After several iterations, they settled on a shock that mounts vertically, adjacent to the seattube. This had a huge structural impact on the bike. When you mount a shock on the toptube you need to reinforce the tube to deal with the force the shock transmits through it. By removing these forces, the toptube could be lightened. As Joe explains, "The shock mount is going to need to be reinforced, no matter where on the bike you put it. Before it was in the middle of the toptube and the toptube is not really important for overall frame stiffness. It's the downtube and chainstays that are the spine of the bike. Now the shock is right in the middle of that backbone, so now the reinforcement we add for the shock also helps the overall frame stiffness."
With the basic layout set, it was time for the fine art of setting the geometry. Working with an athlete like Nino is unlike virtually anyone else in mountain biking. He had been working with a laboratory in Switzerland to find the optimum position on the bike, as Joe recalls, "We have a bike fit, to the millimeter, for Nino. His saddle position, his setback, height, seat angle. The seattube angle is a result of this. XC racers are much more picky about saddle to BB position, that's where they start from. We worked from Nino's measurements - where his saddle had to be, relative to the BB to make sure we gave him the perfect seat angle." Rene elaborates further, "Compared, to an all-mountain bike, it is more tricky to set the geometry for XC because the rider needs to have the perfect position on the bike for the best power transfer to the pedals, not just to have a long toptube and to make everything enduro-style. It's a bit similar to the road-side, you can't just make the bike longer."
Of course, these restrictions don't mean they didn't push the geometry where they could. Asked how different the geometry is on this bike compared to the old one, Joe's answer is just three words: "Longer, lower, slacker." While a 68.5-degree head angle may sound steep to most trail riders, in a discipline where the 70-degree head angle was de-rigeur until recently, it is quite a step. This was coupled with a 15mm increase in the reach and shorter chainstays.
What this all adds up to is an XC thoroughbred that is far more accessible to those of us outside the World Cup circuit, as Joe confirms, "It's definitely got better handling than the old bike, it's more stable, more controlled, which helps everyone. It has taken a bit of influence from the development in trail and enduro, some of the things that make sense there also make sense here. Even in XC, there is a move away from the mentality that, 'if my bike is twitchy and hard riding, it is fast' because it feels fast because you're getting beat up. The new direction is that smooth, controlled power output is what makes you faster. "
One small change in the geometry was more important - they reduced the stack height by 15mm. For a rider like Nino who is super-picky about his bar-height, this is a huge deal. To put into context how crucial it is, the Scott team changed to SRAM this winter. With that came a change of suspension and the axle-to-crown of the Sid is 5-7mm shorter than the DT Swiss fork he rode to gold in Rio, so they have had to go back to scratch for bike setup for him. At the time of this interview, they were still wrestling with how best to correct this for him. The drop in stack height for the new frame was game-changing for both Nino and the new bike. It is those 15mm that mean Nino could run 29" wheels for the first time while maintaining his critical bar-height.