In the wake of spy photos showing a new SRAM eTap group, it looks like world champ Wout Van Aert is riding the new components as well.

Is it electrical tape season already? Wout Van Aert seems to have been riding some new goods from SRAM, if his brake levers are any indication. The SRAM-style levers were blacked out with electrical tape, presumably to hide a prototype design, as Van Aert got his world champion’s jersey dirty at the European Cyclocross Championships.

It’s almost impossible to discern anything meaningful from the photos, but the lever ergonomics do appear to be changed slightly from the previous generation. The hoods themselves appear to be unchanged or only slightly slimmed.

If you look closely, you can see that Wout Van Aert’s levers don’t have any SRAM branding and are a slightly different shape. Photo: Getty Images

CyclingTips got some spy shots of the new group at the Saitama Criterium in Japan. Based on those photos, it appears SRAM has gone 12-speed. But that’s only the beginning: The new group may have an integrated Quarq power meter, one-piece chainrings, and possibly even a clutch rear derailleur.

Since Van Aert is rolling the new group on the cyclocross course, it seems all but certain the clutch-style rear derailleur is in the mix. That’s good news for cyclocrossers who want to eliminate cables from their ‘cross bikes but have, up until now, chosen other groups for the chain retention afforded by a clutch.

That begs the question: Is a 1x eTap group in the works?

Clutch-style rear derailleurs certainly provide some benefits to 2x setups, but they’re particularly useful for 1x setups that require extra chain tension to prevent dropped chains. If the rear derailleur now has a clutch, it is perhaps likely that SRAM updated the servo motor within the rear derailleur to compensate for the extra force the clutch creates.

It appears that Van Aert was riding the new SRAM components at the World Cup in Switzerland. The crank seems to have a Quarq powermeter in a new configuration. Photo: Luc Claessen/Getty Images

VeloNews reached out to SRAM to get more details on the group. Michael Zellmann, SRAM’s senior public relations manager, said, “We can neither confirm nor deny” the group’s existence and details.

VeloNews is headed to California in January to spend some time with SRAM and get the skinny on the new goods, so we’ll hopefully have more details then.