2011 Team Bikes… the decline of Campagnolo?

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:

Lampre-ISD Willier Campagnolo
Movistar Pinarello Campagnolo
Omega Pharma – Lotto Canyon Campagnolo
Quick Step Eddy Merckx Campagnolo
BMC Racing Team BMC Shimano
Euskatel-Euskadi Orbea Shimano
HTC-Highroad Specialized Shimano
Luxembourg Project Trek Shimano
Rabobank Giant Shimano
Sky Pinarello Shimano
AG2R La Mondiale Kuota SRAM
Team Garmin-Cervélo Cervélo SRAM
Katusha Focus SRAM
Liquigas Cannondale SRAM
Astana Specialized SRAM
Saxobank Sungard Specialized SRAM
Radioshack Trek SRAM
Vacansoleil Ridley 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.

39 thoughts on “2011 Team Bikes… the decline of Campagnolo?”

  1. I've heard some bad things about how Campagnolo is run, at least in terms of their marketing. I also had a friend who worked there who was let go in a really lame way: they kept saying "we'll renew your contract", but never did.

    Those are just a few minor data points. Hopefully they're not representative of the overall state of the firm, and, if they are, hopefully they'll turn things around.

    I'm happy about SRAM, too; it's good to see another strong competitor in that space.

  2. SRAM's an American rival, rather than Asian isn't it? OK probably manufactured in Asia, but who isn't these days (most Campag is just badged up in Italy from what I'd heard)

    Campagnolo's seem to be that they believe that their heritage is enough to keep them afloat as a business. I don't think it will, other than as a niche brand who price themselves out of the wider bike market.

    At the moment, the only OEM that they seem to be doing well with or growing is their Fulcrum wheels.

    They just don't seem to have delivered a groupset that makes sense at the entry level compared to Shimano Tiagra/105 or SRAM Rival/Apex. And the aftermarket cost of replacement parts for Campag are high by comparison.

  3. Alex: yes, it's US-owned and started there but manufacturing is done in Asia, essentially China. Just like Shimano is Japanese but also produces in China these days.

  4. Actually, SRAM is made in Taiwan. Big difference for those of us who live here, whether or not we are Taiwanese. (Very touchy and politically sensitive topic in this region of the world)

  5. Thanks muhua33, it is all made in Taiwan? I'm fully aware of the political sensitivity there, I just thought a lot of SRAM was made in the PRC? Happy to be wrong here.

  6. the team market share, is being bought. As you say, iyt is about equipping brands as OEM – but in order to influence consumer expenditure, SRAM & Shimano actually contirbute finances to the teams as well as product. The public perception of SRAM occurred rapidly as a direct result of this marketing – (that & Lance Armstrong is a major SRAM shareholder).

    Shimano has always contributed financially to teams to gain – brand attachment, that and its keen / aggressive oem pricing.

    Something that Campagnolo has not undertaken, and if you compare the USA pricing for Campagnolo – v – Europe, you can see where it has failed.

  7. I am pretty sure SRAM is supplying Garmin-Cervelo next year. Look at your article on Farrar's bike – Rotor cranks and SRAM red shifters (can't make out the rest)

  8. During one of my many fruitless shopping trips to find bearings for my Campy wheels, I lamented out loud in a bike shop that it was getting harder and harder to find Campy parts in the U.S. The bike shop owner quickly told me that it isn't just a U.S. problem. He said that Shimano sells more gear in Italy than Campy sells globally. I haven't been able to confirm the accuracy of that factoid but it's seeming more and more plausible to me. I love Campy (the history, the design) but I'm switching to SRAM this spring. I want to build up my workshop and don't want to spend tons on tools that only work on a boutique or dying bike brand. I'm also sick of searching for parts.

  9. I wonder if the issue is that Campagnolo just doesn't have the capital to complete with Shimano and SRAM in the sponsorship stakes. Especially with them looking to roadtest and market the electronic group.

  10. I am sticking with pedigree and quality. My new bike will be equipped with Campy centaur! It just shows how cut throat the market is when it comes to suppliers and their products. Of course, smaller players like SRAM are making better stuff to compete with the big boys.

  11. This was about 5 years ago, but I once had a Champag rep tell me it was the grandson or nephew…whoever is in charge these days. It was he who was driving the company in the wrong direction. Investing in things like automobile racing wheels and later approving the poor choice of graphics we were lamenting at the time. As well as spending too much money on R&D and not enough on marketing.
    I read in Bicycle Retailer not too long ago that Campag was lowering the prices of their employee purchasing program to get more shop guys on the parts. I think to hopefully stimulate more interest in the brand, from the inside out.

  12. One minor factual detail to pick up on first – Di2 is more expensive than SR. That said, there is definitely something in the hypothesis you pose; Where is Campag going?

    The points that I am considering is that historically, Campag has always had very close ties with Colnago. However, when it comes to the all new electronic gruppo it's Pinarello that gets the nod (this says a lot to me – given the history and the current brand positioning of Colnago & Pinarello).

    Also, being a Campag man at heart (all my road bikes run Campag), I even have to question my own sanity – why on earth am i waiting for something "electronic" & "italian", on the basis it could be better than Di2!!!

    One final point. Economics. The USA does one thing better than any nation on earth – and that is play poker. Over the course of the last 4 years, the US has played a poker game of biblical proportions, and has so far managed to mitigate a massive amount of it's internal economic liabilities by exporting fear in many forms. This means that the Euro (Campag) and Yen (Shimano) are now relatively very expensive to the greenback (SRAM + the multitude of US cycle component manufacturers that are emerging). The (near term ) future of bikes is American….

  13. I started riding Campagnolo in 2004, after a lifetime of Shimano. I was for the most part satisfied with Campy for a few years, until around 2007 when they started to make tweaks to the groups that were not well thought out. First salvo was the the QuickShift front derailleur, it sucked. The action might have been slightly lighter but it required more lever travel. This led to more front derailleur tweaks in 2008, and then again with the introduction of 11spd in 2009. But where Campy really lost me was with the introduction of 11spd. I just did not understand why they went for it when 10spd is the current market standard. It seemed like a desperate response to the entry of SRAM into the market.

    Me, I stocked up on Campy 10spd parts and I am still burning through them. But last year I bought a Shimano equipped bike for the first time since 2003, and in 2011 I will be racing on SRAM. And as my Campy stocks fade away I will be moving towards using either Shimano or SRAM on all my bikes.

    I was also shocked to see Liquigas switching to SRAM, with Italian winners of 2 GTs on the team and the biggest Italian team in existence to boot. If Campy was going to keep any team it should have been Liquigas. In terms of team sponsorship, I think Campagnolo is probably just not able to sponsor more teams at the top level. Their lack of market share in OEM and overall group sales has to mean they are lower in net revenue compared to SRAM and Shimano, who both also have MTB to bolster their coiffeurs. I think if Campy could sponsor more Pro Team road, they would.

  14. I heard this is a very Italian problem.

    Besides the fact that the current Campagnolo head might be leading the company into the wrong direction, I know from other industry branches that Italian companies often just don't want to grow. They want to keep it at a family business level and that is usually stuck somewhere in the ineffective regions of company sizes, too big to just live from regional markets but too small to compete against global players.

  15. Maybe Liquigas' change to SRAM has more to do with Cannondale than with the fortunes of Campagnolo.

    Cannondale stepped up a level and, as a US/Canadian company with a big US market, I think it's reasonable that they would want to see Liquigas riders on SRAM components since SRAM is more popular than Campagnolo in the US. I just think SRAM excites US consumers more than Campagnolo, and I think Cannondale would prefer "the same bike Basso and Nibali ride" to be SRAM equipped.

  16. beev: people are still worried about Italian electronic thanks to worrisome Alfa Romeo cars and Ducati motorbikes in the 1980s but this is over! That said I see how electronic shifting could be great for a TT bike but less so for the road, certainly the mountains.

    hamncheeze: I have 11 speed and it's great. First the shifting is superb but on a more personal level I live in a hilly place and having 12-25 is very good. I can race on the flat one day and then the mountains the next and it's all covered.

    anonymous: yes, Italy has some great mid-size businesses but struggles to produce world leaders. That said, it does have some great companies with fantastic export potential.

    Nicholas: that was my private hypothesis. The arrival of Cannondale has seen them hire King and Duggan as well and the point of this is to sell more bikes into the US.

  17. Colnago is more aligned with Shimano these days.
    In the early 90's they took manufacturing steps which included outsourcing some frames to the far east. This is reflected in the bicycle groupsets they offer within their range. Same reason, Pro Teams they support, are generally fitted Shimano.
    Shimano gruppo pricing for teams (yes, some are obliged too pay) is @ 20-25% less wholesale.

  18. inner ring – i think we are seeing somewhat of a convergence in terms of road and TT in many respects. (aero road frames, rider positioning etc). this is also spilling over to component interaction with the rider – i.e. developments are underway (at cervelo to name but one) to incorporate human data (power output, heart rate etc), correlate this a database of the riders performance profile, and integrate this with electronic componentry (like Di2) to produce optimal results. harmony between man and machine? remains to be seen, especially as perhaps the last thing anyone needs in a given situation, is the bike shifting on you automatically – "You will ride 53×15 at 92rpm…."

    btw – i've ridden Campag for 25 years, and S-R 11 is awesome. Whilst i respect shimano immensely – especially on mountain bikes and fishing poles – for me it would be near blasphemy sticking it on something exotic and Italian!

  19. Squadra: yes, worth reminding people that some teams pay to use Shimano. I think Saxo did last year.

    beev: I wondered about that but frankly I have a brain. It is a good technology for a city bike but an experienced racer knows when to shift gears. Formula 1 cars don't have automatic gearboxes.

  20. Current bike (Pinarello as it happens) had to be Campy, if only to get those high school visions of immaculately polished aluminum out of my system once and for all.

    That said, it's very finicky, expensive and hard to keep in spares (is that Italian, or what?), so it'll be hard to stick with them forever.

  21. Beside the spare parts price and availability problem Campagnolo also seem to have a delivery problem when it comes to bike manufacturer. I'm often in contact with one of these manufacturer who's given up on Campagnolo – not because of the quality, but mainly because of the late delivery situation. The high price is of course also part of it, but as far as I can tell not the main reason for not producing any bikes with Campagnolo in 2011 as they did in 2010.

  22. A question & a comment:

    Who pays for the kit that pro teams use? Different arrangements for different teams? Can any insiders outline this to me?

    F1 technology is not a great comparision to racing bikes. They are in the space age by comparison ( & necessity I guess). They don't have gear boxes that shift themselves but they do have indicators on their steering wheels as each gear approaches its limit. Plus launch control, traction control, stability control……although the rules change every year, the drivers are given as many aids as possible.

  23. What I’m curious about is how truly sincere are these teams that have chosen SRAM? Have they “made the leap” due to a true love and appreciation for the unique engineering and performance of the DoubleTap, or is this a produced script brought to them by the lowest bidder? I’d like to think that these teams are choosing SRAM because they sincerely wanted that groupo on their race machines and not because SRAM was able to get them more for their money. On a more local front, I can’t tell you how many cycling comrades approach me (and my Campy-clad machine) to tell me that if only they could justify the extra expense, they’d have built their bikes up with Campy. Even colleagues in the industry consistently regard Campy as the benchmark of quality and performance. They’d choose it if they could afford it. I don’t really listen too closely when I hear the “it’s lighter and cheaper” line, when I know that that’s simply a financial statement simply spoken in hopes of easing the disappointment of not having the preferred stuff on their bikes.

    SRAM does perform very well – it’s ergo, quick, and truly aids the cyclist while in the heat of the moment – sprinting or climbing. The quality of SRAM is something to question much of the time – perhaps why SRAM’s warranty department is well-manned and quick to produce replacements. Can’t complain about that! I do know that the rough and tough miles on my Force-built cross bike have given me a durable, consistent performance. Can’t complain there!

    Why doesn’t Campy step up – on both the OEM and Pro Tour scene? Something tells me that they are capable, but just not aggressive enough – as, say, SRAM? The dudes at SRAM want to catch up to the decades and decades of cycling heritage and innovation that was faithfully laid down by both Campy and Shimano. Their marketing screams this loud and clear. Both Campy and Shimano seem to be the quiet, older brothers who sit back, knowing that people will come to them sooner or later. I would like to see Campy step it up – money spent on innovation and engineering is good, very good, but now you have to SELL that to us, the consumer. Take that historically rich heritage that brought us so many incredible performances from greats such as Merckx and Indurain and capitalize on that – market the crap out of yourselves, Campy! Please! Then put your equipment on bikes – OEM the crap out of yourselves. Find 2-3 brands and get your stuff on their bikes! Then flood Velonews and ProCycling with attractive, inspiring ads that not only capture our attention to your benchmark in quality and innovation, but also inspire us to the point of insisting that we need that Italian-bred stuff on our bikes – NOW! Take a small lesson from the new kids on the block (SRAM) and put your product on their bikes – plain and simple. The Schlecks should be on SR11! They should be on the new electric! Super Record should be on those American made Treks – how great would that be?! American cyclists would have no choice but to stand and take notice. I’m still dumb-founded with the Bissell Cycling Team and how they continue to choose Campy – I’m happily dumb-founded, really. They seem to perform just fine with the stuff – why not!?! After all, it is designed to bring you the best shifts possible!

    I realize thatI may be off on a tangent here, but getting back to the point, there simply is no reason why Campy cannot be right there with the “New Kids on the Block” and support a field of Pro Tour teams! Create attractive bids that these teams cannot refuse, but rather, happily and enthusiastically choose and then enjoy. Then capitalize on that by incorporating them into your ads – “I’m Fabian Cancellara, and I choose 11, Super Record 11, that is.”

    I like the sound of that.

  24. Forthelove: nice enthusiasm. To answer the first question, it’s $$$/€€€s and not teams picking the best gears. The lack of deep pockets and financial backers means they can’t “make the leap” to funding so many teams.

  25. Thank you! I wasn’t sure if my late entry was going to be read, but I had to type something as it was weighing heavy. Also wanted to ask/add, didn’t Cofidis make the leap from Shimano to Campy this season? I think so, but I could be wrong? Aside from the group, their 695’s are looking very, very inspiring to say the least. My best to you!

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