Big wheels could dominate the cross country World Cup again this year, if the results from the first round at Pietermaritzburg in South Africa are anything to go by. In the final lap of the race, Scott Swisspower-sponsored rider Nino Schurter sprinted away from home favourite Burry Stander (Specialized) to win on the latest (and greatest?) wheel size: 650B.
In a race dominated by non-26in wheels, the only rider of note in the top-10 on the old standard was Julien Absalon (Orbea), who has publicly declared it’s too late in his career to change. Meanwhile, second-placed Burry Stander has said there’s no place for 26in wheels in his race season.
The big question though, is would Nino have won on 26in wheels anyway? “As long as it is a Scott bike I would say yes,” Schurter told us emphatically. “But the new Scale 27.5 gave me an mental advantage knowing I was able to ride what others want.”
Schurter was riding a new team-only version of the Scott Scale, running the 650B wheelsize, which sits between 26in and 29in wheels. It was an inspired choice, the best of both sizes, he says.
“650B feels right for my body size and riding skills. I like the advantages of a bigger wheel. But I never felt comfortable with my position on a 29in,” he said. “I’m too short for it (173cm). When you ride aggressively like me, on tight turns or while braking, the 26in handles still way better over a 29in. The big wheels and long fork tend to have too much torsion. Now the 27.5 combines the best of both worlds. It feels like a 26in in tight, technical stuff. Tough it offers that stable and secure ride of a 29in on fast or rough terrain.”
The Swiss rider and Burry Stander worked together to distance the rest of the competition, until the last lap, when Schurter attacked into the technical rock garden.
“Last year against Absalon and this year against Stander, I was able to make the difference in the rock garden, known as one of the most difficult sections on the whole world cup circuit,” Schurter said. “I won the past three races on this track, that says it all.”
Wheels big or small, this promises to be a cracking World Cup, both Downhill and XC. Watch for free at live.redbull.tv — the next XC race is April 13, the next Downhill is June 2.