Cyclocross

Nationals Bike: Eric Brunner’s U23 Champ Blue Norcross Team Edition – Cyclocross Magazine

The last time the Blue Norcross won a high-profile race at U.S. Cyclocross Nationals, the bike did not exactly get its day in the sun. Jonathan Page rode the old cantilever brake Norcross to a win at the 2013 Verona Nationals, but due to a sponsor change for the new year, his bike had a cryptic, unbranded appearance.

After Page’s win, Blue fell on some blue times before reappearing and then re-rising again this year.

We met the company’s new owner Orly Chinea at the Dirty Kanza expo and took a closer look at Blue’s Hogback gravel bike. While chatting with Chinea, he hinted some bike plans were in the works for the current cyclocross season.

Enter the Blues – Stages Racing team and its lead riders Eric Brunner and Maxx Chance. Brunner was born and raised in Colorado, so the connection made sense after Blue moved its new headquarters to the Front Range.

Brunner has accomplished a lot in his U23 cyclocross career. He finished 2nd at Pan-Ams in 2017 and 2018 and took 2nd at Reno Nationals. He also won the 2018 Reno Collegiate Nationals title and won the Collegiate Club race in Lakewood.

The one thing the Colorado-Boulder student had not done is stampede to a U23 National Championship.

Brunner won the Collegiate Club race in Lakewood. Collegiate Club Men. 2019 Cyclocross National Championships, Lakewood, WA. © A. Yee / Cyclocross Magazine

That changed in Lakewood when Brunner dueled with Collegiate Varsity champ Caleb Swartz before escaping and finally getting his win. All the while scoring a win for Team Collegiate Club over Team Collegiate Varsity.

Eric Brunner won the race of 2019 Collegiate Champs and took his second title of the week. U23 Men. 2019 Cyclocross National Championships, Lakewood, WA. © D. Mable / Cyclocross Magazine

We took a closer look at Brunner’s Norcross Team Edition following his winning ride.

Eric Brunner’s 2019 U23 National Championships Blue Norcross Team Edition. © A. Yee / Cyclocross Magazine

Eric Brunner’s U23 Nationals Blue Norcross

Brunner’s Blue Norcross Team Edition is new, but the model is anything but new to the U.S. cyclocross scene. Blue first released the bike in 2009, and four-time national champion Jonathan Page rode it through the end of 2012. Well, through the end of the 2012/13 season, if we are being precise.

Jonathan Page won the 2013 National Championship on a Blue Norcross, but since he had switched sponsors, the company got checkered over. © Meg McMahon

After Page’s departure as a sponsored athlete, the company fell on hard times and went away for a few years before being re-started under new ownership in 2014. The new Norcross got a disc-brake upgrade to match the changing times in the cyclocross tech world.

Ownership of the company changed hands again when Chinea and his business partner Dean Myers purchased the company and moved its headquarters to Colorado.

The original Norcross dates to the days of cyclocross bikes being do-it-all type bikes, so it was not surprising to see Dee Dee Winfield win the 2018 Almanzo 100 (RIP) on a bike she once raced at Cyclocross Worlds.

With the Hogback taking up the gravel mantle for Blue, the company designed the newest Norcross as a cyclocross race bike. Brunner rode the Team Edition, which is the SL (super light) frameset with a white colorway.

The top tube of the Norcross is flat on the bottom for easier shouldering. Eric Brunner’s 2019 U23 National Championships Blue Norcross Team Edition. © A. Yee / Cyclocross Magazine

The Team Edition frameset features a high-modulus carbon frame, race geometry and max tire clearance of 700c x 38mm.

The Norcross SL claims clearance for tires up to 38mm wide. Brunner’s 33mm tires avoided having mud pack up. Eric Brunner’s 2019 U23 National Championships Blue Norcross Team Edition. © A. Yee / Cyclocross Magazine

North American teams running Shimano components embraced clutch rear derailleurs in 2019. Some riders such as Katie Compton, Clara Honsinger and Courtenay McFadden opted to use the RX805 rear derailleur released in 2018.

Others embraced the new GRX gravel/cyclocross groupset. Riders running a double—Rebecca Fahringer, Brannan Fix, Gage Hecht at Nationals—used the new GRX RX815 rear derailleur with an Ultegra or Dura-Ace crank, while those going 1x—Sunny Gilbert, Kerry Werner, Gage Hecht at Jingle Cross—ran a full GRX setup.

Brunner opted to go the double-with-RX805 route. In the back, he had the Di2 RX805 derailleur and 11-28t cassette.

Brunner went clutch with a Shimano Ultegra RX805 clutch rear derailleur. Eric Brunner’s 2019 U23 National Championships Blue Norcross Team Edition. © A. Yee / Cyclocross Magazine

In the front, he ran an Ultegra R8000 crankset with 46/36t cyclocross chain rings attached. An Ultegra R8050 Di2 front derailleur allowed him to shift between rings.

Brunner ran a double with an Ultegra R8000 crankset that held 46/36t cyclocross chain rings. Eric Brunner’s 2019 U23 National Championships Blue Norcross Team Edition. © A. Yee / Cyclocross Magazine

One interesting aspect of the Norcross Team Edition is despite the modernization with thru-axles and disc brakes, it still has a post mount in the rear. Brunner had an Ultegra R8070 caliper on his fork and a Shimano RS785 caliper in the rear.

The Norcross Team Edition bucks the modern trend with a post mount in the rear. Brunner ran a Shimano RS785 post mount caliper. Eric Brunner’s 2019 U23 National Championships Blue Norcross Team Edition. © A. Yee / Cyclocross Magazine

When we saw Brunner’s bike at the Kings CX weekend, he had Reynolds tubulars on his bike. At Nationals, Brunner ran Shimano Dura-Ace WH-9170-C40 carbon tubulars. Both the choices were interesting because the team is sponsored by Spinergy.

Brunner ran Dura-Ace WH-R9170-C40 tubulars with Donnelly PDX tubulars. Eric Brunner’s 2019 U23 National Championships Blue Norcross Team Edition. © A. Yee / Cyclocross Magazine

Not surprisingly, because Colorado, Brunner ran Donnelly tubulars this season. He opted for 700c x 33mm PDX treads for the mud at Lakewood Nationals.

Brunner opted for the Donnelly PDX mud tread for the Lakewood mud. Eric Brunner’s 2019 U23 National Championships Blue Norcross Team Edition. © A. Yee / Cyclocross Magazine

Brunner’s all-alloy cockpit came via Full Speed Ahead. He ran a Gossamer alloy handlebar held by an Energy alloy stem. In the back, a Gossamer seatpost held a Velo Senso saddle. Shimano Deore XT M8100 pedals rounded out Brunner’s contact points.

Brunner ran an all-alloy cockpit, with an FSA Energy stem holding his FSA Gossamer handlebar. Eric Brunner’s 2019 U23 National Championships Blue Norcross Team Edition. © A. Yee / Cyclocross Magazine

Brunner spent Kersteperiode in Belgium and next up is the 2020 World Championships, where he will be representing Team USA in his final race as a U23 rider.

Brunner raced in Europe over Kerstperiode, and he will represent the U.S. at U23 Worlds. © B. Hazen / Cyclocross Magazine

For a closer look at Brunner’s Blue Norcross Team Edition, see the photo gallery and specs below.

Photo Gallery: Eric Brunner’s Blue Norcross Team Edition