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CX National Championship Winning Bike: Eric Brunner’s Pivot Vault

Eric Brunner Pro Bike Check Nationals CX close up
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If you haven’t watched the men’s elite US cyclocross national championship in Louisville, do yourself a favor and check it out now — we’ll wait. Full contact racing and a fight for every feature, that’s what national championship racing is all about. There were crashes, mechanicals, sharp elbows, and lots of power. Ultimately, on-lookers were treated to an inspiring ride by the Pan-American champ (now current US National champ) Eric Brunner (WTB/Pivot Endurance).

Eric Brunner Pro Bike Check Nationals CX seatpost
All Photos J. Villella/BikeRumor.com

We caught up with Eric and his team before the race and discussed his Pivot Vault, tire selection, and the changing course conditions.

Eric Brunner Pro Bike Check Nationals CX name wheel


The Race

When the lights turned green — the riders charged the slight uphill start straight, battling to be first to the stairs. Andrew Strohmeyer (CXD Trek Bikes) took the hole shot and quickly distanced himself from the field, with Brunner’s teammate Scott Funston (WTB/Pivot Endurance) on his wheel. After the first lap, the duo was joined by defending champion Curtis White (Steve Tilford Foundation) and former national champion Eric Brunner.

Eric Brunner Pro Bike Check Nationals CX non-drive

The select group traded blows at the front while jockeying for position into features. On lap three, Brunner and Strohmeyer connect after the barriers, fighting for the lead. What looked like a small bump turned into something more. Sending Brunners Di2 derailleur into crash mode and sticking him in high gear on a muddy, challenging course. The same thing would happen a few minutes later. Causing Brunner to dismount and troubleshoot the problem far from pit two. The later crash mode incident would cause Brunner to lose touch with the lead group. Eventually drifting into 6th place behind Kerry Werner (Bikeflights p/b Kona Adventure Team).

Eric Brunner Pro Bike Check Nationals CX rotor

The ensuing laps would see Funston and Strohmeyer duke it out, with Brunner a seeming afterthought. After a pit, however, Brunner rode himself back through the field, surmounting a considerable gap. Throughout the next four laps, Brunner caught and passed Strohmeyer displaying his maturity and perseverance. In the end, Brunner finished 9 seconds in front of Strohmeyer and 28 seconds in front of his teammate Funston.

Brunner pointed to the sky while crossing the line, dedicating his win to Magnus White. White was killed by a reckless driver while training in the lead-up to the UCI Road World Championships in Glasgow.

Eric Brunner Pro Bike Check Nationals CX full bike

Brunner started the 2023 season early. Racing the LifeTime Grand Prix and partnering with Pivot and WTB on a new endurance-focused team. Brunner would pilot the Pivot Vault for most gravel races and the 2023 cyclocross season.

Eric Brunner Pro Bike Check Nationals CX saddle : post

The Pivot Vault leans towards gravel, sporting dropped seat stays and a vibration-damping seat tube, but it is (clearly) capable on the cross course. Brunner’s team commented on the seatpost damper as an excellent tool for long-distance gravel racing but not a deciding factor for cyclocross.

Eric Brunner Pro Bike Check Nationals CX crankset

Brunner’s Pivot Vault is decked out with a full Shimano Dura-Ace 12-speed Di2. Brunner rides a traditional 46/39 double gearing in the front and 11-34 in the rear.

Bunner has run a double for many years, and the setup is similar to his custom Blue Cycles (featured here).

The FSA/Vision cockpit is aero and tight. The fit works well with Brunner’s riding style and position on the bike. Brunner rolls the Vision Metron 4D aero bars and a FSA SLK 120mm stem. Like the groupset, Brunner’s team rolls on Shimano Dura-Ace tubular wheels with whatever tire best fits the course.

Since WTB sponsors the team and does not produce a ‘cross-tubular, Brunner is free to choose the best. The saddle, however, is all WTB, and like most road-focused WTB athletes, Brunner rolls on the WTB Gravelier. The front is narrow with lots of thigh glide room, and would be easy for on/off the bike ‘cross work.

For our photos and the race, the team chose Dugast Rhino 33mm tires (one of our favorites). The Rhino has a fast-rolling center tread and side knobs that grip well in off-camber terrain. Besides the grip, the Rhino clears mud quickly. With a fair amount of pavement on the Louiseville course, the Dugast Rhino was an excellent tire choice. As for what’s next; Brunner will head back to home base in Colorado and prep for his lead-up to Worlds later in the new year.

Eric Brunner Pro Bike Check Nationals CX close up

Eric Brunner’s Nationals Winning Pivot Vault

  • Frame/Fork: Pivot Vault
  • Bar: Vision Metron 4D 40
  • Stem: FSA SL-K 120mm
  • Shifter/Brakes: Shimano Dura-Ace R9200
  • Rear Derailleur: Dura-Ace Di2 Rear Derailleur SHADOW RD 12-speed
  • Crankset: Shimano Dura-Ace 170 46/39
  • Cassette: Dura-Ace 11-34T
  • Rotors: Dura-Ace 140
  • Pedals: Shimano XTR
  • Wheels: Dura-Ace
  • Tires: Dugast Rhino 33 Storm Compound
  • Saddle: WTB Gravelier
  • Seatpost: FSA K-Force Light 27.2

For more info on Eric and his cyclocross program, check out WTB-Pivot-Endurance

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18 Comments
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nooner
nooner
2 months ago

Nice write up and photos Jordan. Of course the winner was riding 2x, no baby gears! Anyone try that saddle out yet?

BLL
BLL
2 months ago
Reply to  nooner

Yes, I did a one day 245 mile mixed surface ride/event using that saddle. Very comfortable saddle.

Shin
Shin
2 months ago
Reply to  nooner

lol, yea on a Shimano road group that – with any other rider – would have cost the race as it has done so many times since the new 12s Di2 launched. Shimano needs to get GRX Di2 out finally and stop forcing sponsored riders to ride gear not designed for the conditions of cx.

Grillis
Grillis
2 months ago
Reply to  Shin

MVDP doesn’t seem to have any problems with it.

fitness
fitness
2 months ago
Reply to  nooner

2x seems like baby gears compared to 1x. More options

defryder
defryder
2 months ago

I’ve always wondered why racers don’t use cyclocross bikes when doing gravel races…

Sure, bike companies claim ‘differences’ (notably more ‘relaxed’ geometry’) between their cx & gravel bikes, but for all intents and purposes cx bikes & ‘aero/racing’ gravel bikes are pretty much the same bikes, with the exception of slightly more tire clearance & the aforementioned slight geo differences.

Perfect example would be the Specialized Crux, which was used primarily as a cx bike in the past but has since morphed into a cx/gravel race bike..

FritzP
FritzP
2 months ago
Reply to  defryder

What is the racers priority? Gravel or CX? Check out the geo of the Aspero or Grizl. Longer reach & lower BB make for more stable high speed descending which is much more common gravel racing than dicing tight corners the quickest as in CX.

BLL
BLL
2 months ago
Reply to  FritzP

Love the Aspero 5!

Andrew
Andrew
2 months ago
Reply to  defryder

Some do…the Cannondale Supersix Evo CX/SE is the bike of choice for most Cannondale-sponsored gravel racers.

TheStansMonster
TheStansMonster
2 months ago
Reply to  defryder

The “slight geo differences” really add up over longer durations and when your focus is blunted with fatigue. Long gravel rides/races on some of the racier cross geometries can be pretty annoying and a little fatiguing. The other main difference is storage/bottle mounts – many CX-specific bikes don’t have top tube or under DT mounts.

Dinger
Dinger
2 months ago
Reply to  defryder

Lots of CX bikes lack enough tire clearance to run 40c+ tires safely. Some are seeing updates so that they’re more gravel friendly (like the Crux you mentioned) and that’s as much to help them sell CX bikes to people who would use them for other things. Some of the most famous gravel races need these bigger tires but there’s lots of gravel events where a 33-35c is the sweet spot and a CX bike works just fine, assuming it has appropriate gearing.

King County
King County
2 months ago

Good article. Perfect info and photos.

Shimano 105
Shimano 105
2 months ago

too bad none of us could actually watch the race. is USAC turning into uci?
Nice write up. Most of us humans can’t afford to replace a 400 dollar rear electronic derail and use that bling in a cx race. Bummer his gear cost him so much stress and work to win.

Fred
Fred
2 months ago

Apparently USAC doesn’t care when people win on bikes that aren’t on the UCI approved list.

TheStansMonster
TheStansMonster
2 months ago
Reply to  Fred

Oof, interesting. The rule as written is

  • if an official sees non-compliant equipment before an event, the athlete has to swap it out
  • if they notice it during an event, the athlete is disqualified
  • if they notice afterward, it’s up to the discretion of the officials if they do anything about it.

I would imagine officials in the US would do the wise thing and accidentally not notice non-approved frames since so many more people in the US are likely to be on non-approved bikes, even in the pro field. I wonder if Pivot-sponsored riders have to worry about this at Worlds though.

Eggs Benedict
Eggs Benedict
2 months ago

He should see someone about that saddle position.

It would be nice if Shimano offered those 46t Dura Ace rings to the public.

Larry Miller
2 months ago

Thanks Jordan!!! 46/39!! Love it!!!

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