Since #crossiscoming, some of us are deciding what tires to run during the upcoming cyclocross season.
For Throwback Thursday, we go to the Sporza-style videos we shot for the Elite races at the 2018 Cyclocross Nationals in Reno for some Elite-level inspiration on brands and treads.
Cyclocross Magazine‘s Sporza-style start line videos have quickly become a time-honored tradition at UCI cyclocross races. We did not invent the idea, after all, they are “Sporza-style,” but we have been relatively unique in doing them for non-televised and non-Elite UCI races.
They provide riders a chance to get some Instagram time, and in this case, produce a record of what front tire each rider is running at the start of the race. After all, in our eyes, everyone deserves the tire shot, not just the Mathieu van der Poel and Sanne Cants of the world.
During the week of the 2018 Reno Cyclocross Nationals, we captured our beloved videos for a number of races, but we made sure to get them for each of the five UCI races on Sunday: Junior Men, Junior/U23 Women, U23 Men and Elite Women and Elite Men.
We went back, studied the film and made note of what tire each rider was running up front. For Throwback Thursday, we take a look back at the brands and treads the top U.S. riders were running at Reno Nationals.
We will start with some bragging rights. The start line videos provide a good record of who was on the front line; after all, if a rider pulls a Sunny Gilbert at Pan-Ams and passes up their front-row call-up it will not be reflected on the call-up sheets.
Five of the six Sunday winners rode from the front row. The only exception was the U23 Men’s winner Christopher Blevins (Specialized), who had won at CX MoVal but did not have enough UCI races and points to earn a front-row call-up. Of the three-person podium finishers, only Blevins and Dillon McNeill (Trek Cyclocross Collective) rode to the top three from off the front row.
In fact, of the 25 top-5 finishers, 22 came from the front row. Amanda Nauman (SDG – Muscle Monster), who finished fifth in the Elite Women’s race, was the only other non-first row starter to place in the top five.
Winner Tire Choices: 2018 Reno Nationals Sunday
|Junior Women||Katie Clouse||Donnelly||PDX|
|Junior Men||Ben Gomez Villafane||Donnelly||MXP|
|U23 Women||Emma White||Challenge||Grifo|
|U23 Men||Christopher Blevins||Specialized||Tracer|
|Elite Women||Katie Compton||Challenge||Limus|
|Elite Men||Stephen Hyde||Challenge||Dune|
Tire-wise, Challenge was the top choice of the winners. Three Sunday winners — Emma White (Cannondale p/b CyclocrossWorld), Katie Compton (KFC Racing p/b Trek/Knight Composites) and Stephen Hyde (Cannondale p/b CyclocrossWorld) — were on Challenge tires. However, each ran a different tread up front, with White on a Grifo, Compton a Limus and Hyde a Dune. The last time we saw Compton winning Nationals she was on Clement tires, so the Challenges are a change for this season.
Junior winners Katie Clouse (Alpha Bicycle – Vista Subaru) and Ben Gomez Villafane (Top Club Cyclocross) rode Donnellys and Blevins had Specialized Tracers. One could argue, ignoring all other context, running Specialized tubulars guarantees not only a win, but air show internet fame.
Earlier in the week, you can usually expect a wider variety in the types and brands of what riders run. The first two winners on Thursday in the Masters Men’s 30-34 and 35-39 races both ran tubeless, and we also observed some of the older Masters racers running clinchers with tubes.
However, by the time Sunday rolled around, it was almost exclusively tubulars on the front row. The exception being, not surprisingly, Rebecca Fahringer (Stan’s NoTubes p/b Maxxis/gofahr) and KK Santos (Amy D Foundation), who were both running tubeless Maxxis tires.
The table shows a breakdown of brands by race.
Front Row Tires by Brand: 2018 Reno Nationals Sunday
|Junior Men||U23 Women||U23 Men||Elite Women||Elite Men||TOTAL|
The two most common brands were overwhelmingly Challenge and Donnelly, with just short of half of the front row riders on Donnelly tires. The Aspire Racing and Jam Fund / NCC riders were on FMBs, Tobin Ortenblad (Santa Cruz / Donkey Label Racing) and Greg Gunsalus (AP Junior Devo p/b Corner Cycle) were on Vittorias and Scott Funston had a front Dugast, at least until he pitted and went for his Baby Limus/Limus outfitted B bike on the last lap.
For those at Nationals all week, tread choice can often be observed changing as course conditions chance. Reno received some rain on Tuesday, which left parts of the course slick and greasy, but as the week progressed the course dried out considerably. As the course dried, many of the mud tires also changed to intermediates or even file treads.
On Sunday, the biggest change in the course occurred due to melting frost. The morning frost had begun to melt throughout much of the course by the time the Junior Men started at 9 a.m., but there were sections such as those near the barriers where snow fencing left some frost, creating a very slick transition. The 180-degree turns near the barriers claimed a number of riders in the first two races thanks to the change in meltiness in the middle of turns.
— Cyclocross Magazine (@cyclocross) January 14, 2018
The table below shows the tread choices by race.
Front Row Tires by Type: 2018 Reno Nationals Sunday
|Junior Men||U23 Women||U23 Men||Elite Women||Elite Men||TOTAL|
The top choice of the day was an intermediate tread, with over half the front-row riders going intermediate, whether it be the Challenge Grifo, Donnelly MXP, Dugast Small Bird, FMB Slalom, Maxxis All Terrane and Vittoria Mix designs.
File treads were noticeably absent among the riders in the first two races. Their absence can be attributed to the semi-frosty course, equipment availability or rider comfort. Perhaps questions about tread choices can be included in these videos next year.
As the afternoon progressed, more riders were starting with file treads up front. For the two Elite races, 7 of 16 front-row starters chose file treads for a course that was becoming increasingly dusty.
As Curtis White (Cannondale p/b CyclocrossWorld) mentioned in our interview with him, the rocks on the technical hill were a concern and he rode a higher pressure than normal to try to avoid flatting. It also would have been interesting to ask “Whatpressureyourunning?” during the videos, but that would have been pretty challenging.
With cyclocross season quickly approaching, it is time for many of us to pick our tires for the upcoming season. This look at the front rows from Reno provides a look at what the Elites were running during the 2017/18 season.
Most of the riders were running either Donnelly or Challenge tubulars—although that should change a bit in 2018 with Vittoria now sponsoring the Cannondale p/b CyclocrossWorld team. If your goal is to look “pro” the data say those two brands should help. At the same time, running Vittorias like Ortenblad, Maxxis tubeless tires like Fahringer or Specialized like Blevins will also get the job done. We cannot, however, make any promises that Specialized tires will give you Blevins’ insane aerial skills.
And as riders vie for USAC ranking points and front-row call-up spots, our look at the front rows from Reno can be instructive. Starting on the front row did not guarantee a podium finish (that would be impossible!), but 13 of the 15 podium finishers on Sunday had a front-row call-up.
Of course, front-row call-ups are earned with podium finishes, so we could post the age-old question, which came first, the podium finish or the front-row call-up?
Sporza-Style Start Line Videos from Reno Nationals