We caught one of Astana’s pro team bikes at the Tour Down Under a couple of weeks back, but around the same time the rest of the team that wasn’t racing there was in Spain for a couple weeks of winter training camp. Several of the riders on the Kazak team were training on the same Gallium Pro we saw in Adelaide, but a couple of the one-day racers and sprinters were training on Argon 18’s aero road Nitrogen Pro. We ran into the team in Calpe and got a closer look at the aero bike, plus had the chance to weigh the all arounder and the E-118 Next time trial machine…
Even with new bikes for 2017, the team carries over sponsor FSA, so the majority of the team were riding these same K-Force carbon bars and carbon-wrapped alloy stems. The riders are still dialing in their fits on the new bikes, which combine extended press-in upper headset cups to provide a range of positions, so the mechanics haven’t cut down the steerer tubes yet.
Like many aero road bikes, the Nitrogen Pro uses a low profile integrated seatpost clamp around its proprietary aero seatpost. But unlike most, it has a unique angled design that makes it easier to access with both mini-tools and standard torque wrenches, ensuring that riders or team mechanics will always be able to tighten it to the proper spec.
The aero bike also includes aero optimized brakes. But again in a nod towards usability, it uses a set of linear pull brakes developed with TRP, placed in the standard seatstay position and then sheltered behind the fork legs.
All of the team’s bikes we saw were outfitted with Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 9000 groups (with Ultegra cassettes). After having seen a bike from their late 2016 training camp outfitted with FSA’s K-Force WE group, we asked but neither their press manager nor mechanics had any concrete idea when they might make the switch mid season. But at the same time, while some other members of the Astana staff seemed quite interested in the shiny new Shimano Dura-Ace R9100 series Di2 groupset making its rounds, those who mattered didn’t seem to concern, suggesting that their own new groupsets maybe not be so far off.
The team are training and racing now on FSA K-Force Light crank arms paired to 130mm BCD Power2Max power meter spiders & standard 53/39 rings. They also haven’t made the switch yet to the newer FSA PowerBox versions.
The Astana riders spent their couple of weeks of training camp riding pretty much all of the bikes that would be in their racing quiver for the season. While the majority of the riders were out riding the all-arounder Gallium Pro when we dropped in, there had been a few out on the Nitrogen Pro. With it key to be able to perform consistently in time trails, most of the pro teams make sure that their riders now spend at least one training session a week on the TT bike. Since Argon 18 is new to Astana, they had been maybe spending even more time on the E-118 Next as they dialed in each rider’s setup.
Having all the bikes ready to ride did have one other added benefit, we were able to hand them each on our scale to get an idea of what they weighed in their winter training mode. Most of the bikes had slightly heavier training tubulars glued up so Astana didn’t want us to photograph them on the scale, but were happy to satisfy our curiosity.
A ready-to-train Gallium Pro tipped our scale at 7.20kg (15.87lb), a Nitrogen Pro at 8.07kg (17.79lb), and a TT-ready E-118 Next at 8.48kg (18.70lb). All weighed in medium or large frames, with pedals, cages & Garmin mounts.
We chatted with some of the mechanics and support team while they cleaned the riders bikes after a day of wet training. They all seemed quite happy with the new Argon 18 bikes, but there was clearly a lot of work still to be done prepping for the new season.
While talking mechanics were going through and updating their wheels. A new set of team blue Vision decals had just shown up and were being applied to the Vision Metron 40 carbon tubulars that the riders had already been training on with their mix of Schwalbe Pro One HT tubulars and the more durable Durano Plus clinchers for riders who were heading out on their own for training.
Winter training meant bundling up. While some riders resorted to staying inside, others wanted to get some fresh air. (And when the weather improved they wanted to see what antics Vittorio Brumotti would get up to on the area’s roads, bridges, and handrails.)
It’s not always sunshine and beaches for pro winter training camps. Sure the Astana team’s temporary service course was on the ground floor of a ocean-front hotel. But with unseasonably cold and wet weather in Spain, more than one training session ended up getting adjusted to work on the team’s new Tacx Neo trainers. At least the riders could still see the water from their indoor pain cave.
Besides getting a feel for the new Argon 18 bikes training out on the road, Astana had been in Calpe a month before back in December to dial in their fits and aero positions on the new TT bikes. They put together a quick teaser of their velodrome sessions.