In the past, Tim Johnson has moonlighted as a professional road racer during the spring and summer months. But this year – his first as a full-time cyclo-cross-only racer for Cannondale-cyclocrossworld.com – the American has had a less-than-conventional off-season, taking on epic rides both on and off road, using his cyclo-cross bike and Flash 29er hardtail mountain bike.
For his last bit of competitive training in Colorado's high country, which includes the Leadville 100 and Breck Epic off-road stage race, Johnson is aboard Cannondale's 2012 Scalpel 29, which is hot out of the carbon mold. The fact that he didn't even get the bike until the evening before heading to Colorado illustrates just how hot-off-the-press it is.
Before this trip, Johnson's only experience of the Scalpel 29 was roughly three hours' riding on pre-production versions. "I rode a demo [version] at Tour of California and then again at dealer camp, which is also our Cannondale sales meeting," he told Cyclingnews.
Johnson finally has his own after 'borrowing' Scalpels to ride all season
For those who don't have a calendar in front of them, Johnson's schedule of Leadville 100 and the Breck Epic runs continuously. He'll starts his seven days of racing with the 100-mile Leadville 100 on Saturday 13 August and finish the Breck Epic on Friday 19 August, with no rest days in between. "I was looking for a stage race replacement," said Johnson. "Last year I did Tour of Utah, six days of really hard riding with big climbs that really force your body to be efficient; you get a lot of benefit out of it, especially being at altitude."
During the Breck Epic he'll be riding in the duo-pro category with Cannondale's mountain bike product manager, Johs Huesby. "It was an idea that was born in front of a computer," said Johnson of his Leadville-Breck Epic challenge. "But it's going to be a real challenge. It's not like going to a race on the weekend and going home, but I think that's a lot of the draw. I've been lucky to break out of the mold this year by doing stuff that I've never done before; fun stuff that just kind of came up [under the heading] 'I thought it'd be fun if...' – this is exactly that, and it does fit in well with the rest of the program."
Johnson is in for a tough week of riding
Because of the severity of the seven-day adventure, Johnson, under Huesby's advice, decided to go with the new full-suspension bike, despite his limited time on it. "I have a Flash 29er at home and we kicked around some different ideas for bikes to ride at Leadville, but then when we added Breck Epic with its singletrack [it made better sense to go with the Scalpel]," he said. "In Leadville you don't really need full-suspension, but the idea is that the Scalpel is light and fast, and it'll be good at Breck."
Though not nearly as light as his teammate Jeremiah Bishop's Flash, the comfort and control of Johnson's 10.02kg (22.1lb) Scalpel will surely pay off during the latter part of the races and the week. The bike comes from the tip of Cannondale's 2012 production model line and sports all of the features launched at April's Sea Otter Classic.
Highlights include a true single pivot design that offers 100mm of travel, large 15mm through-shaft pivot axles and a one-piece carbon fiber rear end that forgoes any sort of axle pivot. Of course the bike features all of Cannondale's trademarks, including a Press-Fit 30 bottom bracket and 1.5in head tube that houses the 110mm travel Lefty XLR fork, which utilizes Cannondale's further integrated one-piece stem and steerer tube.
Johnson's Scalpel 29 comes equipped with a Fox RP2 rear shock with a high compression tune and medium rebound tune; the heavy compression damping gives the bike the feel of a full-firm lockout in ProPedal mode. Components come from team sponsors SRAM, in the form of their XX group, which is supplemented with Avid World Cup XX brakes.
Johnson's Scalpel is equipped with a Fox RP2 ProPedal rear shock; the shock has a high compression tune, which gives a locked feel
Cannondale supply their Hollowgram SL cranks (with SRAM XX compatible spider) and Johnson uses Stan's NoTubes ZTR Race Gold wheels. He'll ride Schwalbe's 2.0in Rocket Ron tires for Leadville and tougher 2.25in SnakeSkin Racing Ralphs for the Breck Epic. (His bike was equipped with borrowed tires during BikeRadar's profile, as he had yet to meet up with his team mechanic.)
Despite a long history of road racing, Johnson is riding with a 700mm wide Truvativ Noir T30 flat bar that would make any all-mountain rider happy. Shimano's new XTR M980 Race pedals finish the package.
Truvativ's Noir T30 10s bar is 700mm wide, but flat to keep the big-wheeled bike's front end low
Johnson says that the bigger wheels of both the Flash and Scalpel fit his end goal better as well, which is to be ready for the fall cyclo-cross season. "The transition from a 700c cross bike to a 29er has been really, really easy," he said.
This article originally appeared on BikeRadar