Bike check: Vincenzo Nibali's Scott Spark
Events such as the Absa Cape Epic aren't just a test of character and flesh but also equipment. Between dust, occasional rain and heat, the harsh terrain is relentless in its punishing toll on apparel and equipment.
To this end, Vincenzo Nibali, or the 'Shark of Messina' as he's become known, is an ambassador and technical adviser to Team Q36.5. He is racing the Cape Epic aboard a Scott Spark. As the team's bike brand sponsor, this is an obvious choice and will be serviced within the framework of Scott SRAM Racing throughout the Epic.
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Nibali may be a celebrated roadie and winner of all three Grand Tours but that doesn't mean he's a slouch on a mountain bike. With much of his formative years as a youth being spent mountain biking, Nibali has a deep love for the dirt side of the sport.
While Nibali's Spark is a relatively stock standard build, there are some unique specs and trick bits that set it apart.
Fast-rolling 2.35 Pirelli Scorpions front and rear with Syncros carbon rims and DT Swiss hubs, laced up with blade spokes.
The frame gets a custom paint job in line with the Q36.5 team livery. The bike sticker actually has teammate Porro's race number, the '-1' is reserved for the teammate with a higher number of Cape Epic palmares.
Syncros carbon cage with easily accessible toolkit and spares, the CO2 canister is primed for instant use - a reality of a race as technically demanding and untamed as the Cape Epic.
SRAM Level two-pot callipers with oil-slick titanium bolt hardware, the combination of which supplied powerful stopping power and lightweight, blingy visuals.
SRAM AXS is race proven around the world. Here Nibali has stuck with XX1 as opposed to the next-generation direct mount 1x drivetrain and groupsets, based on SRAM's UDH system. The oil-slick cassette gives it a bit of pop.
Staying in-house with Scott's accessory and component brand, Syncros. A saddle bag for tube and small spares while a carbon rail Syncros saddle keeps up perch duty. The seatpost of choice is SRAM's wireless AXS dropper.
A small but significant detail is the choice of wiper seal. An upgrade from SKF, these wiper seals are extra lubricated and have less stiction through the suspension's travel. An important consideration in an unforgiving environment such as the Cape Epic. According to the responsible mechanic, however, SRAM's stock wiper seals provide more than enough reliability.
Stock 175mm XX Carbon cranks with integrated Quark power meter to handle 36T watts, for the prologue the Shark ran a 38T ring up front. A KCNC bolt kit gives the setup some trick feel.
Staying with Pirelli rubber on the rear. While some teams are replacing tyres each day or daily, Nibali keeps his setup over the race with sealant top-ups as required.
A modified blip for Nibali's dropper. Neat, simple and lowkey.
Nibali pictured ahead of teammate Samuele Porro on Stage One. The apparel worn by Nibali is being tested for Q36.5.
Leading through during the prologue, Nibali's Italian countryman Samuele Porro of Willier/Pirelli. Samuele is an accomplished mountain biker focused on marathon and stage races. With a strong history and performance in the Cape Epic the 'Italian Friends,' are a surefire pairing.