Pro bike: Jose Antonio Hermida’s Merida Ninety-Nine 9.Team

The Absa Cape Epic ride of a former World Champion

With a marquee full of tired Absa Cape Epic riders, Jose Antonio Hermida Ramos had the whole place laughing. His relaxed manner – combined with consistent race results – has made the 36-year old Spaniard popular with the crowds.


A 2010 cross country world champion and a top-10 finisher at the past four Olympic games (and 2004 silver medalist), he entered the 2015 Absa Cape Epic with Multivan Merida teammate Rudi Van Houts in the hope of a solid general classification result. Sadly, it wasn’t their year, with Hermida plagued by stomach issues for much of the race. The pair finished just off the podium in a still impressive fourth.

José antonio hermida looking rather wrecked following stage four of the 2015 absa cape epic: josé antonio hermida looking rather wrecked following stage four of the 2015 absa cape epic

The 2015 Absa Cape Epic was a tough day at the office for Hermida (image credit: Nick Muzik/Cape Epic/SPORTZPICS)

Last time we caught up with Hermida, he mentioned that his usual preference is for a hardtail – except in endurance races. “I’m a hardtail rider, but at stage races such as Cape Epic I use full suspension. On those longer races where you’re often improvising to the changing terrain, the dual suspension affords you that extra control and comfort. But, in a cross country race where we learn every rock and root, the acceleration of a hardtail makes it the obvious choice,“ Hermida said last year.

Bearing this in mind, it wasn’t surprising to see Hermida and the rest of the team on the Merida Ninety-Nine 9.Team. Gossip has it that this full-carbon, 100mm travel, dual suspension 29er will receive a major overhaul for 2016, but the team were solely racing the current 2015 version at the Cape Epic.

Last year, we weighed Hermida’s Big Nine CF Team hardtail at a competitively light 8.8kg – a fair difference when compared to the 11.4kg of his Cape Epic ride. The spares, GoPro and other accessories attached to the bike are mostly to blame, but it also shows just how rugged and punishing the Cape Epic can be on equipment, and that riders must use appropriate components.

A view of the cockpit which clearly shows hermida’s use of a seperate front and rear lockout levers:

Each hand controls a suspension lockout – it’s an interesting choice given a single-lever option exists

While the likes of Karl Platt and Alban Lakata had their RockShox suspension set up with a single ‘Full-Sprint’ lockout lever, Hermida unusually uses two separate levers for independent control of his suspension. We suspect that this is down to his hardtail leanings, because this setup would enable him to lock out the rear shock alone at times. 


Hermida testing his suspension during the 2015 Absa Cape Epic (yes, that’s the current Olympic champion, Jaroslav Kulhavy – Hermida is blowing past)

Just as with his hardtail, the bigger 29er wheel means some modifications have been made to get the handlebars lower. This includes removing the headset topcap and running the stem directly on the top bearing. As we mentioned above, the Cape Epic is notoriously harsh on components, so we suspect this headset bearing will have been replaced during the event.

Like the riders on the top two steps of the Cape Epic podium, Hermida was using SRAM’s XX1 single-ring drivetrain. Where we’ve previously seen him race cross-country on a large 36t chainring, the Cape Epic had him spinning a smaller 32t ring. An XX1 Gripshift shifter handled Merida’s moves through the 10-42t cassette.

Despite being sponsored by Fulcrum wheels, only the rear hoop of Hermida’s Cape Epic bike was actually from Fulcrum – a RED Carbon 29. Up front, the RockShox RS-1 fork dictates a specific hub and so a SRAM ‘Predicitive Steering’ hub was laced to what looked like a Stan’s Race Gold rim.

Rubber durability is key at the epic and so hermida was using the maxxis ikon in 2.2in width. these triple-compound tyres are tubeless-ready and feature additional puncture resistance:

The Maxxis Ikon is a durable choice

Hermida had previously told us he uses a tube in the front to ensure the tyre doesn’t roll when cornering hard. Given the thorns that cause havoc for nearly all riders, we’d assume that Hermida had both his Maxxis Ikon tyres set up tubeless and with plenty of sealant. In a 2.2in width, these models feature a triple-compound rubber and additional puncture protection.

The contact points are no different to that of his hardtail. The saddle is a custom-covered Prologo Scratch with CPC grippers on the surface. Sitting between his alloy Procraft bar ends is a 660mm wide handlebar, held by a 110mm length stem of the PRC (Procraft Racing Components) label.

An elastic and velcro ‘speedsleev’ holds important spares for ready access:

A SpeedSleev is smaller and far quicker to use than a traditional saddle bag

Hermida has called upon various accessories to handle water and spares portage. A Specialized SWAT EMT multi-tool sits beneath his bottle cage. An elastic and velcro ‘SpeedSleev’ holds a latex tube, CO2 and tyre lever beneath his saddle. Plugging his handlebars is a Sahmurai Sword tubeless puncture repair kit. Lastly, a second bottle cage sits off his seatpost with clamps from KCNC.

Complete bike specifications

  • Frame: Merida Ninety-Nine 9.Team, size medium (17”)
  • Fork: RockShox RS-1, 100mm, Sprint lockout
  • Rear shock: RockShox Monarch XX, Sprint lockout
  • Headset: Sealed, topcap removed
  • Stem: Procraft PRC 110mm
  • Handlebar: Procraft PRC Carbon 660mm
  • Tape: ESI Racers Edge
  • Front brake: SRAM XX
  • Rear brake: SRAM XX
  • Brake levers: SRAM XX
  • Rear derailleur: SRAM XX1
  • Shift levers: SRAM XX1 Gripshift      
  • Cassette: SRAM XX1 10-42T
  • Chain: SRAM XX1
  • Crankset: SRAM XX1, direct-mount X-Sync 32T chainring, 175mm
  • Bottom bracket: press-fit
  • Pedals: Time ATAC XC12 Titan Carbon
  • Front wheel: SRAM ‘Predictive Steering’ hub, Stan’s Race Gold rim
  • Rear wheel: Fulcrum Red Carbon 29
  • Front tyre: Maxxis Ikon 2.2in 3C EXO Tubeless-ready
  • Rear tyre: Maxxis Ikon 2.2in 3C EXO Tubeless-ready
  • Saddle: Prologo Scratch Pro CPC nack
  • Seatpost: Procraft PRC carbon, straight
  • Bottle cages: Arundel Mandible, Specialized Zee carbon (seat post mounted with KCNC clamps)
  • Extras: Procraft bar ends; Specialized EMT Cage Mount MTB tool; Garmin computer (not pictured); SpeedSleev with latex tube, tyre lever and Co2

Critical measurements

  • Rider’s height: 1.72m (5ft 7in)
  • Rider’s weight: 65kg (143lb)
  • Saddle height from BB, c-t: 725mm
  • Saddle setback: 45mm
  • Seat tube length (c-t): 432
  • Tip of saddle to center of bar: 555mm
  • Head tube length: 100mm
  • Saddle-to-bar drop: 30mm
  • Top tube length (effective): 604mm
  • Total bicycle weight: 11.14kg (24.51lb)

For a closer look at this ride, click, swipe or use your keyboard arrows in our gallery up top