Team OUCH morphed into UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling this season and though Kuota carries on as the official bike sponsor, the specific frame model has evolved as well. Last year's Kredo Ultra has now been replaced by the new K.U.L.T. – a burlier and stiffer carbon chassis aimed at especially powerful riders and sprinters like team rider Andrew Pinfold.
Kuota has earned a solid reputation for some of the biggest frame tube sections in the industry and UnitedHealthcare's new K.U.L.T. is no exception. As compared to the already generously proportioned Kredo Ultra, the K.U.L.T. uses even larger tube sections throughout, particularly at the bulbous BB30 bottom end and tapered 1 1/8"-to-1 1/4" head tube for greater drivetrain and front triangle rigidity.
Last year's round seat tube has also been supplanted in favor of a deeper aero-style design complete with rear wheel cutout and the slender, arced seat stays have adopted a newly lengthened trailing edge. Whether or not the new shapes actually lend aerodynamic gains can only be shown in the wind tunnel but the new form looks undoubtedly more aggressive nonetheless.
As with the Kredo Ultra, the K.U.L.T. also uses a semi-integrated seatmast for a firmer-feeling pedaling platform though here the aero profile carries straight through to the carbon fiber seatpost stub in contrast to the old round post. Internal routing helps protect the cables from road spray and grime and also lends the bike a cleaner look, too.
Claimed frame weights have actually gone up a bit from the Kredo Ultra to 1,180g for Pinfold's XL frame size plus another 378g for the matching carbon fork. Pinfold is quick to point out the frame's stout backbone, though, and at 7.26kg (16.0lb) complete – with training tires, no less – it's still quite light.
"First and foremost it's very stiff and very responsive," said Pinfold. "Last year we were on the Kredo Ultra, which is also a very stiff bike, but this seems to have even upped the ante with an even stiffer bottom bracket area. For a guy like me that's not super concerned with getting over the big mountain passes in the front group but is more concerned about winning bunch sprints, it's a perfect bike."
Finishing kit is again courtesy of SRAM and Ritchey including a complete Red group, forged alloy WCS 4-Axis 44 stem and traditional-bend WCS Classic alloy bars, though the latter has recently been replaced with Ritchey's new semi-anatomic WCS Curve. Pinfold also swaps out the standard outer chainring for SRAM's stiffer – and heavier – time trial ring, however, for better power transmission and improved shifting.
"It's a little bit negligible but we did play around with it a bit last year… and I did notice a little bit of a difference," Pinfold said of the time trial ring. "Those little differences can sometimes make a difference especially when you're sprinting. Even if it's just a fraction stiffer, I'll take it."
Interestingly, Pinfold and his teammates have moved away from proprietary 'wheel systems' in favor of more traditional sets hand built by Edge Composites using the company's all-carbon 45mm-deep clincher rims and laced with DT Swiss Aerolite spokes to Chris King's brand-new R45 hubs. Pinfold will also have Edge Composite's 68mm-deep at his disposal for faster and flatter events.
Wearing a slimmer and more svelte form than the still-extant Classic hubs, the new R45s use lower-drag bearings and a smaller, lighter RingDrive freehub mechanism for a faster and quieter roll. The classic windowed-flange look is still light, too, at around 300g for the pair.
Rounding out the build is a pair of Speedplay Zero Stainless pedals and fi'zi:k Arione Titanio saddle.
Pinfold says he has no major requests as far as setup goes, and is confident leaving the care of the bike to his team mechanic, Eric Greene.
"I definitely have preferences as far as saddles and handlebars like that but as far as little things that Eric has control over, I just let him set it up the way he does and it works well," he said. "Eric's been around bikes for so long. You just give him your bike and you get it the next morning it's dialed and working perfectly. I don't question anything. The bike is his and he does an excellent job of preparing it and making work like it should. It's the furthest thing from my mind."
What is on Pinfold's mind, however, are goals for the season. Topping that list is a stage of the Tour of California and for a Canadian rider like Pinfold racing for a US-based team, that would indeed be a grand prize.