The Sky is Not the Limit – the other British riders in the pro peloton

Team Sky (or Sky Procycling as they were until the start of this season) have undoubtedly changed the way that cycling is perceived in this country. Although they were set up from the start as an internationally rostered team – albeit with a very clear aim of initially achieving success in the Tour de France for a British rider – they were often described as a de facto British national road team. The overlapping managerial & coaching staff from the national track squad adds fuel to this conflation, especially for the legions of new cycling fans that the team’s success has turned onto the sport. It was also inevitable that many of the existing and upcoming British riders would find a home at Sky where the people, program and language were most familiar. But what of those British riders who choose not to ‘Take to the Sky’ with Brailsford and Co? Are they getting a fair share of cycle fan’s support when faced with the media-attention black hole that the Tour-winning team creates wherever it goes?

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3D printing – cycling into the future, layer by layer by layer

The Future arrived last week. The postman delivered it to my house just as I was going out for a ride. It is, as far as I know, the first bit of 3D printing that has crossed our threshold but, given the way things are going, it’s unlikely to be the last. I delayed my departure a few moments to fix the new part to my bike and set off into Tomorrow’s World.

3D printing has been around in basic forms since the 1980’s but has only really start to gain significant traction in the public consciousness in the last 5 years. As hardware prices fall and material options soar, applications for what has also been termed ‘additive manufacturing’ are now looking immense. A shift of seismic proportions, at least on a par with the home computing revolution, is coming as we will change the way we both perceive and consume manufactured objects. A 3D printer in every home is not such a far-fetched idea and would have profound effects on the way we conduct our lives.

Bike_helmet_Bike_helmet_3D_printed_on_the_Objet500

Multi-coloured, multi-material 3D prints will be the next generation. 

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“Another Fine Mesh” – Pro-cycling clothing debate hots up

Cyclists are often a bit funny about their tan-lines. Cultivating a set of razor-sharp transitions, which switch instantly from the deepest mahogany to a blinding alabaster white, half way along a thigh or bicep is seen as one of the heights of being ‘pro’. Tan-lines like these tell of days in the saddle, not days on the beach. They are worn with more than just pride; for many they are a badge of honour.

Last week however, we saw a couple of cases of cases of pro team ‘tanning’ getting out of hand and raising questions about protection and performance.

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Chasing Rainbows – UCI Road World Championship preview

Now that the Tour of Britain has concluded, all eyes are fully focussed on Tuscany for the UCI World Road Race Championships this week. Racing started today with the Team Time Trial before moving onto the individual time trials in the middle of the week and then culminating with the Blue Riband road race events next weekend. Junior (Men and Women) and U23 (Men only) versions of all the events are either side of the midweek races, filling out a packed schedule of competition. We are guaranteed some gorgeous scenery as the routes traverse the beautiful Tuscan landscape around Lucca, Pistoia and Florence and there are going to be plenty of fireworks throughout the event.

The Team Time Trials – uniquely contested by trade teams rather than nations – kicked off the annual event and both the Mens and Women’s events were won by the defending champions, though in starkly contrasting fashions. Whilst Specialized-Lulu Lemon romped home in the Women’s race, besting second place Rabo Womens Cycling by over 70 seconds across the 42.7km course, the Men’s Omega Pharma QuickStep squad had a somewhat narrower margin of victory over the Orica Greenedge team. Racing an extended course of 56.8km, the Belgian outfit – who were the last team out on the road – took the title from the understandably gutted Australians by less than a single second. Their time of 1:04:16.81 was just enough to deny Orica Greenedge, who had maintained a strong run in the final kilometres to set up the nail-biting finish. Sky Procycling rounded out the podium some 22 seconds further back.

Home interest in the Team Time Trials has been impacted by the fact that cross-scheduling of this event with the last stage of the Tour of Britain meant that two of GB’s best male testers were unavailable. Whilst Chris Froome (SKY), and Steve Cummings (BMC) both took part, it was the absence of the talents of Alex Dowsett and Bradley Wiggins – both of whom illuminated the final ToB stage in some way of recompense – that was most obvious.

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Tour de France – Final Roundup – nothing artificial about this race (except the ‘fireworks’)

In the end the promised finale fireworks never came. Not from the top of the Arc de Triomphe after the evening stage on Sunday, where we given a projected feu artifice lightshow instead of some actual gunpowder explosions (the whole show was greeted with polite bemusement rather than rapture in our house), and not from the last few days of racing either where the assumption has been that the riders simply didn’t have enough left in the legs to seriously attack the yellow jersey and so saved what they did have for the scrap for podium and best team places. Another sign of a clean Tour? Maybe..

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Tour de France – Stage 15 Roundup – Bang, Froome, straight to the Moon.

The second rest day of the Tour de France marks, for us armchair followers at least, the beginning of the end. Sure, those guys on the bikes still have a mind-bending amount of cycling to do, but if the 3 weeks of the Tour was condensed into just one stage (like when TV scientists cram the whole of Earth’s existence into just one year and we learn that humans popped up at about 3 minutes to midnight on New Years Eve) then we are long past the feed zone and the intermediate sprint. We have already shed three-quarters of the Sky domestiques and we are either hungrily eyeing up the remnants of the breakaway, or wondering if this is the moment when Cadel will start going backwards quickly. Yes, my friends, we are now a ‘select group’ as Phil Liggett would say; we are at the ‘head of affairs’ and, just as someone pops off the front and is ‘free to fly’, the ITV4 cycling coverage will be going into its final, 7 minute long, ad break.

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Tour de France – Stage 9 roundup – “Cycling, Bloody Hell!”

As Alex Ferguson sort of once said: “Cycling, Bloody Hell!”

Or as Johnny Rotten didn’t quite say once either: “Ever get the feeling you’ve been treated?”

What an epic weekend! The Pyrenees were meant to play second fiddle to the Alps this year; only two stages and none of the hoo-ha of Mt Ventoux or Alpe d’Huez. I’ll tell you what though – if this is second fiddle then we are in for some virtuoso stuff come next weekend.

The late part of last week played out more to the expected plan. Cav gets his win on Stage 5. Greipel hits home first for Stage 6 and then Cannondale and Sagan beast Stage 7 and he looks to have green pretty much wrapped up within the first week.

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Tour de France – Day 4 roundup – Full Banana and Peas

So Corsica is done and La Grande Boucle is back on the mainland. Not that anyone should have cause to regret the three days offshore. We have been treated to sumptuous scenery, occaisonal high farce, and none too shabby racing.. Plus all the press pundits’ expectations and predictions have had to be tossed overboard on the ferry journey to Nice.. Nice. 

No wins for CVNDSH or Sagan. Kittel comes through the confusion and carnage to claim Stage 1. The breakaway’s breakaway  Bakelants holds off the raging horde for Stage 2. Orica Greenedge, having got all the headlines for all the wrong reasons on the opening day, come out of the shadows to sneak Stage 3 by the narrowest of margins. And then come out of even greater shadows to take the Stage 4 TTT and the Maillot Jaune. I’m not sure what the Aussie for ‘Chapeau’ is but they deserve it. With corks on. Meanwhile, Geraint Thomas, Tony Martin and Ted King keep the ‘Toughest Sport on the Planet’ flame alive whilst the whole peloton dodges loose dogs, dropped caps and very flimsy-looking final kilometres barriers. Even Chris Froome chucks out the pre-programming and has a quick pop off the front to show that improvisation is alive and well at Team Sky. Heady Days, my friends, Heady Days.

On the downside, we have been subjected to some of the most horrendous full kit abominations seen since Cipollini last hung up his zebra-hide skinsuit. I’m not just talking about the ongoing, season long horror shows that are the AG2R and Lampre kits – we have almost become inured to their awfulness – no, I’m talking about the modern penchant for leader’s jerseys to spread beyond the confines of the jersey itself onto the shorts, onto the helmet, onto the gloves, glasses, socks and even onto the fricking bikes themselves. The sight of Pierre Rolland yesterday, turning what was undeniably (according to me and my brother in the late 80’s anyway) the coolest looking jersey of all into what one enlightened viewer termed ‘an anorexic Mr Blobby’ definately took some stomaching. He did tone it down a little today but probably more through a lack of the requisite patterned aerosuit than through overnight aesthetic enlightenment. No so Jan Bakelants, who unashamedly went Full Banana today.

Jan Bakelants - Full Banana

Last year I was initially quite supportive of Wiggins’ relatively restrained co-opting of yellowness ‘beyond the jersey’ (for a long while just the glasses, then glimpses on the saddle, the internals of the forks and the belly of the downtube) but felt that even he was overdoing it come the final time trial at Chartres with the full fruity skinsuit. But no! Bakelants and Radioshack Trek have shown us that you can go one better than Wiggo, that you can go much deeper into the yellow – even if its only Day 4, you’ve never won a senior Pro race before and you are 98.54% certain not to be holding the jersey after the 26 minutes racing you will do today. Yes, go on Trek, crack out those yellow overshoes and really go to town. 

Maillot Jaune. Maillot Pois. Maillot Vert. 

The clue is in the title, lads. Calm down, eh?