The silly season where riders and equipment sponsors play an expensive game of musical chairs is well underway for 2024. It looks like BMC will be without a seat in the men’s WorldTour, with Van Rysel taking its spot via the new Decathlon-AG2R La Mondiale outfit.
That announcement also brings what could be the biggest news of all, and no, I’m not talking about the brown shorts. In 2023, AG2R Citröen was the last frontier for Campagnolo in the WorldTour. With the new look French outfit changing to Shimano groupsets and Swiss Side wheels, it begs the question, is this the end of Campagnolo at the pinnacle of the sport?
Campagnolo was once the dominant brand of professional road racing, but its presence has been dwindling for a few years. While they’ve had zero presence in the women’s WorldTour in recent memory, the iconic Italian component manufacturer had as many as four men’s teams riding its equipment in 2021, including the yellow jersey-winning team of UAE.
However, things soon began to derail for the creators of the derailleur. Lotto-Soudal moved to Shimano for 2022, while UAE and Cofidis made the same jump a year later. And now, despite Campagnolo having a flash new wireless 12-speed groupset and competitive wheels, AG2R has jumped across to Shimano, too.
In response to asking about sponsorship plans for 2024, a representative from Campagnolo provided the following statement to Escape Collective.
“Campagnolo can confirm that its partnership with the AG2R Citröen Team has come to an end and that it has amicably parted ways with the team. There is currently no announcement to make about Campagnolo’s partnerships in professional road racing for the 2024 season.“
There is surely a lot at play here, and it’s too early to have firm answers on why Campagnolo, a brand steeped in racing, has seemingly lost its presence at the top level of competition.
No doubt money is always a factor, perhaps the factor. But it’s not always about who is willing to pay the most. Rather, larger original-equipment (OE) level deals typically lay at the root of such decisions, where the sponsoring bike companies want their sponsored pros to ride bikes equipped in ways they can and will sell. This was mentioned as a reason for Lotto-Soudal’s switch to Shimano.
Unfortunately for Campagnolo, it’s had difficulty keeping up on the OE front. Look at the premium and pre-assembled road bikes from any major bike company and you’ll be hard-pressed to find a Campagnolo groupset. Sure, you get the occasional special-edition offering such as Specialized’s S-Works Aethos Campagnolo LTD, the Wilier Filante SLR Ramato, or the Pinarello Dogma F Speedster Silver, but none of these are precisely mainstream options. For a bike brand, sponsoring a WorldTour team isn’t about selling a few special edition bikes, it’s about selling a lot of everyday bikes.
To this point, it appears the 2024 season will be a two-horse race between Shimano and SRAM. Shimano has confirmed with Escape Collective that for 2024 it will officially support the following men’s and women’s WorldTour outfits: Alpecin-Deceuninck (men’s), Groupama-FDJ (men’s), FDJ-Suez (women’s), Ineos Grenadiers (men’s), Soudal Quick-Step (men’s), Team DSM-Firmenich PostNL (men’s and women’s), Fenix-Deceuninck (women’s), and Jayco-Alula (men’s and women’s, but not with Shimano wheels).
Despite that being a relatively short list, Shimano will continue its sheer dominance in the WorldTour due to those deeper OE partnerships. If you ever see off-brand pulley wheels, power meter cranks, brake pads, disc rotors, pedals, or chains in use, then that team is almost certainly supplied groupsets by its sponsoring bike brand and not taking a pay cheque from Shimano.
Meanwhile, rumours point to SRAM growing its sponsorship commitments for the 2024 season. SRAM have long had a significant commitment to the women’s WorldTour, and that doesn’t appear to be slowing for 2024, with five teams confirmed. In the men’s WorldTour, the American company has confirmed it continues with Lidl-Trek, Visma-Lease a Bike, and Movistar. While SRAM provided no confirmation, all the little birdies are chirping that the American company is adding Primož Roglič’s new home, Bora-Hansgrohe to the list, too.
While unconfirmed, we’d previously heard whispers that Campagnolo planned to stay invested in racing, but perhaps do so with fewer (Pro Team level) teams where they can get more valuable product development feedback from the investment and still make headlines in the big events with wild card entries. Either way, unless an unexpected miracle happens in the final hour, it seems Campagnolo’s groupsets, wheels, and even sibling wheel company Fulcrum, won’t be ridden by any 2024 WorldTour team.
Whatever way you slice it, not being in the WorldTour is a big deal for a historic, race-focussed brand as iconic as Campagnolo. Perhaps it doesn’t pay to be at this level, but the perception is what matters most. It’s surely another blow for Campagnolo fans as the brand increasingly fades into being a distant third-place player with a racing presence suddenly comparable to FSA’s groupsets. Fingers crossed 2024 is merely a blip and the Italian brand can return. After all, a brand with an identity built on racing needs to keep racing.
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