The 2012 World Tour calendar begins this Sunday at the Santos Tour Down Under, and with it comes the international debut of all eighteen ProTeam squads — and their brand new gear.
The offseason saw multiple mergers (Leopard-Trek+Radioshack, Omega Pharma+Quickstep), disintegrations (Highroad, Omega Pharma-Lotto), and a new face (GreenEdge) gain ProTeam status. That means we have a pretty good mix of continuing sponsors, sponsor swaps, new brands and those simply returning to road racing’s top tier after a few years away.
Sponsoring a ProTeam is an expensive proposal, certainly not one taken lightly by any brand. Each rider will require at least two road frames per season, plus a time trial frame, and will need even more if he crashes. Drivetrains need to be kept in perfect order, so teams go through mountains of components every year.
Plus, landing big teams these days costs more than just a heap of product. To have the honor of associating with the cycling’s best athletes, major teams require a hefty chunk of change along with the usual shipments of frames or components from a sponsor.
Occasionally, though, component sponsorship isn’t sponsorship at all. Some teams prefer to buy what they need, as Garmin-Barracuda is doing this year with their component groups, and Highroad famously did with their wheels for the last few years. Sky looks to be buying most of their wheels again this year as well, though Shimano’s PRO brand is their official disc wheel sponsor.
Who’s on what
Shimano remains the dominant component supplier, equipping 10 of the 18 squads. SRAM has five, and Campagnolo drops from four to three in 2012. In the war of wheel sponsors, Shimano holds a slight edge with its sponsorship of five teams (if we count Sky). Garmin-Barracuda will still be rolling on Mavic hoops, as will Liquigas-Cannondale, and the French wheelmaker has added Katusha as well. Zipp retains Saxo Bank, and gains Omega Pharma-Quickstep. Campagnolo has gone with a packaged approach, providing wheels for all three of the teams riding its drivetrains.
Specialized retained its hallmark Saxo Bank squad, and with it Albert Contador, and remains the only company sponsoring three ProTeams. Pinarello keeps its two teams in 2012, with both Sky and Movistar on the Dogma for another year.
At first glance it appears that Specialized and SRAM have some sort of agreement in place, as all three Specialized sponsored squads (Astana, Omega Pharma-Quickstep, and Saxo Bank) are also riding SRAM this year. The latter two are also in Zipp wheels, bars, and seatposts; their bikes will be nearly identical except for the color schemes used.
However, SRAM road PR manager Michael Zellman says that isn’t the case. “Every relationship was built uniquely,” he explained. “Saxo bank, for example, was on Zipp before we ever bought them. It’s not any special relationship with Specialized.”
The rest of the wheel sponsors have only one team each. Reynolds is staying with Ag2r-La Mondiale, Corima retains Astana, Easton will still equip BMC, Bontrager joins parent company Trek at Radioshack-Nissan, and FFWD sticks with its roots with the Dutch Vacansoleil-DCM squad.
I included clothing in the 2012 list, something I may not have done last year, due to the influx of aero clothing technology into pro racing. (For a bit more on that, pick up our 2012 Buyers Guide, and check out page 24). It has slowly dawned on the industry that making the rider aerodynamic is just as important (actually, more important) than reducing drag caused by the bike. Almost every top clothing manufacturer has some sort of aero clothing option now, but some are definitely better than others.
In 2012, aero-jersey pioneers Castelli will be supplying clothes for Garmin-Barracuda once again. Italian manufacturer Santini, the folks that make the pink jersey for the Giro d’Italia, will be adorning GreenEdge, Vacansoleil, and Katusha. Vermarc sticks with their local teams, Lotto-Belisol and Omega Pharma-Quickstep. Moa and subsidiary Nalini will cover FDJ, Lampre, and Movistar. Hincapie will dress their namesake at BMC, and Exte-Ondo is sticking with Euskaltel-Euskadi. Liquigas will be using Sugoi, Rabobank will use AGU, and Radioshack-Nissan will be in the Craft gear used by Leopard-Trek last year. Adidas will be making Sky’s simple kits, and Sportful will cover Saxo in crotch eagles.
For kit and bike photos, plus a table outlining all of the above, check out the gallery. All photos are from the teams, for now. Look closely and you’ll see a few shots of the new SRAM Red and finally-ready-for-market Campagnolo EPS. Check back for more: we’ll be providing closer looks at the bikes of the World Tour as the season rolls out over the next few weeks.