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Photo ©: Bettini

Pro bikes, February 11, 2009

Ivan Basso's Cannondale SuperSix Hi-Mod prototype

Photo ©: Kirsten Robbins

Ivan ignites new phase at Cannondale

By Kirsten Robbins

Italian favourite Ivan Basso returns to the sport this year with team Liquigas after serving a two year suspension for his involvement in Operación Puerto. Despite his lengthy absence, the 2006 Giro d'Italia champion is still regarded amongst the best climbers in the professional peloton, and with six mountain top finishes scheduled for this year's Giro, his 2009 focus on winning back the pink jersey seems within reach.

This year, Basso will not only focus on his performance on the bike but also the performance of the bike as he will play a key role to the engineers at team sponsor Cannondale as they develop the next generation of its flagship SuperSix Hi-Mod full carbon road frame. According to Basso, testing is well under way and the team has already received several iterations.

"It's a really fantastic bike," said Basso. "It is lighter and very stiff. I had a good feeling immediately," said Basso. "I've never used Cannondale. I've ridden for many years and I've always used my team-sponsored bike. So, I've never come across a Cannondale in the past.

"I think it is good on the flats because it is aerodynamic and it is good in the climbs because it is very light. It also drives very well on the descents," he explained.

"The best companies in the world all have great bikes," he continued. "Of course, you can't really compare bikes from now back to the year 2000. In these eight years there has been a lot of progress. I think Cannondale offers one of the best bikes in the world now."

Basso and his Liquigas teammates are all using prototype versions of the SuperSix Hi-Mod that are not yet on the market, although the resurgent Italian star admittedly was not privy to most of the technical details surrounding them. Basso says he merely tells the engineers what he thinks about how the bike feels and handles uphill, downhill, in crosswinds... and then a new iteration magically arrives shortly thereafter.

That feedback has already garnered a number of visual changes. Cannondale has added material to the back of the oversized head tube relative to last year's edition and the ends of the head tube are now visibly more flush with the rest of the frame, apparently with the aim of increasing front end rigidity for more precise handling and braking.

The bottom bracket area looks similar to before - and naturally is still equipped with the BB30 system - but the seat tube has lost the pronounced steps at the top and bottom where it met the bottom bracket shell and top tube. Only clean and smooth lines now remain. Out back, last year's semi-wishbone seat stays are now separate bits nearly all the way to the seat tube.

"This is a company that is really close to the riders," said Basso. "I met with the engineer last year. When I started to use the bike, he asked me what I think. He was open and asks for a lot of feedback from the riders. In the end when they release this frame it will be 100 percent perfect.

"They have a lot of good people to design their bikes but it is nice that they ask us for our input," said Basso, whose SuperSix Hi-Mod prototype is actually only one of three Cannondales he anticipates using at this year's Giro, which is set to start on May 9 in Lido di Venice. The second bike will be the aerodynamic Slice Hi-Mod Ultimate time trial bike and the third will apparently be a special machine for the long and hilly time trial of stage 12 [we were unable to confirm the latter with Cannondale].

One would think the status of a rider like Basso would automatically warrant the best of the best in Italian-made components. However, his SuperSix is currently built with Campagnolo's second-tier Record, not Super Record. To be fair, the two groups essentially differ only in the grade of the hybrid ceramic bearings used and some material changes. Both feature the company's all-new 11-speed drivetrains, wholly revamped Ergopower levers, all-new rear derailleurs, and updated chains and front derailleurs.

The total weight difference between the two groups is barely 50g but Basso is keeping his eyes on every one of them. "I like all my components," he said. "If you look at the bike, we have all the best stuff and we will have Super Record soon." Basso is also using a SRM power meter built into Cannondale's Hollowgram SI SL cranks and BB30 bottom bracket. Even with the extra strain gauge hardware and the beefy chainring spider it requires, total claimed system weight is still just 721g, including the bottom bracket and chainrings.

Cannondale says the key to the light weight is the hollow arms' aggressively machined 2000-series aluminum interior and the oversized and integrated design, which allows for fewer parts and less material without compromising strength or stiffness.

The ends of the crank arms are equipped with Liquigas-green Speedplay pedals. Rolling stock consists of Mavic's top-end Cosmic Carbone Ultimate wheels - with team-only ‘SSC' graphics - and Schwalbe Ultremo tubulars. Their 1185g weight and medium rim depth makes for a versatile wheelset light enough for climbing but also reasonably aerodynamic, too.

FSA provides Basso with a 13cm-long OS-99 CSI carbon-wrapped aluminum stem, 44cm-wide ‘new ergo' bend Energy aluminum handlebars, and a K-Force SB25 carbon seatpost. Other parts include a white fi'zi:k Arione CX Carbon saddle and Elite water bottle cages.

Basso says his position is mostly identical to what he had on his Cervélo in 2006 but that he has spent the winter months working on refining it nonetheless. Aiding him are no less than famed coach Aldo Sassi at the Italian-based Mapei Training Centre and SRM founder Ulrich Schoberer at his Dusseldorf headquarters.

"There are no big changes to my position over the last few years," Basso said. "Every year it is not exactly the same but the changes are minimal. For example, I moved my saddle five millimetres, or I slightly moved my cleats on the sole of my shoes. But these really small differences matter.

I do my testing at the Mapei Centre and at the SRM centre. We checked my old positions to make sure that I am as fast as I was in 2006. I want everything the same and I think the bike I have this year is the same, fast like my old one position."

So let's see: a new and supposedly faster bike, small adjustments to an already-proven position, and presumably newly-invigorated training. Sounds like a winning formula to us.


For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by Kirsten Robbins/Cyclingnews.com

Full specification

Frame: Cannondale SuperSix Hi-Mod prototype, 58cm
Fork:Cannondale SuperSix Hi-Mod

Critical measurements
Rider's height: 1.83m (6'0") ; Weight: 70kg (154lb)
Seat tube length, c-c: 550mm
Seat tube length, c-t: 580mm
Saddle height, from BB (c-t): 782mm
Tip of saddle nose to C of bars (next to stem): 610mm
C of front wheel to top of bars (next to stem): 635mm
Top tube length: 575mm (virtual)

Front brake: Campagnolo Record D-Skeleton
Rear brake: Campagnolo Record D-Skeleton
Brake levers: Campagnolo Record Ergopower Ultra-Shift 11s
Front derailleur: Campagnolo Record 11s
Rear derailleur: Campagnolo Record 11s
Shift levers: Campagnolo Record Ergopower Ultra-Shift 11s
Cassette: Campagnolo Record 11s, 11-23T
Chain: Campagnolo Record 11s
Crankset: SRM/Cannondale SI/SL, 172.5mm, 39/53T
Bottom bracket: Cannondale BB30

Wheelset: Mavic Cosmic Carbone Ultimate
Front tyre: Schwalbe Ultremo tubular, 22mm
Rear tyre: Schwalbe Ultremo tubular, 22mm

Bars: FSA Energy New Ergo, 44cm (c-c)
Stem: FSA OS-99 CSI, 130mm x -6º
Headset: Cannondale SuperSix by FSA
Tape/grip: fi'zi:k

Pedals: Speedplay Zero Titanium
Seat post: FSA K-Force SB25
Saddle: fi'zi:k Arione CX Carbon
Bottle cages: Elite Custom Macia
Computer: SRM PowerControl VI
Other accessories: Suunto Bike Pod

Total bike weight: 6.9kg (15.2lb)