Alex Grant (Gear Rush) has done the Crusher in the Tushar six times now, so in that time he has ridden a variety of bikes for the climby Utah gravel race. He has tried a mountain bike, Cannondale Slate and Cannondale SuperX in previous years, and in 2019, he had a new bike again.
A month ago, Cannondale launched its follow-up to its alloy Topstone gravel bike in the new Topstone Carbon with the Kingpin suspension system. When Grant had the opportunity to ride the new gravel bike for the Crusher, he got a hold of one and customized it for the challenges of the climby, descendy race in the mountains.
Race performance is not all about the bike, but after Grant’s 2019 Crusher in the Tushar win, he will likely consider riding the Topstone Carbon again next year. Grant made the final selection and then dropped Road Race National Champion Alex Howes (EF Education First) on the climb up the Col d’ Crush to solo to the win, finally getting the winning ride he had been chasing since 2012.
“It was happening, and I didn’t quite believe it,” Grant said about his winning move. “I was getting some time splits, but you don’t actually know you’re going to win until you cross the line. That was an amazing feeling to unclip and give Burke a high five. It was a big goal of mine, and it felt awesome to make it happen.”
This bike profile takes a closer look at Grant’s Crusher-winning Cannondale Topstone Carbon.
Alex Grant’s Crusher-Winning Cannondale Topstone Carbon
In recent years, Cannondale has followed the gravel trend by greatly expanding its line of drop-bar, mixed-terrain bikes. The company has offered the alloy Slate with front suspension, and the SuperX cyclocross bike has proven DK200-worthy for a number of riders.
New last year was the alloy Topstone bike with gravel-gravel geometry, and last month, the company launched the new carbon version of the Topstone.
The new Topstone Carbon frameset uses Cannondale’s BallisTec carbon and has tubes shaped based on their loads and expected performance.
The most notable aspect of the Topstone Carbon, however, is the pivot-based Kingpin suspension system.
Located at the junction of the seat tube and seat stays, the Kingpin uses a thru-axle to allow up to 30mm of travel at the saddle. With the Col d’ Crush notorious for its long, washboard descent, it seems like some rear compliance would be perfect for that descent.
“I wasn’t sure at first with the suspension because you can’t feel it too much in the parking lot, but when you get rolling on some high-speed, small bumps, it just feels amazing pedaling through them. It’s really smooth and it really shined in that stuff,” Grant said about the bike.
Grant’s Topstone Carbon has the blue and green colorway of the Ultegra RX model with a 2x drivetrain, but Grant wanted to make some changes to make it a true “Crusher Bike.”
First up was going 1x in the front. He used a Cannondale SiSL HollowGram crankset with built-in SRM power meter and a 42t RaceFace narrow wide chain ring. He added a WolfTooth GnarWolf Chainguide for extra security on the bumpy sections.
In the rear, Grant traded the Ultegra derailleur for a Shimano XTR M9000 mechanical mountain bike derailleur with a clutch. “[It] was nice because it kept my chain from slapping around,” he said about having a clutch for the Crusher. He paired the derailleur with a 10-42t SRAM XX1 cassette.
To pair the Uletgra R8020 shift lever with the XTR rear derailleur, Grant added a WolfTooth Tanpan adapter to change the cable pull.
The biggest decision Grant made about his 2019 Crusher bike was tire choice. Grant tried a slick when he raced on a Slate in 2015 and has typically run file-tread-style tires the other years.
This year he rolled the dice a bit with Maxxis Velocita AR slicks. “I’ve found for gravel a big-volume slick works well. It all about volume and pressure and not as much tread for me. It was a bit of a roll of the dice with the tires, for sure, but it paid off,” Grant said.
Or to be more poetic, “I’ll quote Geoff Kabush, he said, ‘Sometimes you’ve got to risk it for the biscuit.'”
Grant’s Velocitas were 700c x 40mm with Maxxis’ EXO protection providing extra puncture resistance. He mounted the tires to ENVE G23 carbon gravel wheels that have a high-volume-friendly 23mm internal width.
Grant stuck with the Ultegra R8020 mechanical shift/brake levers in the front and kept them paired with the Ultegra R8070 flat mount disc calipers.
His cockpit included an ENVE carbon road handlebar and a carbon ENVE road stem. His seat post was a narrow 27.2mm carbon Cannondale SAVE model, and his saddle was a WTB Volt with carbon rails.
Interestingly, Grant, a mountain biker by trade, ran Shimano Dura-Ace PD-R9100 road pedals—we have seen most gravel riders opt for SPD pedals in recent years.
Grant finished third at last year’s Crusher, but he said the one chink in his armor was a lack of food during the last 30 or so minutes of the race. To make sure he did not run out of gas during his final solo push to the line, Grant attached an XLab Stealth Pocket 200 top tube bag to hold plenty of food to get him to the line.
“This year I made sure I had plenty of food, and I didn’t bonk. It made a big difference,” he said. “I nailed the nutrition, I nailed the bike set up, I had a really good June of training, a lot of things went right.”
For a closer look at Grant’s Topstone Carbon, see the photo gallery and specs below.
Photo Gallery: Alex Grant’s 2019 Crusher Cannondale Topstone Carbon