Italian company Kuota has been sponsoring professional teams for several seasons now but its deal with Ag2R La Mondiale is the first time it will supply bikes to a ProTour squad.
The French team kicked off 2010 at the Santos Tour Down Under in Adelaide, Australia, where Ludovic Turpin featured in the break during the penultimate stage from Snapper Point to Willunga. He made the seven-man escape group aboard his Kuota KOM - dubbed the 'ProTour Edition' by the manufacturer.
The 34-year-old Frenchman has essentially spent his decade-long professional career with the same squad, which he debuted for in 1999 when it was the Casino team (which also boasted a certain Kazakh rider named Alexandre Vinokourov). Throughout that period he has ridden for various incarnations of the team and consequently a variety of bikes, with Kuota being the latest.
Turpin ain't a big guy and this is reflected in the dimensions of his bike - a 515mm effective top tube length and head tube of only 125mm make his bike one of the smallest in the peloton. At 170cm he's definitely not the most diminutive professional rider but he's hardly the dimensions of teammate and Swiss powerhouse Martin Elmiger.
The most striking aspect of this rig is the way everything matches and looks so 'Euro pro'. White paint and matching team decals, combined with sponsor logos on the chainstays make this one for those who love a real 'team edition' bike.
Whilst the appearance is hardly as loud as a RadioShack Trek Madone, for example, it's racy but classy, as is the finishing kit, which is a combination of Deda components, a Selle San Marco Regal (complete in Ag2R La Mondiale colours) and deep carbon Reynolds wheels... all with a SRAM Red groupset, which has quickly become de rigueur for many ProTour teams.
The KOM frame is obviously carbon fibre, but stem and bars - Deda Zero100 for both - are constructed with 3D forged light alloy for the former and 7075 T6 triple butted alloy for the latter. The Zero100 stem is the 'Servizio Corse' edition, made especially for teams using the respected Italian company's equipment.
The aforementioned SRAM Red gruppo is complete, unlike some teams, which we found to be running a mix of Red and other components. Turpin's bike is fitted with the PG1070 cassette, which is preferred in some cases due to its durability and quieter running.
Personally I'm a fan of the San Marco Regal saddle, especially emblazoned with team livery as Turpin's is. It's still a staple of the peloton, unlike the Reynolds DVC 46UL wheels, which are relative newcomers to the professional ranks but appears to be slowly making an impact on the turf traditionally owned by the likes of Mavic, Zipp, Shimano and Campagnolo.
The KOM frame utilises the BB30 standard, with that section of the featuring some heavy duty-looking tubing. The downtube is multi-shaped and morphs into a square at the bottom bracket junction - presumably to aid in rigidity - whilst the seat tube is sculpted similarly, with a moulded carbon 'insert' essentially joining both tubes above the bottom bracket shell.
The company says that frame weight sits at 900 grams; Turpin's bike tipped the scales at 7.21kg, which makes the sponsor's claim reasonable given the strong but definitely not weight weenie finishing kit.
In reality, Ludovic Turpin's bike is a good reflection of the Frenchman as a rider - light, effective, not the highest profile performer in the peloton but gets the job done well.