Midweek most wanted: Brand new Look 785 Buez, Le Col jackets, smart trainers and much more just in

A sneak peek at the latest and greatest kit we’ve got in our office that we just can’t wait to use

Look 785 Huez

The brand new lightweight Look 785 Huez has just floated into the office, weighing just 5.9kg for a size medium.

To break that down, this non RS version (that moniker is for the tip of the top only) frame weighs 990g and the fork 350g while it comes equipped with Shimano Ultegra Di2.

The frame is he result of nano layer, which are layers of carbon hundredth of a millimetre thick put down on top of each, with a smidge of glass fibre for good measure.

Le Pro Col C2 jacket

This is quite the stylish number from Le Col. It’s lightweight, and the brand says it’s as heavy as a jersey but with the protection benefits of a jacket.

In fact, the brand is so confident in its protective properties they’ve used a thinner fabric than competitors so that it can just be paired with the correct thermal base layer. Currently, the Le Pro Col C2 jacket retails at £220.

Tacx Flux smart turbo trainer

It is most definitely that time of the year again, and if time sweating in your garage doesn’t sell turbo training to you, perhaps the Tacx Flux smart turbo trainer will.

It’s riding the wave of new age training, with the likes of Zwift which is genuinely making inside sessions bearable.

It’s a direct drive model, which means you remove the rear wheel and load the bike on to a cassette already attached to the machine. It fits 130mm or 135mm quick release frames but adapter kits do exist if you have a wider axle standard.

The trainer itself is a bit of a beast, with 1500watts of resistance and the ability to simulate 10% climbs.

Muc-Off Nanotube chain

Basically, this is the same concept as that chain that Bradley Wiggins ran on his hour record bike, but brought down to a consumer level (£109), pitched at those who have an important time trial coming up or Ironman.

It’s a Shimano Dura-Ace chain hand treated with Muc-Off’s Nano tube coating, which it claims gives a 10 watt advantage over competitor’s models, and lasts in all weathers.

Once it’s on your bike, Muc-Off recommends running it for four-six hours on your turbo so it wears in properly for your big event.

Bell Falcon MIPs helmet

We’ve always been fans of Bell helmets,  and recently the Bell Stratus MIPs scored very well with us. Now, the Bell Falcon takes its design cues from the top end Bell Z20 and refines them for the price point.

For £100 you get the added protection of MIPs and a robust polycarbonate shell with reinforcing protection built in. It’s got a changeable fit thanks to Bell’s Float fit system and the retention dial on the rear.

Vittoria Corsa Control tyres

The Vittoria Corsa Control tyres are designed for everything. Fast rolling and supple for the summer thanks to the graphene compound, well protected for the winter and offers stacks of grip for when things get greasy.

The tyres are supple and grippy thanks to their 320tpi casing and they’ve got tan side walls to boot. They currently retail at 54.99 a tyre.

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Dan Evans’s super-slimmed down Cannondale hill-climb bike

2014 British hill-climb champion Dan Evans shows off the Cannondale Super Six Evo bike that has propelled him to numerous victories already this season
– All photos by Andy Jones

Hill-climb specialist Dan Evans has been amassing an impressive set of results over the past few weeks as he heads towards the 2017 Hill-Climb National Championships.

Evans showed us his latest hill-climb machine at the Huddersfield Star Wheelers event at Jackson Bridge on Saturday morning. The 2014 national champion won that, and then won the Holme Valley Wheelers hill-climb in the afternoon and went on to win the Manchester Bicycle Club event the following day.

>>> Compare these super-lightweight hill-climbers’ bikes

Long-term Cannondale rider Evans’s latest bike is a SuperSix Evo model, modified to suit riding uphill at speed. Naturally, it has several gravity-defying, weight-saving features.

The British Hill-Climb National Championhips take place on Sunday, October 29 at Hedley Hill, Hedley on the Hill, Northumberland.

Dan Evans and his Cannondale in action on the Jackson Bridge course

No bar tape for Evans, although he has resisted trimming his bars short unlike some riders.

Stock SRAM Red brakes

Wireless, electronic shifting courtesy of SRAM

Lightweight Selle Italia saddle still has its cover

Spada Spillo wheels and light skewers

No doubting who this bike belongs to

Cannondale chainset with a single ring, and the front mech removed

Un-needed Aheadset cap is removed – but the Garmin stays in place for power output

Stages power meter

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Ribble bikes: which model is right for you?

We walk you through the road bikes available from Preston based bike brand, Ribble Cycles

Ribble Cycles is a Preston based brand founded in 1897. Bikes from Ribble are masterminded at their UK headquarters, produced in the far east and then built up back in the UK in Preston and Birmingham.

One of the greatest attractions of buying a bike from Ribble is that customers can select their own spec via the online bike builder.

>>> Ribble bike reviews 

Ribble bikes are purchased direct via the company website and the lack of retailers involved cuts down costs for the buyer, too.

It is possible to visit Ribble’s showroom in Preston, Lancashire for advice and bike fitting services or the company’s newer store in Birmingham.

As well as bikes, Ribble stocks a range of components, clothing and accessories including kit from its own cycling kit brand – Nuovo.

Ribble is one of the UK’s largest bike manufacturers, and it also has branches in Australia and Germany.

Useful links for road bike shoppers…

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Ribble bikes: the range

Ribble produces bikes for a wide variety of cycling disciplines. We’ve broken them down into endurance road, race road, cyclocross time trial and track.

Ribble’s bike: endurance

Ribble CGR 105 winterroad bike

Ribble CGR 105 winter road bike

Ribble CGR

‘CGR’ stands for cross, gravel and road and the 7005 alloy Ribble CGR frame comes with a relaxed geometry and wide tyres suited (35mm being the max width) to tackling mixed terrain through the winter months. It’s a disc specific build with mounts for panniers and mudguards.

The recommended build features Shimano 105 and Fulcrum Racing Sport Disc wheels for £1,021.

Ribble 7005 Winter Audax road bike

Ribble 7005 Winter Audax road bike

Ribble 7005 Winter Audax

There was a time when this bike was heralded as the winter bike of choice for the vast majority of UK club riders.

The frame is made from 7005 grade alloy, and is still shaped to provide a racing geometry – but there’s fittings and clearance for full mudguards and pannier racks as well as a flexible slender 27.2mm seat post and carbon forks.

The max tyre width is 23mm with mudguards, 25mm without – which is worth bearing in mind considering modern trends. The recommended build is £694 with Shimano Tiagra groupset and Rodi Airline 5 hoops.

Ribble Gran Fondo Disc

Ribble Gran Fondo Disc

Ribble Gran Fondo & Gran Fondo Disc

A carbon frame designed to offer a fatigue beating ride over the rough roads and long miles of sportives, the Gran Fondo provides clearance for 25mm tyres on the non-disc and 30mm tyres on the disc versions.

Quick steering comes from the tapered head tube and s-shaped seat stays provide extra flex, alongside a 27.2mm seat post. The recommended build with Shimano 105 and Mavic Aksium Disc wheelset comes in at £1,362 without discs and £1,502 with.

Ribble Sportive Racing Disc road bike

Ribble Sportive Racing Disc road bike

Ribble Sportive Racing & Sportive Racing Disc

The aim of the carbon frame (T700/T800) Sportive Racing model was to combine the comfort of a taller head tube with a stiffness of a race orientated rear triangle in a creation which Ribble calls ‘blended geometry’.

A tapered fork steerer provides quick steering and oversized PF30 bottom bracket lends to efficiency of power transfer. Available with discs or rim brakes – to suit 28mm and 25mm tyres respectively – recommended builds come in at £1,531 or £1,304 with Shimano 105 5800 shifting and Fulcrum Racing Sport wheels.

ribble 7005 sportive

Ribble 7005 sportive road bike

For those after entry level carbon, there’s the Ribble Evo Pro which sports Shimano Tiagra gearing and Mavic Aksium wheels for £938. There’s also the Ribble 7005 Sportive, which offers an aluminium frame and traditional relaxed geometry from £629.

Vintage lovers can check out the Reynolds 525 Steel, whose frame material is perhaps obvious and sports a sportive geometry, mudgaurd mounts and clearance for 25mm tyres with Shimano 105 for £979.

Ribble Sportiva disc women's road bike

Ribble Sportiva disc women’s road bike

Ribble Sportiva

For female riders seeking an endurance fit, there’s the Sportiva range – available with an aluminium 7005 frame (Shimano Tiagra £786) carbon with rim brakes (Shimano 105 build, £1,273) or carbon with disc brakes (Shimano 105 £1,398).

The frame features a shorter reach, creating a less stretched out stance Ribble says is suited to female riders, with lower standover height and flat bars an option. The disc brake version comes with 12mm thru-axles and tapered head tubes on the carbon models promise precise steering.

Ribble’s bikes: road race and aero road

Ribble R872 road bike

Ribble R872 road bike

Ribble R872

The best selling carbon race bike in Ribble’s stable, the R872 scored a perfect 10 in our most recent review.

The carbon frame features a tapered head tube and internal cable routing, with a stiff bottom bracket shell. The tubing profile and carbon layup were re-designed for 2017, to provide greater aero gains and the dropouts were updated to carbon to save weight.

A Shimano Ultegra 6800 groupset and Fulcrum Racing Sport wheelset are on the suggested build, which comes in at an impressive £1,666.

Ribble 883 Aero Disc road bike

Ribble 883 Aero Disc road bike

Ribble Aero 883 / Aero 883 disc

As the title would suggest, this is Ribble’s aero road bike – it was developed alongside Performance Engineered Solutions (PES) in Sheffield, a company have worked elsewhere on Formula 1 and MotoGP mobiles.

The chassis sports its Kamm Tail seat tube and down tube – designed to reduce turbulence – with an integrated seat clamp. There’s a rim and disc version on offer, the former accommodating aero Direct Fit brake calipers and the latter sporting 12mm thru-axles.

A shorter top tube is included so that you can mount clip on aero bars and gain a good position. The top end T1000 and T800 carbon is manipulated to keep weight low and stiffness high.

The recommended build comes with Shimano Ultegra and a Mavic Pro Carbon Wheel and Tyre System, at £2,898 with discs and £2,489 without.

Ribble SL road bike

Ribble SL road bike

Ribble SL

The SL tips the scales at 840g for a medium sized frame – and as the Super Light name would predict, it’s the climber in the line up.

The carbon frame was designed to offer a good balance between low weight and power transfer, and comes with race geometry and short wheelbase for quick handling.

The thin seat stays and slender 27.2mm seat post combine to offer comfort – and the matt paint job saves on the added weight of further paint.

Ribble TT & Aero TT bike

Ribble Aero TT bike

Ribble Aero TT bike

Ribble has two time trial bikes to offer. The entry level ‘TT’ sports a 7005 alloy frame, with aero shaped down tube. The brake calipers and base bar set up, with standard stem, make for easy maintenance in an area where this can become a struggle.

A suggested build with Shimano Tiagra groupset and Rodi Airline 5 wheels comes in at a pretty jaw dropping £699 – though this doesn’t include finishing kit which adds a further £34 if you go with Deda bars and stem.

For those looking to spend a little more, there’s the Aero TT – which features a carbon frame and ‘fin’ shaped bladed fork, tucked in rear wheel and tear drop down tube. This model can come with Shimano 105 for £1,533 – that price is without wheels, though if you’ve not already got a pair you can add some via the Bike Builder.

Ribble CR5 & 7005 CR1 cyclocross bikes

Ribble CX5 cyclocross bike

Ribble CX5 cyclocross bike

Ribble’s cyclocross bike selection includes two frames – the CXR full carbon frame (£1,611 with Shimano 105 and hydraulic disc brakes) and CR1 7005 aluminium option (£784 with Shimano Tiagra and rim brakes). Both bikes have been designed to offer versatility over a range of terrains and can be specced with road going components to complete winter road duties, too.

The CX5 uses flat mount disc brakes  with 12mm thru-axles and there’s clearance for tyres up to 35mm. The cables are integrated and an oversized press fit bottom bracket with tapered head tube offers power transfer and quality steering.

The CR1 alloy frame option has its cables routed across the top tube, to make shouldering the bike easier. The fork is carbon to keep the weight down, and there are mudguard eyelets as well as clearance for 37mm tyres.

Ribble Eliminator

Ribble Eliminator track bike

Ribble Eliminator track bike

A UCI approved carbon frame with oversized bottom bracket shell and chain stays – this is a track race bike through and through, and not sold to be road legal.

The suggested groupset is a Stronglight Track Groupset, with Miche Pistard wheelset – with a price tag of £1,049 – but Ribble offers components from Stronglight, Miche, Mavic and Deda.

The plus side of using the bike builder is that you can select your own ideal gearing from the start, though many trackies will already own a library of chainrings and sprockets already.

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Bahrain-Merida close out debut season at Tour of Guangxi

Ten months on from making its debut WorldTour appearance at the Tour Down Under, Bahrain-Merida will close its inaugural season at the first edition of the Tour of Guangxi. Team leader Vincenzo Nibali will ride the Taiwan KOM Challenge on Friday and so Bahrain-Merida has selected squad capable of challenging for stage wins at the Tour of Guangxi.

The team also has the only Chinese rider in the Guangxi peloton with Meiyin Wang selected for the race. On the eve of the race, Bahrain-Merida’s sports director Philippe Mauduit explained to Cyclingnews that Wang would be given opportunities to impress via breakaways.

“It is difficult for him to have the ambition to win a stage but he is in his home country,” Mauduit said. “He is the only Chinese here in the race and it is important, at least for him, but it would also be good for the team if he can go in some breakaway and show the jersey, show himself and have fun front of his public.”

The 28-year-old, who turned professional with the Trek–Marco Polo team in 2009, has won stages of the Tour of Langkawi and Tour of China I but is yet to taste success at the WorldTour. Starting his season with the Tour of Oman, Wang rode the majority of the spring classics through to the Tour of Romandie. Since April, Wang has had a light schedule but returned to racing in the Italian autumn races.

Wang isn’t the team’s only card for the race with Italian sprint duo Sonny Colbrelli and Niccolò Bonifazio to be given support in their bid for stage wins. However, with the late date of the race, Mauduit is unsure what level to expect of the sprint field in Guangxi.

“We go with Sonny and Niccolò for stage wins,” Mauduit said. “It is a little bit difficult to know exactly what we will be able to do here because when it is the end of the season most of the time the riders have lighter training we would say. We will see how on the road how it goes to be smart and to do something.”

While the race is tilted towards sprinters and opportunities, the stage four summit finish to NongLa Scenic Spot, albeit only a few kilometres in length, is well suited to the capabilities of Slovenian Janez Brajkovic. The 33-year-old has primarily ridden as a domestique in his sole season with Bahrain-Merida but as Mauduit explains, he will be given support in his final race with the team for a general classification bid.

“Jani will not be in the team next year so he will have a kind of free card,” he said. “Especially for the hardest stage which finishes with five kilometres uphill. We will give him the freedom because we can do it. He was working the whole year for the others so he can have that freedom for his last race.”

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Could some races find more success by dropping out of the WorldTour?

With a packed calendar, could races like the Tour of Turkey find more of an attraction without the demands of WorldTour status

The WorldTour calendar is too crowded meaning some newer races may find better coverage one level down, say some team directors.

For 2017, the UCI expanded the WorldTour calendar from its traditional races with Grand Tours and Classics to include races like the Tour of Turkey, which ended Sunday in Istanbul, the Tour of California and the RideLondon-Surrey Classic.

>>> Is the 2018 Tour de France route finally one to get the better of Chris Froome and Sky?

The Tour of Turkey completed its 53rd edition this year having grown steadily over the years with sprinters Mark Cavendish and Marcel Kittel racing alongside overall stars Adam Yates and Thibaut Pinot. But problems in Turkey, political coups and terrorism, saw a possible cancellation before a date change to October from April.

“There are so many races now on the WorldTour calendar that I don’t think it needs to be in [the WorldTour], it can be ranked HC,” Bora-Hansgrohe sports director Enrico Poitschke told Cycling Weekly. “Also it is not so easy to find a date on the calendar with all the other races going on.”

The Tour of Turkey wasn’t able to attract the minimum number of WorldTour teams in 2017 (ASO)

After a steady rise from 2.2, to 2.1 and 2.HC, the well-organised stage race earned a WorldTour ranking. It failed, however, to attract top teams and riders in 2017. Only four of the 18 WorldTour teams attended – a concern for both the organiser and UCI governing body.

The same concerns apply to other new races including the Abu Dhabi Tour in February.

Political problems including the attempted coup in 2016 in Turkey forced the organiser to reschedule the race for 2017 from its usual April calendar slot to October. Many insiders were uncertain the race would even continue until late into the cycling year.

“The problem is or was that it was very late when we knew the race would be official,” Trek-Segafredo sports director Dirk Demol. “Now they have already finalised the dates for next year and that will give the chance for more teams to plan for it and race it.

“They deserve to continue but deserve to have more teams and stars because it’s a pity for them that they are not here. They suffered given the late notice of the race. Everything else is perfect the hotels, the directions and organisation.”

“The teams, especially the teams that are not here, will see that everything is fine in Turkey,” Poitschke added. “It’s just small improvements that need to be made and then everything is fine and for sure more teams will come here.”

Bora-Hansgrohe, Trek-Segafredo, UAE Emirates and Astana – all WorldTour teams – raced along side professional continental teams and the Turkish national team for six days. They committed themselves despite a rocky period in Turkey.

The attempted coup on the Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government and terrorism incidents could not have come at a worse time with Turkey’s new WorldTour status. The organiser shifted dates, but even risked losing its top place without the minimum number of 10 WorldTour teams attending.

“It’s a political problem and the teams see what’s going on with the coup and terrorist attempts, but if you take away those issues the race can have a future,” explained Dmitri Sedoun, an Astana sports director. “The organisers are working hard and anything you ask of them, they try to give you a hand.

Riders and directors who went to Turkey praised its organisation (ASO)

“Clearly yes, to raise the level of their race they need more teams from the WorldTour. But on an organisational level they are ready.”

The UCI slotted the Tour of Turkey on its 2018 WorldTour calendar in October again, from 9 to 14. The organiser, however, says that they will ask to return to April in 2019 so that it sits just ahead of the Giro d’Italia.

Currently, however, several races including the Tour of the Alps, Croatia, Romandie and the Ardennes Classics crowd that time-frame. Forcing the WorldTour teams to race in an already busy time may not be wise.

“April is even better,” Demol explained. “Next year we will have fewer riders in each race with limited team sizes, so and at different moments, we will have more riders available because we have 28 riders in the team. So we can do more races.”

Sedoun added, “This date works out well because in April we already have so many races. It’s already filled up pretty much.”

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‘It’s a great route for us’: Chris Froome and Team Sky sports director hopeful of 2018 Tour de France chances

Team already thinking about balance of squad with one fewer rider to pick for the race

Nicolas Portal, one of the two Team Sky sports director to help guide Chris Froome to victory in the 2017 Tour de France, has said that he thinks that the route of the 2018 race will suit the British team.

Speaking after the route announcement on Tuesday, Portal said that the inventive route would reward a complete rider, as well as hopefully creating an exciting race.

>>> Tour de France 2018 route: Alpe d’Huez and Paris-Roubaix cobbles return for 2018 race

“There is a lot of everything, if you see what I mean!” the Frenchman said. “There are a lot of cobbles, a lot of climbs, two short stages, but one that is really, really short [65km], a team time trial…

“I think it’s a great Tour for us, but also in general for the Tour de France. Whoever wins this race is going to be a complete rider. Compared to this year it looks like a less stressful Tour.

“Regaining any lost seconds was pretty hard. This Tour will be a bit different. If you miss one stage and lose some time, you can hope to gain back some time in a few days.”

>>> Comment: Is the 2018 Tour de France route finally one to get the better of Chris Froome and Sky?

Portal also revealed that he had already been in contact with Team Sky general manager Dave Brailsford to start to plan the team’s approach to next year’s race, where Chris Froome will be aiming to win a fifth Tour de France.

“I was already writing on my phone and talking to Dave. This is our job – we are constantly thinking, thinking! We need to get the detail right, look at the route, talk… But already we have a strong idea.”

Chris Froome has picked out the cobbled stage nine as particularly tough

The route of the 2018 Tour is one of the most diverse in years, featuring a cobbled stage, a 65km mountain stage, individual and team time trials, three summit finishes, and even a section of gravel riding in the Alps.

This parcours has almost certainly been designed to challenge the dominance that Chris Froome has held over the race in recent years, with the Brit picking out the first week – culminating with the trip to the pavé on stage nine – as particularly tricky.

>>> Who are the favourites to win the 2018 Tour de France?

“It’s tough. I wouldn’t expect any less from the Tour de France organisers – especially the first nine days,” the four-time winner said.

“It’s going to be very nervy and dangerous up in the north west of France before we hit any of the big mountain stages. The wind could be a massive factor up there and with the GC being so close we could see the race torn to pieces.

“You could see a lot happening that day [on the cobbles]. Then there’s a stage [10] with a gravel section in it – there’s going to be a lot to get ready for in that sense.”

>>> Six stages that could decide the 2018 Tour de France

Froome – and his rivals – will also have to cope with one fewer team-mate than in previous years, with team sizes being limited to eight rather than nine riders in each of the Grand Tours from 2018.

Selecting the best seven riders to help the 32-year-old through the tricky first week before still having riders at his side in the mountains is likely to be a tricky decision for Team Sky in the months before the race, with Froome already thinking about the balance of the team with one fewer rider.

“It’s definitely going to be a big consideration coming into the race, having a team that will keep me safe up north,” Froome continued. “Having said that we don’t want to compromise the team we’re going to have once we hit the Alps and the Pyrenees.

“I imagine, in terms of selection, it will be guys who are very versatile who will be the obvious choice – especially with the team time trial playing a big part in the race.”

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2018 Tour de France route in 3D – Video

The ASO today unveiled all 21 stages of the 2018 Tour de France, which starts in Noirmoutier-En-L’Ïle on Saturday, July 7, and concludes three weeks later in Paris on July 29. In between, the peloton will tackle a 35km team time trial in Cholet, a 31km individual time trial from Saint-Pée-sur-Nivelle to Espelette, and six mountain says with three summit finishes.

The 2018 Tour de France will return to staples such as Alpe d’Huez and Pau, but there will also be an incredibly short 65km mountain stage, a stage that borrows 21.7km of cobbles from Paris-Roubaix, and a stage in the Alps that will take riders over gravel roads.

It’s a lot to take in, but the race organisers have provided this five-minute “3D” video to help bring the route to life. Hang on as the peloton zips through each of the stage routes and literally flies through the transfer days.

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Comment: Is the 2018 Tour de France route finally one to get the better of Chris Froome and Sky?

Cobbles, just 31km of time trialling and the shortest stage ever; is the 2018 Tour route the one to stop Sky’s dominance of the race?

They say Grand Tour routes are never built with one rider in mind, but every year the Tour de France route seems to try and find a new way to make life a little bit more difficult for Chris Froome and Team Sky.

>>> Tour de France 2018 route: Alpe d’Huez and Paris-Roubaix cobbles to return for 2018 race

In 2017, the sparse quantities of time-trialling kilometres and mountain top finishes only saw Sky hold their grip over their rivals even tighter to deliver a fourth victory for Froome. It worked, and despite some minor hiccups, Froome was able to use the mere 32km of time trialling to effectively win the race.

If this year felt more like a classic Tour route, 2018 paints the prospect of a more chaotic style of racing like 2015 and perhaps, less controllable. An early 35km team time trial will be the first point of separation between the majority of the GC contenders, but an opening week or so peppered with Classics-esque profiles is likely to unstick some.

Froome’s 2017 band of climbers that dominated the mountain passes would probably have a handle of stage five’s up and down affair from Lorient to Quimper and stage six’s finish to the Mûr de Bretagne, but some tricky flat stages through Brittany, the team time trial and a brutal looking ride over the cobbles on stage nine to Roubaix will probably demand a much more rounded team than 2017 did.

Froome rode impressively across the cobbles in 2015 (Watson)

With Grand Tour teams down to just eight riders as well, teams will certainly need at least two out-and-out Classics/flats riders in the team to negotiate the first week, and particularly, in Sky’s case, if all-rounders like Geraint Thomas aren’t available through chasing their own ambitions.

Though Froome succeeded with flying colours in conquering the cobbles in 2015, the near 22km of pavé in 2018 will still pose a significant danger and could be a more unpredictable affair than his most recent Grand Tour wins have perhaps featured.

If those elements of the early part of the race were somewhat expected, the short 65km stage 17 with three climbs from Bagnères-de-Luchon to the Col de Portet certainly wasn’t.

The 101km stage to Foix in this year’s race showed these short, mountainous routes are fruitful in stopping a team from dominating the bunch. Froome still found himself with one team-mate in Michal Kwiatkowski and had Mikel Landa up the road on that particular day, but the organisers succeeded in pulling the race apart with early attacks and that is surely the ploy implemented again this year.

Froome among a small group of contenders on the short stage to Foix in 2017 (Sunada)

The same is likely to happen early in the second week as the Tour passes through the Alps, with a 108km summit finish stage 11 that would probably be more talked about if it wasn’t for the shortest stage in a generation making its appearance at the business end of the race.

One plus point for Froome will certainly be the second consecutive year of a penultimate day time trial, which sets a new standard as the lowest time trialling distance in a Tour route.

>>> Chris Froome ‘wouldn’t expect anything different from the organisers’ with tough 2018 Tour de France route

At 31km though, stage 20’s time trial can present some real problems for less chrono-inclined of the GC contenders, with a steep climb towards the end of the route in the Basque country looking like the kind of sordid punishment most would have been wishing to avoid at the end of next year’s edition. It will surely be a prospect Froome might relish though, and would create a particularly dramatic end if fans could see him face off with Tom Dumoulin in a grand finale.

Without doubt, the route on paper presents a more complex challenge for Froome, who faces more rivals than ever if he’s to win a fifth Tour title.

Froome will still look to take advantage of even fewer time trial kilometres in 2018 (Sunada)

He has, however, been constantly adaptable in recent year’s during moments that the organisers may have hoped would even out the competition.

His memorable attack on the descent from the Peyresourde in 2016 stamped his authority on that edition, while he’s made gains in consecutive years in stages battered by crosswinds towards the finish.

Unlike his early wins, Froome hasn’t looked like riding away up a climb to victory in the first mountains of the race in recent editions, particularly with an eye on the Vuelta. In fact, Froome’s worst day in 2017 came in the second week’s early summit finish to Peyragudes and the 2018 route poses a similar difficulty soon after the first rest day with back to back mountain-top finishes to La Rosière and Alpe d’Huez on stages 11 and 12.

All these ingredients certainly make it feel like much less of a forgone conclusion than this year’s Tour did when we kicked off in Düsseldorf.

Anything that evens up the race against Sky is surely a positive for the racing as a spectacle and increases the prospect of gaining new fans.

Still, it’s hard to shake the feeling that Chris Froome might just do it again.

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Dutch PM forms new government; rides his bike to the palace to tell the King

Mark Rutte shuns the armoured car in favour of two-wheeled transport, and even locks it up

If you’ve ever watched coverage of a British general election, you’ll be familiar with the helicopter shots of the prime minister travelling in a cavalcade of armoured cars to inform the Queen that they can form a new government.

However in the Netherlands, things are a little different when it comes to the choice of transportation…

The Dutch general election took place back in March, and after an arduous 208 days of negotiations, prime minister Mark Rutte managed to form a government through a coalition of four parties.

>>> Dutch city installs traffic lights that give cyclists priority when it’s raining

Needing to inform King Willem-Alexander of his new government, Rutte shunned the armoured car in favour of two-wheeled transport, pedalling the short distance to the Noordeinde Palace, and even locking his bike up upon arrival.

We’ll look forward to Theresa May, Jeremy Corbyn, or whoever else is the next British prime minister pedalling up to meet the Queen at Buckingham Palace. Let’s just hope there’s not a headwind up the Mall.

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Castelli on the cheap: 10 big deals on the best Castelli kit available online

The best deals on quality Italian kit that the internet has to offer right now

Seeing the little scorpion logo of Castelli on a piece of clothing is usually a sign of some high quality kit, but unfortunately that usually means that it comes with a high price tag too.

>>> Better than the Castelli Gabba? Wet weather racing jackets on test

Happily, the big internet retailers often offer some pretty hefty discounts, making the best kit become that bit more affordable.

Castelli Diverso merino wool sock £18 £9

These are some seriously snug socks. They’re thick, soft and the merino helps them stay pong free so you can ride in them all the time.

Buy now: Castelli Diverso merino wool sock at Evans Cycles for £9

Castelli Undersaddle Mini saddle bag £25 £17.99

It might look small but the Mini bag can store most of your essentials, including tubes, CO2 and the rest of it.

Buy now: Castelli Undersaddle Mini saddle bag at Chain Reaction Cycles for £17.99

Castelli Race Rain Bag £60 £43

Castelli developed this bag for its pro team riders such as Team Sky and the like. The top pockets flip open, and it has separated shoe compartments to keep things clean.

Buy now: Castelli Race Rain bag at Chain Reaction Cycles for £43

Castelli Perfetto long sleeve jersey £175 £89

The reworking of the excellent Gabba long sleeve to make even more winter ready. The fabric is more breathable now, and it has a long bum flap to keep your rear dry. Lots of colours available if Hi-Vis isn’t your deal.

Buy now: Castelli Perfetto long sleeve jersey at Evans Cycles for £89 

Castelli Free cycling cap £18 £9

There’s not much to say about cycling caps. Sure, they can keep the water out of your eyes, but they mostly look great.

Buy now: Castelli Free cycling cap at Wiggle for £9

Castelli Team Sky Volo bib shorts £90 £62

Get that pro look with these Team Sky Volo bib shorts.

The shorts are adorned with the wins of the British team, and are the choice of the Team Sky pro team.

Buy now: Castelli Team Sky Volo bib shorts at Evans Cycles for £62 

Castelli Squadra long jacket £40 £23.99

Autumn’s on its way, which means you need to start packing some protection from the bad weather.

The Castelli Squadra is waterproof, lightweight and easily stuffs into a back pocket, making it the perfect riding partner.

Buy now: Castelli Squadra Long jacket at Evans Cycles for £23.99

Castelli Belgian Bootie Oversock £20 £11.99

It might not be the season for overboots, but it soon will be, and it’s better to have your feet protected when the bad stuff rolls in.

Buy now: Castelli Belgian Bootie Oversock at Evans Cycles for £11.99

Castelli RS Superleggera short sleeve jersey £115 £68

The same tech as found on Castelli’s top Tour riding kit is also bundled in this cheaper package. It’s lightweight so it should be comfortable and cool on the skin.

Buy now: Castelli RS Superleggera short sleeve jersey at Evans cycles for £68

Castelli Women’s climbers jersey £70 £48.99

Buy now: Castelli Women’s climbers jersey at Evans Cycles for £34.99

This super lightweight jersey is perfect for the (hopefully) red hot conditions we’ll be experiencing this summer. Either way, it’s light, cool and comfortable – perfect.

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