New electronic Dura-Ace group emerges

By James Huang, technical editor & Gerard Knapp | Thursday, February 21, 2008 12.31pm

The latest version of Shimano's electronic Dura-Ace group looks closer to a finished product than anything we’ve seen before.

German rider Fabian Wegmann of Gerolsteiner tackled the first road stage of this year’s Tour of California riding his Specialized S-Works Tarmac SL2 with a version of the components, which Shimano has had in development for a couple of years.

Unlike earlier versions that have been rife with CNC-machined aluminum bits, this one relies heavily on what look to be aluminum forgings.  Forging is a process more typically associated with mass production than CNC machining (not to mention that it usually produces stronger parts) and forging dies are quite expensive which suggests that designs are likely to have already been finalised. 

In particular, the rear derailleur has lost its once-chunky appearance and looks almost elegant.  Plastic bits are also clearly molded, not machined, and the polished finishes are in keeping with what we’ve come to expect from commercially available versions of Dura-Ace, too.

Previously machined aluminum bits: previously machined aluminum bits

The front derailleur bares similar updates.  

The front derailleur boasts a similarly updated appearance: the front derailleur boasts a similarly updated appearance

Earlier machined aluminum bits have been replaced with smoother and highly polished ones (forged, we’d imagine) and the composite covers are notably more finished-looking.  Even the cage bears a more refined look with deeper plating and more rounded edges.  The battery looks largely identical to earlier versions, but we’d guess that Shimano probably figured that one out quickly enough given that it doesn’t have any moving parts.

Gerolsteiner mechanics fitted the battery down low near the bottom bracket.: gerolsteiner mechanics fitted the battery down low near the bottom bracket.

Every aspect of the integrated brake/shift levers also suggests that this group is very close to production.  The aluminum lever blade shape has the same forged-and-polished appearance as on the rear derailleur and the overall aesthetic is far more refined that what we’ve seen before. 

The electronic dura-ace levers: the electronic dura-ace levers

Shift paddles have been fitted with highly detailed cutouts and textures and each lever is equipped with the now-familiar tiny LCD gear and battery life indicators.  More telling, though, is the subtle texture molded into the rubber hoods that virtually screams ‘production’ (along with the logo on their side that had clearly been filed off). 

Levers still include gear indicators: levers still include gear indicators

Wegmann’s bike was also equipped with PRO’s Stealth Evo one-piece integrated carbon fibre bar and stem.  That is hardly groundbreaking news in itself but the bar’s internal cable routing does suggest that the group’s electrical lines are easily detachable for such situations.  We’d also be surprised if there weren’t some easy way to trim the lines to length if need be. 

Saunier Duval-Scott prepares for the week ahead

Some lingering injuries have forced Saunier Duval-Scott rider David Cañada to make some rather unorthodox modifications to his Scott Addict.  Cañada is reportedly having some issues gripping the bars while in the hoods or drops and is currently spending far more time on the tops than usual.  As a result, his team mechanics have fitted his bike with supplementary top mount levers that are normally seen adorning cyclocross bikes.  

Top mount levers - unusual: top mount levers - unusual

His bars have also been heavily wrapped for an easier grip and to provide some additional cushioning. 

Cañada's bars were heavily wrapped: cañada's bars were heavily wrapped

Cañada’s bike otherwise looks to be inline with what his teammates are using although each bike was equipped with deep-section Mavic wheelsets that are no longer in production.  The now-defunct Cosmic Carbone Pro use full-carbon 40mm-deep tubular rims roughly similar to what is used on Mavic’s top-end Cosmic Carbone Ultimate. 

That Cosmic Carbone Ultimate is normally built with co-molded carbon fibre spokes and hubs, though.  In contrast, Saunier Duval-Scott’s wheels are built with conventional nipples and stainless steel spokes laced to aluminum hubs along with 16 front/20 rear spoke counts. 

Saunier duval-scott preferred to run: saunier duval-scott preferred to run

So what is Rock Racing riding today?

Rock Racing’s remaining group of five was far more consistent in terms of equipment as compared to yesterday’s hodge-podge of time trial gear.  

Rock racing megastar mario cipollini set off on his own distinctive ride.: rock racing megastar mario cipollini set off on his own distinctive ride.

Mario Cipollini took off on his own special carbon machine but the remaining four riders were on stock DeRosa King 3 carbon frames, fully resplendent in fantastically showy iridescent green Rock Racing livery.  

The rest of rock racing's crew departed for stage 1 on these hot looking derosa king 3 rigs.: the rest of rock racing's crew departed for stage 1 on these hot looking derosa king 3 rigs.

Finishing kit was consistent, including Campagnolo Record componentry, Cole Products wheelsets and Stella Azzura bars and stems.  Team bikes were also fitted with custom-covered fi’zi:k saddles and Look KeO pedals, although based on the experience each of those companies has reputedly had with Rock Racing in the past we’d guess that the team simply purchases those items on its own.

Speedplay has the numbers in California

There are more professional cyclists riding Zero pedals this year than any other brand in the race - Speedplay-equipped teams include reigning Pro Tour champions Team CSC, as well as the USA Cycling National Racing Calendar (NRC) champions Health Net/Maxxis. Team Bissell (formerly Priority Health) also has a long-standing relationship with Speedplay and is joined at this year’s event by BMC, Kelly Benefit Strategies-Medifast and Jelly Belly.  Included among the other teams that will race on Speedplay pedals this year are Team Type 1, Jittery Joe's, Sean Kelly Cycling Academy Team, Team DLP, Cervélo/Life Force and Webcor Builders.

Speedplay pedal developer richard bryne with jens voigt's team csc tt machine: speedplay pedal developer richard bryne with jens voigt's team csc tt machine

The developer of the Speedplay pedal, Richard Bryne, proudly points out the equipment used on one of the Team CSC time trial machines, in this case the bike belonging to German rider Jens Voigt.

For lots more pics from the pits at the Tour of California, see our sister site Cyclingnews.com.

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