Specialized goes big on big wheels – Part 2

Read Part 1 of our report on Specialized and 29ers.

Words by Josh Patterson

Photos by Emmanuel Molle and Josh Patterson

It doesn’t get any more Euro than this

Our visit with Specialized coincided with Roc d’Azur, an annual mountain bike festival similar to Sea Otter, but on a much larger scale; an estimated 100,000 people attended the three-day event. As I walked around the venue it was immediately clear I was no longer in the States. Techno pop blared from the loud speakers, exquisitely-dressed women walked through the crowds wearing stilettos while toting lap dogs, and men clad in colorful Lycra enjoyed a post-race (or should I say après-race) cigarette as they traded stories. Only in Europe.

While there are dirt jump and slopestyle competitions, Roc d’Azur is primarily an XC-focused event. Cross-country racing may not have the allure it used to in North America, but it is alive and well in Europe; hundreds of competitors lined up for the cross-country and marathon events. Even the junior races had hundreds of participants. Hopefully NICA will inspire a new generation of American mountain bike racers. But I digress…

Specialized gave us unrestricted to their World Cup race team. We were given permission to hangout in the pits with Specialized’s World Cup athletes and the mechanics who keep their machines performing at their best.

In addition to being quite the hammer, Specialized’s Amy Shreve is also one heck of a barista.

Christoph Sauser took the win in Friday’s 83km Marathon race aboard his S-Works Epic by a healthy four-minute margin.

Sauser was hoping to double-up on his wins by also winning Sunday’s cross-country race. Sauser, who lead for most of the race, battled it out with German racer Moritz Milatz. The BMC racer put in a hard effort in the last 10km and was able to outsprint Sauser to take the win.

After Sunday’s race I sat down with the 35-year-old two-time Marathon World Champion to get his take on racing big wheels at the highest levels of competition. When you’ve had as winning a career as Sauser, you have the option to ride whatever you damn well please.

For shorter and smoother courses the Specialized racer opts for an S-Works 29er hardtail. For longer and rougher courses he chooses the Epic. Sauser has the Epic in 26 and 29-inch versions at this disposal. This season, Sauser has only used his 26-inch Epic for the first World Cup of the season, opting instead to split his time on the 29er Epic and his 29er hardtail.

His bike setup is very aggressive. Sauser’s cockpit consists Syntace stem, paired with 25.4 bars for weight savings, foam grips, and Extralight barends.

The world champ spins 38/26-tooth asymmetrical Rotor chainrings. Note the use of a QR code on the chainstay. Specialized uses these to track the development of thier prototypes.




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