May 6, 2011

The SuperSix EVO - The bike that Vincenzo Nibali and select members of Team Liquigas-Cannondale will ride in the Giro d'Italia.

Cycling journalists from around the world converged on the small, Italian village of Montaldo Torinese. Nestled in the hills just ouside of Torino is the Castello Di Montaldo Hotel, where Cannondale chose to unveil their newest race bike to the world. Not to be confused with the Castello di Montalto in Siena, the Montaldo hotel was originally built in the late 1100s. During its history, it was used as a monastery, a local bishop's estate, and the personal vacation home of various nobles. After an extensive ten-year renovation, it now serves as a luxury resort and is an incredible blend of historical Italian architecture and modern hotel sophistication.

Cannondale began their presentation with a lecture on carbon fiber engineering and manipulation from their Director of Technology, Peter Denk. Here, Peter emphasized that rounded tubes provide the best combination of strength, stiffness and aerodynamics, something which hardly comes as a revelation, but that Cannondale ensured would be incorporated into their new bike.

An early theory regarding Cannondale's latest bike involved an “aero road” frame design, something akin to Specialized's Venge or Scott's Foil. This proved to not be the case, as the SuperSix EVO features rather simple rounded tubes and Cannondale's standard geometry. The biggest news: Cannondale claimed a 695-gram frame weight! Our test bikes were fitted with a SRAM Black Red drivetrain, Cannondale's own Hollowgram SL crank arms, Mavic R-Sys wheels wrapped in Schwalbe Ultremo tires, FSA components and a Fizik saddle.

The SuperSix EVO frame is comprised of three carbon fiber monocoque pieces: the rear triangle (seat stays and chain stays), bottom bracket and seat tube, and front triangle (top tube, steerer tube, head tube and down tube). Note the small diameter chain stays – this goes against the current trend in frame design which involves massive chainstays intended for maximum stiffness. The SuperSix EVO's chain stays are not as tall as they are wide, which helps to ensure superior vertical compliance while still remaining stiff – this is done through a complex blend of resins, carbon lay-up manipulation and weave directions, according to Cannondale.

The tapered head tube feaures an internally-routed rear brake cable, but not internally-routed shifter cables. Cannondale claimed that running the cables along the outside of the down tube offer the best shifting performance. A Shimano Di2-equipped version will feature internally-routed wires.

Our test bikes included SRAM's new Black Red drivetrain, as opposed to SRAM's Standard (aka Silver) Red group. The chainrings offer the same performance, but are eye-catching with their black finish.

Another theory floating among us journos involved the use of FSA's new BB386EVO bottom bracket. We knew the bike would be called “Evo” going into the presentation, and several pieces of merchandise included FSA logos, so the theory was sound. But Cannondale stuck with their tried-and-true BB30 bottom bracket.

Henning Schroeder, Cannondale's Director of Road Products, described spec-ing a new bike like the SuperSix EVO: “It's a challenge, but companies we work with like Mavic, SRAM and FSA offer great parts that work well with what we wanted to accomplish with the new SupeSix EVO.” Henning is also a very strong rider, which he proved by attacking on the day's final climb to the Basilica di Superga.

Here's a glimpse at the range of SuperSix EVO models, which will include a Liquigas replica, a Shimano Dura-Ace version, a Di2-equipped model, and two versions featuring SRAM Red. Note the shift levers on the bike nearest the foreground – one of the few complaints RBA had with Cannondale's SuperSix Hi-MOD Di2 (featured in our June 2011 issue), was Cannondale's choice of the “been there, done that” black/white/red color scheme. They've heeded our cries, however, as one SuperSix EVO version features bright green details on parts from SRAM, FSA and Schwalbe.

I admit that I am currently in the midst of a holiday romance with Italy's food, roads, people, and cycling culture. Check out the above photo - that's right outside our hotel! If that doesn't make you want to get out and ride, nothing will. That said, I logged some serious mileage on Cannondale's SuperSix Hi-MOD Di2 (RBA, June 2011). But after a day of epic climbs, scenic flats, and hair-raising descents, I can say that the new Super Six EVO is noticeably stiffer, smoother, and lighter than the Hi-MOD frame we tested. We cannot wait to take it for a long-term test.

The final climb of the day lead us to the Basilica di Superga, a glorious cathedral perched atop the region's highest hill. Built in the late 1700s, the Basilica is a magnet for tourists and cyclists alike, thanks to its tough route and fabulous descent. Note the two cyclists in the foreground, enjoying a well-deserved rest. The hill is also a significant part of Italy's sporting history, but for a tragic reason: In 1949, a plane crashed into the hill, killing 31 people, most of whom were players and staff from Torino's professional soccer team at a time when Torino FC was only four games away from winning the national championship. Many Italians come to the site to pay their respects.

We encountered dozens of friendly Italian roadies and pedestrians during our ride. Decked out in kits emblazoned with Liquigas and Cannondale logos, we passed by a school as children were released for the day. A girl no more than twelve years old shouted at us: “Viva Liquigas! Viva Vincenzo!” Hers and Italy's hopes rest with Vincenzo Nibali for victory in the upcoming Giro d'Italia. The two gents above road with us for a good stretch, and were kind enough to pose for a photo. Check out the forearm "victory pose" tattoo on the cyclist on the right – that's passion!

Check back soon for more Italian coverage and an inside look at the Giro's opening Team Time Trial!

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