Storming the US circuit on Cannondale's carbon flyer
By James Huang
Sutherland captured the
NRC title last year…
…with the help of his powerful
Health Net teammates.
The SuperSix is Cannondale's first full-carbon pure road race frame.
A common theme for the
SuperSix is 'BIG'
The tapered and oversized
The large stepdown in steerer
The fork's oversized carbon
Aussie native (and Cyclingnews
diarist) Rory Sutherland raged through his first year competing
on US soil last year with stage wins at the Redlands
Classic and Nature
Valley Grand Prix, a stage win and the overall at the Joe
Martin Stage Race, and even the NRC points title as a result of
his consistently high finishes throughout the season.
Proving that last year was no fluke, this year is starting out with
a similar bang: the 2004 U23 Australian road champion successfully
defended his Joe Martin title and then took the overall
win at the Mount Hood Classic one week later, winning time trial
stages in both events. Needless to say, Sutherland is on a roll: "My
season’s been awesome so far in a lot of different ways. I’m really
Cannondale remains the Health Net bike sponsor for 2008 but Sutherland
and his team-mates have now swapped to the all-carbon SuperSix
model from last year’s aluminum-and-carbon SystemSix.
The SuperSix manages to shave some weight from its predecessor but Cannondale
engineers have apparently put in a lot of effort to ensure that it’s
still stiff enough for its top pro riders.
As with the SystemSix, the SuperSix’s front end features a massively-proportioned
tapered and oversized 1 1/8"-to-1 1/2" steerer tube matched to a similarly
enormous head tube, down tube and top tube. However, this time around
the rest of the frame is carbon, too. The bottom bracket area is well
reinforced as usual but now it’s molded in one piece with tall carbon
chain stays. The small-diameter seat stays are positively anemic-looking
in comparison but contribute greatly to the frame’s comfortable ride
Sutherland is happy about his new bike’s light weight but admits that
shedding grams is far from his highest priority. "I’m not a big light
freak," he said. "I’d rather have something that’s super strong but
this one is light and strong at the same time. You can sprint on it,
you can do everything. One thing that I really like about the bike is
that the bottom bracket goes into the stays in one piece and that just
creates so much more rigidity in the back of the bike. Cornering on
these things is unreal."
One new convenience for the team this year is that each rider has been
equipped with a home bike that is supposedly 100 percent identical to
his race bike. According to Sutherland, Cannondale, Shimano and other
team sponsors "really stepped up" this year with their support and the
result has been absolutely positive. Riders no longer have to worry
about shuttling their primary racing rig back and forth or competing
on a bike with which they might not be completely familiar. "What you
race on is exactly what you’ve got at home which is fantastic," he said.
Sutherland’s training bike was fitted with Mavic R-SYS wheels and Maxxis
clincher tires when we caught up with him during a rare stint at his
US base in Boulder, Colorado. The team will occasionally swap to Mavic’s
more aerodynamic Cosmic Carbone model on race day depending on the conditions
but true to his word, even those are fitted with clinchers as well.
In fact, Maxxis doesn’t even manufacture tubular tires yet Sutherland
doesn’t seem to miss them.
"We run high pressures [the common term for clinchers in Australia
- Ed.] all year except for the time trials. Maxxis has amazing tires.
We ride high pressures all year long and don’t ride tubulars and it’s
not like it makes a difference. If anything, I’m more comfortable on
high pressures these days anyway. There’s less for the mechanics to
do. They’re so good and they’re so soft compound."
Sutherland similarly gushed about his fi’zi:k Arione Carbon saddle.
While the variable-flex carbon shell and braided carbon rails are lighter
than the standard k:ium-railed version, it’s the saddle’s perceived
longevity and rigidity that he’s really excited about. Sutherland says
the carbon shell is less likely to sag over time relative to the standard
version and gives less under pressure, meaning his position stays more
consistent as the season progresses and he’s able to put more power
down, especially in time trials.
Sutherland’s bike is otherwise fitted with a complete Shimano Dura-Ace
group including the standard Hollowtech II crankset where Cannondale’s
oversized BB30 unit would normally reside. The rear derailleur is also
equipped with FSA’s ceramic bearing pulleys and we would suspect the
bottom bracket has been upgraded with faster-rolling ceramics as well
although Sutherland wouldn’t confirm as such. The seatpost, stem and
handlebar are all provided by Ritchey and Sutherland foregoes a carbon
bar for an aluminum one with a traditional non-anatomic bend.
Sutherland is currently out east for the Commerce Bank Triple Crown
(better known simply as ‘Philly week’) and then heads to Minnesota for
another major US event, the Nature Valley Grand Prix. After that, he’ll
finally head back to Boulder to enjoy some Rocky Mountain sun. Given
his fantastic performances already this season, that time off will not
only be long overdue but also very well earned.
For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here