Two-time Olympic mountain bike champion Julien Absalon is one of the most consistently successful racers on the cross-country circuit and the Frenchman has a long relationship with Orbea, his bike supplier for the last few years.
“I love being with Orbea,” proclaimed Absalon when re extended his contract with the Spanish manufacturer in 2009, “they offer me reliability, the best bikes and a great team. I want to stay here until I retire.”
The rider, who won gold at the Olympics in Athens in 2004, and China in 2008, and has won 17 World Cups and four consecutive Mountain Bike World Championships, races an Orbea Alma G Team 26in hardtail. It weighs just 18.5lbs.
It’s the same bike, more or less, that he raced to Olympic victory three years ago, and is the bike he used to win the Hadleigh Farm Mountain Bike International, a test event for the London 2012 Olympics, a couple of weeks ago. We grabbed his bike moments after he crossed the line to get a closer look.
Orbea Alma G Team hardtail
Clearly there’s only one material of choice, it has to be carbon fibre frame. To ensure it’s as light and stiff as possible it’s constructed using monocoque technology and features a unique ‘four vertex’ front triangle design that improves stiffness. The rear triangle uses a unique “4 Point Triangle” design, which sees the aluminium dropouts attached to the one-piece stays.
The frame saves weight with a unique cable system that that removes much of the need for cable housing, thus saving weight and allowing the designers to ensure a much more direct and clean run from shifter to mech.
Weight is a priority of course and so SRAM’s lightweight XX groupset fills the transmission spots. While 2×10 is becoming rapidly more popular, we’re also seeing many World Cup riders going one further and ditching the small chainring, and running a 10-speed 1×10 system. Absalon uses a chain device to ensure the chain can’t dislodge and a 11-32 XX cassette for the fast London Olympic course with little climbing.
RockShox supply a BlackBox SID World Cup fork with 100mm travel. The wheels are from Mavic, but from this photo it’s hard to see what model they are. Tyres are from Hutchinson, the tubeless-ready Cobra 2.1in tyres. The stem is the typical long length that most XC racers prefer, and he opts for a wide flat bar with, oddly, no bar-ends.
Will Absalon switch to a 29er?
Unlike many of his rivals, who are increasingly turning to 29ers, Absalon is still campaigning aboard a 26in hardtail and hasn’t shown any signs of making the switch just yet. Despite that Orbea make a considerable range of 29ers, and Absalon has been spotted testing them.
Following a competitive event aboard a 29er earlier this year, he had this to say: “I am satisfied because I had fun and I’ve tested it. This new type of bike is quite different, and I must get used to it and that we continue to work at the particular weight to make it more competitive.“
So maybe he’ll be racing on bigger wheels before too long? Will he wait until 2012? Will the London 2012 Olympics be the race he chooses to make the transition?
Image: Joolze Dymond, www.joolzedymond.com