With the entirely unsurprising news that Decathlon will be a title sponsor of AG2R in 2023 and supply the team with its Van Rysel bikes, – who’da thunk it? – we thought it would be fun to check out the Decathlon Penta Pro ridden by AG2R’s Jaan Kirsipuu way back in the early years of the twenty-first century. Luckily for us, one of them was on display in the staff cafe at Decathlon's HQ in Lille following the unveiling of the new team name and bikes.
The Decathlon AG2R La Mondiale Team will ride the Van Rysel RCR Pro Dura-Ace Di2 road bike and the XCR Dura-Ace Di2 time trial bike in the WorldTour next year, and they’re both carbon fibre as far as the eye can see, but things were very, very different for Estonian sprinter Jaan Kirsipuu two decades ago.
You get used to bikes developing incrementally year by year and often the changes are barely perceptible – maybe a slightly more aero frameset, a couple of slimmed down components, an extra sprocket on the cassette… When you take a step back and look at a race bike from 20-odd years ago, though, you get an idea of how all those little advancements in technology really add up.
First of all, no one at Decathlon is 100% sure of this bike’s exact age. It looks like it’s equipped with a Shimano Dura-Ace 7700 groupset but with a 10-speed cassette. Dura-Ace 7700 was a 9-speed system whereas Dura-Ace 7800, introduced for model year 2003, was 10-speed, so we’re a little confused.
Kirsipuu rode for AG2R from 2000 to 2004 and got three of his four Tour de France stage victories during that time. Campagnolo was sponsoring the team by 2002 so we’re dating the bike at 2000 or 2001, but we’re happy to be corrected by any sleuths out there. In fact, please do. We’re curious.
The first thing you’ll notice about the Decathlon Penta Pro is that the frame is metal. There are actual welds and everything! There are plenty of aluminium bikes around these days, of course, but not being raced at the very highest level. Carbon fibre has many benefits from a performance perspective but one of the advantages of aluminium was that the frame could be sized and custom-built for each rider relatively easily.
The tubes come from Italy’s Dedacciai. They’re 7003 aluminium alloy that’s undergone a KET (Kinetic Energy Treatment) process to increase surface hardness.
The fork that’s slotted in upfront isn’t aluminium, though. It’s a composite affair from Time, moulded from high-modulus carbon fibre and Vectran. The French brand still uses Vectran in its bikes today as a way to absorb vibration.
Of course, Kirsipuu's Decathlon Penta Pro pre-dates disc brakes in the pro peloton by a long, long time, hence the Shimano rim brakes. Internal brake cable routing wasn’t really a thing back then; it’s no surprise to see external routing here.
The gear cables were fully external too. It wasn’t until Dura-Ace 7900 was introduced in 2008 that Shimano first began to hide them under the handlebar tape.
The handlebar and stem are both Deda Elementi Magic, made from 6061 T6 aluminium.
The Decathlon Penta wheels are aluminium too, much shallower than we’ll typically see today and, of course, with a braking track around the rim. The tyres are Michelin Pro Race.
The bike is equipped with a well-padded Fizik Poggio saddle and Time’s Équipe clipless pedals, both of which were superseded in their respective ranges years ago, and Elite bottle cages.
Although a couple of the model names remain, none of the major components on this Decathlon Penta Pro is still produced in the form you see here. What do you reckon, is that a shame, or do you think we’ve moved on for good reasons?
Mat has been in cycling media since 1996, on titles including BikeRadar, Total Bike, Total Mountain Bike, What Mountain Bike and Mountain Biking UK, and he has been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. Mat has been road.cc technical editor for over a decade, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer. Now over 50, he's riding road and gravel bikes most days for fun and fitness rather than training for competitions.