The bikes of Marathon racers the world over have common themes: Carbon fibre, 29er wheels, and a hardtail.
While there are many exceptions to this rule, these does typify the majority of bikes in a Marathon MTB race. For stage races, especially something like the Cape Epic, you tend to have a few other common themes in the bikes – even at the top end of the field hard tails are rare at the Epic. Subaru-MarathonMTB.com racers Will Hayter, Mike Blewitt and Nienke Oostra have Bianchi Methanol FS bikes for rougher races like the Cape Epic, or so Oostra can run off the bike feeling fresher in an Xterra race.
At the recent Sella Ronda Hero, the last stop of the UCI World Marathon Series before the Marathon World Championships, the course demanded climbing ability and descending surety. Leonardo Paez repeated his win of 2012, with fantastic team work from his TX-Active-Bianchi team mate Tony Longo. Paez rode his team edition Bianchi Methanol 29 SL to victory. Of note, Longo rode the Methanol SL2 – a 26″ hardtail! He finished 4th.
Paez rides a 43cm Methanol 29 SL. The frame has an integrated seat post, with a mast topper made by Ritchey. This has changed for 2014 to FSA – but Paez and his team mates are on 2013 models. To keep the front end low, Paez runs an alloy FSA SLK stem, in -17degree. He also runs the matching carbon bar.
ESI racers edge grips are very popular due to their comfort, low weight, durability, and ability to stay in place! While they don’t make a celeste colour yet, Paez chose a neutral grey in their thinner model.
Many riders have adopted the SRAM XX1 drivetrain – and many of the TX-Active-Bianchi team used the setup. Paez ran a 34t ring mated to the 10-42 11 speed cassette. As it isn’t a XX1 crankset or chainring (with the appropriate deeper teeth) the mechanics needed to fit a lightweight chain guide.
At 174 grams for the pair, the Crank Bros 11 pedals are super light. Even with the contact sleeves, only a few grams are added. The sleeves improve the feel between the shoe and pedal – as the ‘feel’ depends on the thickness of tread on your shoe.
With sealed outers, the XX1 would keep running even in the wet. The conditions were remarkably dry despite frequent storms in the lead up to the race. Many Hobby riders got caught in a storm, which hit about 2pm.
With Crank Brothers as a team sponsor, Paez uses the Cobalt 11 wheel set. Their paired spokes are laced to a carbon rim, and the wheel set is quite light at 1380gram claimed weight. With Hutchinson Cobra tyres (full tubeless) Paez had a reliable wheel and tyre combination. The Cobra has closely spaced low profile tread so it rolls fast, but keeps a strong edge knob for secure cornering.
Marathon racing requires a certain level of self sufficiency. In the UCI races, there are Tech/Feed zones where team support can offer mechanical assistance and food. But a racer must still get between them! Paez had a spare chain link taped to his brake line, and a sealant filled inflator taped to his seat mast.
Paez did the number one plate proud and brought home another win at the Sella Ronda Hero.