Most Pro Tour teams are somewhat limited in their choice of equipment by their sponsorship agreements. While there are always obvious exceptions to the rule, a few squads instead prefer to use their own cash in certain situations in order to gain ultimate freedom.
For example, CSC-Saxo Bank purchases all of its Shimano componentry to eliminate any conflicts with its long-time drivetrain sponsor, FSA. Even so, it’s still all Dura-Ace all the way (save for the cranksets and Zipp wheels) and it’s no surprise that none of the team bikes were equipped with the latest Dura-Ace 7900 iteration at this year’s Tour.
Alternatively, Team Columbia foregoes an official wheel sponsor such that its riders can choose from any number of different wheels come race day. We originally thought the team would switch to Zipp after last year’s Tour but we counted no fewer than six different wheel models on team bikes just at the start of stage 8: race leader Kim Kirchen sported Zipp 404 rims built on to standard Dura-Ace hubs; sprinter Gerald Ciolek departed with CarbonSports Lightweights; Marcus Burghartdt used HED Stingers; Kanstantsin Siutsou’s Zipp 404 rims were laced to American Classic hubs; and both deep and shallow versions of Shimano’s Dura-Ace carbon wheelsets were littered about and mounted on spare bikes atop the team cars.
While this strategy obviously comes at a much higher cost for Team Columbia, it’s hard to argue with the results. The team finished 1-2 in Saturday’s rainy stage 8 sprint finale with Mark Cavendish in first and Ciolek second. Maillot jaune Kirchen finished safely in the main bunch and reinforced Columbia’s first-place standing in the team classification.
So is it all worth it? Apparently so.