La Ruta de los Conquistadores is unlike any other bike race, and therefore requires some specific equipment choices. Not only is the race itself unique, each stage is different from the others. It's a real puzzle to put together the right setup, but I think I've found what works for me.
I'll just be bringing the one bike and hopefully not swapping any parts out besides brake pads as I think this bike will be good for every scenario La Ruta will throw at us: from 30 percent grade climbs, to jungle mud hiking, to the 8,000-foot descent off of the Irazu Volcano, to the 30km of railroad tracks we ride on day 4!
Frame: Cannondale Scalpel Team high modulus carbon, size large. 80mm rear travel, Rock Shox monarch rear shock. The frame is the building block of the bike and when you start with one of the lightest and stiffest full suspension frames in the industry, it's hard to go wrong. The Scalpel climbs like a hardtail but is amazingly forgiving and plush on the downhill. That will be key to staying fresh and hopefully help to avoid flat tires. The mud clearance is also excellent on the Scalpel which may come in to play.
Fork: Cannondale Lefty Speed Carbon XLR 100mm travel with remote hydro lockout. The Lefty is amazingly light and stiff, and this one weighs in at about 2.5 lbs! That weight savings goes a long way. It also is ideal for muddy conditions as the mud clearance is unparalleled by any other fork.
Wheels: Stan's Notubes ZTR Podium MMX rear, ZTR Race front. Stan's wheels contribute to the light setup and the patented BST (Bead Socket Technology) really locks in the bead. One thing people overlook with Stan's is the lower rim height which changes the contact point if you rim out on something and helps to mitigate flat tires.
Tires: Continental Race King 2.0 Protection. This is one of the dilemmas of La Ruta. I choose to go narrow for the mud clearance and paved climbing, but sturdy on the sidewalls for extra protection. These aren't the lightest tires but are super fast rolling and sturdy. I really hope I didn't just jinx myself...
Crankset: Cannondale Hollowgram cranks on an SRM spider. Running the SRM is a small weight penalty but its been so helpful to me this season, especially with pacing during endurance races. Paired with the Cannondale cranks, it's still one of the lightest cranksets out there. I'll be using the 39/26 tooth rings. The 26 will be nice up the steep grades, and a 39-11 gear should get me through the flats.
Cassette: SRAM XX. This was a last-minute change due to mud shedding. I find with the XX cassette that mud falls in to the open space in the middle of the cassette and stays out of the teeth. I'll run the 11-36 tooth cassette for La Ruta.
Chain: SRAM PC 1091. Threw it on when I put the new cassette on.
Shifters/Derailleurs: Shimano XTR. I have been thrilled with the shifting of the new XTR stuff this year.
Brakes: Shimano XTR. The stopping power and feel of the new XTR brakes is amazing. It will be nice to have coming off the Irazu volcano. I will be using the pads with the radiating aluminum fins which will be great for cooling the brake system down, as well as have the added benefit of keeping mud from falling in the top of my brake caliper.
Pedals: This is another La Ruta specific change. I switched to Shimano XTR pedals this spring once I started working for them. I ran them all year with great success but for La Ruta, I had to go with Crank Brothers Egg Beaters simply because of how they function in the mud. You can clip in with a big glob of mud on your shoe. This is key with the amount of times we are off and on the bike in the mud.
Seatpost/Handlebar: PRO XCR carbon
Saddle: PRO Turnix Carbon rail
Grips: ESI chunky foam.
Total bike weight as pictured: 20.4 lbs.
Alex Grant, 31, is one of America's top endurance mountain bike racers. Sponsored by Cannondale Factory Racing in 2012, Grant juggles racing as a pro with managing an outdoor gear consignment business called Gear Rush, which he co-owns with fellow Utah cyclist and racer Bart Gillepsie. This season, look out for Grant on the podiums at major endurance and stage races. For variety, you may also see him on on the start line of some super Ds, cross countries and short tracks.
In 2011, Grant finished third at the Leadville 100 and eighth at the US cross country national championships while also logging top 10s at the super D and marathon nationals. He finished fifth in the Downieville Classic All Mountain Overall and seventh at La Ruta de los Conquistadores. For the third year in a row, he won the Park City Point 2 Point.
In 2010, Grant made headlines with his second place finish at La Ruta de los Conquistadores, the Breck Epic and the Trans-Sylvania Epic.
When not on his mountain bike, Grant enjoys backcountry skiing, snowboarding and hiking.
Grant is from Richmond, Vermont, and he presently lives in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Follow his 2012 season in this blog on Cyclingnews.
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