Two years ago we checked in with Eric Brunner in Cincinnati to learn a little more about his Blue Norcross, which he later rode to two National Championship titles in Lakewood. Two years later Brunner and his Blue-Stages program are back with a brand new frame.
The redesign seems to be working for the Colorado native, who has managed a collection of top 10 finishes this season – including a podium spot in a fast race at Jingle Cross – and took his first C1 victory in Cincinnati. We were on-site to take a closer look at the new bike.
The Blue Norcross is a storied line, having carried riders such as Jonathan Page to victory, but the brand changed hands a few times and fell off the radar for several seasons.
When we last saw Brunner, the Norcross he was piloting was definitely an older design. Despite a few updates such as flat-mount brakes on the fork and thru-axle dropouts, the frame had limited tire capacity and still used a post-mount caliper on the frame.
For 2021, the Norcross has received a ground-up redesign, with new geometry, a new side profile, increased tire capacity, and fully internal cabling. Although Blue has its Hoback gravel bike, much like Specialized did with its redesigned Specialized Crux (see our profile of Maghalie Rochette’s new Crux here), Blue gave a nod towards gravel with its new Norcross. The company went long and low in its new design, with a 69mm bottom bracket drop on all sizes and a longer front-center – 637.2cm on Brunner’s ML frame. Combined with 427mm chainstays, the bike has a 1055mm wheelbase, which is on the longer side for cyclocross but in line with many gravel bikes. To accompany the more stable design, the Norcross now accepts 700x45mm tires, although that may not be an ISO-certified measurement.
The frame features the FSA ACR fully internal cable system and a straight 1.5″ steerer, which will surely limit stem choices. Fortunately, FSA has options available that are compatible with most handlebars. Brunner selected a one-piece bar and stem from FSA sub-brand Vision and mounted his Dura-Ace 9170 Di2 shifters pointed in slightly, giving his bike a decidedly road race look.
As in the past, he also set up his brakes Moto style, with the front brake controlled by the right lever. The Norcross kept a round seatpost in its redesign, although it did scale down to 27.2mm. Brunner selected a carbon FSA post and mounted the same Velo Senso saddle he used previously.
Brunner did change his build since the last time we saw him as well. This season he’s riding a Dura-Ace 9100 Di2 drivetrain, meaning he ditched the clutch derailleur he was using in 2019 and picked up Shimano’s special pro-issue 46/39 Dura-Ace chainring combo.
The new Norcross features flat-mount calipers, so Brunner now has a matching set on his bike. He also upgraded his pedals to go with the drivetrain, selecting M9100 XTR pedals in place of his previous M8100 XT set.
On our last check-in the Blue-Stages team was working with Spinnergy, but by mid-season in Cincinnati Brunner was yet to receive wheels and was using a debranded Reynolds set. This time around he was riding Dura-Ace tubulars, with Dugast tires mounted.
Day 1 in Cincinnati was slightly damp at the start and many riders hastily switched to heavier tires mid-race as it began to rain, perhaps fearing a situation similar to World Cup Waterloo. While we didn’t see what he started on, Brunner finished the race with Rhino mud tires.
Eric Brunner’s New Blue Norcross Cyclocross Specs:
Frame: Blue Norcross, BLUE-TEC High Modulus UD T-800 composite, flat-mount disc, 12mm thru-axle
Fork: Blue Norcross, FSA ACR internal routing, 12x100mm thru-axle, flat-mount disc
Shifters/Brake Levers Shimano Dura-Ace ST-R9170 Dual Control Levers
Calipers: Shimano Dura-Ace R9170
Rear Derailleur: Shimano Dura-Ace RD-R9150 Di2
Front Derailleur: Shimano Dura-Ace FD-R9150 Di2
Crankset: Shimano Dura-Ace FC-R9100, left side Stages power installed
Chain Rings: Shimano Dura-Ace, 46/39t
Cassette: Shimano 11-speed
Chain: Shimano Ultegra HG901
Wheelset: Shimano Dura-Ace
Tires: Dugast handmade tubulars, 700c x 33mm
Handlebars: Vision Metron ACR one-piece handlebar/stem
Seatpost: FSA carbon
Saddle: Velo Senso, Ti rail
Pedals: Shimano XT M9100 SPD
More info: bluecompetitioncycles.com