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
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
"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
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
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
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