Lightweight and highly personalised are the two best descriptors when it comes to Jeremiah Bishop's Cannondale Flash Carbon 29er, which he raced to a solid fifth-place finish at this year's Leadville Trail 100 high in the Colorado Rockies.
At just 19.4 pounds in a size large hardtail, Bishop's steed was arguably the perfect bike for Leadville's 104-mile, out-and-back course that is light on technical singletrack and heavy on high-speed doubletrack, fire road and pavement.
A techy East Coast rider at heart, Bishop would have preferred a little more in the way of roots and rocks, but at Leadville speed is the name of the game. That's why he opted to race a 29er for only the third time in his pro career. In fact, Bishop hadn't even ridden a big-wheeled bike until Cannondale's national sales meeting in June in Park City, Utah.
"Pretty quickly I could tell it was a perfect bike for certain races," he said. "It can be really confidence inspiring. It's incredibly stable for things like loose fire road descending. The high-speed predictability is super high. Those are both good characteristics for Leadville."
Bishop added some personal touches to further suit the popular mass-participation mountain bike race, which this year touted a record 1,320 starters. First up, he wrapped the inner portions of his handlebars with bar tape, creating a comfortable resting place for his hands while tucked into an aerodynamic position.
"I've done a bunch of 100 milers, and invariably somewhere along the way you end up riding solo and need to tuck your head to get more aero," he explained. "The tape makes that a little easier."
The cockpit of Bishop's Leadville Flash 29er also sported a PowerTap computer head (used for heart rate and distance tracking only), a small split time sheet, a map, and what he dubbed, "a small trashcan."
Because the 29-inch version of the Cannondale's Lefty fork has a separate steering tube that clamps to the fork crown, the stem clamps around it, leaving the oversized steering tube hollow. Not wanting to litter or fumble around for a jersey pocket in the heat of battle, Bishop instead crams all his race refuse into the opening.
The map and split times sheet were simply there to help him get through a day that ended up taking 6 hours, 33 minutes and 54 seconds, 17:17 slower than 2010 Leadville winner Levi Leipheimer.
"The split times are from Lance's course record last year. It just helps me keep track of progress," explained Bishop. "The map shows all the elevation profiles with vertical gain so I would have a little bit of an idea of the suffering to come. It's not like you can go pre-ride the whole 100 miles, so having this information available really helps."
Computer, split times and a makeshift trashcan.
For gearing, Bishop ran an 11-36 rear cassette paired with 39/26 chainrings. Cannondale Hollowgram BB30 cranks turn his SRAM XX groupset.
The smaller chainring "allows you to use the big chainring in a normal fashion," he explained. "Otherwise you'd have to shift down every time you hit an uphill. This gives me a pretty manageable gear. I probably did about 80 percent in the race in the big ring."
His pedals are CrankBrothers Ti Eggbeaters complete with a wrap of white athletic tape, which he added to, "reduce slop. The pedals are a little beat up. I need to get some new ones."
No Tubes ZTR 29er Race Wheels are combined with 2.25 Schwalbe Racing Ralphs set up tubeless. "The team is actually sponsored by Mavic," he said. "But they don't make a Lefty compatible race wheel so I got permission to use these."
Add it all up, and Bishop figures he got as much out of his machine as possible. His legs, though, were a slightly different story. "When there's a helicopter overhead and you're chasing Levi, it's pretty easy to go to hard early on," he said. "I was destroyed from the Columbine Climb. About 65 miles in I was in a really dark place, so ending up fifth is a pretty spectacular result."