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Eyewitness: Cannondale launch the 2016 SuperSix EVO

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Photographs: Timothy John

The manufacturer’s launch of a new model is another engagement on the unremitting schedule of the professional cyclist.
As Cannondale unveils the new iteration of its SuperSix EVO race bike, Joe Dombrowski and Ted King take their place among the press gathered at a hotel in Kitzbühel, set within the shadow of the Kitzbüheler Horn, the key climb in next month’s Tour of Austria.
Their presence is low key and in keeping with an occasion in which Cannondale has placed the emphasis of its launch firmly on the opportunity to ride the bike, rather than beating the assembled hacks over the head with PowerPoint presentations, saying much for their confidence in the new machine.
There is a brief presentation in which the standard claims for improvement on the previous model are presented – Cannondale’s pitch is that they have focused on making the SuperSix EVO superior in every department, rather than concentrate solely on weight or aerodynamics or compliance – and then it’s time to ride.
Cue Dombrowski and King, who lead a ride billed as “long and fast”. It will strike them as neither, but for the fittest among the press pack, it’s a rare opportunity to ride with the ProTeam elite.

It’s an opportunity too for the Cannondale-Garmin pairing to experience the new bike. “This is the first time I’ve ever seen or used it,” Dombrowski says. “You guys are seeing it just as soon as I am.”
The on-site mechanics have set up his launch bike in identical fashion to his race bike, smoothing the adaptation curve. Contact points are fixed and he rides in his SIDI racing shoes, rather than in the Mavic footwear supplied to the journalists.
“I’d say it’s pretty dependent on your points of contact,” Dombrowski says of the process of adaptation. “Saddle and pedals and shifters stay the same. For the most part, you can replicate the position on any frame. The frames ride differently, company to company, but you can at least make the position the same, and the adaptation is more just to the feel of it.
“They set up my bike exactly as my [race] bike currently is, but I was on a new frame. The fit is the exact same, so there’s no problem there; you just get used to the feeling of a different bike, so I think that for the most part it is pretty easy.
“There are definitely some things that are harder to adapt to, like shoes. You have that kind of stuff to do in the off-season, so you’re not going full bore in the middle of the season, trying to change shoes and pedals and have a knee problem creep up.”
Cannondale know more than a little about building racing bikes. Introduced to a startled peloton beneath the swaggering Cipollini and his Saeco-Cannondale squad in the mid-1990s, there seemed something iconoclastic about the Connecticut firm and its products: the oversized, aluminium frames and groundbreaking, hollow-armed chainset with its outboard bottom bracket.

Then the frame was the CAAD3, the first with the Power Pyramid downtube, but there is plenty of interesting engineering in the new SuperSix EVO, too. The bottom bracket has been widened by 5mm to 73mm, to accommodate a broader, flatter, non-driveside chainstay. Each side of the rear triangle is made in a separate mould – 16 in total – representing a significant investment.
The layering of the fibres in the chainstays reduces en route from bottom bracket to dropout to induce compliance. The effect is described as trying to bend a ruler: easy when you place your thumbs beneath the broader plane, but almost impossible the other way.
The front end of the bike has been revised, too. The headtube has a new hour glass profile, with claims for a 12 per cent increase in stiffness, and the fork is now moulded in a single piece: the cut and bonded dropouts have been shelved in favour of compression moulding. More significant perhaps is the continuous ‘flow’ of fibres from fork leg to crown, eliminating the sharp angle of its predecessor and shedding 30g in the process. The need for a  press-on, alloy crown race has been eliminated too, saving a further 14g.
Those who remember the Cipollini era will remember encountering for the first time the phrase ‘System Integration’. It’s a concept by which Cannondale continues to set out its stall, even if the parameters have broadened: the slender 25.4mm SAVE seatpost, for example, is intended to work in tandem with a seat-tube that now tapers for further compliance, before flaring dramatically at its junction with the bottom bracket.

Cannondale claims the greatest gains for its philosophy of integration in weight saving. Take the frame, fork and headset into account and the ‘system weight’ of the new SuperSix EVO is reduced by 37g from its predecessor to 1123g; throw in the seatpost, and the saving is 67g. Both compare favourably with its biggest American rivals, Cannondale say.
The team issue model is finished in a suitably rock ‘n’ roll silver with a metal flake effect. Cannondale are likely to have little trouble selling it to those who can meet the price – it is a pretty thing indeed.
So what significance does the bike hold for Dombrowski? Is it a tool of the trade, or an object of desire?
“For us, it’s a job, and the bike is the tool you use to get the job done. But, that said, I still have quite an appreciation for what we’re using. For me, it’s interesting when new things come out, whether it’s a new frame from Cannondale, or some of the products Garmin comes out with.”
He will make his Grand Tour debut at the Vuelta in September, but his team-mates on the Tour squad will race the new bike in France. The days when Cipollini would win the opening stages and retire with the mountains looming are gone, but Cannondale-Garmin will hope to make an impact. Their striking new machine certainly will.

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