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Campagnolo, nicknamed Campy in the US or Campag in the UK, has long been associated with road cycling. Cyclists frequently attribute the invention of the quick release to Tullio Campagnolo, the founder, although it's possible he may not have invented it outright but rather was one of the first to develop a high-quality commercial version.

Related to this question on the history behind Shimano's groupset names, what do we know about Campagnolo's historical names? The current road groupset hierarchy, as of the time of writing in November 2021, is (most expensive to least expensive):

  1. Super Record
  2. Record (roughly equivalent to Shimano Dura Ace or SRAM Red)
  3. Chorus
  4. Centaur (NB: the Potenza group used to sit just above Centaur when released)
  5. Historically, there were groups below Centaur, namely Veloce and Xenon. These appear to have been discontinued.

Last, Campagnolo has a new gravel group, called Ekar. It is roughly equivalent to Chorus, and is the company's only current off-road group of any sort. Campagnolo made a brief foray into MTB groups in the late 1980s, but it discontinued the groups.

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    The "Below" levels are a bit fuzzier. The last generation of Veloce had the same shifting mechanism as Record at the time and skeleton brakes that are not on current Centaur. My guess is that at least part of the reason why they were dropped was that there were too many tiers that were similar or even identical.
    – ojs
    Nov 20 '21 at 17:13
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Ekar

The Ekar name is easily explained - it's the name of a mountain near the Campagnolo head quarter which is a gravel riding area:

Born on the mountain that gave the new groupset its name and with which it shares unmistakable and authentic characteristics. Cima Ekar is a charmingly diverse little gravel paradise in the Ventian PreAlps

Mt Ekar is where we worked it out how our 13-speed system would deliver so well.

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Because Campagnolo is based in Italy and because it was founded in 1933, some of the historical information be incomplete or may have lost fidelity in translation. Information may have been or still be out there but, but it may be on paper or in people's memories and not transferred to the internet. (NB: Shimano is younger, but its first road components were introduced in 1973 and it is a Japanese company, so there are similar problems with historical documentation.)

Record and Super Record

It is clear that the Record and Super Record brands have a long history. I do not speak Italian, but Collins' Italian-English dictionary says that the word Record in Italian has the same meaning as the English reference to record times, sporting records, and the like.

The company timeline given by Wikipedia says that the company introduced the Gran Sport rear derailleur in 1949, then the Record rear derailleur in 1963, then the Nuovo Record RD in 1966 (NB: nuovo means new in English), and the Super Record road and track groupsets in 1973. Velo-Retro's timeline seems to place the Record brand name earlier: they assert that Campagnolo released a Record crankset and hubs in 1958, and a Record front derailleur in 1960. Last, this site roughly corroborates the era but the exact years are a bit earlier.

Campagnolo appear to have put less effort behind Nuovo Record as a brand than Record. Velo Retro says that the company last produced a Nuovo record RD in 1987. Other sites do not explicitly say that, but they do cease to mention Nuovo Record after some time.

Wikipedia and Velo Retro both say that Campagnolo also stopped using Super Record as a brand in 1987. However, in 2008, Campagnolo re-started the Super Record brand. My recollection is that in general, Super Record is functionally identical to Record, but makes even greater use of titanium and carbon fiber to save weight, and I believe it also comes stock with ceramic bearings.

Chorus

Chorus is arguably in the same position as Ultegra in Shimano's lineup, i.e. one level down from Record, Dura Ace, and SRAM Red.. I'm less certain about the history of Chorus as a brand. Lakeside Bikes' timeline says that Chorus was introduced in 1987, the same year that Super Record was discontinued. They have a quote from what they say is Campagnolo's official introduction at the time:

The Chorus equipment performs as if it were on a stage singing in unison.

Chorus has been maintained as the tier 2 group since then. Pro riders almost always get the top-tier groups, which translates to brand exposure. I'd propose that for all manufacturers, the tier 2 groups derive any sense of heritage or good consumer impressions by being functionally very close to the tier 1 groups, just with less premium finish or more common materials. In the early 2000s, I remember that Chorus' main differentiation point versus Record was the use of a traditional 5-arm spider, whereas Record had the 5th arm hidden behind the crankarm, and no use of carbon fiber in the rear derailleur and shifters. Record was first to get a carbon crank, but then carbon finishing parts made their way to Chorus as well.

NB: At the time of writing, many women's teams, especially the non-World Tour (i.e. top tier teams) do get the second-tier groups. In gravel racing, sponsored riders on Shimano's GRX 800 groups are operating the equivalent to Ultegra, Shimano's tier 2 group.

The tier 3 groups - Athena, Daytona, Centaur, Potenza

Campagnolo has gone through a number of names for its tier 3 and tier 4 groups. I'm currently not able to confirm this, but Lakeside bikes mentions the existence of Athena in 1991, implying that this group may have been in production before then. Wikipedia says that the Daytona group was introduced in 1999. There don't appear to be any mentions of the fate of the Athena group in any timeline I've seen, so I don't know why Campagnolo decided to discontinue Athena and launch Daytona (or rebrand Athena as Daytona). Lakeside bikes then state that in 2002, the Daytona group was renamed Centaur, likely due to pressure from NASCAR. This was when I picked up road cycling and I had several people on my team using Campagnolo, and I do remember this event.

Wikipedia then says that in 2009, Campagnolo re-launched Athena, positioning it above Centaur. In particular, I know that Athena got an electronic shifting version when Campagnolo launched its group (called EPS), although Campagnolo have since restricted EPS to their Super Record group only. I believe Athena had some other cosmetic touches that differentiated it from Centaur. It appears that Campagnolo had a Romanian factory since about 2005. My recollection is that Athena and lower groups were produced in the Romanian factory and Chorus and higher were produced in Italy. I do know that Athena and below got a different type of shifting mechanism and crankarm design (branded as Power-Shift and Power Torque respectively, in contrast to Ultra-Shift and Ultra Torque).

In 2016, Campagnolo replaced Athena with Potenza as its tier 3 group, retaining Centaur as its tier 4 group. Cyclingtips has this quote:

Potenza is an Italian noun for power, intensity and strength, and Campagnolo drew heavily from these associations when presenting the new groupset at their press camp in March this year. A flurry of horses, boxers, and drift-racing cars filled the screen as each part of the groupset was introduced.

Campagnolo appears to have thought of the 2017-2018 era Centaur, despite being in the 4th tier, as a competitor to 105. Campagnolo also intended Potenza to compete with Ultegra for OEM spec on bikes (i.e. that bikes would come stock with Potenza). Reviews of Potenza and Centaur found them comparable to the then-current Ultegra and 105, but Campagnolo was unable to achieve that goal.

Campagnolo has discontinued Potenza. This may have taken place in 2019 or 2020. I am not following Campagnolo as closely as I used to, so I don't know if they intend to up-spec Centaur to Potenza's level. They did change the 2017 version of Centaur to the same Ultra-Torque cranks as the rest of the lineup, however. I think the current perception is that Chorus is equivalent to Ultegra.

Other branding factors

Campagnolo does rely on the "perceived prestige of its Italian heritage" (in the words of Cyclingtips author James Huang in the Centaur review) to enhance its brand. While this doesn't apply to Chorus, Record, and Super Record, it has used mythical references in some of its groupset names (Centaur, Athena). In addition, it has a very long history with road racing, so a lot of road cyclists (especially older ones) are aware of it and have positive impressions of it. These factors probably enhance the heritage of its components.

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