With cycling teams changing on January 1, mid-season equipment changes are all in the game for the sport’s athletes. In 2018, the new year brought several high-profile changes, including Mathieu van der Poel and Nikki Brammeier’s move to the Canyon Inflite and Helen Wyman’s addition of the KindHuman Kudu to her Xypex – Verge Sport program.
Back in the U.S., 2018 hasn’t brought much change for most domestic racers, but it did bring some new equipment for Tobin Ortenblad. As he noted in our profile of Ortenblad’s Santa Cruz Stigmata, he is hoping to stick with his bike for years to come, but his Santa Cruz / Donkey Label Racing program will be adding a new tire sponsor for the coming year.
Vittoria Industries announced as of January 1 it will be Ortenblad’s official tire sponsor through the 2018/19 season and that Ortenblad will be riding the company’s new Terreno line of cyclocross tubulars.
“Since I first got into competitive cycling Vittoria as a brand has always been top of my list. They were the first pair of road tubulars I ever glued up, and I’m super pleased to be back on them,” Ortenblad said about the new partnership.
Cyclocross Magazine and Vittoria took an in-depth look at the Terreno line earlier this season. The line features three re-designed tires, the Dry, Mix and Mud. Ortenblad said the new tires played an important role in his desire to work with Vittoria.
“Vittoria is a very reputable tire company and their new line of Terreno ’cross tires are really nice. They feel just as good as the best cyclocross tires I have ridden. Their new tread patterns are really rad too,” he told Cyclocross Magazine about the Terrenos. He continued, “You combine the Graphene compound with the casing, and they don’t lose traction. You can push into corners so hard and they don’t let go on you.”
Thanks in part to the nice NorCal racing weather, Ortenblad said he is most excited about the Terreno Dry. “The new Dry tire, the file tread, kind of has this ramped center profile. It’s not a typical diamond tread. It has little hexagonal blocks with a ramped profile to big shoulder knobs,” he told us about the Dry. “I’d like to run those about 80% of the time if I can. A couple times you might have to hit corners a little slower than other people, but the difference is made up elsewhere because they’re so fast.”
When we interviewed Ken Avery, Vittoria’s Vice President of Marketing and Product, he described himself as a “tire geek.” Equipment quality is also very important to Ortenblad, and in fact, he described himself as an “equipment nerd,” which for him means, “For better or worse, I am hyper-sensitive about equipment and the way things feel and the differences between A, B and C.”
Avery said Vittoria is very responsive to athlete input and Ortenblad joins a roster that includes Michael van den Ham, Adam Myerson, Justine Lindine and Robert Marion, among others. Ortenblad told Cyclocross Magazine he is excited about opportunities Vittoria’s responsiveness to its athletes can provide.
“Vittoria owns its factories, which is unheard of. There’s no third party making the tires. They own the factory, so if Ken and I are talking and we want to try something else, he can talk to the engineer and then they talk to the manufacturers and boom, it’s done. It’s all under the Vittoria roof, which I think should help me be able to develop some really cool stuff with them.”
He added, “Being an equipment nerd, if you will, and them owning their factories and having some chances to make some changes are a big part of the partnership I’m excited about.”
Earlier this season in Louisville, we spotted Ortenblad modifying his Donnelly MXPs to make them more mud friendly. His penchant for tinkering is likely to continue in a more formal context with Vittoria.
Vittoria is an East Coast company, while the NorCal native Ortenblad spent most of his season outside the US Cup-CX series racing in the western part of the U.S. After the first two rounds of the US Cup-CX series, Ortenblad did stick around the East Coast to race at Gloucester. It was there, during a weekend he took home two wins, that he connected with Vittoria. Ortenblad said he is not yet sure if the new partnership means he will be doing more East Coast racing at the Vittoria Series in 2018.
When Cyclocross Magazine spoke with Ortenblad, he pointed out that transitioning from one company’s equipment to another can be difficult, and even if a bike, wheel or tire is not the best, riders learn to make it work for them. With Nationals less than two weeks away, Northern California’s District Championships will give Ortenblad the opportunity to put the new tires through their paces. “On January 6 we have our [District] Championship race out here, so that will be a day to get out and really rail them. I’ve been training on the tires a lot for feel, then we’ll have that race so I’ll be able to get one good race in before Nationals.”
Although Ortenblad’s partnership with Vittoria started on January 1, he has been able to get plenty of time in on his new tubulars during his California training. “I’ve definitely put some time on all of them because they are a lot different than what I am coming from,” Ortenblad told us. “They are a more traditional tubular, cotton sidewall, 320 tpi with a latex tube inside of that, so it’s not a tubeless tubular like I have been on. They’re a lot different. We were hoping everything would be dialed to switch on January 1st, and it definitely is.”
Ortenblad said the Terrenos have influenced his riding during his time training with them. “The new tires have required a riding style adjustment for me because they corner differently. They corner differently on hardpack. The sidewalls are just so soft, so you don’t get as much support out of the sidewall, which means you have to hit the corners a little differently.”
Folks in Northern California can look for Ortenblad on his new Vittoria Terrenos on Saturday, January 6 at the Northern California Nevada Cyclocross Association Championships and folks everywhere can see him in the Elite Men’s National Championship race in Reno on Sunday, January 14.