A new electronic shifting system has been rumoured to enter the market for several months. FSA has been working on a new product line and although it was said to be wireless, the prototype seen at the start of the 17th stage of the Tour de France had cables for the front and rear derailleurs. Here is a quick glimpse of the system…
“We don’t have a name for it yet,” said a representative for the Taiwanese component maker FSA at the start of stage 17. He was referring to a new groupset that adorned a replica of a Tinkoff-Saxo team-issue Specialized bike.
He couldn’t say much more, preferring for the company’s PR/marketing team to relay that information.
“It’s being tested by the team,” he confirmed, “but it’s not in the race.”
In fact, just beside the bike that the FSA rep was holding – the one that you can see in the photos below, the one with big, bold white letters spelling out ‘Prototype’ – the bike of Alberto Contador was being set up for the race.
Faustino Muñoz is fastidious with his preparation of the bike of the Tinkoff-Saxo team leader and the Spanish pair decided that there’ll be no electronic shifting for the 17th stage , not for ’Bert.
Contador will use Shimano Dura-Ace 9000 for the race to Pra Loup.
“We are not using it at the moment,” said Sean Yates about the FSA shifting system. The DS from the Tinkoff-Saxo team hasn’t tried it himself and he’s not sure if any of the riders have yet.
“I believe they are building up a bike and Steven [de Jongh, another directeur sportif] may be testing it but it’s not in working order at the moment.”
From the start of the year, both Tinkoff-Saxo and Etixx-Quickstep have been using mainly Shimano components but they are said to be teaming up with FSA as their official supplier. This season, the two teams are apparently buying their Shimano parts while they wait for the FSA product to be officially released.
When asked why Contador is using “old-school mechanical shifting”, Yates couldn’t offer a definitive answer but he guessed that it was a decision made in consultation between the mechanic, Muñoz, and the rider. “Apparently it’s no lighter than Di2 but obviously it can go wrong some times with the electronic [shifting] and I guess maybe he wants to avoid that happening.”
The rough roads of the descent of the col d’Allos had mechanics of all teams checking and double-checking the bikes at the start in Digne-les-Bains and although Contador has been using Di2 for much of the season there is a change in his approach to shifting for this stage. It’s also worth noting that he has a considerably sized chain guard attached on the seat tube for the front derailleur.
Anyone remember ‘The Dropped Chain Incident’ of Andy Schleck in the 2010 Tour? (For the record, that was SRAM…)
“I know Fabian [Cancellara] likes to use the mechanical shifting,” said Yates, “because he likes to feel the gears changing. But if it’s not lighter than the electronic, I’m not sure exactly why Alberto is using it.”
Muñoz was too distracted with preparing the bike to offer comment… we’ll find out more in the coming days.
– By Rob Arnold