by Josh Liberles
Katheryn Curi Mattis poses with her brand new Ritte Steeplechase.
Katheryn Curi Mattis apparently has a hard time staying “retired” from competitive bike racing. Curi Mattis—who won the 2005 US road race national title and the 2008 Geelong World Cup road race, and is one of the top American roadies of the past decade—has lightened her racing load this year and transitioned to more of a mentoring role for developing athletes in the Webcor program. But her competitive itch coupled with Bikes to Rwanda’s humanitarian mission of providing cargo bikes to Rwandan coffee farmers conspired to get Curi Mattis on a ’cross bike for one of the country’s biggest events.
Bikes to Rwanda director Brian Gilmore convinced Curi Mattis that cyclocross would create great exposure for his non-profit, and that it would be a fun way for her to keep racing. “Obviously I love bike racing, but I’m a little burnt out on it after doing it on a high level for so long,” Curi Mattis told Cyclocross Magazine. “With ’cross, it’s a completely different challenge for me, which is really cool. And since the races are so short, I don’t need to put in the same long hours of training time. Plus it’s just a super fun discipline.”
Spencer Canon, owner of frame manufacturer Ritte van Vlannderen and sponsor of Bikes to Rwanda, unveiled the company’s 2012 Steeplechase model at Interbike just before it would debut in CrossVegas under Curi Mattis. The striking unique rig blends a stainless steel rear end, head tube and bottom bracket with Enve carbon top and down tubes and an Enve full carbon fork.
According to Canon, the blend of oversized stainless steel and carbon tubes brings the best of both worlds.
Southern California frame maker Russ Denny assembled the bike for Ritte, and he completed if not long before the show. Other than her warm-up ride on the course, Curi Mattis’ only time on the bike was a quick spin on the Interbike showroom floor, and Canon didn’t have much time to test it before the big showdown at CrossVegas. “I bounced it pretty hard on the ground a few times to make sure the chain wouldn’t drop, and we did what we could to make sure everything was in working order, but it all came together pretty last minute. Russ is an amazing frame builder, but I was still pretty nervous since this is a brand new frame design for us, and I wanted it to really shine for Katheryn.”
Although CrossVegas was only Curi Mattis’ third-ever cyclocross race—and by far the biggest—she rode cleanly and powered steadily through the pack to move up from her fourth-row start, eventually finishing in an impressive 10th. As Canon told us the next day, Curi Mattis was elated by her ride, the result, and the euphoric buzz from cyclocross competition. She was already analyzing what she could have done differently to make it up to the front group of five and be in the running for the podium and—potentially—the win. Although her original plan was to continue to support Bikes to Rwanda by racing on a local level in the Bay Area where she lives, her post-race reactions may indicate otherwise. We’re betting she pops up at more big UCI events soon.
For the 2010/2011 season, Ritte offered both its carbon Crossberg and steel Steeplechase framesets. The Crossberg was a full-on racer that was made in Asia to Ritte’s specs, while the Steeplechase was hand made in Southern California and added the option of custom sizing. “We started playing around with stainless steel builds, and with using oversized tubing,” says Canon. “Using oversized tubes made it plenty stiff, and we were blown away that we could equal an all-carbon frame on performance and almost on weight, but we could add beauty, custom options, the steel feel and make it locally in the US.
“I got the idea that a stainless steel rear end with carbon top and down tubes would be a brilliant combo. The carbon qualities contribute to the stiffness and handle the road vibrations, but by isolating the rear triangle and making that stainless steel, we focus all of the lively feel of that material there.”
The Crossberg is more of a traditional, European-inspired geometry with a 60mm bottom bracket drop, while the Steeplechase reflects the more American trend with a low, 72mm drop. The Steeplechase adds a relatively short, 430mm chain stay and a steep, 73-degree head tube. “Here in SoCal, we don’t need much clearance for most racing, and that’s true for lots of races all over the country,” says Canon. “The nice, tight, low BB is better for the majority of courses than something made for sloppy conditions.”
As you’ll see in the gallery below, we got both some before and after shots. Despite the thick, wet grass, the relatively untested bike held up just fine, and Curi Mattis was excited to ride it a bunch more this season. We hope to see her at more big events—and we wouldn’t be surprised to see her toeing the line in Madison for Nationals.
Check out the bike specs and gallery below, and come browse through our full coverage of all cyclocross-related news and gear from Interbike and CrossVegas 2011.
Want to see more of Interbike’s cyclocross offerings? We have a full list of some of the best new products we saw at Interbike, with more being added every day.
Frame: Ritte van Vlaanderen Steeplechase with “half mast” integrated seat mast.
Tubing: 38mm diameter oversized KVA stainless steel and Enve carbon tubes. The chainstay, BB, head tube and lugs are all custom manufactured in house.
Fork: Enve carbon 1 1/8″
Wheels: Enve 45mm carbon clinchers
Cranks: Rotor 3D cranks with Q-rings
Brake/Shift Levers: SRAM Force
Brakes: TRP Euro-X
Handlebars: Enve carbon
Pedals: Crank Brothers Eggbeater 3 stainless steel
Weight as built: 16.5 lbs (54cm frame).
MSRP: $3,800 for Steeplechase frame set; $1,850 for Crossberg frameset
Made in: USA (Steeplechase); China (Crossberg)
Bikes to Rwanda: http://www.bikestorwanda.org/
Ritte van Vlaanderen: http://www.ritteracing.com/