Reigning U.S. cyclocross national champion Jeremy Powers (Rapha-Focus) has made the switch to FMB tubulars for the 2014/2015 season, citing testing performed against Dugast tubulars.
Powers is now running his own program, and while few sponsorships have changed, much of the equipment is new for this season. Focus completely redesigned its Mares CX, tweaking the geometry to the point that it might as well have a new name, as it is not even close to being the Mares Powers rode to both his national championship titles. Powers has a new wheel and component sponsor, Zipp, which has prototype thru-axle wheels he is testing. But the most notable change is the tires. Powers made the switch from Dugast to FMB tires this season after an impromptu encounter with FMB’s founder François Marie.
It came as a surprise to see Powers’ Focus Mares equipped with French FMB tires, easily spotted because of the Pro Casing tires’ pink sidewalls. After all, he won nationals on Dugasts last year. When asked about the swap, Powers admitted, “anyone who knows me, knows I’ve been a huge ‘Doogie’ [Dugast] guy.”
So why the switch? “François’ son approached us at the world championships, and told us how much he liked Jeremy’s kit, and the Rapha-Focus colors. We talked more after, and we were able to test some of Mo Bruno Roy’s FMBs this summer,” said Powers’ mechanic Tom Hopper.
“We did some testing earlier this year, with the help of Mo and Matt Roy, on a short circuit, and we found the FMBs to be a few seconds faster than the Dugasts. That’s real talk, not sponsor hype,” said Powers.
Powers will be racing FMB’s Pro Casing edition tires, which have a latex-coated cotton casing rather than the traditional cotton casings of Dugasts. It is the same tire that Katie Compton (Trek) has been racing to World Cup victories. The latex-coated cotton casing is softer than a standard vulcanized casing, but is slightly firmer than a cotton sidewall.
Hopper said that Powers was able to run one or two PSI lower than he could with his Dugasts, as the FMBs are more stable in hard cornering, despite low pressure. Compton’s husband and mechanic, Mark Legg-Compton had similar things to say after Katie’s switch to FMB tires a couple seasons ago.
When it comes to tires, pro mechanics often have more insight into proper setup than riders. In Hopper’s case, he has digitized notebook filled with Powers’ tire choices, locations, course conditions, and the tire pressure that Powers has run since Hopper came on as his full-time mechanic four seasons ago.
“The number we have in my log [from years pasts] is the PSI we always start with, and we go up or down from there. From what we ran in Vegas and the race in Castle Rock [Colorado], the numbers are basically the same. It’s not much of a change, it’s more him just needing to get some race speed on these tires. He’s been on Dugast for the last 10-plus years. Just getting out and racing on them, he’s learning how far he can lean them over before they break under him.”
Powers added, “I’m still getting used to the tires. I’m on a completely new machine this year, from the frame geometry changes, to being on the [Zipp] 303s, they’re stiffer. All of these things change how the bike rides. For me the biggest thing is the tires and figuring out my PSI and how low I can go without rolling a tire, you know, just having it move under me when I don’t want it to.”
The FMB’s Pro latex-coated cotton casing also means that mechanics do not need to maintain cotton sidewalls with Aquaseal after the tires have been glued. Cotton tubulars are susceptible to dry-rot from the extreme conditions and power washing.
“From a mechanic’s standpoint, the FMBs have saved me about 10 hours of time I would have spent applying Aquaseal to Jeremy’s Dugasts. Aquasealing [tires] is the worst part of cyclocross. Matt Roy told me some of Mo’s tires are three seasons old. That’s crazy to think about how often those have been washed and are still holding up.”
With his early lead in the USAC Pro CX standings, it is safe to say that Powers is acclimating to his new machine and his new tires just fine.