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LA PLANCHE DES BELLES FILLES, France (CT) – It had been spotted at the Critérium du Dauphiné, but on stage 5 of the Tour de France, Fabio Aru (Astana) shot across the finish line to win aboard a custom-painted version of Argon 18’s latest pure race bike, the Gallium Pro.
Canadian bike manufacturer Argon 18 is in its first year of sponsorship with Astana, but the previous generation of the Gallium Pro has seen action at two prior editions of the Tour de France with Bora-Argon 18, in 2015 and 2016.
The latest version of the Gallium Pro is the lightest frame the company has ever produced — a claimed 794g for a medium painted frame including hardware (3D headset and seat clamp). The weight of the fork has also been reduced but it reportedly retains the stiffness and comfort of the original.
The bike doesn’t look massively different to the previous generation, though it’s obvious on close inspection that tube shapes have been refined. As well as a new carbon layup, a new four-point riveted front derailleur hanger is present, plus cable routing. A smaller diameter seat post of 27.2mm now allows a little added comfort out back.
The bike hasn’t gone down the increasingly popular route of direct-mount but rather stuck with traditional single-bolt callipers. The reason being that it gives Argon 18 and its dealer base a wider range of components to choose from when building up the bikes. That’s according to Argon 18 founder and CEO, Gervais Rioux.
The frame now allows for greater tyre clearance, enabling the use of up to 28mm tyres. On stage 5 of the Tour Aru was using 25mm Schwable Pro One TT tubulars.
Argon 18’s painted 3D headset technology allows the headset bearings to be mounted closer to the stem no matter the stack height. Instead of placing the top bearing in a race in the head tube, it sits in a race built into a spacer. The claim is that this avoids any marginal flex on the upper part of the fork. The 3D system is available in three heights.
The winner’s bike
Aru’s build stuck firmly to the sponsored products, with FSA supplying its top-tier seat post and bars from the K-Force carbon range, with a short (for a pro) 110mm alloy FSA Energy stem. This is an odd choice as it’s part of FSA’s affordable performance line. Wrapping the bars was Prologo’s limited edition reflective tape, a product that was initially developed for the team but will become available to the public later.
Keeping the reflective theme is Aru’s Prologo Scratch saddle. Prologo covered the rear end of the saddle with a reflective material, as well as a little Italian flag to celebrate Aru’s Italian nationals road race win. One omission is that Aru isn’t using Prologo’s painted CPC extra-grip technology on the saddle.
While there was news at the start of the year that FSA would supply the team with its new WE-wireless electronic groupset, there’s yet to be any sign of it. Instead, the team is using Shimano’s 9000 series Dura-Ace with an FSA K-Force chainset. Power meter is supplied by German company Power2max. On stage 5, the drivechain of choice was a standard 53/39 crankset matched with an 11-28 cassette.
Wheels are from long-time Astana sponsor Corima. The French carbon wheel company is a relatively small player in the market but has a long-standing relationship with not just Astana but general manager Alexander Vinokourov. On Aru’s bike was the 47mm deep S+ model, a 1250g pair of hoops. Spoke count is very low on these wheels with 18 up front and 20 rear.
At the bike’s presentation just before the Tour, Gervais Rioux explained that after Aru used the bike at the Critérium du Dauphiné and praised its performance, the Tour team all wanted to use the bike. A quick turnaround had a fleet of the bikes ready for the Tour start line in Düsseldorf.
Aru’s paint scheme, a thick toffee apple red, is inspired by the flag of his home island, Sardinia. The team in the Argon 18 paint shop have certainly outdone themselves this time.
Models coming to market will be a Gallium Pro 2018 in gloss black and white, a black and matte grey, and a limited edition Astana Pro team version. No news as yet of Aru’s custom painted version becoming available — a shame as it’s absolutely stunning in the July sunshine.