Yesterday we took a look at Sanne Cant’s race-winning Stevens with Di2, and now we get another World Champ on a winning rainbow-striped bike, with a completely different bike setup. Wout van Aert took his first win of the season’s World Cup in Zeven’s mud this past weekend on his Felt F1X decked out in full SRAM family kit, including the newest in eTap wireless shifting tech.
Felt F1X eTap carbon cyclocross bike
Zeven was a mud fest which is always hard on the white skin-suited World Champions. Luckily though the elite champs stuck with classic black shorts. Van Aert’s A-bike was all white though, so pretty much the only time we could catch up with it not coated in mud was on his quick pre-race leg spinning warm-up back-and-forth on the asphalt of the starting straight.
Once the bike made it off the start line it was never entirely clean again, even after van Aert’s mechanics hastily cleaned it up in the pits.
The bike that the young elite World Champion was racing is the most recent update to Felt’s TeXtreme F1X cyclocross bike, first introduced back in 2015. Since the debut of that light but, durable carbon bike, Felt has since revised the non-driveside dropout design to better balance the look and feel of the driveside dropout. Of course what made that possible was the move to flat mount disc brakes, which the revised fork features as well. That modernizes the bike combining industry standard spacing, 12mm thru-axles & flat mounts to give cross racers the ability to easily swap out wheels and to use either the race-standard 140mm rotors or the larger 160s that you see on more multi-purpose builds & road bikes.
Van Aert’s complete build for the most part comes from the SRAM family with a 172.5mm set of carbon Red cranks, a 110mm Quarq-ready compact alloy spider, and a 46/36 chainring combo. Cockpit components are all carbon from Zipp, including bar, stem & setapost. Finishing off the contact points are a Prologo Scratch2 saddle with its grippy CPC nubs and a set of Time ATAC XC12 pedals to put the power down.
World Champion customization
One of the benefits of being a champ is getting plenty of rainbow stripes on your bike. There’s no shortage of rainbow bands on either of van Aert’s two custom bike paint jobs, then he also gets his name painted on in Belgian black yellow & red.
While van Aert’s A-bike is all white (at least before the mud), he also had several pit bikes in a different color scheme. With a little less heavy white paint they probably shed a few grams actually, but otherwise get identical builds, not even clearly being labeled by number as far as we noticed.
Cross race build details
The Zeven World Cup course is relatively easy on paper. But with a single hill that the riders had climb several times from all sides, and of course the heavy mud, there ended up being a lot of running, and with that more remounting than normal. That’s one reason why van Aert’s Crelan-Charles team mechanics have fitted a second aluminum band clamp around the seatposts of all of his bikes to keep it from slipping down.
Unlike most SRAM sponsored athletes, van Aert prefers the tighter spacing of an 11-28 road cassette. And so he race with SRAM Red eTap HRD, pairing the wireless shifting double groupset with hydraulic disc brakes.
Wheels & tires
In a muddy elite cross race, even with plenty or running even on the flats, overall performance comes down a lot to tubular tire choice, air pressure, and repeated bike changes.
Van Aert again sticks with the SRAM family here, riding the well-established Zipp 303 Firecrest disc brake carbon tubular wheels with Zipp’s straight-pull alloy disc brake hubs.
Tires glued up are 33mm wide handmade cotton Dugast tubulars. Some of van Aert’s tubulars get rainbow stripes, some with his name stamped on the sidewall, but all of them were the arrow-shaped Rhinos that set the benchmark for top-level mud performance. The Zipp hubs use a 6-bolt interface, which pairs with 140mm SRAM Centerline rotors.
This was as clean as we spotted van Aert’s A-bike in the pit mid-race. With a hectic fight to get to the pressure washers which ended up being in a small muddy lake before the elite men even started racing, team mechanics made sure to clean the drivetrain and knock the mud off the frame and wheels. During the race it is never about getting the bike spotless, since it is just going to get muddy again.
Instead, mechanics do everything they can to make sure that as many clean & ridable bikes are ready in the pit, incase a rider has a serious mechanical that could disable a bike, or like many riders experienced – multiple flats when running exceptionally low tire pressure (15-19psi) to try to find some grip in the slimy mud.