Race tech: UCI Mountain Bike World Championship, June 24, 2008
Christophe Sauser (Switzerland) won his second world title this past weekend aboard an all-new version of Specialized's S-Works Epic. As we predicted a while back, the new model is fitted with a number of features introduced on the company's Stumpjumper trail bike last year and shaves a substantial amount of weight in the process. Thanks to some excellent photo work from Cyclingnews editor Sue George, contributor Rob Jones and our friends at Czech web site www.mtbs.cz, we now finally have some quality images of the new steed to show you, too.
What we know
Specialized claims the new frameset lops a substantial 700g (1.54lb) from the '08 model and, not surprisingly, much of the credit falls on the more widespread use of carbon fiber. Unlike previous carbon Epic frames which reserves the material only for the front triangle and upper link, both the chain stay and seat stay assemblies on the '09 model are now made of carbon fiber, too.
Carbon is also used in the one-piece crown and steerer of the all-new Specialized Futureshock E100 100mm-travel single-crown fork. As expected, Specialized has used a tapered-and-oversized 1 1/8"-to-1 1/2" steerer tube to reduce the weight while simultaneously adding rigidity to the system. Naturally, a terrain-sensing Brain inertia valve is included here as well, meaning that Sauser no longer has to rely on the handlebar-mounted remote manual lockout of his familiar DT Swiss front end.
Sauser's frame retains the familiar four-bar suspension layout but the pivot locations have been modified and now more closely resemble those of a MacPherson strut design. The rear shock has moved to a more conventional location below the top tube and the inertia valve-containing Brain unit is mounted at the rear axle and connected to the shock via a short length of hydraulic hose. A short link (we're not sure of the material but the surface finish suggests it isn't carbon) mounted on the seat tube adds some torsional and lateral stability out back.
As is typical for the new world champion, Sauser's new bike was also equipped with a number of other gram-cutting measures such as an integrated S-Works carbon crankset, Magura's latest Marta SL Mag brakes, Stan's NoTubes coated aluminium rotors (160mm front, 140mm rear) and alloy and titanium hardware all around.
What we don't know (yet)
We've seen those integrated cranks on Sauser's bikes before but it remains to be seen whether or not 2009 will be the year that the general public finally has access to them as well (the mountain bike version has previously been a team-only item). The two-chainring setup was also matched to a braze-on Dura-Ace front derailleur bolted to a riveted-on mount. While the crankset question will have to wait for an official answer until Specialized's mountain bike launch next week, we're sure this braze-on mount won't see the light of day come production time. Based on the graphics on the chain stay, it looks like the consumer version will use a DMD (Direct Mount Derailleur) layout whereas the derailleur mounts directly to the chain stay.
Sauser has been a fan of Stan Koziatek's lightweight NoTubes tubeless rims for ages but he crossed the finish line in Val di Sole rolling on a new set of Specialized's house-brand Roval hoops. We're not sure of the technical updates to the current model other than the carbon fiber hub shell body and bladed spokes but for Sauser to abandon his tried-and-true Stan's wheels, this new model must either offer a substantial improvement in some way (hard to imagine) or Specialized has flexed a bit of sponsorship muscle.
What Sauser thinks
Although he apparently tested an earlier prototype back in February, Sauser rode this latest edition for the first time only the Tuesday before the race yet the change obviously didn't bother him much. "I'm used to switching bikes. I do it all the time," he said shortly after crossing the finish line. "Pedaling doesn't interfere [with the rear suspension] at all. The change in placement of the pivot point changes the feeling. I feel like I use the travel more on my new Epic."
Most importantly, Sauser and his new Epic clearly get along quite well together as he dominated the race by leading from start to finish.