Winning a championship in cycling earns an athlete a sweet jersey to wear for the next year. When things come together correctly, it is also an opportunity to get a bike painted to match.
Championship-themed bikes have been a regular part of our bike profile series, with Katie Compton, Stephen Hyde, Sanne Cant, Wout van Aert, Mathieu van der Poel, Eli Iserbyt and Tom Pidcock playing starring roles.
One championship bike we have not seen recently is one paying homage to the Canadian National Champion. That changed this year for Michael van den Ham (Easton - Giant p/b Transitions LifeCare) and new bike sponsor Giant.
Van den Ham has won the last two Elite Men's Canadian Nationals. Last year, he held off Geoff Kabush in the snow and mud in Peterborough to take his second-straight win at the biggest race on the Canadian cyclocross calendar.
Last month, Van den Ham headed to the U.S. World Cups with a Red Giant TCX Advanced Pro cyclocross bike painted to honor his national championships. The bike, painted by VéloColour, also had subtle notes that pay homage to his upbringing on the plains of Manitoba.
We took a closer look at Van den Ham's bike before he raced it at the Jingle Cross World Cup for this bike profile.
Michael van den Ham's Canadian Nats Giant TCX Advanced Pro
Michael van den Ham has helped head up his rider-run UCI cyclocross team for several years now. For the last several years, the team counted Garneau as its bike sponsor, but this season, the team switched to Giant as a bike and title sponsor.
Giant's flagship cyclocross bike is the TCX Advanced Pro. Giant has been absent from the front of the domestic scene for a while, but with Van den Ham, Jenn Jackson and Dylan Postier on the Easton - Giant p/b TLC team, it is back.
Van den Ham's was not the only TCX frameset we saw at the U.S. World Cups—we recently profiled Inge van der Heijden's (CCC - Liv) TCX rebranded as a Liv bike.
The TCX Advanced Pro frame uses Giant's Advanced-Grade Composite carbon, and the fork is full carbon with the same material.
To make his champ's bike pop, Van den Ham partnered with the VéloColour custom bike painting studio located in Toronto. According to Van den Ham, he sent the company a stripped-down TCX frameset, and the process of painting it took nearly 20 hours.
The predominant colorway on Van den Ham's bike is red, with the chainstays painted a more subtle gray. The fork and seat tube feature colorful geometric patterns that are perhaps reminiscent of a Piet Mondrian painting.
Each geometric cluster features a Canadian Maple Leaf and a stalk of wheat. The former is self-explanatory. The latter is to celebrate Van den Ham's hometown of Brandon, Manitoba. The city is known as "The Wheat City," and Van den Ham grew up on a farm.
If the Maple Leafs appear a bit small, that was intentional. "I guess it's the Canadian modesty," Van den Ham said. "I wanted to do a subtle take on the flag and not make it super showy."
Just in case Van den Ham gets his bike mixed up with that of another Canadian champ, his nickname "MVDH" adorns the top tube.
The Easton - Giant p/b TLC team does not have a component sponsor, so the team bikes are by-and-large the TCX Advanced Pro 1 model the company sells to consumers. One big change is that with Easton as a team sponsor, you can bet its parts are well represented on Van den Ham's bike.
Van den Ham ran a carbon 172.5mm Easton EC90 SL crankset with a 40t narrow-wide chain ring. The stock TCX Advanced Pro comes with a chain guard, but Van den Ham opted to go without.
The mechanical Force 1 rear derailleur on Van den Ham's bike stood out a bit during our bike checks at the U.S. World Cups. SRAM-sponsored teams—including the Cannondale p/b CyclocrossWorld program—have largely gone to the new Red eTap AXS groupset on their bikes. Van den Ham paired an 11-36t PG1170 cassette with the front ring, and a gold KMC X11SL chain accents the golden wheat on his frame nicely.
SRAM Force levers control the flat mount Force HRD disc calipers and rear derailleur.
In an intentional or unintentional sign of the Easton wheels' durability, Van den Ham and his teammates use their wheels for two or even three seasons before replacing them. The bike we saw at Jingle Cross had an older model of the 38mm-deep carbon EC90 SL wheels mounted on it.
The wheels use the older 6-bolt M213 hubs that have since been replaced by the company's Vault Centerlock hubs.
Van den Ham is sponsored by Vittoria, and when we saw his bike at Jingle Cross, he had Terreno Wet tubulars mounted to get ready for the muddy conditions that arrived for Sunday's C1 race.
Van den Ham's cockpit included a carbon Easton EC90 SL handlebar and stock Giant Contact SL stem painted red to match the frame. His headset was from FSA.
Van den Ham stuck with the carbon Easton D-Fuse SL seatpost. It was also painted by VéloColour, again with a subtle Maple Leaf, so riders know who is dropping them—at least if they squint hard enough while cross-eyed during a race.
Similar to the Pivot/Maxxis p/b Stan's NoTubes team, SDG is sponsoring Van den Ham's team this year. Van den Ham is running an SDG Duster saddle. Matchy-matchy yellow Crankbrothers Candy 11 pedals rounded out his contact points.
Van den Ham now heads back to Peterborough looking to win his third-straight Nationals title and earn the right to ride his sharp-looking bike for another year. Check back here for a preview of Canadian Nationals on Friday and results after Saturday's races.
For a closer look at Van den Ham's TCX Advanced Pro, see the photo gallery and specs below.