|Four letter word|
I’m a fan of Campagnolo and it bothered me to see Liquigas switching to SRAM, when Italy’s top team leaves behind it’s national partner I can’t help feel a tiny pain in my heart. But before you leap to the comments, note I’m not obsessive, I’ve had Shimano before and it’s proved excellent. I’ve yet to meaningfully try SRAM, having only ridden it around a car park to test the shifting. The point isn’t the difference between the groupsets, it’s that they are all excellent these days.
Sentimentality aside, note Italy does not rhyme with Campagnolo. Visit Tuscany or Lombardy on a Sunday morning and my unscientific survey suggests the typical local cyclist is likely to be riding Shimano. Anyway here are the World Tour teams and their bikes for 2011 sorted by groupset supplier:
|Omega Pharma – Lotto||Canyon||Campagnolo|
|Quick Step||Eddy Merckx||Campagnolo|
|BMC Racing Team||BMC||Shimano|
|AG2R La Mondiale||Kuota||SRAM|
The most obvious point is that the duopoly of Shimano and Campagnolo has been smashed, at least when it comes to marketing efforts. Campagnolo has four teams, Shimano has six squads, with SRAM leading with eight. It’s worth noting that sponsorship decisions can be local, for example the French distributor for Kuota shares the cost of backing AG2R with the manufacturer itself. Also some of the teams are fully sponsored by a manufacturer but others have looser ties, choosing separate wheel suppliers and fitting SRM power meters and even other products, like FSA or Rotor chainsets.
The real battle between these companies isn’t to equip the pro teams though, it is to be the OEM supplier for as many bike manufacturers as possible. In plain English this means equipping as many mass-market bikes as possible that get sold as a whole package rather than bespoke buyer who picks a frame and the parts to go with it, a niche end of the market.
I’m interested in the future of Campagnolo. Losing Italy’s biggest team is a blow and I wonder where the company will be in 10 years time. It’s a bit excessive to look at it with a geo-political or macroeconomic telescope but it’ll be interesting business case study to see how the mid-size European manufacturer competes with its Asian rivals. I suspect it will focus ever more on the top end of the market – Super Record is already the most expensive groupset going – but investing in R&D and ever more refined manufacturing plant, eg composites, requires a lot of capital.