Cam Wright has just received his new Giant Anthem factory ride - here's a look ahead of the XCO National Championships.
Cam Wright shot to fame in September 2017, when he lead the Junior XCO World Championships in Cairns, and won the title in front of a home crowd. Despite having an inkling that Cam would be triumphant on the day, it was still an electric moment as an Australian rider scored a Junior World Title on home soil.
Fast forward to 2022, and I met up with Cam in the middle of a training ride at Gap Creek, on the western side of Brisbane. With the 2022 National Championships looming, Cam was out on his new 2022 team issue Giant Anthem.
The Giant Anthem has been a very popular bike in Australia since being launched almost two decades ago, replacing the NRS platform. The new iteration brings popular changes in the cross-country space, including increased reach, a steeper seat angle, slack 67.5 degree head angle and more travel.
The new Anthem is designed around a 110mm travel fork, with 100mm in the back. The two top models in Australia have Fox Live Valve to keep the suspension in check – as does the team issue bike for the Giant Factory Off Road Team.
A closer look at Cam Wright's Giant Anthem
At a glance, Cam's bike just looks like any full factory ride – adorned with the nicest parts from team sponsors like Giant, Shimano and Fox. But there's a little more detail there when you look closely, especially with the Anthem frame.
'Just about everything has changed since the last bike. The frame design is way different. Giant have moved to a slacker front end with a 110mm fork. It's a slightly steeper seat tube as well,' Cam told me. With the extra reach on the frame, Cam has actually changed frame size from his previous bike.
'This has actually put me on a medium instead of a large which I would normally ride. Giant have moved away from the Maestro system, using the flex point in the back which works fine for a 100mm travel bike. The 110/100mm travel accommodates everything in today's cross-country tracks as they're all getting rougher. I've only had it for two weeks, but I can tell how much better it is than the previous model.'
With most riders opting for a longer reach and a shorter stem, the fact that Cam has downsized his frame and runs a 100mm stem seems almost out of step. But these decisions weren't made lightly.
'The medium is about the same as the previous large Anthem, so it doesn't feel that much different, but I did put the longer stem on to get the reach I needed. Still, my setback behind the pedals is a little further forward with the steeper seat tube angle. Overall though, I feel a lot more stable and confident on this model than the outgoing Anthem in a large. As I'm sitting a bit more upright I find I am climbing better, and just overall for riding as well.'
Cam is paying very fine attention to getting the most out of the suspension, especially in the fork.
'I've got three volume spacers in the 2022 Fox 34 SC, like I did in the 32 SC, with 75psi. I think I can knock that pressure back a little. But I'll certainly be adjusting this depending on the course.'
The Live Valve has also been refined. Fox and Giant have worked together to make it suited to the new frame. 'Previously you had five settings, but now you have five finer settings in those five settings as well. That's 25 options to play with, five on the battery and five on the app. So depending on the course, you can change the way the suspension is going to work for you.'
Cam has used the ease of adjustment to really tune the suspension how he wants it, no doubt assisted by his work with suspension service and sales centre Cyclinic.
'I used run the stiffest mode on the previous model, but then I worked my way down until the mid point. With this version I've been working on finding something that suits my riding style. I've only used four different settings so far in the two weeks with the bike. I'm on the firmest overall setting but with it dialled down to 2 in the firm setting.'
Fox also supply the Transfer SL 100mm dropper post fitted to Cam's Anthem – but last time we did a bike check with Cam he didn't have a dropper.
'In 2019 I was doing a mid-season stage race with Dan McConnell and Bec McConnell in Spain. The trails were pretty wild so I ordered one but it didn't arrive in time. Lots of other people were using them in the World Cups. I put it on and raced with it at World Champs in Mt St Anne and really noticed the difference.'
'Getting the saddle out of the way really lets you throw the bike around when descending, with lots more confidence. I always thought it was there to help with confidence, but the lower saddle lets you use the bike better. You get to work with the saddle instead of around it.'
Cam's oil slick HT pedals stand out, and they're a team issue item with Ti spindles, 'They feel like a mix between the Crank Bros Candy and Shimano. I've never had any issues with mud clearance, plus they're light and look sick!'
Cam has an SRM power meter spider on his Shimano XTR cranks, using a 34 tooth Wolf Tooth 104 BCD chain ring. Cam says he doesn't race on power data, but it's all part of building the important picture for training and racing.
'I do a lot of work with power on the road. But I like to get the data on the mountain bike. It's good to see the data from different courses.' So Cam logs it, and his coach looks at it. 'I'm getting more into it and it's quite interesting,' Cam added, so maybe there's some coaching in Cam's future?
The Giant Factory Off Road Team are sponsored by Shimano, so it is no surprise that Cam has a Shimano XTR M9100 group set on (albeit with a Deore XT cassette for training). His cranks are 175mm with a 34t chain ring, and the cassette is 10-51, although Shimano do make a 10-45 for use with the shorter cage GS rear mech.
'I haven't played with shorter cranks, 175mm just seems to work for me, While we were on 10-45 cassettes in previous seasons we have chosen to stick with 10-51 and just change the chain ring size. I have been running a 34 and never had issues of running out of gears either way. Some of my team mates use a 36t chain ring for short track racing, to optimise their chain line in that slightly different event.'
So while Cam's drivetrain is the same day in, day out, with the reliable Shimano XTR 12-speed group set, he finds true performance gains elsewhere.
'It's the tyres and suspension setup where I do most of the adjustments. Right now I'm on the Giant XCR 0 wheels, with the Maxxis Rekon Race 2.4 WT tyre. I'd never really been a fan when using these in Europe, I tended to stick with Aspens. I only ever race on the 170tpi tyres, and use the 120tpi tyres for training.'
Bear in mind that 170tpi tyres are what the likes of Nino Schurter and Kate Courtney get to use – they're pro only. TPI stands for threads per inch, and typically the higher thread count makes for a lighter and more supple tyre, and the suppleness can really aid traction. Most high end tyres are 120tpi, with many mid range tyres being 60tpi, using thicker threads and more rubber.
'I've played so much with pressures and the TPI count with casings. I've gone from running 30psi in the front tyre down to 18psi now. Using a wider tyre allows the lower pressures with faster rolling and more grip.'
Here at AMB we have done a lot of our own real world testing on wider rims and tyres, and there really is a gain in performance in getting your set up just right. And wider rims and tyres do allow for more grip in general. But inserts can play a role too.
'We used to run Pepi's Tyre Noodles, and I started using them front and rear. I slowly got rid of the front and the back ended up staying for safety with the 2.25” tyres. Since the 2.4” tyres came out I did start with a noodle in the back to help get to the lower pressures, but it got to the point where it affected the handling. I took it out and haven't looked back. I have even run 16psi in the front and 18psi in the back for some trails.'
Eyes on Maydena
Cam Wright will be racing in the U23 category again at the XCO National Championships, and his race plan stays the same as ever. 'Like any race I'll go out hard and not look back. Some of the guys from U23 are racing up in Elite. Not having raced a lot of the guys for a while will make it hard to see where everyone is at – until halfway through. Sam Fox is racing up and I think Matt Dinham is as well.'
'In U23 Dom Paolilli and myself will certainly be fighting it out. But it's a bit of an unknown until we're there.'
As for bikes, Cam's choice is pretty easy. 'Last year I took the hardtail for the climbing as it was lighter. But I did get a flat on the descent. I'd be stupid not to ride the new Anthem!'
Ahead to 2022
With a normal World Cup season ahead and travel restrictions lifted, surely 2022 would like like a return to the World Cup?
'After Nationals I head to Oceanias and then to South Africa for racing and training with my coach,' Cam tells me. 'I'll come back here and then see what happens for Commonwealth Games selection.'
After that Cam will head to Europe for some Swiss Cups and French Cups, then World Champs – and then finally come back home again. But like any elite athlete, there is likely some variability on that as Cam will need to adapt to any changes through the season. It looks like a big year ahead, along with some of Cam's contemporaries like Sam Fox and Matt Dinham, who are pursuing mixed seasons across road and mountain bike.
Make sure you follow our coverage from Maydena to see how Cam goes!
Bike specs for Cam Wright's Giant Anthem
Claimed weight 10.5kg
Frame Material Carbon Fiber
Fork Fox 34 SC 110mm, 44mm offset, Live Valve
Shock Fox DPS Live Valve, 100mm
Shifter Shimano XTR M9100 iSpec, 12sp
Derailleur Shimano XTR M9100 SGS, 12sp
Crank Shimano XTR M9100, 175mm
Bottom bracket Shimano XTR BB90 PF
Chain Shimano XTR CN901
Cassette Shimano Deore XT M8100 10-51 12sp (shown)
Wheel set Giant TRX 0 29”
Tyres Maxxis Rekon Race 29x2.4” WT EXO 3C
Brakes Shimano XTR M9100, RT86 160mm rotors
Stem PRO Tharsis -17 degree, 100mm
Handlebars PRO Tharsis carbon, cut to 710mm
Grips ODI F-1 Dread Lock
Seatpost Fox Transfer SL, 100mm drop
Saddle PRO Stealth Offroad
Pedals HT M1T pedals
Power meter SRM