Over the weekend, some of the US's best gravel racers put rubber to dust in the desert of Southern Utah for the Belgian Waffel Ride, Cedar City. The 125mi / 201km course featured roughly 6000ft of climbing at an average altitude of 5800 ft, with three-quarters of the course being off-road.
Former LottoNL-Jumbo rider Alexey Vermeulen pedalled into third place behind Peter Stetina and reigning US XCO National Champion Kegan Swenson. Although Vermeulen is no longer riding for the Bianchi-sponsored Dutch team, the Michigander was still aboard a celeste-green frame, this time a Bianchi Zolder Pro.
Technically a pure-bread CX bike, Vermeulen's BWR bike wasn't that far off the spec Wout Van Aert runs in World Cup CX races. The big departure comes in the form of the ENVE G23 hoops, packaged in not UCI legal for CX 38c Vittoria Terreno Dry rubber. With only light file tread up the centre strip, small transition nobs and medium-high shoulder knobs, it's clear Vermeulen prioritised weight and rolling resistance over out-and-out traction, and aerodynamics - it seems the gamble paid off.
Vermeulen made a somewhat controversial choice at the cranks to run a 2x Shimano GRX group, with 48/31T chainrings, which are paired to an 11-34T cassette - the biggest his GRX RD-RX815 mid cage rear derailleur can handle.
Upfront is a Vision Metron 5D integrated bar and stem combo with a Hammerhead Karoo computer keeping track of the American's ride.
As mechanicals and punctures are a genuine threat over the course of a six-hour gravel race, Vermeulen has a Lizard Skins Cache saddlebag mounted underneath is PRO Stealth Off-road seating arrangements. Vermeulen tells us he was only carrying one tube but had five tubeless plugs, two CO2s, and a multitool in tow.
With no neutral support vehicle or team cars, the Michigander also had a Genuine Innovations Bacon Strip tapped to his front brake hose, telling Cyclingnews the calculus was to have the tubeless plug to hand for a quick fix should he puncture rather, than have to dig through his saddlebag as his tyre continued to lose pressure.
Click through the gallery above for a closer look at Alexey Vermeulen's Bianchi Zoler Pro
Alexey Vermeulen Bianchi Zolder Pro full bike specifications
Frameset: Bianchi Zolder Pro
Front brake: Shimano GRX RX810-F Hydraulic Disc Caliper
Rear brake: Shimano GRX RX810-R Hydraulic Disc Caliper
Brake/shift levers: Shimano GRX RX-815 Di2 Hydraulic Disc Dual Control Lever 11-Sped
Front derailleur: Shimano GRX Di12 RX-815-F
Rear derailleur: Shimano GRX Di12 RX-815
Cassette: Shimano GRX 11-34T
Chain: Shimano Ultegra
Crankset: Shimano GRX RX-810-2 46/31t
Wheelset: ENVE G23
Tyres: Vittoria Terreno Dry700x38mm
Handlebars: Vision Metron 5D
Stem: Vision Metron 5D
Pedals: Shimano XTR
Saddle: Pro Stealth Off-Road
Seat post: Bianchi
Bottle cages: King Cage
Computer: Hammerhead Karoo
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