As an athlete, it never hurts to stand out a little bit.
Wisconsin’s Holly LaVesser has stood out the last few seasons with her off-road riding. In 2018, LaVesser finished second this season in the long-running Wisconsin Off-Road Series mountain bike series and won six Wisconsin Elite cyclocross races before heading to Louisville for the Masters 35-39 race at Nationals.
The other reason LaVesser stands out? It’s gotta be the socks.
Us Wisconsinites have long wondered if LaVesser’s sock game is the key to her talent on the bike, kind of like Samson and his long locks. After a brief pre-Nats scare, all signs point to yes.
When LaVesser read about the new UCI rule on maximum sock height, she was worried it applied to USAC age group Nationals. Several rulebook inquiries later, the socks were in and LaVesser’s superpower was with her at the start line in Louisville.
“I am always all about wearing bright colors and fun clothes, so that’s why they aren’t boring,” LaVesser said about her super-power socks. “The socks are purely my way to stay warm without wearing tights—or sometimes over tights!”
How did LaVesser end up racing in her first cyclocross Nationals this year? It turns out she was looking for places to race her mountain bike.
“I didn’t go into the season thinking Nationals and was actually checking USA Cycling’s website to find out where mountain bike Nationals would be in 2019,” Lavesser said. “When doing that, I saw Cyclocross Nats were in Louisville, which was only six hours away. At the same time, I had done really well in my first few races, so it seemed like an idea I should entertain.”
For an up-and-coming rider, racing Nationals can be a challenging decision. The Masters 35-39 race at Nationals typically attracts racers who race on the UCI circuit, and this year’s Women’s race was no different.
Before Louisville Nationals, LaVesser had raced cyclocross outside Wisconsin only one time. With a course perfectly suited to her climbing and technical skills, LaVesser—and the rest of the Wisconsin contingent in Louisville—had a feeling the Badger State native could do something special on the national stage.
In the Women’s Masters 35-39 race on Thursday of Nationals week, LaVesser did not disappoint. She quickly rode to the front from a second-row start and then in the last lap, made an impressive comeback to catch Suzi Snyder. The two crested the last climb to Pit 2 together; the race was going to come down to the sprint.
LaVesser cleared the barriers first and won the sprint to take the Masters 35-39 National Championship in one of the most exciting finishes of the entire Nationals week.
Her bike for the ride was a Van Dessel Full Tilt Boogie that got its start as a neutral support bike. Today we profile her winning bike that was put together by another former cyclocross national champion from Wisconsin.
Holly LaVesser’s Van Dessel Full Tilt Boogie
The Van Dessel Full Tilt Boogie is one we have seen quite a bit of on big-time podiums recently.
Last year, we profiled Caroline Mani’s French Tricolour Full Tilt Boogie—one she gets to ride again after her win at French Nationals—and we recently looked at Laura Van Gilder’s well-decorated bike after her Masters 55-59 win in Louisville. Sunny Gilbert also had a day to remember in Louisville on the New Jersey company’s flagship cyclocross bike when she finished second in the Elite Women’s race.
LaVesser’s 52cm Full Tilt Boogie likely gets more use than the average cyclocross bike. LaVesser is a former runner who switched to cycling, and she now trains exclusively off-road on her cyclocross and mountain bikes.
In fact, LaVesser does not even own a road bike. “From time to time, maybe 5 to 10 times a year when trails are closed, I take my old ’cross bike or fat bike on the road,” LaVesser said. “It’s always desperation that causes this.”
During her Nationals win, LaVesser rode a 2016 model year Full Tilt Boogie that had a front 15mm thru-axle and post mount disc brakes on the frame and fork. Van Dessel has since gone to 12mm thru-axles front and rear and flat mount disc brakes, and it now uses Mavic’s Speed Release system.
The last two seasons, LaVesser has raced for the Neff Cycle Service team based in Madison. If the same sounds familiar—well, not that familiar—it is because the shop and team are owned by 2017 Baby Masters and Singlespeed Cyclocross National Champion Isaac Neff. Neff did not race this year due to his recovery from a severe injury, but he did help LaVesser get ready for her big race.
“He didn’t give me any specific advice for the race, but he did save me with a last-minute, week-before bike repair of new brake pads front and rear and a new bottom bracket, and he lent me a pit bike,” LaVesser said.
LaVesser’s bike that Neff hooked her up with came from the pits of Wisconsin cyclocross, quite literally.
In 2017, Neff Cycle Service took over neutral support for Wisconsin’s cyclocross series. As a Van Dessel dealer, NCS purchased several Full Tilt Boogies as pit bikes. LaVesser rode her current bike a few times that year and after the season, decided to buy it.
After purchasing the former pit bike, LaVesser has left it pretty much how she bought it. Like many U.S. amateur cyclocrossers, she ran a 1x drivetrain at Nationals. The bike had a SRAM Apex 1 rear derailleur and Apex 1 HRD levers and calipers, which is not a build we see very often.
At the start of the season, LaVesser’s SRAM Force 1 crankset had a 42t chain ring mounted on SRAM’s five-arm crank. Over the course of the season, she switched her front gearing, dropping to a 38t and then a 36t right before the Wisconsin State Championships in Waterloo.
The SRAM Force 1 crankset does not accept a 36t chain ring with the five-bolt mounts, so LaVesser’s mechanic removed the three-bolt spider and mounted a 36t SRAM X-Sync Direct Mount ring. She paired it with an 11-32t cassette in the rear.
LaVesser shared how she ended up with a 36t chain ring for that final sprint in Louisville.
“I started the season with the stock 42t and complained after a couple races that I thought it was too hard. Isaac Neff and my husband Chris laughed and agreed I should have a smaller one. I got a 38t. I used that for most of the season, but with all our muddy courses, I still felt like I needed something easier. The 36t was only put on two races prior to Nationals, and I was happy with that and will stick with it.”
LaVesser’s Full Tilt Boogie frame and fork take post mount calipers, and she ran Apex HRD two-piston calipers paired with the Apex 1 HRD shift/brake levers. Her rotors were 140mm SRAM Centerline.
Neff Cycle service carries wheels from South Carolina’s Boyd Cycling. LaVesser ran the company’s alloy Altamont Lite Disc tubeless clincher wheelset. The rims are 23mm wide and 24mm deep and the wheelset comes built with Quest hubs. Neff does a lot of custom builds with Boyd rims, but LaVesser’s were a stock wheelset built by the company.
Although Thursday’s races had the driest and fastest conditions of Nationals week, LaVesser still opted for throwback 700c x 33mm PDX tubeless tires front and rear that were still Clement-branded.
A number of the other parts on LaVesser’s bike were from FSA. Her FSA Energy compact handlebar connected to an FSA OS-168 stem. Her Van-Dessel-branded saddle was held by an FSA SL-K SB02 20mm-offset seatpost. Her pedals were Crankbrothers Eggbeaters.
She used a Garmin Edge 520 computer with a bright green cover. That whole bright colors thing…
For more on LaVesser’s bike, see the photo gallery and specs below.
For more bikes from Nationals, see our bike profile archives.
Photo Gallery: Holly LaVesser’s 2018 Nationals Van Dessel Full Tilt Boogie