This article originally published on BikeRadar
Germany’s best top-flight cyclo-crosser has been capitalising on last season’s national championship win with a very strong season so far this winter. With an attacking style, Walsleben hasn’t been afraid to lay it on the line when trying to dispatch his big name rivals, and has been rewarded with some hard-won results.
As teammate of double world champion Niels Albert in the BKCP-Powerplus squad, Walsleben races on Colnago bikes, with the Prestige model gaining, er, prestige underneath rivals Albert and Sven Nys, and in keeping with the Italian company’s tradition, has remained largely unaltered for years. But, as recently debuted by Nys and Albert, Walsleben had his first disc-equipped Prestige on display before the Superprestige race at Gavere.
Walsleben’s mechanic told us that at the moment they only have one Shimano Di2 hydraulic groupset, fitted to this bike, but assured us that Philipp would begin the race on it. We did wonder how easy it would be to swap between a single bike with discs and several spares with cantilevers on a course as technical as Gavere, and whether this was a factor or not, Walsleben didn’t use it at all this time.
The disc Prestige obviously differs with its specific caliper mounts, but otherwise retains its classic look, the trademark brace between the horizontal top tube and the seat tube keeping the family resemblance. Shimano’s component arm PRO supply an all-aluminum cockpit of XCR stem and Vibe 7s handlebar, plus the excellent titanium-railed Turnix saddle, which is mounted on Colnago’s own carbon seatpost, that offers up to 32mm of setback. Gracing the bars are the R785 hydraulic brake levers, which are Di2-specific, because electronic shifting requires far less space in the hoods than a mechanical arrangement. The hoods are still larger than on the non-hydraulic levers, but less obvious than SRAM’s equivalent, for those worried about aesthetics.
Colnago's Prestige disc machine has a neat rear caliper placement between the chain and seat stays
For those worried about braking, the R785 hydraulics have proven utterly reliable beneath Lars van der Haar all season long, and Walsleben’s bike follows suit in having 140mm rotors front and rear, but does have different wheels than the flying Dutchman. The mechanic could only confirm that these 28 hole carbon wheels are from Shimano, but didn’t know the exact spec, or what they might eventually be called, should they reach production. From our observations, we can tell the rims are in unidirectional carbon that isn’t designed with a braking track, meaning they’re disc-specific. The width doesn’t look much different from current offerings, although we were unable to measure them, the spoke nipples are external for easy maintenance, and the disc hubs have conventional flanges with unknown J-bend bladed spokes, and are finished in a typically Ultegra colour. Rim depth looks to be around 35mm too, but again we weren’t able to verify that.
The rest of the drivetrain is Shimano Dura-Ace Di2, including a 9000 series 4-arm chainset fitted with the pro’s favoured 46/39t ring combination, turning in a BSA-sized bottom bracket with external cups. The notion that more leverage is preferred off road doesn’t hold true, with the choice of 172.5mm cranks, which although the recommended length for the German’s 177cm height, is something that’s often ignored in the quest for extra grunt. As with most of the racers at Gavere, the sticky, dragging nature of the tough climbs meant a change from the usual 11-speed 11-27 cassette to an 11-28 option for Walsleben, and an Ultegra version is used for practicality.
While Dugast Rhinos (or equivalent) were almost the only choice for such a gnarly course, Walsleben had chosen to run the 32mm version, instead of the maximum permitted 33mm width. This may have been with a view to increasing clearance at the rear and reducing mud build up, which is always a priority in Gavere, as even though disc bikes are far less prone to clogging than their canti cousins, on that course, every little bit helps.
Unfortunately, we weren’t permitted to weigh the disc Prestige, which was made clear to us from the start. There were some development parts (the wheels) fitted, and Colnago aren’t known for prioritising a light frame above durability, so we can only hazard a guess as to the complete machine’s weight. The only snippet we could glean was that this model weighs 540g more than it’s cantilever stablemate, which doesn’t allow for variables in the wheels, but does give us a rough guide. With the steady increase in riders making the tentative move to discs, this could be the blueprint for things to come.