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Pro bikes, January 28, 2008

Sven Nys' Landbouwkrediet-Tonnisteiner Colnago C50 Cross

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Photo ©: Ben Atkins

New team, same bike. Almost.

By Ben Atkins in Loenhout, Belgium

Sven Nys had ridden his whole career with Rabobank but took the decision to switch to the smaller Belgian Landbouwkrediet-Tonnisteiner team at the beginning of this cyclo-cross season. Part of this decision was due to his dissatisfaction with his old team, but a lot was also down to the fact that the Kannibal of cross wanted to take a proper tilt at the road in 2009 with the ambition of winning the Ronde van Vlaanderen right up at the top of his wish list.

A team change usually comes with a switch in bikes and getting used to the characteristics of a new frame can take some time. Not so for Sven Nys. As luck (or design) would have it, his new team also rides frames made by Colnago and so all the Belgian champion had to do was get used to a new colour.

Ernesto Colnago and Nys have long enjoyed a fruitful relationship, which would recently have come to an end had Nys stayed with Rabobank who are switching to Giant for 2009. The Italian master builder actually created a frame especially for the Belgian called the "Cross Prestige", but Nys actually prefers to stick to the machine that has carried him to so much success over the years: his custom built C50.

Whereas most mortals enjoy a little comfort when riding off-road, racing at this level consists of a succession of bursts and acceleration so many top pros favor rigidity and responsiveness above all else. As such, Nys has his frame built from the stiffer reinforced tubing that the Extreme Power frame is made from instead of the standard C50 Cross' more compliant ingredients.

Aside from the frame, there are a number of similarities between Nys' bike from the last time we looked at it and now, but also a number of obvious differences. The standout change between then and now is the wheelset. Nys used a pair of Shimano Dura-Ace WH-7850-C50 carbon tubulars at Rabobank but Landbouwkrediet-Tonnisteiner is sponsored by Mavic and so he has a pair of the French company's top-of-the-line Cosmic Carbone Ultimates instead - at least that was the case initially.

The team's wheel sponsorship switched to Shimano on the 1st of January - just two days after we looked at Nys' bike - leaving even one less thing for the star 'cross rider to think about. Though Nys' race bike was obligatorily fitted with those Mavic wheels at the time, he confided that his spare bike was fitted with Shimano wheels so as to reacquaint himself with their characteristics in time for the big races of the new year.

The sub-zero temperatures in most of northern and central Europe over the holiday period turned most races into virtual kermesses instead of the more typical mud pits - albeit on dirt roads - and the only real obstacles in races like the Azencross were the manmade ones like bridges and steps to go along with the bumps and washboard sections. This has suited the characteristics of fast finishers like Fidea's Zdenek Stybar (who won this particular race) rather than the strong men like Nys and Stybar's teammate Bart Wellens.

This frozen hardpack has also dictated the choice of tread - or lack of it - on Nys ubiquitous 32mm Dugast tubulars as he has chosen the semi-slick Pipistrello tread rather than the usual Rhino or Typhoon knobbles. Larger diamond-shaped knobs on the edges still provide surer off-road cornering but the low-profile pattern down the middle yields far faster rolling.

Most of the rest of Nys' kit will have been familiar to him from his old Rabobank bike, including the traditional bend of the 44cm-wide PRO handlebars. This season he has opted for the carbon fibre Vibe OS model though instead of the previous aluminium PLT, which is still held tight with a 120mm aluminium PRO PLT stem.

Also common to this and his previous bike is the Shimano groupset, except where there were hints of Ultegra on his Rabobank machine, this one is fully Dura-Ace though the latest 7900 version seems to be taking longer to filter into cyclo-cross. Even a big star like Sven Nys is still using the older 7800 version and by the looks of the wear on the outsides of the 172.5mm chainset arms this is a well loved example that will have earned its retirement when it eventually gets replaced by the newer version.

Nys continues to pair 46/39T chainrings with a 12-25T cassette despite the firmness of the ground and the relative flatness of the course. According to Nys, the 46T ring allows him to accelerate out of Azencross' multitude of corners much more smoothly than if he had a bigger one. He did admit though that his spare bike was fitted with a 48T for use in the final lap to give him a slightly larger development in the event of a sprint finish.

Shimano may help Nys to power out of corners, but in the absence of a high-level cross brake from the Japanese company it's down to TRP to slow him down on the way in. Carbon fiber arms, minimal aluminium bits and titanium hardware keep the company's top EuroX Carbon cantilevers down to a claimed 109g per pair while their traditional high-profile configuration provides extra clearance at the rim during muddy races. Mavic-branded carbon-specific blocks (made by SwissStop) are fitted to the cartridge pad holders.

Nys also continues on with a pair of familiar Shimano XTR SPD pedals and it looks as though he came off to the left hand side when using these ones at least once as the logo was scuffed off (the right hand one is unscathed). Other damage is in evidence - as this frame has already done well over half a season - in the form of a large section of paint scuffed off the outside of the left leg of the Colnago Star Cross fork. This may have been in the same incident, but it looks to like it may have been caused by careless storage or transport.

Nys is lucky to have so much carryover equipment for a new team but he still has had to make adjustments in one critical area: Nys now has a Prologo Nago saddle to sit on, clamped atop an in-house Colnago seatpost in place of the previous Selle San Marco and PRO products.

The thaw that the strongmen (and women) of cyclo-cross had all asked for over the holidays has finally arrived in Europe and so we are seeing races return to the usual format of one rider against another as they both battle the conditions, rather than the virtual bunch racing we saw over the turn of the year. Assuming this continues to be the case heading into the world championships this weekend, we can expect to see the new green Colnago of Sven Nys to the fore in Hoogerheide.


For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by Ben Atkins/Cyclingnews.com

Full specification

Frame: Custom Colnago C50 Cross with Extreme Power tubing
Fork: Colnago Star Cross

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 (next to stem): 560mm
C of front wheel to top of bars (next to stem): 590mm
Top tube length: 560mm

Front brake: TRP EuroX Carbon with Mavic carbon specific pads
Rear brake: TRP EuroX Carbon with Mavic carbon specific pads
Brake levers: Shimano Dura-Ace STI Dual Control ST-7800
Front derailleur: Shimano Dura-Ace FD-7800-F
Rear derailleur: Shimano Dura-Ace RD-7800-SS
Shift levers: Shimano Dura-Ace STI Dual Control ST-7800
Cassette: Shimano Ultegra CS-6600, 12-25T
Chain: Shimano Dura-Ace CN-7801
Crankset: Shimano Dura-Ace Hollowtech 2 FC-7800, 172.5mm, 46/39T (48/39T on second bike for sprint finish)
Bottom bracket: Shimano Dura-Ace SM-FC7800

Wheelset: Mavic Cosmic Carbone Ultimate (Shimano Dura-Ace WH-7850-C24-TU on second bike)
Front tyre: Dugast Pipistrello tubular 32mm
Rear tyre: Dugast Pipistrello tubular 32mm

Bars: PRO Vibe Full Carbon Round OS, 44cm (c-c)
Stem: PRO PLT OS Road, 120mm x -6deg
Headset: FSA Orbit X CX
Tape/grip: Colnago Cork

Pedals: Shimano XTR PD-M970
Seat post: Colnago carbon
Saddle: Prologo Nago

Total bike weight: 7.58kg (16.7kg)