Astana’s Fabio Aru has high hopes for a strong ride in this year’s Tour de France, and here’s a look at the brand new, and fully customised, Argon 18 Gallium Pro he’ll be racing. And he's just ridden it to victory on stage 5 of the race in the first big shakeup for the general classification battle.
The Astana team switched from Specialized to Argon 18 this year (because Argon 18 were replaced by Spesh at the Bora team at the end of last season with the signing of Peter Sagan). It marks the first time the Canadian bike brand has been in the WorldTour, the top league in professional cycling.
The company and team have pulled out all the stops in producing what we reckon is one of the nicest looking bikes in the peloton. It’s also a brand new bike, the latest in a long line of Gallium Pro models. It was unveiled right before the Tour de France, we actually shot this video moments after the mechanic had built the bike and before the presentation, so we didn't have all the salient details to hand.
We do now though, so we can tell you Argon 18 has developed the new bike to be lighter and stiffer - but you probably already guessed that - two of the four pillars of current road bike design. The new frame weighs a claimed 794g for a size medium, ensuring it joins the sub-800g club with the likes of Cervelo, Cannondale and Specialized. The fork is lighter as well, but also tuned to provide more front-end compliance for ironing out rough French roads.
“Our new Gallium Pro 2018 is lighter, stiffer and more precise downhill. Our R&D team succeeded to push the limits and fine-tune the balance of this bike. First two races, first two wins. We cannot ask for better results and are proud to have the Astana Pro Team take to the Tour de France on this new model,” said Gervais Rioux, Founder and CEO, Argon 18.
He is, of course, referring to Jakob Fulsang’s surprise victory in the Criterium du Dauphine, the traditional build up event to the Tour. “I tried the new bike just before the first stage of the Criterium du Dauphine and I immediately I realised, I want to continue on this bike. I really liked the new bike and its characteristics. It is stiffer and still has a very good balance for the downhill. In the same time you feel really comfortable on it and can ride it really good,” praised Fulsang.
Every detail of the Gallium Pro has been revised. The carbon layup has been improved to bring about that reduction in weight, as well as increasing the stiffness. Little details like the derailleur hanger with a four-point rivet attachment, integrated chainsuck protector, revised cable routing and increased tyre clearance for up to 28mm rubber. There’s now a 27.2mm seatpost a common move on top-end race bikes to provide a little extra deflection at the saddle.
Lots of changes then, but the new Gallium Pro continues to use the novel 3D System of interchangeable head tube spacers to easily adjust the stack height of the bike, without resorting to an ugly stack of spacers.
While most of the Astana team get a regular paint job, Italian national champion Fabio Aru’s bike has been custom painted to celebrate his Sardinia heritage. The red looks glorious in real life and the mirrored decals are a very smart touch. The red also matches the red of his national champion's jersey, having clinched his home national championship before the Tour.
The bike is built up with previous generation Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 shifters and mechs, but the latest generation brake calipers, which is a bit odd, and an FSA K-Force chainset with Power2Max power meter. FSA also supplies the seatpost, handlebar and stem, while Prologo supplies the customised saddle. Finally, the wheels are from Corima, a rare sight at best, but super lightweight with very few spokes.
It’s fair to say Argon 18 does fly under the radar a bit, which is a shame as we’ve been impressed with the bikes we’ve ridden over the years. Here’s hoping WorldTour team sponsorship ups their presence a little.
David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.