Today, in the sand dunes of Koksijde, Belgium, Niels Albert led a Belgian domination of the 2012 Cyclocross World Championships, but for company Colnago, the win represented a return for Italy to the top step of the Worlds podium and showed that their signing of the 2009 World Champion was a smart move and major coup.
[Update: See Niels Albert's Di2-equipped Colnago Cross Prestige carbon cyclocross bike from the 2013 Cyclocross World Championships]
Niels Albert’s 2012 World Championship winning Colnago Prestige carbon cyclocross bike. ©Cyclocross Magazine
It’s not like Colnago has been short of wins recently, as the company has provided Sven Nys with his ride for his entire professional career, and the Belgian legend never fails to rack up major wins each year. However, in the men’s world championships, Colnago has had to live in the shadow recently of other brands. As the former bicycle supplier of the venerable Rabobank cyclocross team, Colnago claimed world championship titles under the likes of Adri van der Poel, Richard Groenendaal, Sven Nys and Lars Boom, but with recent wins by Albert in 2009 (on a German Stevens) and Stybar in 2010 and 2011 (on a Belgian Ridley), it’s been a few dry years for Colnago on the Elite men’s side. By signing King Albert in 2012 and with his big in Koksijde, Colnago is back on top and in rainbow colors.
Albert wasn’t the only top pro to switch bikes in 2012, as Zdenek Stybar also made a big switch (see Cyclocross Magazine’s profile of Stybar’s new pink SRAM and Zipp-equipped Specialized Crux), but Albert’s change was less dramatic as the Belgian kept almost all the same components that were found on his Stevens Carbon Team Cross bike.
Niels Albert Colnago Prestige is almost just a frame change, as his Di2 levers, TRP CR950 brakes and PRO Vibe cockpit remain the same. ©Cyclocross Magazine
Those components include Shimano’s Dura-Ace C35 tubular wheelset, Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 electronic drivetrain with custom Shimano 38/46t chainrings, Shimano’s PRO Vibe UD carbon handlebar, stem and seatpost, XTR M970 pedals, and TRP’s low-profile CR950 SL carbon cantilevers. While top-shelf components, there’s nothing incredibly unique or one-off in his component selections. Perhaps the one custom item of note is Albert has added a barrel adjuster to his TRPCR950 SL brakes, much like the one found on the newer TRp CR959 brakes. Besides some small items like the brakes, the overall result is that Albert’s bike is not much different than Sven Nys’ own Colnago Prestige cross bike
The Colnago Prestige carbon cross bike features narrow profile chainstays and a bridgeless design without a shelf for maximum mud clearance. ©Cyclocross Magazine
Albert opted for Dugast Pipistrello file tread tubulars for the loose sand of Koksidje, where aggressive tread isn’t necessary and can clog when the sand is damp. Although Albert’s C35 rims aren’t the deepest section rims at 35mm, Albert told Cyclocross Magazine he prefers the lighter and lower profile rims over deeper rims
(has he been reading CXM Labs tests in our print magazine?), but since his C24 rims were discontinued, he’s riding what he’s given and very happy with the medium-profile rim.
The most notable feature of the bike that shows its World Cup pedigree is the chainstay / bottom bracket junction. Much like the Stevens and Redline carbon cross frames, it’s a sculpted area with little horizontal surface area for mud to collect. Colnago takes the extra step to dramatically narrow the stays on the sides of the tires to further improve mud clearance and give Albert and Nys the best chance to keep rolling even through the thickest mud.
While this is the bike Albert rode to win the 2012 World Championships, we can guarantee you the next time you see Albert, he’ll be riding a rainbow-stripe accented version to celebrate his current Worlds title.
More specs in the photo captions.
Photo Gallery below: