Alpha Bicycle Co. - Groove Silverthorne is a Colorado, USA-based elite development team. Its aim is to provide professional-level support to young cyclocross riders, giving them every tool needed to succeed at the highest level.

As part of this mission, the team is currently in Belgium doing a UCI racing block. U23 riders Lauren Zoerner and Jules van Kempen made the trip to race Cyclocross Otegem, De Kasteelcross Zonnebeke, and Hamme Flandriencross. We spoke to Team Owner/Manager Adam Rachubinski between races.

“We intentionally picked these races because I feel that young racers can be more competitive at some of these smaller races and learn a lot more, rather than going to a World Cup and just fighting to finish on the lead lap,” said Rachubinski.

Indeed the team is all about development and providing opportunity. Zoerner (14th at Kasteelcross) is one of the team’s success stories. She has been with the program since joining its youth team at age seven.

“The idea has always been that we wanted to create a program that if you started with us at seven or eight years old, you could continue to work hard and see a path to the top,” said Rachubinski.

Speaking of seeing the path to the top, an important addition to the 2022 squad was five-time French National Champion Caroline Mani. The team provided her the professional-level support she needed to win several races during the season. At the same time, her experience and mentorship were a huge bonus to the team. A Challenge rider for many years, her knowledge of the tires was also an asset to mechanics and teammates alike.

Alpha Bicycle Co. - Groove Silverthorne uses both handmade tubeless ready (TLR) and tubular. Riders often choose the handmade tubeless versions of Chicane and Grifo during the early fall when conditions are dry and suited to less tread and higher pressure.

When encountering either wet/slippery soil or harsh off-cambers, the team prefers tubular tires with larger treads: Baby Limus or Limus. “It’s really when we feel the need to go sub-20 psi (1.4 bar) or on courses that have extreme amounts of off-camber when you put a lot of torque on sidewalls,” said Rachubinski, who is also a mechanic for the team.

The team employs a meticulous process for helping riders select treads and pressures for race day. It starts by keeping good records. “We keep really good notes of venue, date, weather, tire selection per rider, and pressures. When we go back to, for example, Rochester, where we have been eight or ten times, we can look at it and say, ‘This is a good place to start,’” said Rachubinski.

The mechanics also do a course-walk on race morning, comparing current conditions to previous years’ notes.

Mechanic data and analysis can help riders who don’t have a tire preference to determine what to test. However, Rachubinski points out that many of the riders do have the experience to make good choices: “A lot of these riders, even though they are young, have a ton of experience. They will pick a tread, go out on what’s likely slightly too high a pressure and work down from there.”

While the riders test tires, they are able to circle back to the pits and talk through the decision with the mechanics. Rachubinski queries them: “Hey, do you feel like you could run something a little faster? Where do you feel you are losing grip? Where do you feel you are using too much tread?”

Part of effective race day tread/pressure selection actually begins in training. Rachubinski explains how they try to get the riders to experiment with different treads and pressures: “One thing we really try to push especially with younger athletes is running less tread. Learning to ride a less aggressive tread at different pressures is a skill that, as American cyclocrossers develop, we are going to have to push more and more.”

Alpha Bicycle Co. - Groove Silverthorne uses its quiver of wheels and tires to provide athletes with a variety of treads to take home and train on as needed. If an athlete is struggling to adapt to a lesser tread, they can grab a wheelset and put on some training miles. That way, on race day, racers can select tread and pressure with greater confidence.

The team’s mixed use of tubeless and tubular should give amateurs confidence to do so as well. We presented Rachubinski with the scenario, “If you could select only two sets of CX tires for an amateur or junior to ride, what would they be?”

Rachubinski responded with Grifo TLR and Limus tubular. The athlete would use Grifo most often but Limus tubular for slippery soil or aggressive off-cambers.

Lastly, if Rachubinski could only select one tire, it would be Grifo: “They are just the most versatile. The consistent shaping of the knobs allows you to lean the tire over pretty far and it feels the same way as it does at less of a lean. If I was just to have a whole bunch of one thing, it would probably be just a whole bunch of Grifos!”