Dan Martin of Quick-Step sits in a solid eighth place overall at the Criterium du Dauphine today. He’s aboard an as yet un-released Specialized – undoubtedly a follow up to the 2015 Tarmac. As of the May 31st UCI list of approved frames a ‘2018 Specialized Tarmac SL6’ has appeared, implying that Specialized is going back to the SL nomenclature after taking a break with the 2015 model, which we’ll retroactively call an SL5 now. For these embracing disc, there is also a ‘Tarmac 18 Disc’ on the UCI list.

PELOTON/Images: James Startt

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While Specialized is not yet ready to talk about the new bike and we had to get special permission to shoot any details of the bike, it seems clear the bike adds legitimate aero gains to Tarmac frame, likely leveraging all the work Specialized did in its wind tunnel with the new Venge.

RELATED: Check out our launch coverage of the 2015 Tarmac for some context. 

The most obvious changes are out back, where this new 2018 Specialized Tarmac SL6 has dropped seat stays, a wheel cut out and more of an aero cross section seat tube and seat post. While this seems a clear nod to the Venge, the new Roubaix also had dropped seat stays to increase rotational movement in the seat cluster and allow for increased seat post deflection, so more comfort is probably also part of the equation.

Up front the bike appears to be more traditional Tarmac, with the hourglass shape, Cobra head tube which Specialized says helps with the angle of carbon fiber layup , but is potentially a bit more pronounced in the hourglass department and certainly reduced in the ‘Cobra’ to shave a few grams of drag. The fork is another eye-catcher with much slimmer blades than the 2015 Tarmac. The fork and rear also possess direct mount brakes unlike the 2015 bike. While Martin’s bike has a traditional bar and stem set up, we would not be surprised to see integrated, internal routing options for some Tarmac SL6 cockpits when it is officially launched. That, after all, is where the low hanging aero fruit is.

At the bottom bracket junction the bike appears pretty traditional, but it’s a safe bet that the new Tarmac will be touted as both stiffer and lighter than the 2015 bike. To Specialized’s credit they have never played the gram counting game and the Tarmac has never vied for the lightest frame, staying well north of 800grams. In professional  racing that has been an irrelevant metric anyway, as any relatively light frame with a World Tour level build requires ballast to be legal,and Specialized has always been a true racing first brand.

We will be attending a Specialized event very soon, and expect this bike to be the cornerstone of the brand’s 2018 line up. Look for that launch coverage very soon.