Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com teammates Tim Johnson, Jeremy Powers, and Jamey Driscoll put on a virtual clinic during a weekend's races in and around the Boulder, Colorado area with dual podium sweeps in dramatically varied conditions. Aside from the athletic achievement this represents, though, the trio's success continues to demonstrate that aluminum is still the dominant frame material in US domestic 'cross racing.
All three machines are built around Cannondale's top-end CAAD9 BB30 Cyclocross frame with its heavily swaged, butted and shaped aluminum tubing, the company's trademark BB30-compatible bottom bracket shell, and smoothly filed welds throughout for a clean appearance and light 1.5kg weight. A dramatically flared 'Power Pyramid' down tube and medium-sized chain- and seat stays (the latter using a stout wishbone-style yoke) suggest good front triangle and drivetrain rigidity, too, while the straight 1 1/8" head tube maintains some cush up front.
Indeed, there's nary a scrap of carbon to be found in the frame – aside from the Easton EC90X all-carbon fork – no tapered head tube, no integrated seat mast, and no radical shaping as is often found in spendier carbon rigs.
The business-like chassis is augmented by a wealth of top-range componentry used by all three teammates, including a complete SRAM Red transmission and drivetrain (apart from the more 'cross-friendly PG-1070 cassette), Zipp's latest wide-profile 303 carbon tubulars, supple Dugast tubular tires, Control Tech cockpit components and fi'zi:k's popular Aliante saddle. Brakes and pedals differ slightly between the three riders, however, with Johnson and Driscoll preferring narrow-profile TRP CR950 carbon brakes and Shimano XTR pedals and Powers opting for lighter TRP EuroX Mag wide-profile cantilevers and Crankbrothers Candy 4ti pedals (in matching green, of course).
In full race-ready trim, Powers' bike weighs a highly competitive 7.39kg (16.29lb) but it's not the bike's stiffness, weight, or fancy componentry that make it special. Instead, it's the meticulous attention to detail that Cyclocrossworld.com proprietor – and team mechanic – Stu Thorne puts into each machine. To say that the team bikes were clean and tuned would be a gross understatement; to say that they were obsessively polished, impeccably adjusted and utterly perfect in every way would be a bit more accurate but still not representative of the level of fastidiousness seen in person.
Tire sidewalls were neatly coated in Aquaseal latex sealant, brake housing ferrules were bored out for reduced drag, and even the stainless front brake hanger noodles were custom fabricated for a cleaner cable path, adding up to some of the smoothest and lightest-feeling 'cross bikes we've encountered. Toss in the sealed Gore Professional derailleur cable set and it added up to a weekend of mechanical-free racing in some decidedly ugly conditions (at least on Saturday) and three dominating performances as icing on the cake.
Whatever amount of carbon flare these machines lacked was more than made up after this weekend's performances and few can debate their ability to efficiently – and effectively – get the job done. Just more ammunition to the argument that even the lightest and fanciest of race machines can be little more than dead weight if it breaks down and you have to carry it across the line.