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Bike at Bedtime: Elisa Balsamo’s World Championship Cannondale SuperSix Evo

Italian rider gets a cool new paint job although you might be surprised at the groupset she’s using

Italy’s Elisa Balsamo won the women’s road race at the UCI World Championships in Flanders on 25 September 2021 and here is her Cannondale SuperSix Evo decked out in hand-painted rainbow stripes before the inaugural women’s Paris–Roubaix last Sunday.

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Balsamo edged out Marianne Vos in a sprint finish in Flanders although she finished well down the field in Paris-Roubaix. She currently rides for Valcar-Travel & Service but is off to Trek-Segafredo next season. 

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The paint job is a creation of Doktor Bobby.


A post shared by Bobby (@doktorbobby)

The SuperSix Evo is a long-standing model in Cannondale’s range but the current version is very different from any of its predecessors. Cannondale says that is more aerodynamically efficient than previously, stiffer, and also more comfortable. There’s also space for wider tyres and the geometry has been revised.

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We won’t go into the details because these updates were made a couple of years ago, but you can read all about them here

We’ve ridden the Cannondale SuperSix Evo a few times, saying that it “retains the same handling characteristics [as previously] while ramping up the speed and improving on the ride quality, increasing its capability to do battle with the latest race bikes from rival brands”. We’re fans.

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Elisa Balsamo’s SuperSix Evo looks an absolute beaut. At least it did before the first properly wet and muddy Paris-Roubaix weekend in 19 years.

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All of the riders on the team use Shimano’s second-tier Ultegra groupsets rather than top-level Dura-Ace, including the hydraulic disc brakes. This is 11-speed Ultegra R8000 rather than the recently launched 12-speed Ultegra R8100.

It’s a reflection of the difference between the sexes in cycling that you won't see a men’s world champion on anything other a top-end groupset.

> Shimano launches 12-speed Ultegra R8100 groupset that’s Di2 only

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That’s an FSA Powerbox BB386Evo power meter chainset on there with carbon crank arms and a forged and then CNC machined AL6061 spider. It gives left/right power balance. Balsamo’s bike is fitted with 52T and 36T chainrings while the cassette is 11-32T. 

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This is a Vision Metron 40 SL Disc tubular wheelset, Vision being an FSA brand. The 40mm-deep full-carbon rims are designed primarily for climbing and cyclocross and have been widely used in the cobbled classics. 

The rims are 26mm wide and the direct-pull bladed spokes are held in place by Alpina ABS brass nipples. The tyres are Veloflex Pro Tours and not hugely wide considering the cobbled roads tackled in Paris-Roubaix. We're not sure whether Valcar-Travel & Service had wider tyres available. Women's pro teams sometimes don't have the luxury of wider tyres that they can just swap on for one or two races.

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Balsamo’s bike is equipped with Cannondale’s own handlebar. The computer mount attaches directly to a recess in the bar. The handlebar tape is double wrapped to help damp the vibration caused by the Paris-Roubaix pavé, with Prologo stickers added to keep the sponsors happy.

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Speaking of Prologo, the world champion uses a Dimension NDR saddle from the Italian brand. At 245mm long, it’s about 35mm shorter than a traditional saddle and this version has Tirox steel rails – heavier than carbon but less likely to fail in the event of a crash. The NDR model has padding that’s 3mm deeper than that of the standard version and the wide channel running down the centre is designed to “reduce the compression of soft tissues, eliminating numbness and ensuring the blood flow”, according to Prologo.

Mat has been in cycling media since 1996, on titles including BikeRadar, Total Bike, Total Mountain Bike, What Mountain Bike and Mountain Biking UK, and he has been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. Mat has been technical editor for over a decade, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer. Now over 50, he's riding road and gravel bikes most days for fun and fitness rather than training for competitions.

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Gkam84 | 2 years ago

I think there are two things that affect the groupset, one being she's not on a top tier team. Had she been with the likes of DSM or BikeExchange (Shimano equipped), she might have been on Dura-Ace, BUT, also the availability of parts currently to build up a new bike in a quick turnaround before Roubaix. 

Next year she'll be on 1x SRAM at Trek 

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