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Pro bikes, December 7, 2007

Sven Nys' Rabobank Colnago C50 Cross

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Photo ©: Gregor Brown/Cyclingnews.com

Colnago's cyclo-cross winning machine

By Gregor Brown in Koksijde, Belgium

The bike is labeled as a C50
Photo ©: Gregor Brown
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PRO PLT aluminum handlebars and stem
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Nys uses a 140mm PRO PLT
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Evidence of use on the Selle San Marco Era.
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The 34mm-wide Dugast Pipistrello tubular tires
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Colnago's 'cross frame offers plenty of tire clearance.
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Spooky carbon fiber cantilevers
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Sven Nys is one of the most decorated cyclo-cross riders currently on the circuit: the 31-year-old Belgian has won seven Superprestige trophies, two World Cups and the 2005 World Championships, and recently went on to win the World Cup round in Koksijde, Belgium moments after Cyclingnews had a look at the Colnago that carried him to victory.

The Italian-made frame is labeled as a standard Colnago C50 Cross. However, unlike the production model that is actually designed to be somewhat softer than its road-going counterpart, the reinforced tubing and construction on Nys' bike make it more akin to the company's markedly stiffer Extreme Power. "It says C50, but that is not right because it is actually an Extreme Power," said Nys. "In the beginning when we had the carbon frame it was not strong enough. However, the one we have now is great for cyclo-cross because the sprints are zero-to-40, and you need a strong bike."

Colnago has always placed a high priority on racing as both a means to stay in touch with the sport as well as a valuable resource for product development. Feedback from Nys is funneled directly to the company's headquarters near Milano. "We have contact, and also with the dealer for Belgium. If there is a problem then of course we talk about it and they do something about it." According to Nys, though, his current 'cross frame is just about perfect: "There are not so many changes from last year. The handlebars are wider than before; this year it is 44cm. It is the first year that I used that [measurement]. Before we raced with another sponsor, and now it is PRO – they are a little more 'open.'"

PRO is closely tied to Shimano, another team sponsor, and supplies Nys with its traditional-bend PLT Round OS aluminum handlebars and PLT OS Road stem. Nearly all of the remainder of the build wears the Shimano Dura-Ace logo, including the deep-section carbon fiber tubular wheels, Dual Control levers, and complete drivetrain. The only exception is Spooky's ultra-lightweight carbon fiber high-profile cantilever brakes. "I have wheels that are even lighter, however Dura-Ace is strong and light, and that is good. Shimano Dura Ace is perfect. ... The first year I did that [used carbon wheels] was 2004, and now I always use them."

As naturally befitting a rider of Nys' status, those wheels are wrapped with highly prized Dugast tubulars, and he chose the semi-slick Pipistrello tread for the sandy parcours in Koksijde. "No profile; they are just slick for today's parcours since there is sand," Nys confirmed. "No pressure, just one-six, one-eight [bar] in the tires."

Nys also opted for 39/46T chainrings matched to a 12-25T cassette. According to him, the 46T ring is big enough for sprints but small enough for fast accelerations out of tight corners. "The front gears are 46 and 39; some riders use 48. I think when you start in a sprint out of a corner it is better to have a 46, it is faster. Ninety percent of the race is big gear, [when] not using the 48. Normally I used a 25-12 rear cluster, but for here it is a long finish, and maybe it is needed to have an 11, but I will try to stay in the peloton and wait, and then bang. The problem with adding an 11 is that you have to have another ring out of the cluster, and I miss that; the 11 is only for the sprint or the start."

Shimano's newest XTR pedals are found on many 'cross bikes in Belgium as the dual-sided entry and adjustable tension of their classic design is ideal for the conditions encountered. "In the beginning I had a contract with Time, but Shimano is a little better because you can adjust the tension to be stronger or looser. They are better in the sand." He added, "In this race, you know, we are always cleaning with a brush, water is not good."

Gore's recently reintroduced Ride-On sealed cables and housings ties everything together. The low friction system is new and improved, with coated cables that run through a full-length liner to protect the system from end-to-end.

According to Nys, the current frame geometry is spot-on, and Nys does not think he will make any recommendations for it to be modified in the coming season. "My saddle offset is seven centimetres from the tip of the saddle to the bottom bracket. Every time since I get a bike, it is always the same, it allows me the right power on my pedals. No changes [will be made], it is perfect. Lighter is not needed. I think eight kilograms [8.1 kg - ed.] is perfect."

Speaking of weight, Nys is not the smallest or lightest rider in the 'cross field at 1.81m tall and 71kg (5' 11", 156lb), but he believes that he is at his personal minimum limit. "I think that between 65 and 72 is good for a cyclo-cross rider; otherwise if you are too skinny and you can get sick and ill in the winter. My weight, it is good."



For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by Gregor Brown / Cyclingnews.com

Full specification

Frame: Colnago custom C50 Cross with Extreme Power reinforced carbon fiber tubing
Fork: Colnago Star Cross
Available sizes:

Critical measurements
Rider's height:1.81m (5' 11") Weight: 71kg (156.5lb)
Seat tube length, c-c: 550mm
Seat tube length, c-t: 580mm
Saddle height, from BB (c-t): 770mm
Tip of saddle nose to C of bars: 560mm
C of front wheel to top of bars: 590mm
Top tube length: 560mm (horizontal)

Cranks: Shimano Dura-Ace Hollowtech 2 FC-7800, 172.5mm, 39/46T
Chain: Shimano Dura-Ace CN-7801
Front derailleur: Shimano Dura-Ace FD-7800-F
Rear derailleur: Shimano Dura-Ace RD-7800-SS with Tacx ceramic bearing pulleys
Brakes: Spooky carbon fibre cantilever with Kool-Stop Thinline salmon compound pads
Levers: Shimano Dura-Ace STI Dual Control ST-7800
Rear sprockets: Shimano Dura-Ace CS-7800, 12-25T
Bottom bracket: Shimano Dura-Ace Hollowtech 2 SM-FC7800


Tyres: Dugast Pipistrello 34c
Wheels: Shimano Dura-Ace WH-7801-carbon50

Handle bars: PRO PLT Round OS, 44cm (c-c)
Stem: PRO PLT OS Road, 120mm x -6°
Headset: PRO RM-11
Tape: Colnago cork

Pedals: Shimano XTR PD-M970
Seat post: Shimano Ultegra SP-6600
Saddle: Selle San Marco Era
Bottle cages: N/A
Computer: N/A
Other accessories: Gore Ride-One sealed cables

Total bike weight: 8.1kg (17.9lb)