5 Things We Learned From the 2022 Albstadt World Cup

May 9, 2022 at 10:19
by James Smurthwaite  
1. Hardtails are a Dying Breed in World Cup XC

Strong race for Kata Blanka Vas rolling into sixth.

Albstadt has always been home turf for the XC hardtail. Up until this year, only Annika Langvad and Loana Lecomte had won this race using full suspension bikes with all the other winners on hardtails. This year, there has been a total reversal as both winners were on full suspension bikes and of the ten Elite podium finishers only two raced without rear suspension - Mona Mitterwallner and David Vallero Serrano.

So, what's changed? Well firstly, full suspension platforms have come on a long way and technologies such as flex stay pivots have made them more efficient and lighter than ever before, which narrows the advantage hardtails might have had. Secondly, it seems Albstadt wasn't as easy this year as it has been in past years. A limestone covering made it even slippier than normal meaning the added traction of a full suspension proved more of an advantage than the lightness of a hardtail.



2. Road Training Pays Off for Pidcock and Gaze

Tom Pidcock takes the win here in Albstadt with ease.

Albstadt saw the successful return of a number of riders that had spent some time away from nobbly tires in the road cycling world. Sam Gaze's last race was the Kurne-Brussels-Kurne classic race and he also raced at Etoile de Bessèges earlier in the year for the Alpecin Fenix team. His road season was cut short by needing to have knee surgery, but he made the best return possible as he won the XCC race on Friday, picking up where Mathieu Van Der Poel left off for the Belgian team.

Tom Pidcock had been having (by his very high standards) a relatively quiet road season that still included a podium at Dwars door Vlaanderen and a fifth at De Brabantse Pijl, but he came into the World Cup in fine form and needed just one big attack on lap 3 of the XCO to go clear for the win. Keep an eye on the site over the next few days as we're going to dig into some power data to see how the fitness of World Cup XC riders compares to that of the best in the road world.



3. Rebecca McConnell Finds Her Missing Ingredient

Fancy a shoey after 1.5 hours of XC racing

After her victory last round in Petropolis, we called Rebecca McConnell 'a Quiet Achiever' well, she can't be ignored any longer. McConnell completed the perfect weekend by topping the results sheet in both the short track race on Friday evening and the Olympic race on Sunday, becoming only the fifth woman to ever do so.

The Aussie rider changed her coach over the off season and her new regime seems to have given her the extra edge over her competitors that turned her from a podium regular to the rider to beat. With the races now coming thick and fast, including Nove Mesto in 6 days' time, her competitors will have to find some extra pace quickly to contend with her new found form.



4. The Next Generation are Making Themselves Known

Well ahead of the rest Martin Vidaurre Kossmann charges towards the finish.

On Saturday, we saw another pair of back-to-back victories as Line Burquier and Martin Viadurre backed up their incredible performances in Brazil with another pair of solo victories. Just like Lecomte, Pidcock and Mitterwallner before them, they look to be the picks of the current U23 field.

Viadurre is Chile and South America’s first-ever mountain bike XCO world champion following his U23 success last year and Burquier is winning U23 races despite only turning 19 on Saturday. It's likely we'll see them challenging in the elite ranks next year.



5. Like it or Not, Headset Cable Routing is Incoming

Mathias Flueckiger looking for every and any millimeter of front end drop.

One big tech trend we noticed this weekend was the continuing rise of headset cable routing. It's an idea that comes from the road world where flapping cables are an aero disaster. It's no surprise that World Cup XC riders are looking for the same marginal gains as their skinny tired siblings and recently we've seen the feature on the prototype Canyon Lux and bikes from Bixs and Thomus in our Tech Randoms.


119 Comments

  • 263 4
 What if, here me out, we stopped headset routing before it “became a thing”?
  • 81 1
 Can one of the 11 Outside websites do some investigation as to why product managers/designers/engineers are doing this to mtbs? I’m genuinely curious to what is the driving force because it seems the consensus amongst actual riders is “no”
  • 70 1
 I currently have 3 bikes with this, I wish they did not, I do not like it-at all. Signed, former world cup tour race mechanic.
  • 26 1
 @gregs22: what’s cheaper to produce- design your carbon layup around small holes in the frame and take extra steps to lay the carbon around them or in the case of aluminum need to machine in the ports or select one of these water ingress abominations from an oem catalog?
  • 15 1
 I think what really tells us what we need to know is there's a ziptie making sure it's going in the right direction...more aero, MORE ZIPTIES
  • 6 0
 How much does routing cables through the headset increase contamination from the elements?
  • 11 1
 You mean like sending a terminator back in time?
  • 41 0
 @down0050: big zip tie is probably behind all this madness
  • 35 1
 We shamed the press fit bb out of fashion, hopefully this trend is next.
  • 4 0
 Totally, kill it with fire. I'd hazard a guess that it's cheaper than having to do a load of structural reinforcement around the ports near the head tube??? Could be out to lunch.
  • 2 0
 I guessed it was the headset companies pushing this.
  • 9 1
 @N-60: Indeed. When riders push back, eventually, industry listens. Especially if they vote with their wallets. Many have forgotten that 29ers were not pushed by industry until the niche started to gain ground. Press fit bb is another example.
Just don't buy bikes with this feature. Buy it and it will live.
  • 17 0
 if ever there was a good reason for PB readers to form a consumer union, it would be to murder this standard in the crib
  • 17 2
 @gregs22: It's about looks. A huge part of why someone buys one bike over the other is down to looks.

Guy goes into a bike shop to buy a bike. He isn't on pinkbike every day and doesn't know the ins and outs of every bike. Doesn't know what it means if one bike is a little more buttery than another. He narrows it down to two bikes, one with a rats nest in the front and one that looks sleek because all the cables are hidden.

The bike shop tells him they are both great bikes, sure to be happy with either one.

It comes down to looks.
  • 5 4
 @litany: Agree about the looks thing. But maybe the mechanic can tell his colleagues on the shop floor to push the regular routed bike. Because in a few weeks the customer will come in for the free service and asks for the bar to be lowered or lifted by one spacer...
  • 2 3
 @ak-77: why is that a problem?
  • 9 1
 @stiksandstones: Why don't you stop buying bikes with these headsets, you're part of the problem, vote with your wallet. I know if I owned a company and someone complained about a feature of the product, but at the same time bought 3 of those products, I'd probably ignore the complaint and just continue on making money.
  • 1 0
 @gregs22: Clearly it is a 'race' thing. You can't fight it (or anything perceived as cool) and you don't have to join in.
  • 1 0
 PLEEASSEEE... there cannot be possibly any upside to this?
  • 2 0
 @gregs22: It's a cost cutting exercise that began with some accountant saying to an engineer...
'hay mann you got so many holes in that frame already. Why does you need more for dem cables?'
  • 20 0
 @mfoga: Because they are suddenly surprised that it can cost up to 100+ dollars to have a cable replaced, because to route it the headset it likely needs to have the fork removed, headset taken apart and in the case of internally routed bars, possibly the brake lines removed to do the job properly, headset routing on half the bikes with it unfortunately doesn't work well with an internal routing kit. Not a stoked customer because no matter how well it's explained to them, they rarely seem to understand what maintenance costs for integration.

Also, their bearings can wear out more quickly because of water and dirt and again, a 30$ job turns into a 120$+ job as the bike now needs it's brakes bled because all the hoses and cables needed to be removed.

Worse, did you blow a brake line or housing on a road trip? Well your f**ked bud. No way you're fixing it in the parking lot at the trail head, parking lot, or hotel room, you've now got to waste a day taking it to a shop to have the repair done. Oh? It's super busy and they're booking a month+ out? They might be able to squeeze it in since you're from out of town but it likely won't be until the end of the next day if that and cost 100$ for headset routing? Too bad I guess. Your bike looks great though.

Further integration leads to even more labor time. This should be great for shops, but less work gets done fighting this bullshit since everyone has their own design and customers don't want to pay for it, which wastes more time because you can't discount your labor just because they needed the pretty bike and now doing want to pay for its upkeep.

Last up, a road bike needs to be traveling a pretty steady 40/45kmh for any meaningful aero drag to start affecting a world cup/world tour rider. I've seen it estimated that it's about a watt per 10cm at that speed, even canyon says fully integrated cables save about 3 watts in certain situations on their aero road bike so with mountain bike speeds your talking about it giving the bleeding edge of racers a max of a few watts. Since the conditions and tires play more of a role than step on a mountain bike, saving 3 watts on aero is complete nonsense. And since a customer buying this bike is not on the bleed edge of anything, there's no benefit in speed, lack of quick repairs, and more expense to work on. It's a loose loose situation for shops and customers.
  • 5 0
 @gregs22: They "lock" your bike to the brand's own choice of spare parts and discourage you from buying aftermarket stuff from 3rd party companies, maybe even discourage you from servicing your bike yourself and force you to let your LBS do relatively easy maintenance tasks.

It goes TOTALLY against my grain and I technical solutions of this type would make me chose a different bike and/or brand. It's not like we lack choice in bike brands ;o)
  • 6 1
 @kiddlivid: ok so there is no issue with this in regards to spacers which is what I asked? But thanks
  • 5 0
 Or just kept it contained to XC race bikes. Thankfully the industry does seem to be taking practicality into account to some degree. Examples: the new Transitions having external brake routing, Microshift Advent X 10-speed with more range than 11 speed, $20 steel chainrings from Raceface, in frame storage. All disasters for racing but great features for us normal humans.
  • 3 1
 @gregs22: My guess is...Fashion x eBike.
The largest market for eMTB is central EU where middle aged human use these bikes as recreation, status symbols and commuting. This user doesn't want to see cables, shonks or pivots. All those cables, wires and hoses are cleaverly hidden from view under the bonnet of a car, why should they be visible on your new premium alternative motorized transportation?
  • 1 0
 @pacobolo: Brands should just market their MTBs with normal frame routing (not through headset) like that, emphasizing that their frames are more advanced because you can clearly see the other brands doing what is easiest and cheapest at the cost of ease of maintenance for no other benefit.
  • 1 0
 @Philthy503: sh*t loads!!!
  • 1 0
 In less than 6 months, not having headset routing will be listed as a con in PB MTB tests. Just like the other stuff we didn't care about :
*boost
*multiple water bottle mounts
  • 1 0
 good one! I support this
  • 72 2
 Headset cable routing for aero gains...then stick a cycle computer with all the aerodynamic efficiency of a brick on top of the stem at the very front of the aero path.
  • 52 0
 Let's be honest, this is not for aero gains. It makes no sense on a MTB, where the cables are fully exposed between brake/shifter and stem anyway, unlike a road bike where they're mostly under bar tape. This is just a fashion trend that's trickling down from road bikes to piss us all off, like press-fit BBs.
  • 4 5
 @Drew-O: regarding press fit BBS, my 1990 Klein Rascal has two bearings pressed into the bottom bracket, no means of adjusting preload or chain line, just realized how rudimentary this is. Way before it’s time!?
  • 7 6
 @Drew-O: and presta valves
  • 8 7
 @Drew-O: fashion,
And as noted above, makes the frame building process way easier.

It’ll get better, but there will be some outcry before we get there.
It’s an elegant solution to messy cables

PF wasn’t, and isn’t necessarily bad, but the frame and bb tolerances are shit. It’s been widely used on BMX bikes for decades.
I’d love a good PF bb for the use of an offset bb so I can adjust for chainstay, bb height, seat post angle, etc
  • 20 20
 @Drew-O: except a
That a properly done pressfit BB is superior to threaded in just about every way.
  • 2 11
flag Clink1983 (May 10, 2022 at 17:41) (Below Threshold)
 @SterlingArcher: I'm sure you are fun at parties.
  • 14 0
 @Clink1983: The problem is that the industry has shown us that they haven't figured out how to do "proper" pressfit tolerance control
  • 3 4
 @phalley: exactly. A threaded BB with the dimensional tolerances of a pressfit BB may not creak, but it's still going to cause the same problems.
  • 2 0
 @Clink1983: Yes, I thought that was common knowledge; the problem is manufacturer tolerances are way out - so until they get that right, threaded is the next best option.
  • 1 5
flag SterlingArcher (May 11, 2022 at 2:50) (Below Threshold)
 @Clink1983: no, I’m sure YOU are at fun at parties
  • 4 3
 @Starch-Anton: despite the wailing about how bad press fit frames are in here I've had 4-5 frames? With press fit bottom brackets and have had zero problem getting them to run creak free, despite 2 of them being out of spec. A little common sense goes a long way imo.
  • 3 0
 “Cycle computer with aero efficiency of a brick”
James “flapping cables are an aero disaster”

And we still have the sodding great big human on top of this machine.
  • 1 0
 @Drew-O: one day they will make us to choose between this and stem integrated bars with internal routing
  • 16 3
 Haha that euro girl is horrified
  • 10 1
 @Snapcatcher: Of course, it's Bitburger
  • 1 1
 @ullsen:
Even if it is Bitburger, you don‘t just waste beer like that. Tar and feather her!
  • 5 0
 anyone notice that the Photo of the Year competition disappeared like the XC Fantasy League disappeared?
  • 2 0
 @lukesky: Unfortunately it's Bitburger 0,0%, so it's not even fit to wash her shoes with!
  • 21 0
 Internal Headset cable/hose routing may be of a use for someone competing on a World Cup level. These folks are riding for big bucks and prestige on a global stage. What is ridiculous is that these 'enhancements' will be sold to regular Joe Schmoe customers who will be out trail riding, moto-sloshing, crashing and bashing like 99.999% of us do, and they will be burdened with the expense of having to pay shop mechanics cubic dollars when it is time to replace a headset bearing, have a fork serviced, etc... And these mechanics are pissed that they have to deal with all of this to replace a $10 headset bearing that would normally be $20-$30 in labor. Still not as pissed as the customer who has to pay for a couple of hours labor at $75/per plus some parts that would normally not be required. SMH...
  • 20 0
 Apparently, Pidcock rode 200 km from Germany to Czech Republic the day after winning Albstadt:

www.strava.com/activities/7113522289

He will probably destroy the field again at Nove Mesto.
  • 12 0
 Nice little cool down recovery lap
  • 14 0
 And he got a KOM on the way, too funny. What a legend. Feels like Elite men were racing for second, Nino said as much.
  • 4 0
 @Superburner: 63kph down this road:
maps.app.goo.gl/XDtw3MXBV2yKQdYh9 ?!?
Absolute mad-lad.
  • 1 0
 Amazing.
  • 13 0
 Welcome back James Smurthwaite, excellent summary.

"A limestone covering made it even slippier than normal meaning the added traction of a full suspension proved more of an advantage than the lightness of a hardtail." That was a welcome addition.

Mona on her hardtail was visibly uncomfortable at times descending, Loana riding her wheel.

Next year it will be all fullies.
  • 44 0
 To ride this track properly you really had to be a limestone cowboy.
  • 2 0
 Is limestone actually new? I thought it was always a factor at this track. The fact that the weather was generally dry would mean it was less slick than normal, right?
  • 3 0
 @pmhobson: Rob said there was a new limestone covering over the old.
Dry versus dry, more slick.
  • 2 0
 @Willikers: cool. thanks for info
  • 22 0
 New limestone... Was the last race here several million years ago?
  • 6 0
 @boozed: flinty comment!
  • 5 0
 @Willikers: stone cold
  • 16 1
 Plz no, it took us two decades to divorce mountain bike geometry from UCI mandated road bike geo.
  • 5 0
 Us?
  • 6 0
 @Narro2: I know right. I think he's referring to me.
  • 13 1
 I learned Neff is not a natural blonde…..
  • 2 0
 ???
  • 2 0
 It used to be easy to pick her out of the pack with her Goldie Locks. Not anymore.
  • 1 0
 You could see brown roots a lot the time.
  • 2 0
 @mfoga: Well, her eyebrows have always been a dead giveaway.
  • 12 2
 Nothing about.... "We learned No one else except Nino, the oldest, clear that Gap!?" Holy moly where are PB freeride roots?!
  • 5 0
 Pidcock did on his last victory lap, he also whipped it over the bridge.
  • 6 1
 @Mike-Jay: but Pidcock barely cleared it, I think his rear wheel was just marginally so short that his suspension saved him
  • 7 2
 I learned that the commentators are going to talk about Moana mittenwallner the whole race regardless of her position.
  • 2 0
 True
  • 3 0
 I remember when internal routing was coming into the scene, and everyone was freaking out because it was going to be so hard to do maintenance on.
  • 2 0
 To bleed or not to bleed, that is the question... for a rear brake swap and the answer is 'Depends if you have internal routing.'
  • 3 1
 Everyone just go buy the $10 Risk fishing kit on AliExpress. Game changer. It's basically a clone of the $65 Park Tool fishing kit, just with only one long cable instead of 3. (which is also worth way over $65 for the headaches it prevents) Framesets should just come with these kits if they're selling them for $10.
  • 1 0
 @iamamodel: yes, it depends if you’re a decent mechanic or not. Rarely do you need to bleed a system if you do it properly.
  • 4 0
 Martin’s surname is Vidaurre not Viadurre. By the way this guy will be the one to be beaten in the elite very soon.
  • 3 0
 He's probably good enough for the Elites now; he won the Petropolis test event...and quite a few top riders were there.

And Burquier, looks like she's going to be another Mona/Loana; and she's already Elite level in CX, with 3 top 10 finishes in Elite World Cups.
  • 1 0
 @Starch-Anton: she is good, but not that good yet, best world cup result was a fourth in the first round, then generally outside the top ten.
Almost certainly took a break and reduced training prior to build up for this summer.
  • 1 1
 As if cable routing through the headset is such a new thing. That Thömus bike has integrated cables for almost 3 years now (just a wild guess) and the Spark isn't a newly released bike either.
  • 5 0
 The spark with integrated cable through headset is the 2022 model… pretty new I gotta say.
  • 5 2
 skinny arms, big legs, big beers. That was my takeaway.
  • 4 2
 PLEASE NO NOT THE HEADSET ROUTING SHIT
  • 1 0
 Clearly road works better for Pidcock than Gaze is my take. Gaze was fazed in the XCO.
  • 2 0
 Gaze used the road races for fitness/ domestique role rather than for results. He isn't fully fit, so the longer race won't suit him yet.
  • 1 0
 Headset cable routing, coming to a warranty claim near you soon!
  • 2 1
 Gerardo Ulloa is coming up for that number one spot!!
  • 2 0
 Shoey!
  • 2 1
 Anyone try the bitburge 0.0%? Any good?
  • 1 0
 viva Chile mierda !!! vamos martin weonooooo
  • 1 0
 it looks like Nino is running prototype brakes and dropper
  • 1 0
 I think they just made new mounts for the Sram level, so they could angle the brakes closer to the bars, which suits the internal cable routing better. What do you mean by the dropper?
  • 1 0
 @laupe: no axs battery
  • 1 0
 @CamPaine: Where did you see a picture of no AXS battery?
  • 1 0
 @CamPaine: Aaa, i see. I think that's further development of the prototype SL dropper from rockshox. en.brujulabike.com/rockshox-telescopic-seatpost-prototype-2021
  • 6 8
 They aren't going fast enough to make that much of a difference. If so their bikes would look ridiculous
  • 18 0
 Average speed 21km/hour or 13mph- aero matters a little bit.
  • 2 4
 Just remove the handlebars, wheels, frame for a fully aero set up. You could call it cross country running Wait....I just remembered something
  • 2 0
 I don't think cable routing through headset on XC bikes is because of aero gain as stated in the article. One possible reason, reduce chance of snagging cables during start and tight passing. The other is esthetics driven by the consumer, it looks clean, period.
  • 5 5
 Hard men ride hardtails.
  • 22 0
 I'd rather not be rigid during a race.
  • 4 0
 @ridenwc1: especially when rubbing up against stiff competition
  • 1 0
 @ridenwc1: But it's more aero
  • 2 0
 Don’t hold it against me unless it gets hard
  • 1 4
 Road training pays off? Or doping pays off ?
I'm confused
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