Contador rides SRAM's new WiFLi Red at Vuelta

Even one of the world's best climbers can use easier gears sometimes

It is a rare case of trickle-up technology.

Typically, companies introduce a new feature at the top end of the product range, then gradually introduce the same or a similar thing down the range. With SRAM's longer-cage WiFLi road derailleurs that allow for use of a cassette as large as 32-teeth, the trickle began at the bottom with the entry-level Apex group two years ago. Now, grand tour champion Alberto Contador is racing a WiFLi derailleur in the Vuelta a España on SRAM's top-end Red group.

Every pair of Zipp 202 wheels Contador uses has an 11-28 cassette, and Contador even broke out a cassette with a 32-tooth cog for one stage in the steep mountains, said SRAM team liaison Ben Raby.

SRAM's road PR manager Michael Zellmann said Contador asked SRAM for the longer-cage derailleur in advance of the Vuelta. " Going back, he was originally part of the development of WiFLi years back when some of the steeper stages required much lower gears than were  offered," Zellmann said.

SRAM announced the addition of WiFLi to its second-tier Force group and top-tier Red group in April. Since then, SRAM's sponsored teams have been provided with the Force WiFLi derailleurs, but only a handful of Red WiFLi derailleurs are available. Levi Leipheimer rode one to victory on the particularly steep final stage of the Tour of Utah, and his competitors took notice. "Levi had the new SRAM (WiFLi) on," Timmy Duggan said of Leipheimer on the Utah stage. "I wish I had, too."

The red wifli derailleur works with cassettes with cogs as large as 32-teeth: the red wifli derailleur works with cassettes with cogs as large as 32-teeth
Contador is running this SRAM Red WiFLi rear derailleur with an 11-28 cassette most days (and an 11-32 for one particularly steep day)

When the Red WiFLi rear derailleur becomes available to everyday riders, it won't come cheaply at $380/£239. However, the 167g piece features refinements beyond simply lengthening the cage for a larger cassette. As with the standard $358/£225 Red derailleur, SRAM tweaked the geometry of the lower pulley and added ceramic bearings for quieter operation, and used titanium for the cable fixing bolt to shave a bit of weight.

For now, SRAM does not have an 11-32 Red cassette, so riders are using Force cassettes or other options. SRAM recommends the use of the mountain bike X-Glide 11-32 cassette.

At the Vuelta, Contador is the only one in the peloton with the Red WiFLi derailleur. Whether or not he has the legs to overtake Joaquim Rodríguez remains to be seen, but now he certainly has all the gears he needs.

Alberto contador is currently second in the vuelta a españa: alberto contador is currently second in the vuelta a españa
Everyday riders rejoice. If the hyper-lean Contador can run an 11-32 in racing, why shouldn't you?

Ben Delaney

US Editor-in-Chief
Ben has been writing about bikes since 2000, covering everything from the Tour de France to Asian manufacturing to kids' bikes. The former editor-in-chief of VeloNews, he began racing in college while getting a journalism degree at the University of New Mexico. Based in the cycling-crazed city of Boulder, Colorado, with his wife and two kids, Ben enjoys riding most every day.
  • Discipline: Road (paved or otherwise), cyclocross and sometimes mountain. His tri-curious phase seems to have passed, thankfully
  • Preferred Terrain: Quiet mountain roads leading to places unknown
  • Current Bikes: Scott Foil Team, Trek Boone 5, Specialized S-Works Tarmac SL4, Marinoni fixed gear, Santa Cruz Roadster TT bike
  • Dream Bike: A BMC Teammachine SLR01 with disc brakes and clearance for 30mm tires (doesn't yet exist)
  • Beer of Choice: Saison Dupont
  • Location: Boulder, CO, USA

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