Every so often I run across a WWWTPD cyclist. You know the type, they look at what the pro teams are doing, and say out loud to those who do their own research that all of that effort is a waste of time. You should just do what the World Tour (WT) teams do. Performance is so important to the pros that they wouldn’t possibly compromise on the products they use. I really struggle with that concept.
First, hats off to the sponsors. Clearly that is marketing money well spent. I’m sure that the brands will be pleased. Second, I am not arguing that the pro teams only choose products based on what they can get sponsored. I am saying that we don’t know which products are there because a brand paid for them to be there, and which products they are using because they are “the best”.
Before you start yelling, I submit the following video. It’s a great watch all the way through, but the part I want you to pay attention to starts around 2:29. I’ll wait.
Now, I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but that doesn’t seem like an optimal product to me. That feels like a dangerous product. Filtering that through the lens of WT level bike handling skill, versus my level of bike handling skill, potentially a very dangerous product. It’s not the only example of a team getting paid to use a product, them doing it, and it not being great for the riders, or in the case of Aqua Blue, the team.
Just in case you don’t all remember Aqua Blue; 3T and SRAM sponsored the team with 1x road bikes. I’m not a fan of 1x, but I can see how in a specialist application it’s potentially a better way to get it done. But, in a general application, and definitely for something like a WT stage race, it’s not even close to the right tool for the job. It’s very possible that it killed the team.
Adam Blythe says the 3T Strada one-by bike is a key reason for the demise of the Aqua Blue Sport team.
Blythe, who has ridden for the team since its inception in the 2017 season, says that he still doesn’t know much about why the team folded, saying “it’s just gone to crap.”
If I were petty, I could go on to mention Spinergy wheels, Bontrager tires, Shimano power meters, Canyon or Bianchi handlebars, and the whole Campy 12-speed “Chaingate” thing. Wait, did I say “if” ;P?
Again, just in case it got missed before, I am not saying that every product is used for a financial reason. I am saying we don’t know which are the good products, and which are the paid product placements. We don’t know if that helmet, bike frame, tire, wheel, or pedal is there because it’s the fastest thing since sliced bread or because Corima, MET, Shimano, Wahoo, SRAM, Trek, Specialized, ENVE, etc. paid for it to be used as advertising.
Saying we should just do what the pros do is really bad argument. Well, unless the goal is to look pro. If you just want to look pro, and don’t care about safety or speed, then they are right – do what the pros do. You will, by definition, look pro. But please let me know, so I can stay in front of you ;).
I do enjoy some pot stirring, so I will say out loud that I suspect that the answer is more towards the “paid” side, than “best” side. Right up to the point where there’s a problem. There isn’t usually a HUGE difference in performance between things. Most pro teams don’t have a massive budget for tires, wheels, brake rotors, frames, etc. If they can get those things “for free” and they are “good enough”, they are going to use them. It wouldn’t be efficient to turn that away. I don’t blame them for doing that. But we need to be honest about the fact that Jumbo-Visma doesn’t use Cervélo bikes because they are the best. They use them because Pon, who owns Cervélo, is a sponsor, and soon to be title sponsor.