The sprint star opts for the new 10-speed Centaur shifters
By Matt Pacocha
Robbie McEwen’s bike was lined up unassumingly, mid-pack, among his teammates’ rigs in front of a roped off and guarded Silence-Lotto bus. All of the extra protection was meant to protect the race favorite — McEwen’s teammate Cadel Evans — but McEwen’s bike benefited. He was suppose to start the race on Campagnolo’s new 11-speed group, but instead he unassumingly rode away from the team bus on a 10-speed bike.
His mechanic confirmed that he planned to start on a bike with a 10-speed component group. The parts were mixed and matched of high and mid-range components from Campagnolo, including a set of the never-before-seen 2009 Centaur 10-speed shifters, devoid of logos, but with the same ergonomic shape and Vari-Cushion hoods as the 11-speed groups. The shifters were mated to a 2008 10-speed Record drivetrain and an 11-speed Record crank.
Campagnolo had seven riders signed up to ride its Record 11-speed group in this year’s race. Of the following, McEwen is the only one of the seven to be spotted without the new components at the start.
Alessandro Ballan – Lampre
Stin Devolder – Quick Step
Laurent Lefèvre – Bouygues Telecom
Robbie McEwen – Silence-Lotto
Maxime Monfort – Cofidis
Oscar Pereiro – Caisse d’Epargne
Manuel Quinzato – Liquigas
It was assumed that the ceramic bearings, new shifters and tighter gear ratios were enough to sway a sprinter to ride the parts. Maybe if Super Record were offered it would have closed the deal for McEwen.
Each of the riders signed up to debut the 11-speed groups was given two full groups and multiple cassettes, which fit directly to a Campy 10-speed freehub. The cassettes are offered with 11-25 and 12-27 cog ratios for the Tour. Campagnolo offered additional support to the adopting riders, by equipping Mavic’s Service Course cars and motorcycles with additional 11-speed cassettes and wheels.
Meeting with McEwen’s mechanics two days prior to the start of the race they divulged that he had three 11-speed bikes available for the race, one to race with and one for each team car. However, during the team’s press conference for Evans and McEwen and a launch of two new bikes from Ridley the day before the race, the Centaur 10-speed shifters took center stage, if unnoticed by most, affixed to his new Noah road bike.
It is easy to imagine, that even with confidence in the quality and performance of the new components, that the issue of on the road compatibility could sway a rider from heading out on the new parts. Riders using 11-speed need to get the right cassette in the event of a rear puncture, so taking a teammate’s wheel is out of the question.
Time will tell if the issue of an extra gear will remain a mark against the new groups or if it just caused a case of wet feet for one rider on the eave of the sport’s biggest event.
If nothing else it’s an incredible testament to the prowess of the 2009 Centaur group.