Rui Costa’s Cube Litening AIR: Intermarché-Circus-Wanty pro bike

Former World Champion mixed Cube’s lightweight bike with some very aero features

Clock07:34, Saturday 23rd September 2023
Rui Costa's Litening AIR lightweight road bike


Rui Costa's Litening AIR lightweight road bike

It's been a long time since Rui Costa won a rain-lashed edition of the World Championships in 2013, pulling on the rainbow jersey after edging out Spain’s Joaquim Rodríguez in a two-up sprint. The victory added to an already impressive palmarès, with three Tour de France stage wins preceding it and many more WorldTour wins following. By 2017 the WorldTour wins had dried up and overall victory at the Abu Dhabi Tour was followed by a six-year barren spell at cycling’s highest tier…until the 2023 Vuelta a España.

At the grand old age of 36, in cycling terms, Costa rolled back the years to outfox his younger breakaway companions on stage 15 and win his first Grand Tour stage in 10 years - his first ever at the Vuelta. The latest of the Portuguese rider’s WorldTour triumphs was delivered atop the Cube Litening AIR C:68X.

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Monster gearing with 56/44t chainset

It’s a bike we got our hands on ahead of stage 4, a relatively flat day - by Vuelta standards - ending in Tarragona. The Litening AIR C:68X is an on-trend modern race bike, blending both aerodynamics and light weight. Cube also has a separate Litening Aero, but Intermarché-Circus-Wanty appears to be now following the one-bike route adopted by other teams, sticking to the Air whatever the terrain.

Read more: Specialized releases Tarmac SL8 - one bike for any terrain

For the stage, Costa opted for a monster 56/44t Rotor Aldhu chainset with the INspider power meter. That’s a seriously big gear to push, even on flat terrain, enough to make our legs burn just thinking about it. For context, it’s the same size that powerhouse Filippo Ganna (Ineos Grenadiers) used on the same day - and he’s a two-time time trial World Champion and set the individual pursuit world record in 2022, becoming only the second rider to dip under four minutes. Most bikes that we encountered maxed out at a 54t largest chainring.

Taking advantage of the wider cassette options currently available, Costa paired it with an 11-34t cassette, but that still leaves a 34-44 easiest gear.

Read more: Filippo Ganna’s Pinarello Dogma F pro bike

All-in for aerodynamics with 65mm wheelset

Costa paired the monster gearing with a very aerodynamic set-up, including Newmen Advanced SL R.65 wheels, with rim depths that match the name. It’s one of the deepest wheels we saw used at the race, barring time trials, but isn’t a surprising choice considering the stage served up one of the easiest parcours of the three weeks.

The wheels were paired with Continental’s Grand Prix 5000 TT tyres - by far the most popular choice amongst Continental-sponsored teams, as was the 28mm width used by Costa.

At this point, every bike in the pro peloton features a sleek cockpit with integrated cabling, and the Litening AIR was no different, creating a sleek front end to cut through the air. Every little detail matters for aerodynamics and the Bryton computer mount integrated neatly under the handlebars where it would only add minimal drag.

Finishing components included a Prologo Zero II saddle, Prologo bar tape, plus Elite bottle cages.

Bike Specification
  • year


  • model

    AIR C:68X

  • Manufacturer


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