you hit on two interesting points worth noting here. The first is the cable routing. One thing sram changed this year is the ability to run the cables on the front of rear of the bars, allowing ENDLESS use of whatever bar you may want to use without a problem. sure feeding cables is a pain in the rear, but everything is compared to the shimano exposed cables. Strangely you will NEVER run into the cable snap problem associated with both dura-ace, and ultegra stuff. I have only experienced this three times this year. So I know it's the truth. The second area you touched on was the ability to pull the shiter lever in to the bar when in the drops. Not a HUGE feature in cross since many don't use the drops much BUT this year SRAM adapted their adjustable lever feature that allows you to set the brake lever OR shifter lever closer to the bar for smaller hands, gloves, ect. This is a feature shimano just adopted for their new 7900 groupset and was a great feature to use this season being a small handed guy.
Looking at pro riders is a bit silly considering they are GIVEN what they are supposed to ride, but looking at the industry as a whole, there is a reason nearly EVERY bike manufacturer is adopting SRAM into their surplus. I mean think about it, TREK had NEVER used anything but shimano on their stuff, still don't include campy, and have opted for SRAM. Clearly if it didn't work, the entire industry wouldn't have adopted it. Again, I am not saying this as a sponsored rider of sram but a tech goof who REFUSES to run something that doesn't work on my bikes. It works, plain and simple.
As a long time Shimano and Campy user (both road and 'cross) I "made the leap" 2 years ago when I built up a new rig. Put on SRAM Rival shifters, derailleurs, cassette, and chain.
After 2 years the shifting is as crisp and precise as the first day. Never have had an issue at all with performance.
What really impresses me is the simplicity of the shifters and the ability to replace parts easily. Not familiar with the new Campy stuff, but Shimano is always a pain if you want to rebuild the shifters. I have rebuilt and re-lubed my SRAM shifters and it was a simple task.
I still run Shimano on my road bike and commuter, but I'm looking to get some new stuff to replace the A and B bike and then move that to the other two.
I've only test-ridden it, but I like it a lot, and had seriously thought about going to it next year (though now I will probably stay with Shimano through 2009 - I just don't have the scrilla to outfit two bikes with new groups). It's unbelievably intuitive, I like the feel of the hoods, it's re-buildable, and I like that the shifters can be gutted for single-ring applications. Only problem I have with it is that it's 10-speed, and I prefer 9. But it's been out for a couple years, is race-proven, and I am becoming a believer. I am not paid by SRAM (or anyone else) to say that.
yeah... i am very partial to a 1x9 setup too--and i do have an Ultegra 9sp group on the bike ready for the '09 cx season, but i am tempted to go w/ a compact double and 10sp RIVAL if i can afford it... it's got me that enthused.
when tossing up Veloce or rival I would have to say that Rival is going to be a better buy. Not only has rival utilized the new carbon levers with the extended trigger shape, but they utilize the same functional design as force and RED, just different materials in the manufacturing. There is no functional difference except for ceramic upgrades in red, and magnesium additions in force. I really think that the investment in rival would be better. Veloce and Rival are the same price point. In the end it's your call!
'09 Veloce yes. '08 no. The new erogs have all the same internal bits as Super record but it's 10s and has an alloy brake blade and plastic lever 2, and the escape mechs are all but gone (yeah!). Veloce (in '09 Campy's lowest groupset) in my opinion is WAY better quality wise than either Sora or Tiagra, and is rebuildable. But I know nothing about Rival. Sounds equally impressive but cheaper to rebuild(?). I would say find out what the features on how they shift are and chose what you think works for you. I do think the Ultra Torque cranks is the best design out there. I have them on my raod bike, and they are soooo easy to work on and with. I also have seen too many FSA cranks fall apart to care for the current Shimano/FSA/SRAM design. There's nothing between them really. It's all in what you like in the details.
I have to update this. It appears that the spare parts PDFs on Campy's site have been changed, or my memory is crap. Veloce through Record internals in the left ergo have the same p/n. Record and Chorus are the same (11s) and then Centaur and Veloce are the same (10s). Super Record internals have a different p/n for both ergos.
Rival is the best value out there. I'd take it over Ultegra or Centaur any day. I've always been a die hard Campy fan but I made the switch to Force on my road bike two years ago and Rival on my cross bike last year. The stuff is really well made and works incredibly well. SRAM has a lot of great engineers and they don't waste their time and money trying to make electronic shifting.
I run a 1x10 for my cross bike which works for me but if you do go with a double, they did add a trim adjustment (and shorter throw) to all of the new stuff. I think this was already mentioned, but stay away from the Red cassette. It's an ingenious design for the road but won't clear mud in a cross race.
Everything is relatively easy and cheap to service as well which is a huge advantage over Campy.