contact points get handled by the FSA Vision collective, with a long one-piece Vision Metron 6D carbon bar+stem combo managing the cross cockpit.
Wout raced on previous generation Fizik Antares R1 saddles with carbon rails and matching celeste detailing in their Wing Flex cutouts.
As you may have noticed above at the seat cluster detail, he also has an extra clamp around the 27.2 FSA K-Force carbon seatpost to make sure it doesn’t slip on flying remounts.
Wout’s rolling stock choice for the damp, recently-thawed grassy Tábor CX course were 33mm Dugast Typhoon tubulars with cotton casings, a neoprene sidewall protection coating, and softer 11Storm rubber compound. The tires are glued up to C40 Dura-Ace carbon tubular wheels.
And just a reminder that… sure the best cross racers in the world can hop the barriers, but they aren’t necessarily flying high over them. Wout put the low-pressure tubulars to the test, folding them down to the rim as he huck the bike over the Czech course’s uphill obstacles.
Without a lot of mud, the pits weren’t super busy. But pros still need to have at least one or two clean bikes in the waiting in case the racing goes sideways out on the course.
Wout van Aert didn’t have any mechanical issues during the race, and motored back to the front in the second half to secure a podium spot. With only four more races left in the abbreviated World Cup, Van Aert will be able to race closer to home in Belgium & the Netherlands from around Christmastime through to World’s at the end of January.
We’ll have to wait to see how far his new 2021 Bianchi Zolder Pro cross bike will carry him.