The first day of a weekend of UCI-sanctioned 'cross racing in the Boulder, Colorado area happened to fall on Halloween this year and while much of the amateur field donned a plethora of colorful costumes to celebrate, the pros were predictably more seriously attired – all but Chris Jones, that is.
Conveniently, Jones' title sponsor, Champion System, is a custom cycling clothing company and they provided their star rider with a special black and orange skinsuit, complete with jack-o-lanterns front-and-rear and a cheeky – literally – 'Happy Halloween' greeting on the back. Not only that but his Focus Mares Team race machine was also dressed to suit with a host of orange details such as the saddle, bar tape, brake hoods, pedals, rim decals and yes, even the cable donuts.
Aside from the whimsical colouring, though, Jones' bike was all business.
Germany-based Focus is well known in Europe, but has only just this season started to bring bikes into the US and Jones' Mares Team is the company's flagship model. The full-carbon frame clearly places heavy emphasis on front triangle and drivetrain efficiency with a giant down tube and top tube, a tapered head tube, a bulbous BB30-compatible bottom bracket shell, plus an enormous asymmetrical seat tube.
The matching fork is equally stout in appearance, too, featuring a giant, widely spaced crown and straight blades with huge cross-sections front-to-back.
Even so, Focus looks to have factored in some vertical give for better rider comfort and improved traction. The giant chain stays are matched to relatively slim seat stays, the top tube is highly ovalized horizontally to allow the front end to flex a tad – while also improving shouldering comfort – and the tapered front end flares from 1 1/8" up top to a modest 1 1/4" at the crown instead of the more common 1 1/2" dimension. Even the seatpost measures a slim 27.2mm for a modicum of extra cush.
Finishing kit is decidedly high-end throughout, without being over the top. SRAM provides the transmission and drivetrain with Red DoubleTap levers, rear derailleur and BB30-edition crankset with pro-only SRAM 38/46T chainrings, Force front derailleur (a popular choice among pros given the stiffer steel cage), PC-1090 chain and OG-1070 cassette instead of the mud-prone Powerdome model.
Williams Cycling provides Jones with its Wheelsystem 38 carbon tubular wheels, which he then wraps with tires from Dugast and Challenge. Unfortunately, Jones doesn't actually have an official tire sponsor so his equipment costs are higher than some other top domestic pros, but on the upside, that also means he has more freedom of choice and keeps an unusually generous array of six different treads on hand.
Finishing kit includes an FSA Energy Anatomic alloy bar and Orbit CX headset, a Thomson X2 stem and Masterpiece seatpost, TRP EuroX Mag wide-profile cantilevers, fi'zi:k Aliante saddle, and Crankbrothers Candy 4ti pedals. Total weight is an admirable 7.60kg (16.67lb).
It's a good thing that Jones had all of those wheels and tires at his disposal, though, as he flatted three times on Saturday – once in warm-up and twice during the race. Add in a broken shoe buckle and that was about all the sign Jones needed that the fight was best left for another day. With another day of warm and sunny weather on tap after two days of monster snow, Sunday's race promises to be much faster – and much drier. A comparatively fresh Chris Jones will hope to put himself on the podium for a third time this year.