This article originally appeared here at SRAM.com. SRAM is a proud sponsor of the Leadville Race Series.
Top pros are like the rest of us. They get itchy Instagram fingers. Get a tricked out bike, post a photo.
But, until last week, the world’s best had to wait to share that they were among the first on SRAM RED eTap AXS™.
That’s the situation several of our top pros were in at this month’s 2019 UCI World Cyclocross Championships in Bogense, Denmark. Testing components with our sponsored professionals is a vital piece of our product development. That’s especially true of major products, especially a new groupset, with top riders providing invaluable feedback while also putting the equipment through the rigors of professional racing.
Top image of Tom Pidcock winning bike from the U23 World Championship. Bottom image is of the bike Laurens Sweeck (Belgium) rode to fifth place in the Elite Men’s race.
The cyclocross world championships were a final harsh proving ground before the highly anticipated public unveiling of RED eTap AXS. In total, eight riders—including four who won medals—were aboard the new RED eTap AXS 1x wireless groupset in Bogense. Tom Pidcock (TP Racing) of Great Britain and Inge van der Heijden (CCC-Liv) of the Netherlands took gold in the U23 men’s and women’s races respectively. Belgium’s Wout van Aert (Cibel–Cebon Offroad Team) took a hard fought silver in the men’s elite race, and Marianne Vos of the Netherlands bronze in the Elite Women’s contest.
Inge van der Heijden’s (CCC-Liv) woment of victory in the U23 Women’s race at the UCI Cyclocross World Championship.
A longtime SRAM athlete, van Aert was the first cyclocross racer to move to RED eTap AXS. After starting the season on original RED eTap 2x, van Aert and his team worked with SRAM techs at home and at races to transition to RED eTap AXS, opting for a 46t front with either a 10-33 or 10-28 cassette depending on the course. After experiencing multiple world titles using RED eTap 2x, van Aert was not necessarily eager to give up his 2x groupset at first.
Wout van Aert in race mode aboard eTap AXS.
“After he tried it, he was happy,” said Carlo Anzolin, a SRAM Technical Marketing Specialist who assisted with the builds.
Indeed, on the day of eTap AXS’ release, van Aert—finally able to speak publicly about the groupset he’d been riding and racing for weeks—posted this on his Twitter feed:
Amid the busyness of the cyclocross season, SRAM techs worked with athletes and team staff building eTap AXS bikes. They built bikes for racers including Laurens Sweeck (BEL – Pauwels Sauzen Vastgoedservice), Tom Pidcock (GBR – TP Racing), and Tim Merlier (BEL – Creafin – Tuvsud) at SRAM’s European Development and Training Center in Schweinfurt, Germany. They traveled to the Trek service course to equip bikes for Jolanda Neff (SUI) and Ellen Noble (USA).
Those early bike builds were a crucial time to educate riders and team mechanics on RED eTap AXS and its many technologies and features including wide range cassettes. Most of the athletes run 40 to 44t front rings with 10-28 or 10-33 cassettes. Neff and Noble, with their MTB riding styles, went with a 36t ring. With RED eTap AXS designed for ease of setup and overall simplicity, the builds took about 1 ½ hours apiece including the product education discussions. Previously most of these athletes were running Force 1.
“We received positive feedback from the mechanics who don’t have to deal with cables or housing but also from the riders on the brakes performance,” Anzolin said.
Starting the U23 race with the pressure of being the favorite, Pidcock took an impressive solo victory giving RED eTap AXS its first world title in any discipline.
Tom Pidcock on his way to victory in the U23 race.
“I loved using the AXS this past cross season,” Pidcock said. “With the 12 speed we have a wide range of gears and all of this with one chain ring meaning the possibility of a mechanical is massively reduced but with no compromise on gear selection. I also loved the fact it is a very fast way to get up and down the cassette. So for sprinting and coming out of the corner, this was ideal.
“It helped me win the world championships… I couldn’t ask for more.”
Jolanda Neff had a stellar race in Denmark aboard eTap AXS.
Switzerland’s Jolanda Neff (who races for Trek-Segafredo) was a fan favorite at Bogense. In the Women’s Elite Race, Neff started in the four row, lacking points because she did not race much of the cyclocross season. Showing strength and slick bike handling skills, she quickly rocketed to the front group before finishing an impressive sixth. She’d record the fastest lap of the race.
“I felt great. I felt really at ease,” Neff said. “I just felt really good, like I could move up.”
She praised the simplicity of her new bike. “You don’t need to think about shifting the front. You just shift up or down,” she said. “it’s such a logical idea.”
Neff contrasted RED eTap AXS with her previous mechanical groupset. I was riding with the old one at Swiss champs: “It was so cold and raining… my fingers were completely frozen. A couple of times I mis-shifted, that I pushed too far or not far enough, and then is shifts the wrong way. So with the eTap that was so nice. We’ve had cold races, and it was perfect every time because you shift either left or right.”
We thank our athletes for their social media restraint! Congrats to all for their performances at the Cyclocross World Championships. #eTapAXS #SRAMAXS
Race photos by Balint Hamvas Cyclephotos