After getting a detailed sneak peek of the upcoming SRAM Red eTap 12-speed groupset raced on the road in Japan, we wanted to see how it would differ racing cross. So back in Europe, we chased down the World Cup race bike of CX World Champ Wout van Aert. After his contentious split from his Vérandas Willems–Crelan team earlier in this season, van Aert stayed riding the Stevens Super Prestige cross bike of his previous sponsor, but
left that team’s Shimano Di2 drivetrain to try is testing out the latest and greatest SRAM wireless prototypes.
Stevens Super Prestige Disc carbon cyclocross race bike of WvA
The bike that Wout van Aert is racing for World Cup cyclocross is the 2018 Stevens Super Prestige Disc carbon cross bike. You may have noticed the same bike grace our pages a couple of times last week, as we are using it as a CX test mule for a number of detailed cross component reviews – like the Rotor 2INpower power meter cranks & UNO groupset and Duke Baccara 35T carbon tubular wheels.
Wout started racing this weekend on one of his custom sparkly rainbow edition bikes, but finished on one with a stock paint job (even though cleaning bikes wasn’t a concern on the mostly frozen & dry Tábor parcours). Both of these two main bikes though, were built up with a new SRAM Red eTap 12-speed groupset. Details of the build were similar – but not identical to the road bike Nils Politt rode at the Saitama Crit a couple of weeks back – most notably a 1x setup & a different Quarq power meter prototype.
While cyclocross can be a bit more open with the top pros with several spare bikes in the pit, van Aert’s support team kept a tight leash on the new Red eTap 12-speed prototypes. And it looked like they didn’t have a lot of spare groupsets, with two more custom painted bikes still built up with the current 2×11 Red eTap groups.
2019 SRAM Red eTap 12-speed wireless 1x cyclocross groupset prototype
While the core components of van Aert’s prototype SRAM Red eTap groupset look mostly the same as what we saw raced on the road in Japan, there is one key difference – this bike is a 1x, single chainring setup, with what appears to be the same rear derailleur.
That same directional chain is here again, as is the mostly one-piece machined steel cassette with its large step alloy big cog for 12 speed options.
The wireless rear derailleur looks identical to what we saw on the road. It does not have a longer cage. It does not have prominent narrow-wide teeth on its pulleys. And it does not have a larger knuckle housing a mountain bike-style clutch. Watching the bike bounce around on course though, something obviously was providing chain tension. (And only the rainbow sparkle bike had a high direct mount chain guide.)
While we saw Di2 setup chains arcing up and down, every photo I took of this new group the chain was taut. So like I suspected two weeks ago, the large housing around the pivot where the derailleur body & cage are connected, likely houses some form of tensioning device.
As for the crankset, again we see an unmarked Quarq power meter. In fact, these carbon arms (likely to get Red branding) even have the same black tape masking their most likely finished graphics, and a DUB bottom bracket interface. But the connection to the ring is much different. While the road prototype used a one-piece machined direct mount double chainring, here van Aert has a crankset with what looks like a 4-bolt spider and a single ring.
The four bolt setup would already be a departure for SRAM, but it looks like these cranks may still share the original direct mount interface between the crank arm and the spider?
Why would they do that?
Perhaps since cyclocross racers need to change gear ratios more quickly, this new design would allow van Aert’s mechanics to unbolt the ring, rotate it about 10°, and remove it without pulling the crank. That may also save them from having to re-calibrate the power meter, something they would definitely have to do if they pulled the crank arm to swap direct mount single chainrings.
The levers are the same as we saw before, with the little added grip texture on the shift paddle. On second look, I also realize that these new levers differ a bit more from the current Red eTap HRD Shift-Brake Control levers in that the shift paddle sits a bit further back from the front of the lever. And the carbon brake lever blade itself does not get cutout to allow overlap between brake and shift controls. Together with the updated texture, that should offer a bigger, easier button to activate shifts.
It is of course interesting (but unsurprising) to note that van Aert’s single ring setup uses the same single left, single right shift button layout to shift.
Van Aert’s 1x prototype shifters, derailleur, chain & cassette all appear identical to the road double prototypes we saw earlier this month. Only his power meter crankset is really different. Does that suggest that the new group is coming ever sooner, or just that it might be versatile for road, gravel & cyclocross once it is available? The fact that only one rider at the CX World Cup was riding the new components (and only one rider at the Japanese crit) suggests we will have to wait quite a while until there is any hopes of consumer availability.
But at least now we know that the upcoming SRAM Red eTap 12 groupset can be run as either a road double or cyclocross 1x setup. Now we just have to wait for more official details from SRAM itself.