For this year’s Life Time Grand Prix, 70 pro athletes (35 men and 35 women) were selected to compete for the overall title and a $250,000 purse. Among the elite group of men were CADEX athletes Brendan Johnston of Australia and Cole Paton of the U.S., both sitting in the top-10 heading into the final race of a season that saw plenty of highlights for both.
“This series throws so much at our equipment, particularly wheels,” Johnston said. “I’ve been so impressed how such a lightweight, high-performance wheel has held up under the most extreme circumstances. I like how wide the rims are and they make the tire interface aerodynamic and also safer in terms of pinch flatting. It’s also great to have ceramic bearings, knowing no watts are lost.”
For the finals at Big Sugar, Johnston was coming off a string of stellar performances. He won the Belgian Waffle Ride Utah in August, finished second at Belgian Waffle Ride Kansas, and made the podium at the sixth round of the Life Time Grand Prix in Trinidad, Colorado. With that run of success, the Australian was a marked man in Arkansas.
A tire puncture at mile 20 put Johnston in a tough position, but he was able to fight back. The tire damage forced him to stop again and make more repairs in the final hour, but again he chased back to put himself in contention.
Johnston got into the final group of 10 that would stay together until the very end. In a close battle for the podium placings, he ended up sprinting for second behind Norwegian Torbjorn Andre Røed. Because Røed is not one of the Life Time series competitors, Johnston earned first place among those contesting the Grand Prix.
“I’m thrilled with my day out in Bentonville for Big Sugar,” Johnston said. “My season has been trending upwards since the midpoint of the year and this was my peak.”
The win moved Johnston up to a final series ranking of seventh overall. “Huge thanks to our whole team and the Giant collective for making the fight at the front possible,” he said.
Meanwhile, Paton was also fighting for a top overall placing in the series. The Washington native has been at the front of the action all year long, excelling in the XC races in particular. He came into the finals with three third-place finishes: at the Sea Otter Classic, Leadville 100 and Chequamegon MTB Festival.
Paton was again in the mix at Big Sugar, battling for the points. He chose to adjust his Giant Revolt Advanced Pro frame to a longer wheelbase with added tire clearance via the flip chip that comes on the frame.
“My goal was to ride with confidence and apply pressure through all the technical sections and it worked, keeping me safely in the lead group all day,” Paton said. “The CADEX AR 35 wheels have done it all for me this season. I’ve used them with 30c slicks for training on the road and 2.2-inch mountain bike tires here for Big Sugar. There’s no better feeling than floating over rough terrain and accelerating out of high-speed corners on these rims.
Like Johnston, Paton made the final selection of riders fighting for the win at Big Sugar. He ended up finishing fifth, just 4 seconds behind Røed’s winning time of 4:53:38.
“I jumped a little early in the finish line sprint and couldn’t quite hold them off, but I’m proud to have executed on the day and finish off what’s been a very consistent season," he said.