The 2018/19 season was one of changes for Wout van Aert.
Prior to the season, Van Aert made the change from the Felt cyclocross bike he rode from January 2017 through February 2018 to the Stevens Super Prestige frame also ridden by Sanne Cant and formerly piloted by Mathieu van der Poel.
When Van Aert left for the U.S. World Cups, he also found himself needing to change teams after breaking his contract with the Sniper Cycling program he had raced cyclocross and road for. He found a new team in the Cibel - Cebon Offroad Team program after returning to Europe, but the chaos still left him scrambling to find bikes for the U.S. World Cups.
Once settled with new bikes and a new team, the other change for Van Aert was a new 12-speed SRAM RED 1 eTAP drivetrain to test out. Several years ago, Van Aert joined Jeremy Powers in riding SRAM's wireless groupset, and this season, he did the same for the company's new 12-speed offering.
We got to spend some time with Van Aert's bike outfitted with the 11-speed eTAP at Superprestige Gavere, and we also did some recon of the now-released 12-speed groupset that was still quite hush-hush while athletes were testing it out.
We take a look at Van Aert's Super Prestige and its groupsets new and old in this bike profile.
Wout van Aert's Stevens Super Prestige
As we noted in our Worlds Bike profile of Sanne Cant's Stevens Super Prestige, the bike from the German company needs little introduction. Mathieu van der Poel rode the frameset before switching to the Canyon Inflite CF SLX at the start of 2018, and Sanne Cant has been on the bike for her three world championships.
Earlier this year, we profiled the Super Prestige that Van Aert rode for the two U.S. World Cups. Putting those bikes together took some work on short notice, but Van Aert was still able to race to podium finishes in Waterloo and Iowa City.
Once back in Europe and with his new team, Van Aert was able to lock down his new bikes for the rest of the cyclocross season. Van Aert had 58cm framesets with two paint schemes at Worlds. One was white with some Belgian blue, which he rode for part of the race at Worlds.
His other frame—the one we photographed at Superprestige Gavere and again right after Worlds—was black with rainbow bands to honor the then-reigning world champion. If you look close enough, there are also sparkles.
Probably the most intriguing aspect of Van Aert's bike this season was the hunt for the new 12-speed SRAM RED 1 eTap prototype groupset he was riding. We saw Jeremy Powers running the unbranded groupset from the beginning of the season, but perhaps thanks to the tumult Van Aert went through, he was a bit slower to start beta testing the now-released groupset at every race.
When we saw his bike at Superprestige Gavere, he still had the 11-speed, 2x SRAM RED eTAP drivetrain on his race bikes and the bike his team let us photograph. SRAM explained that at the time Van Aert did not yet have enough 12-speed, 1x setups for his pit bikes on the muddy day.
We did, however, use our best zoom lens to spy an early look at what we now know is the RED eTAP AXS rear derailleur on one of his bikes that Van Aert's mechanic was working on.
A few weeks later at World Cup Tabor, Van Aert was ready to go with the 1x 12-speed RED 1 eTAP AXS groupset. He was also running the new 12-speed groupset at Bogense Worlds, and we spied a quick look at the bike while Van Aert was talking to the Belgian media at the post-race press conference—similar to what happened with Tom Pidcock's bike.
At Worlds, Van Aert ran an unmarked X-Sync 2 46t(!) chain ring up front. At Gavere, we learned the very tall Van Aert is kind of the bizarro Katie Compton, running quite short 170mm crankarms. The shorter 15-time U.S. champ is famously known for running 175mm crankarms.
Van Aert paired the toothy 46t front chain ring with a new RED eTAP AXS XG-1290 10-28t 12-speed cassettes. Van Aert reportedly likes having a tall gear, and his 46x10 gear certainly qualifies as quite tall for cyclocross.
The groupset uses the new, narrow SRAM RED Flattop chain designed to work with the redesigned X-Sync 2 chain rings and new, nearly one-piece cassettes.
One thing that was the same for Van Aert throughout the season was his Zipp 202 Firecrest carbon tubulars. While athletes such as his buddy Stephen Hyde favor the deeper-profile Zipp 303s, Van Aert has favored the shallower, lighter version of the speed weaponry.
The Bogense course was mostly frozen during Friday's course inspection, but a drizzle that arrived before Saturday's Elite Women's race left the course relatively damp heading into Sunday's races. Van Aert opted for Dugast Rhino tubulars front and rear to handle the course conditions in Sunday's Elite Men's race.
The casing of Van Aert's tires at Gavere featured Dugast's prototype 11 Storm compound. According to Jonathan Page, owner of Dugast USA, the 11 Storm compound is designed to make the tires more supple with less rolling resistance. The company gave tires with the compound to select athletes this season for real-world testing. Van Aert, of course, never shies away from trying different tire choices, whether that is in the form of ancient clincher treads or prototype Dugast Ernst tubulars.
Van Aert joined Pidcock in running Shimano-compatible pedals that are not made by Shimano. He used the Look X-Track Race carbon pedals throughout the season.
Van Aert's cockpit comes from Zipp, with a very long Service Course SL alloy stem holding a Zipp Service Course SL-80 carbon handlebar.
At Gavere, Van Aert used a zero-setback alloy Service Course SL seatpost, but at Worlds, he had switched to the Service Course SL (20) 20mm-setback carbon/alloy post that has a claimed weight 9g higher than the one he had at Gavere, but boasts more compliance.
He did, however, stick with the same rainbow-augmented Prologo Scratch 2 saddle.
For a closer look at Van Aert's Stevens Super Prestige with both 1x 12-speed SRAM RED 1 eTAP AXS and 2x 11-speed RED eTAP drivetrains, see the photo gallery and specs below.