Greg Callaghan was last year's hometown hero when he won the 2015 Ireland round of the EWS series on a 27.5'' wheeled Cube Stereo, and now he's looking to do it again aboard a 29'' wheeled version of the same bike.
Like a lot of the field, Callaghan had been spending most of his time on 27.5'' wheels. However, he took delivery of his new Cube Stereo 140 29 just before heading to Chile earlier this year, but it isn't just the larger diameter wheels that he likes. ''It's a little longer than the Stereo 160, and then, with the 50mm stem, it gives me another 15mm,'' he said of his new race bike's longer stance. ''So I think that, overall, I've got 25 - 30mm extra reach in my standing position."
He's a fan of the bike's larger wheels and longer wheelbase, going on to explain how it seems to provide the best of two worlds: ''I just like the stability of the bigger wheels, and you kinda get that extra stability without losing the efficiency of the suspension when you're pumping and pedalling through the flatter sections here. For the high-speed stages it gives you that stability and confidence, but then when it gets slow, when you really need to work for your speed, it lets you do that.''
Does that mean that the prior EWS winner is sold on 29'' wheels? Not so fast, as things become more complicated when the series returns to the bigger mountains. ''I feel like I might keep it for the rest of the season, but it's hard to know until you get out to the Alps and see how it'll handle the rougher, gnarlier stuff,'' he said.
Greg, at 5' 11'', is on a large-sized bike, and like a lot of racers in Ireland, his machine is sporting less travel out back than it would at those gnarlier rounds that might see him choosing a 27.5'' wheeled bike - 140mm via a Fox Float X rather than 160mm of travel. There's 200 PSI in the shock, as well as quite a few volume spacers; that's a specific setup tailored to match this weekend's course. Up front, Greg has stuck with a 160mm travel Fox 36 that sees an equally firm setup: 95 PSI and a handful of volume spacers to provide a good amount of progression. ''I find with having my weight farther forward, with that longer stem, it puts a bit more weight on the front so the fork needs a bit more support,'' he said of his stiff setup, and let's not forget that at 80 kilograms, Greg is one of the bigger guys on the circuit. "I am quite heavy so when my weight goes forward, it's quite a lot of momentum.''
Callaghan's bike sees both single double chainring setups depending on his needs, but the relatively mellow climbs this weekend mean that he's running the former. ''Yeah, just for this race. For Trans-Provence, I'll put on a double,'' no doubt to make the long days in the French mountains a bit easier. ''For here, the fire roads are quite mellow to climb, so I like the simplicity of having the single ring."
He's running a 34 tooth ring on his mostly Shimano XTR Di2 drivetrain - there's an 11-42 tooth XT cassette out back - as well as an e*thirteen guide to make sure his chain stays put.
Greg doesn't often deviate from his usual Magic Mary and Hans Dampf tire combo, and that's exactly what he's using in Ireland, with both being of the Super Gravity casing variety. He says that, due to being a heavier rider, he prefers the stiffer casing as it provides more support, and that his only change is that he sometimes runs a Magic Mary on the back of the bike if things are really muddy or it's an extremely rowdy course.
And speaking of rowdy, he's using a set of Saint brakes with 203mm rotors, saying that ''the races are getting faster and more gnarly, and they just give you more control. It's good to have that extra bit of power."