Mountain bike racing fans will have watched Nino Schurter reclaim the coveted Rainbow Jersey at Val di Sole, Italy in late August 2021 – in dramatic fashion. Even if you aren’t a Schurter fan, you have to admit that it was an incredible performance and probably the most memorable victory of his storied career. That it was on the new SCOTT Spark is also significant and here are the five factors that made the difference…
Modern XCO courses have become more demanding, with technical, steep climbs and rugged, high-risk descents. When Nino won his first Elite world championship title in 2009, he did it on a 26-inch hardtail SCOTT Scale, with bar-ends! The courses were tamer back then, but not really tame. Riders still needed to be skilled, strong and prepared to take risks. At the age of 23, Nino became the youngest ever Elite men’s XCO World Champion.
Nino on his way to his first Elite World Championship title in 2009 on a SCOTT Spark | Photo: UCI Mountain Bike.
The new SCOTT Spark, launched in June 2021, is the pinnacle of modern high-performance mountain bike technology, in performance, integration and aesthetics. It was the perfect bike to carry the world’s most successful XCO racer to his ninth Elite World Championship title. The most beautiful victory on the most beautiful bike!
Here are the five key features of the new SCOTT Spark that gave Nino the winning edge:
The proprietary TwinLoc suspension management system on the new Spark has been further refined and Nino made the most of it throughout the intense 82-minute race in the famous Dolomite valley. With just a push with the left thumb, TwinLoc gives the rider the ability to control how much suspension he/she wants – and when. It’s like having access to three different bikes at your fingertips and it’s one of the features that sets the SCOTT Spark apart.
On the smooth climbs, Nino locked it out fully (Climb Mode) in order to optimise his power transfer to the rear wheel. On the uneven surfaces he used the Trail Mode which gave him 80mm of front and rear travel – enough to absorb the bumps and maintain optimal traction. And on the downhills, he use Descend Mode which offers the full 120mm of travel, more than most XC Bikes and generous enough to ensure he could choose more lines with the increased level of control. And of course in that final, famous long sprint, you can see all of his Nino’s power being transferred to the wheels with the suspension locked out.
Nino made use of the SCOTT Spark’s proprietary TwinLoc suspension system to ensure he was always in contention no matter what the gradient or surface. | Photo: SCOTT Sram Racing
No other premium-level XCO bike offers 120mm of suspension front and rear. Mostly because it adds weight. But when SCOTT’s engineers redesigned the new Spark to accommodate its rear shock inside the frame, they were able to use pioneering design on XCO bikes to confidently fit a 120mm-travel rear shock that added no overall weight to the frame (a svelte 1870 grams), but benefitted the bike with more travel.
When you have that much travel available, you have more confidence. On a rough-surface course like Val di Sole, Nino wasn’t as limited by line choices. On the final lap he was able to choose a risky line down the descending rock garden in an effort to take the lead. It didn’t pay off, but champions don’t become champions by not taking risks. And he felt assured enough that his Spark could manage that risk, whether he was successful or not.
A 120mm-travel rear shock on an XCO bike takes the SCOTT Spark into pioneering territory.
Only when you have ridden with a dropper seatpost will you know that racing without one on a technical XCO course is like filling your jersey pockets with sand. It’s a no-brainer really. A dropper seatpost ensures you have the freedom and space to move your bodyweight where it’s most optimal on descents, technical sections and fast turns. The new SCOTT Spark RC World Cup model comes standard with a Fox Transfer dropper seatpost.
Nino’s high level of skill gives him an ever greater appreciation of the dropper seatpost, which he made the most of on his way to his gold medal. Being able to move his bodyweight around without the saddle in his way ensured he had greater weight over the front, middle or rear of the bike when it was required.
The dropper seatpost allowed Nino to move freely as required on the rugged course. | Photo: SCOTT Sram Racing
DUAL-ZONE CARBON FRAME
SCOTT’s engineers have perfected the art of carbon craft when it comes to bicycles. Through a combination of scientific and real-world testing they have established which areas of a bicycle frame requires strength and stiffness and which can be super light. This led to the new Spark having two distinct carbon zones – The Lightweight Zone and the Stiffness Zone. The Stiffness Zone is low down and forward and incorporates the headtube, downtube and chainstays. The Lightweight Zone is higher up and incorporates the toptube, upper seattube and seatstays. The seamless combination of these two zones delivers a frame with the ideal combination of characteristics optimal control, comfort and performance. Not only is this carbon crafting functional, it also looks beautiful.
Nino’s World Champs race required him to climb, descend, corner and tailwhip (optional!) at speed. The dual zone frame of the SCOTT Spark ensured he could do all that and still have the confidence to make a bold, late race-winning pass followed by a long sprint to claim the famous victory!
The new SCOTT Spark seamlessly combines two zones – The Lightweight Zone and the Stiffness Zone to deliver a frame for the world’s best to stay the world’s best. | Photo: SCOTT Sram Racing
The new SCOTT Spark has been designed to easily accommodate wider 2.4-inch tyres. In fact, there’s more than enough frame clearance for even sticky mud conditions on the new SCOTT Spark. A wider tyre delivers more surface contact between tyre and trail, which means greater traction, more speed and exemplary control.
Did you notice how Nino made his winning move? After the bridge, as Fleuckiger was lining up the tight left-hand turn ahead with a wide approach, Nino dived swiftly inside his compatriot, edged in front and gained the all-important physical and psychological advantage take him to victory. At no point did it look like Nino would lose control with such a daring move in such tight confines, placing full trust in his 2.4-inch wide Maxxis Rekon Race tyres, that were pushed close to their traction limit when it mattered most.
A winning combination – Nino Schurter and the new SCOTT Spark.| Photo: SCOTT Sram Racing
“DON’T CALL IT A COMEBACK, HE’S NEVER BEEN AWAY!” screamed commentator Rob Warner as Nino sprinted for the finish line to extend his World Championships record to a total of nine Elite titles! Nino was the youngest world champion in 2009 and, 12 years later at age 35, he’s also the oldest Elite men’s XCO World Champion.
For most professional racers, that would be the perfect bookend to an incredible career, right? Nope, Nino is not done yet. There are still more World Cup wins to chase (he’s just one away from the current record); and there’s the matter of that famous South African race, the Absa Cape Epic to consider…
Besides the carbon frame, all the features that gave Nino the World Champs edge are not found only on the top-of-range new SCOTT Spark models. They’re all standard on the aluminium-frame base model Spark 970 (pictured here) that sells for just R45 000!
For more on the new SCOTT Spark, click here.
Order your new SCOTT Spark here.
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