Toughing it out with Mattia De Marchi.
The ex-pro’s experience riding gravel with the new Ekar groupset.
“Campagnolo did a great job on keeping the elegant style alive and mixing it with a badass and sturdy product”
Former road pro Mattia De Marchi has ridden and raced all around the world – including a Tour of China stage win with the Pro Continental Androni Giocattoli–Sidermec team – and is now becoming well known for his gravel endurance rides, such as the Atlas Mountain Race earlier in 2020.
Mattia has recently been riding the Ekar groupset, initially as prototypes and now with one of the first versions we produced, on his 3T Exploro Race Max – making it “an amazing machine all Made in Italy!”
We caught up with him between rides...
“I rode Ekar for the first time back when it was just a prototype in the roads and tracks close to the Campagnolo factory,” says Mattia. “Then I first rode it as a finished product in the Asiago Plateau (near Ekar’s spiritual home, Cima Ekar) during an extended ride. I noticed a great improvement on chain stability over rough surfaces, thanks to the new friction. I tested it on steep climbs at about 25%, and on some fast rolling descents as well as technical ones. I have to say that I was pleased to find it stable and reliable, and with quick, responsive shifting. "
“I totally approve of one-by for off-road: less problems, lighter bike, less components to index and maintain. With 13 cogs you don’t even have the excuse to not have enough gearing. In a steep climb, if you’re not able to climb with a 38-44 you should just walk it uphill!”
Secure & reliable
Mattia’s been trying out the different gear ratio range options – vital for gravel riding – but also other considerations for the off-road and adventure scene, such as chain retention.
“Just for the sake of it, I tried to make the chain fall in any possible way but I have to say I didn’t succeed,” he smiles. “The friction of this groupset is the best I have ever tried.”
“Although I consider myself still a novice in the gravel scene, since it is just one year that I’ve practiced this new discipline, I can tell you that the most important feature of a groupset is its reliability. “When you go gravel you often find yourself in rough terrain when your gear is under strong pressure. For this reason weight saving is not as important; I would rather have a highly functional and trustworthy groupset than a light one,” says Mattia.
Ready to race!
After test rides and training, Mattia is looking forward to racing with the Ekar groupset:
“I can’t wait to try it at the Nova Eroica in October”.
The 143km route from the Crete Senesi to the Chianti area features 2,700m of elevation gain and loss, and packs in gravel sectors, including some reminiscent of the Strade Bianche’s ‘white roads’. It’s a beautiful event and despite this year’s restricted participant numbers, is the kind of gravel challenge that many of us love to ride, or aspire to.
A range for every rider
So Mattia is clear on the need for durability in gravel, and Ekar is matching up to his demands. But Campagnolo’s new groupset is also highly flexible, with multiple options on gearing ranges, to suit every kind of gravel rider.
“The range should be chosen considering the planned routes,” explains Mattia. “For bikepacking adventures I would go with 38T up front with a 10-44T on the back. For short racing – less than five hours – I would choose a 42T with a 9-42T. For road use only I would choose 44T with a 9-36T cassette. I think the spacing between gears are perfectly placed throughout the range. Of course a 34T range will cause some jumps but you quickly get used to it. On rough terrain I did not notice any differences."
“Shifting is fluid and reactive but as with every other groupset you should always consider lightening your strokes a little when shifting while ascending steep climbs. One more cool thing I noticed with it, is the remarkable ‘staak’ sound – so powerful and clean!”
Even though it has been designed for gravel from the ground up, does Mattia think Ekar still feels like a Campagnolo groupset?
“Campagnolo makes us think of speed and clean lines which is something that doesn’t seem to go along with gravel riding. However, I think they did a great job on keeping the elegant style alive and mixing it with a badass and sturdy product. “By far the best feature of the Ekar groupset is the unique gear range of a 13-speed cassette. Knowing that I have 13 available gears on the back is such a great feeling!”
Grazie Mattia, and enjoy Eroica!