It's the rider, not the bike! Funny how bicycle-types tend to forget that.
Until 4 years ago, I used to be a moderately successful Cat. 2 on a Columbus SL steel Marinoni with Campy SR/Victory parts mix. Even a Brooks saddle. Some nice sew-up wheels. Disclaimer: I don't usually shift while standing, nor stand a lot to begin with. Hilltop finishes were my specialty back then.
I am sure most racers have the "souplesse" to make do with a few less gears - in fact, many of them don't seem to shift all that much.
And when it comes to long-distance riding, which is competitive as well, the modern stuff with its many opportunities to break down becomes a liability.
Only one development comes to mind that has increased performance measurably (except Biopace): Aerobars. But even those are uncomfortable on long distances (150+ miles), making them a liability rather than an asset in my opinion.
Jan Heine, Seattle
Remember when Rominger won the hour record on a steel Colnago that looked like it was built in the 1970s?