Director Stephen Frears recently described the Tour de France as too monumental to film in long shot. He simply couldn’t fit it in to a single frame. Instead, he had to content himself with close-ups. A similar approach might be required for Campagnolo.
The Italian marque is arguably the most revered in all of cycling and its presence at the Rouleur Classic, now less than a fortnight away, is among the most significant, even at a show that can identify Merckx and Contador, Colnago and Lightweight among its guests.
How, then, to begin? We’ll follow what might be called the Frears method, and zoom in. Alex Dowsett’s successful attempt at the Hour Record in May offers a prism through which the brand can be viewed.
Dowsett is familiar with Campagnolo equipment. The Vicenza marque retains a presence in the UCI WorldTour through its sponsorship of the Movistar team, for whom the Englishman plies his trade. Campagnolo’s road palmarès is too comprehensive to recount here, but Dowsett’s success offers a window on the versatility of his supplier.
The most significant item to note are the Ghibli Ultra wheels used by Dowsett in Manchester, a hoop developed specifically for his Hour Record attempt, but which has since passed into production. Note the absence of the word ‘mass’. Every set of Ghibli road wheels is made by only one man: Franco Rigolan, aka Mr Ghibli. The same is true of the Ghibli Ultra.
Reducing the revolving weight is the most efficient way to make any bike faster and its reassuring that even a company as advanced as Campangolo holds to the truism. Dowsett’s front wheel tipped the scale at 800g; the rear at 820g.
Dowsett’s 52.937km record was broken by Bradley Wiggins, who used a specially machined chainring for his attempt. Campagnolo deployed its considerable ingenuity on Dowsett’s chainring, concentrating the deployment of material on its inner edge, the better to resist flex and optimise the chainline. Campagnolo presented Dowsett with three chainrings for use on the day, in 54t, 55t, and 56t variations.
Dowsett rode an adapted version of the Speedmax CF road time-trial bike, made as a one-off by Canyon Bikes. One Campagnolo insider remembers that the collaboration on Dowsett’s bike was a close affair, with regular exchanges of information.
“Basically, it was Canyon incorporating what Campagnolo needed from a frame to make the wheel faster and Campagnolo making a wheel that fitted this application.”
Dowsett’s successful first attempt at The Hour was not Campagnolo’s, of course. Some 42 years earlier, minds in Vincenza had concentrated on the small matter of Eddy Merckx’s attempt in Mexico.
The surface of the Cannibal’s aptly-named Record chainring was milled to reduce weight, and even some structural elements removed. The matching Record seatpost was drilled on its trailing edge.
Little wonder then that Campagnolo welcomed the opportunity to again become involved in an attempt on cycling’s most enduring record when Dowsett declared his interest.
Campagnolo will exhibit Alex Dowsett's Hour Record bike and other componentry at the Rouleur Classic, the world's finest road cycling exhibition, to be held at Vinopolis, London Bridge, from November 19 to 21, 2015. For more information, visit rouleurclassic.cc.