The AG2R pro team raced this frame in last year’s Tour de France, and now badged as the Team SL, it still gives little away to the current crop of race contenders. Our large frame fitted with aluminium finishing kit and wheels that aren’t super-light came in at under 7kg, and at the current price tag it's top marks for value.
Focus has done a great job of integrating the cable routing, with gear cables running smoothly into subtle openings each side of the head tube. The internal channels form strengthening ribs that extend along each side of the down tube. This easily swamps the PressFit 30 bottom bracket, creating a vast structure from which the very deep chainstays exit, while 3D carbon dropouts flow into slim seatstays that are curved for comfort.
Up front, a chunky fork crown and angular, swept out blades with a slight forward curve turn on a 11/8-1¼in tapered steerer, which gives superbly precise steering at all times. It’s happy to follow any line intuitively, and the ride quality is incredibly supple, smoothing out even the gnarliest surfaces while tracking true and never deviating from its line.
The Izalco Team is no shrinking violet, though, scorching along with relentless acceleration when the blue touchpaper’s lit. Yet it’s less snappy than some peers, and is supremely predictable. Unlike board-stiff frames, which have instant response and great power transfer but can buck and skip over rough roads, the Focus conforms to them, enabling you to maintain an efficient tuck for longer and keep winding the power up thanks to the increased traction.
SRAM Force 22 lives up to its name, providing 22 truly usable gears
Our test machine came with a 53/39 chainset (a compact version is available), and we made the most of the Force 22 gear range, cross chaining with confidence – even though it still seems wrong! In essence Force 22 narrows the gap between compact and standard double chainrings, while giving a higher top gear for those looking to race down mountains. The included SRAM Chain Spotter sits on the front mech and helps protect your frame should the chain try to come off while cycling those slightly rougher backroads.
Fulcrum's CEX 2.5 wheels have extra milling between spokes to reduce rotational mass, Fulcrum’s 2:1 spoke ratio at the rear and a 28mm profile, making them good all-rounders with lively acceleration and decent climbing performance, although the braking lacked sharpness. The Schwalbe Ones they're shod with give even, progressive grip in fast, tight corners while rolling quickly.
The Team SL favours a long and low position, ideal for competition, but bear in mind that the supplied headset adds 19mm to the head tube length, which makes it more palatable for us non-pros. Comfort is first class, and it has the show to match its undoubted go.