Jess Varnish: ‘I’m disappointed with the judgement but I have no regrets’

The former track sprinter has released a statement after she lost her employment tribunal against British Cycling

Former track sprinter Jess Varnish said she is “disappointed” to lose her case against British Cycling and UK Sport, but that she already felt she had won by instigating change.

The 28-year-old launched proceedings against British Cycling and UK Sport in an attempt to prove she was an employee of the two bodies.

Varnish had been subjected to discriminatory language at the hands of former technical director Shane Sutton.

She then needed to prove she was employed by British Cycling and UK sport, rather than being self employed, in order to sue the organisations for wrongful dismissal and sexual discrimination.

But the employment tribunal, held in Manchester, concluded on Wednesday (January 16) with Varnish losing the case.

>>> Email sent from testosterone supplier to Dr Richard Freeman obtained by BBC 

In a statement, released on Thursday afternoon (January 17) she said: “I knew at the beginning of the trial, no matter the outcome, that I had already won.

“Since I first spoke out in April 2016 about my experience at British Cycling, significant change has taken place.

“I firmly believe this change happened because the athletes brought to light the culture of fear and lack of investment in athlete welfare that permeated through the British Cycling World Class Performance system.”

Varnish was pulled from British Cycling’s elite programme in April 2016, shortly before she publicly alleged sexual discrimination by Sutton.

Sutton denied the allegations but an internal investigation upheld that he used “inappropriate and discriminatory language” towards Varnish.

The full report has not been published, but it later emerged that only one of nine complaints against Sutton was upheld.

He resigned from his post in 2016 and later took up a role with the Chinese national track squad.

>>> Riders face disqualification, bans and suspension for using tramadol in competition as UCI bans painkiller

At the employment tribunal, both BC and UK Sport claimed that national lottery funding awarded to Olympic athletes – which can be as much as £28,000 tax-free per annum – was similar to a university grant and therefore its athletes were not afforded the same employment rights.

This view was backed by Judge Ross on Wednesday evening. UK Sport said it gave it “confidence that the structure of the relationship between other national governing bodies, their athletes and UK Sport can continue in a similar way, but we will reflect on the concerns that were raised through this case.”

British Cycling said it believed the decision was in the best interests of riders who represent Britain, and that the governing body was a service provider to athletes and not an employer.

Varnish added: “I am disappointed at the judgement, but I have no regrets in going through this process.

“Despite meetings, mediation and attempts at settlement, it was clear that the only way to engage and ensure change occurred within these organisations was a legal challenge. There is no other option open to Athletes.

“It has been a long three years, and it has cost me a lot, but as I said earlier, I have no regrets.

“I hold my head high knowing that I left no stone unturned and always told the truth. In that time, I’ve almost completed my degree in sports & exercise nutrition, set up my own personal training business and am now starting a family. I am excited about the future.”

Varnish said she would be meeting with her legal representatives and would consider appealing the tribunal decision.

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Chris Froome shares first monster ride of 2019 on Strava

The Brit put in a 225km shift with team-mate Salvatore Puccio

It’s that time of the year again – the moment Chris Froome unleashes his superhuman training efforts on the world by posting his rides on Strava.

Last January, Froome opened the year with a massive collection of kilometres, racking up 4,000km in January alone.

At the end of the month, he set out for a six-hour blast from his home just north of Johannesburg and covered a staggering 271km, which he then titled ‘empty the tank’ on Strava.

Froome has now uploaded his first Strava ride of 2019, and it’s another epic effort.

>>> Edvald Boasson Hagen used cycling treadmill for monster six-hour Zwift training ride

This time the Team Sky star set out with Italian team-mate Salvatore Puccio for a 225km blast around the eastern edge of South Africa.

Over the six-hour ride, the Brit averaged 34.5km/h, and hit a max speed of 78.1km/h, with a whopping 6,000 metres of climbing.

Froome appears to have kept data from his power meter firmly under wraps, but Strava estimates he maxxed out at 1,300watts and averaged 298w over the duration.

Surprisingly, Froome didn’t scoop any KoMs out on the ride, but Puccio did managed to top the leaderboard on three segments.

>>> Watch: Top five Strava cheats (video)

Their route covered nine categorised segments, including the R533 Climb -7.26km at seven per cent – and Kowyn’s pass uphill, 8km at six per cent average.

Last January, Froome treated his fans by uploading his January training miles to the social media app for athletes, letting cycling followers see exactly how much training it takes to win Grand Tours.

As you would expect from a man targeting both the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France last year, there were some pretty monstrous base miles, with Froome kicking off the year with a 32-hour week in which he rode more than 1,000km.

So far in 2019 he has only uploaded the one ride, titled ‘African Experience for Salva’ – short for Salvatore.

Puccio may not have enjoyed the ride quite as much as Froome, as he posted the ride with the title ‘Killed by Froomey, season is over.’

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Chris Froome shares first monster ride of 2019 on Strava

The Brit put in a 225km shift with team-mate Salvatore Puccio

It’s that time of the year again – the moment Chris Froome unleashes his superhuman training efforts on the world by posting his rides on Strava.

Last January, Froome opened the year with a massive collection of kilometres, racking up 4,000km in January alone.

At the end of the month, he set out for a six-hour blast from his home just north of Johannesburg and covered a staggering 271km, which he then titled ‘empty the tank’ on Strava.

Froome has now uploaded his first Strava ride of 2019, and it’s another epic effort.

>>> Edvald Boasson Hagen used cycling treadmill for monster six-hour Zwift training ride

This time the Team Sky star set out with Italian team-mate Salvatore Puccio for a 225km blast around the eastern edge of South Africa.

Over the six-hour ride, the Brit averaged 34.5km/h, and hit a max speed of 78.1km/h, with a whopping 6,000 metres of climbing.

Froome appears to have kept data from his power meter firmly under wraps, but Strava estimates he maxxed out at 1,300watts and averaged 298w over the duration.

Surprisingly, Froome didn’t scoop any KoMs out on the ride, but Puccio did managed to top the leaderboard on three segments.

>>> Watch: Top five Strava cheats (video)

Their route covered nine categorised segments, including the R533 Climb -7.26km at seven per cent – and Kowyn’s pass uphill, 8km at six per cent average.

Last January, Froome treated his fans by uploading his January training miles to the social media app for athletes, letting cycling followers see exactly how much training it takes to win Grand Tours.

As you would expect from a man targeting both the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France last year, there were some pretty monstrous base miles, with Froome kicking off the year with a 32-hour week in which he rode more than 1,000km.

So far in 2019 he has only uploaded the one ride, titled ‘African Experience for Salva’ – short for Salvatore.

Puccio may not have enjoyed the ride quite as much as Froome, as he posted the ride with the title ‘Killed by Froomey, season is over.’

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Terrifying video shows moment Spanish film star mowed down by car while cycling

One of Spain’s best known actors was completing a charity challenge when he was hit from behind

A shocking video shows the moment a famous Spanish film star was hit by a car travelling at full speed while he was cycling.

Dani Rovira, who starred in a hugely popular Spanish film from 2014, was on his way to completing a charity cycling challenge when he and a fellow cyclist were struck from behind.

The footage was captured from a car accompanying the pair as they filmed a documentary to raise aware of a Rett syndrome, a rare neurological disorder.

>>> Motorbike organisation calls for cyclists to wear identification numbers

Rovira, 38, has called for drivers to be more respectful of cyclists after the crash, which happened two years ago.

In the video Rovira, who starred in the 2014 film Spanish Affair, said: “We are still here because it wasn’t our time to go.

“Let’s respect one another on the roads.”

Rovira was riding alongside Martín Giacchetta, a firefighter and personal trainer whose daughter has from Rett syndrome, when the pair were struck by the car from behind.

The driver was distracted by his mobile phone, which he tried to pick up from the floor after it fell inside the car, reports Spanish news outlet ABC.

>>> ‘Passionate’ founder of cycling club dies in van crash while riding

Rovira and Giacchetta were in France when they were hit as they attempted to ride an 11-stage route from Barcelona to Rome where they were due to meet the pope.

Miraculously, neither men suffered injuries but their bikes were damaged.

Rovira told ABC: “We know what happened because it was recorded.

“I was in shock all that day.

“I did not feel afraid – that came to me the next day when I had to get back on the bike.

“That’s when my legs started to shake.”

The video footage shows Rovira and Giacchetta riding along the carriageway with vehicles passing in the outside lanes, when a black vehicle rapidly approaches from behind at speed and hits the pair.

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Best Castelli deals: Massive discounts on bad weather Castelli kit

The best deals on quality Italian kit that the internet has to offer over the Black Friday period

The Black Friday deals are upon us – and if you’re a fan of Castelli clothing then you’re in luck as there’s plenty of offers floating around on the undeniably excellent quality that comes with the scorpion.

Castelli’s winter kit is known for being a go-to for cyclists looking to stay as warm and dry as possible through the seasons. But it comes with a high price tag – one which helpfully can be knocked down over the pre-Christmas sales.

>>> Best Black Friday bike deals 2018

The products featured have been chosen because we know they’re good quality and are an excellent offer at the price we’ve included (at the time of writing).

Our tech team have unrivalled expertise and years of experience testing new products, so you can trust our recommendations – and we also know what represents a good deal. Where we’ve reviewed the product we’ve included a link to it so you can read more.

With each product is a ‘Buy Now’ link. If you click on this then we may receive a small amount of money from the retailer when you purchase the item. This doesn’t affect the amount you pay.

Castelli Gabba 3 jersey was £150, now £105

Read more: Castelli Gabba review

The Castelli Gabba 3 is a proper bad weather top, being windproof and waterproof. It’s a short sleeve option that’s meant for Spring and to be paired with arm warmers.

Buy now: Castello Gabba 3 at Chain Reaction Cycles for £105

Castelli Sorpasso 2 bib tights were £160, now £100

Castelli Sorpasso II bib tights

These tights are made of Thermoflex material which is good to go down to around 5 degrees and there’s additional protection on the thighs and knees. Included is Castelli’s Progretto X2 chamois which is comfortable for long winter days in the saddle.

Buy now: Castelli Sorpasso 2 bib tights at Merlin for £100

Castelli Perfetto jersey was £180, now £120

Read more: Castelli Perfetto review

The Castelli Perfetto is made using Gore Winstopper X-Lite fabric which is excellently windproof as well as being water resistant. Using this jacket in wet weather we found that it simply sheds water almost as well as an actually rain jacket does. A wide selection of sizes are still available at ProBikeKit

If you’re a size small in Castelli then you’re in luck as the Perfetto is available for £89, which is a total bargain.

Buy now: Castelli Perfetto jersey at ProBikeKit for £120

Castelli Idro 2 jacket was £260, now £182.99

Using Gore’s Shakedry technology, the Castelli Idro 2 jacket is superbly waterproof with the water just beading on the surface. The technology also allows the jacket to be lighter than a lot of hardshell waterproofs, so it perfectly easy to just throw it on in a shower or wear it from the beginning of a ride.

Buy now: Castelli Idro 2 jacket at ProBikeKit for £182.99

Shake if off!

Want the latest kit? Then the Castelli Idro Pro is also on a great discount. It has a slightly different build, using stretchy fabric to help the jacket hug the figure better, thus making it more aero.

Buy now: Castelli Idro Pro jacket at ProBikeKit for £234.99

Castelli Omloop Thermal bib shorts were £125, now £92.99

Read more: Castelli Omloop thermal bib shorts review

A pair of Castelli Omloop thermal bib shorts are the perfect compliment to those mild winter days, especially when paired with some leg warmers. A Thermoflex fabric is used to keep the shorts warm and soft while a Progetto X2 chamois is comfortable to sit on all day long.

Buy now: Castelli Omloop thermal bib shorts at ProBikeKit for £92.99

Castelli Gabba 3 jersey was £150, now £74.99

The Gabba 3 is the wet weather jersey to beat, perfect for the spring or autumn when paired with a pair of arm warmers. It’s made of Gore Windstopper X-Lite fabric which makes it excellently water and wind resistant.

Buy now: Castelli Gabba 3 jersey at ProBikeKit for £74.99 

Save £25 on Castelli Velocissima tights, now £75

The Castelli Velocissima tights use a Thermoflex fabric coupled with a soft fleecy layer for maximum insulation.

Buy now: Castelli Velocissima tights at ProBikeKit for £75

Castelli Superleggera short sleeve jersey was £115, now £59.99

One for next summer, this aero and lightweight jersey is perfect for fast paced rides in the heat. It’s fast wicking thanks to its specially woven fabric and it’s now almost 50% off.

Buy now: Castelli Superleggera jersey at Merlin Cycles for £59

Castelli Aero Lite Jacket, men’s and women’s fit was £175 now from £75

black friday deals cyclist

Castelli Aero Lite Jacket

If you plan to be out riding in all weathers, but still want to work hard and feel fast, then the Aero Lite could be an investment for you – and right now it’s reduced by 50 per cent across a range of sizes.

The Windstopper X-Lite fabric is the same as that used across the Perfetto and Gabba jerseys, offering both protection from the chill as well as a water repellent finish.  There’s a storm flap to keep back wheel spray at bay too.

As the name would suggest, the fit is close and won’t feel like it’s holding you back.

See the men’s version here and the women’s version here at Wiggle.

Castelli Scalda Mens Glove was £55.99 now £39.99

best black friday castelli cycling deals

Good quality winter cycling gloves are essential to staying comfortable over the winter months and the Scalda gloves from Castelli offer a medium insulation with ultra fleece water and windproof fabric.

The stretchy material means your hands aren’t restricted and there are touchscreen inserts at the finger tips.

Buy now at Rutland Cycling from £39.99 in a small to £39.99

Castelli Scudo Womens Glove was £50 now £29.99

best black friday deals castelli

A lightweight pair of gloves with windproofing for cool conditions. The back of the hand is particularly stretchy, for comfort over the bars, and there’s touch screen inserts at the finger tips as well as a synthetic leather palm and silicone grip pattern.

Buy now from Rutland Cycling for £29.99

Castelli Perfetto Light 2 Short Sleeve Cycling Jersey was £135, now £79.99 (or £49.99 if you’re a size small…)

best black friday deals castelli

The Perfetto is a follow on from the highly popular Gabba – and when we tested the long sleeved version we were impressed enough to award it a 9/10. 

Designed to be not quite as hot as the Gabba, the Perfetto uses Nano Light water resistant fabric – the same material that features on the ‘Nano Flex’ tights, but minus the brushed fleece lining. The windsopper front is 25 per cent lighter than that used on the Gabba, too.

This short sleeved version can be paired with arm warmers when it’s cooler, or you can rip them off if you’re riding in warm rain.

See it at Tredz for £79.99 in the Forest Grey colour

Keep checking back for more deals… 

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Peter Sagan wins Tour Down Under stage three in the Adelaide Hills

Three-time world champion Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) won stage three of the Tour Down Under, repeating his 2018 success in Uraidla

Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) took his first victory of the 2019 season with a win on stage three of the Tour Down Under in the Adelaide Hills.

Just like he did last year in the same finishing town of Uraidla, Sagan mixed it with the puncheurs and climbers and was too fast for Daryl Impey (Mitchelton-Scott) and Luis León Sánchez (Astana) in the finishing sprint; the only difference from 2018 was that Sánchez and Impey swapped second and third position, the former rolling in behind Sagan.

In what was the most eventful stage of this year’s race so far, there were a few attacks late on, but the three-time world champion Sagan benefitted from the small bunch grouping together in the final kilometre.

Despite Sagan earning 10 bonus seconds, surprise stage two winner Patrick Bevin holds onto the race lead by one second from the Slovak.

>>> Seven riders with a point to prove in 2019

How it happened

The opening two stages of the race had been reduced in length owing to the extreme heat in south Australia, but teams decided to keep the original distance of 146.2km in a pre-stage meeting.

Keeping in tradition with this year’s race, the breakaway was formed almost immediately and Elia Viviani, winner of stage one and second overall before the stage started, was an eye-catching inclusion. He clearly got involved to earn bonus seconds and enhance his chances of winning the points classification, and he did just that, winning the first and second intermediate sprint.

His breakaway companions were Nic Dlamini (Dimension Data), Michael Potter (UniSA-Australia), Manuele Boaro (Astana), James Whelan (EF-Education First), Nico Denz (AG2R La Mondiale) and Léo Vincent (Groupama-FDJ).

With 54km to go, and his day’s objective fulfilled, Viviani dropped back to the peloton; just over 20km later there was a split in the break with Dlamini, Whelan and Potter nudging 22 seconds ahead of new escapees Alberto Bettiol (EF-Education First), Davide Ballerini (Astana) and Boara.

>>> Mathew Hayman ‘blown away’ by home response in final race at the Tour Down Under

At 26km from the finish, and as they began the penultimate lap of the Adelaide Hills course, Whelan and Bettiol were the only riders out front. As the hills rose to difficult gradients, Whelan let up and permitted Bettiol to ride solo; the Italian had a 70 second buffer to the Team Sky-led peloton.

The British WorldTour team and Mitchelton-Scott were setting a hard pace at the front and the peloton was losing colleagues constantly, with pure sprinters expectedly dropped. At 13.5km and on a climb, Bettiol was caught in cruel fashion: almost standstill and touching his feet which appeared to indicate cramp.

There was to be no more attacks until the final climb at 3.4km to go. Impey, the reigning champion, was second wheel but couldn’t prevent Team Sky’s young Frenchman Kenny Elissonde from escaping. Robert Gesink (Jumbo-Visma) followed, but they were caught a kilometre later.

Michael Woods (EF-Education First) then attacked but his move was closely guarded by Sánchez, Sagan and Dries Devenyns (Deceuninck-Quick Step), the latter who tried to go solo himself.

But the reduced peloton were all back together as they went under the blue inflatable that denoted just 1000 metres left to race. Impey, led out perfectly, was the first to go and Sagan was quick to stay behind him, comfortable in his slipstream. Behind Sagan was Sánchez.

Both the Slovak and Spaniard benefited from Impey leading them, Sagan dodging to the right and overtaking the South African champion and holding off a strong sprint from Sánchez by half-a-wheel’s length.

It is Sagan’s first win since he triumphed on stage 13 of the Tour de France last July.

Results

Stage three: Lobethal > Uraidla, 146.2km

1. Peter Sagan (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe, in 3:46.06
2. Luis León Sánchez (Esp) Astana
3. Daryl Impey (RSA) Mitchelton-Scott
4. Danny van Poppel (Ned) Jumbo-Visma
5. Patrick Bevin (NWZ) CCC Team
6. Jan Polanc ( Slv) UAE-Team Emirates
7. Ruben Guerriro (Por) Katusha-Alpecin
8. Tadej Pogacar (Slo) UAE-Team Emirates
9. Chris Hamilton (Aus) Team Sunweb
10. Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) Bahrain-Merida

General classification after stage three

1. Patrick Bevin (NWZ) CCC Team in 10.20.09
2. Peter Sagan (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 1sec
3. Luis León Sánchez (Esp) Astana, at 9secs
4. Michael Storer (Aus) Team Sunweb, at 10secs
5. Daryl Impey (RSA) Mitchelton-Scott, at 11 secs
6. Danny van Poppel (Ned) Jumbo-Visma
7. Jan Polanc ( Slv) UAE-Team Emirates
8. Ryan Gibbons (RSA) Dimension-Data
9. Chris Hamilton (Aus) Team Sunweb
10. George Bennett (NWZ) Jumbo-Visma, all at 15secs

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Former track sprinter Jess Varnish loses employment tribunal against British Cycling

Jess Varnish has lost her case against British Cycling and UK Sport that tried to prove that she was an employee and could thus sue them both.

Former track sprinter Jess Varnish has lost her landmark employment tribunal against British Cycling and UK Sport, which she had hoped would prove she was an employee of the bodies and could thus sue them for wrongful dismissal and sexual discrimination.

The ruling means that the 28-year-old is unlikely to be able to take both bodies back into the courtroom and prove her claims that: British Cycling had “extreme control” over her and other athletes; that she was discriminated against by former coach Shane Sutton; and that she suffered detriment for being a whistleblower against the national federation.

She was dropped by the Great Britain squad before the Rio Olympics in 2016 with coaches reasoning that it was a performance-based decision. However, her subsequent high-profile claims, including that there was a culture of fear at the Manchester-based organisation, has since caused change at its headquarters.

At a tribunal in Manchester in December, both BC and UK Sport claimed that national lottery funding awarded to Olympic athletes – which can be as much as £28,000 tax-free per annum – was similar to a university grant and therefore its athletes were not afforded the same employment rights.

This view was backed by Judge Ross on Wednesday evening. UK Sport said it gave them “confidence that the structure of the relationship between other national governing bodies, their athletes and UK Sport can continue in a  similar way, but we will reflect on the concerns that were raised through this case.”

>>> Email sent from testosterone supplier to Dr Richard Freeman obtained by BBC

A spokesperson for Varnish said: “Jess and her legal team continue to digest the 43-page judgement and will look to offer a statement to media on Thursday.

Varnish claimed that Sutton had told her “to go and have a baby”. An investigation by UK Sport analysing bullying claims at BC cleared the Australian of that comment, but did find him guilty of using sexist rhetoric against Varnish.

BC reiterated that it would welcome Varnish back to its Manchester base. She won nine medals across World and European Championships and the Commonwealth Games from 2010 to 2014. She also rode the 2012 London Olympics team discipline alongside Victoria Pendleton. The duo broke the world record in the qualifying stages but were relegated in the semi-finals.

In a statement, BC said: “The decision to contest this case was founded on what we believe is the best interests of riders who represent Great Britain, and our conviction that our relationship with them is not one of employer-employee but that of a service provider supporting talented and dedicated athletes to achieve their best.

“We very much regret that Jess was advised to pursue the route of an employment tribunal when we had made significant efforts to reach a resolution which all parties regarded as equitable.”

What does the ruling mean?

Varnish had tried to prove that she was an employee of BC and UK Sport, alleging emails from coaches saying that if riders “don’t sign this, you won’t get paid this month.”  She also claimed that aged 15 coaches listened through bedroom doors in hotels on training camps.

Dr Richard Freeman, a former doctor, provided a written statement to the tribunal saying: “The coach would decide everything. The athletes were very firmly controlled. Non-compliance was not acceptable.”

Liam Phillips, a former BMX rider for Great Britain, and her agent James Harper also backed her. But the tribunal didn’t agree with her assertions, which will be a huge relief for UK Sport. 

BC and UK Sport both insist that changes have been made in relation to athlete welfare, largely due to the concerns expressed by Varnish and others. Had Varnish’s claim that she was an employee been backed, around 1,100 elite athletes who are funded by UK Sport would have been entitled to employment rights and a pension.

Such a huge outlay of money would have meant less athletes would have been funded towards Olympics success, which would have affected the number of riders who call the National Cycling Centre in Manchester their home. 

UK Sport’s lawyer Joe Morrow said: “This case marks a crucial moment for athletes and the entire sports industry safeguarding funding for athletes for the future. If the tribunal had ruled in favour of the claimant, funding for more than 1,000 could have been called into question.”

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Team Sky’s four new recruits for 2019

Meet the riders Sky is hoping will make the difference this season

The transfer window was relatively quiet for Team Sky, with just four riders joining for the new season.

Sky are famed for snapping up talent to bolster their already staggering roster of quality riders.

After losing a number of riders to retirement and transfers the British WorldTour outfit have made relatively few changes, but still picked up riders who are likely to impress in the coming years.

The end of the 2018 season saw Sky’s Sergio Henao, Beñat Intxausti and Łukasz Wiśniowski leave for new teams, while Philip Deignan and David López retired from racing.

Britain’s Jon Dibben has also departed, but his future plans are still unclear.

Sky only signed four riders heading in 2019, having picked up nine new stars in 2019 and six the previous year.

Ben Swift

Ben Swift signs on ahead of the opening stage of the 2017 Tour Down Under. Photo: Yuzuru Sunada

Team Sky fans will already be familiar with the British all-rounder Ben Swift, who first joined the squad at its inception in 2010.

After leaving to chase his own opportunities with UAE Team Emirates at the end of the 2016 season, Swift suffered setback after setback that hindered his ambitions.

In 2017 he struggled through illness and injury while working to adapt to his new surroundings with the Middle East-based team.

Then in 2018, while planning a big year supporting UAE’s general classification contenders in both the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France, Swift suffered a broken back in the Tour of Flanders that kept him from racing for a month.

>>> Seven riders with a point to prove in 2019 

But now making his return to Team Sky, the 31-year-old from Rotherham is hoping to return to his former best.

With 13 pro wins, including a stage at the Tour of Britain, two stages of the Tour Down Under and a GC win at the Tour de Picardie, Swift has the potential to score wins for Team Sky.

He has also come close to victory on the biggest stages, including Milan-San Remo podiums in both 2014 and 2016, and a fifth place finish in the 2017 World Championship road race.

Jhonatan Narváez

Jhonatan Narvaez has moved to Team Sky from Quick-Step for this season (Photo: Yuzuru SUNADA)

Ecuadorian Jhonatan Narváez joins Sky after riding just one season with Belgian super-team Quick-Step.

At just 21, Narváez is indicative of Team Sky’s drive to recruit younger riders and firm up their strength when the current crop of leaders begin to retire in the coming years.

Narváez, who joined the WorldTour from Axeon Hagens Berman in 2017, has already taken the Ecuadorian national champion title and claimed overall victory in the Circuit des Ardennes International under-23 race.

Sky have signed the all-rounder for his ability to support the team on the flat and on the climbs, much like the role currently played by Spaniard Jonathan Castroviejo.

Filippo Ganna

Young Italian Filippo Ganna joins Sky from UAE Team Emirates (Picture: Yuzuru Sunada)

Another young talent Sky are looking to develop is Filippo Ganna.

The 22-year-old Italian is the second signing from UAE Team Emirates alongside Ben Swift.

As both a track and road talent, Ganna has a strong pursuit pedigree that he has adapted to promising time trial performances in his first two years as a pro.

Ganna is also a winner of the under-23 Paris-Roubaix, racing his first full WorldTour cobbled Classics campaign last year.

While victory has been just out of his grasp during his brief pro career, Ganna finished second on GC at the 2018 Vuelta a San Juan, taking the young rider’s classification and just missing out on an individual TT victory on stage three.

He also finished just two seconds behind Sky’s Gianni Moscon at the Italian national time trial championships last year.

Iván Sosa

Ivan Sosa at the 2018 Colombia Oro y Paz race, stage four (Photo by Maximiliano Blanco/Velo/Tim De Waele/Getty Images)

Arguably the most exciting of Team Sky’s new recruits is Colombian Iván Sosa.

Sosa joins from Italian Professional Continental outfit Androni Giocattoli Sidermec, where his close friend and compatriot Egan Bernal also cut his teeth.

At just 21, Sosa’s general classification talent is already evident – he won overall at the Vuelta a Burgos, Sibiu Cycling Tour, Adriatica Ionica and the Tour of Bior last season.

Team Sky are looking to nurture Sosa’s climbing ability as part of their next generation of talent.

Sosa’s transfer wasn’t straight forward as he was initially linked with Trek – Segafredo before it later emerged the deal was not confirmed.

He was later linked with Team Sky, but it was not until December that Sky finally confirmed he had joined while he was already out training with the squad.

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Aluminium road bikes: six of the best for 2019

Aluminium is often looked at as the cheap option when buying a bike. It lacks the nostalgia factor of steel and can’t match the performance of good carbon. But it still has its place in the market and it is well worth considering

In bike years, aluminium seems like a relatively young material. For most of the bicycle’s history steel has dominated. However, the aluminium bike does in fact date back over 120 years, with the first bike produced in the late 1800s – a far cry from the best aluminium bikes we have today.

Under the brand name ‘Lu-mi-num’ the frame was cast in a single piece in order to avoid having to use lugs to join the tubes together and to avoid welding, which wasn’t fully mastered for aluminium bicycle frames until the 1970s and didn’t become widespread until the 1980s (more on that here).

>>> Should your next bike be carbon, aluminium, steel or titanium?

Aluminium first hit the road racing scene in the 1970s with both ALAN and Vitus using aluminium tubes bonded into lugs. Well made aluminium frames had a better stiffness-to-weight ratio than steel. Later, any fears about the integrity and durability of the bonded joints were allayed once TIG welding (Tungsten Inert Gas) was widely adopted.

>>>Icons of Cycling: Sean Kelly’s cobble-busting Vitus 979

However, aluminium’s time as the top material for road bikes was short lived: the Tour de France was only won from 1994 to 1998 on aluminium bikes. Before then every winning bike was made from steel and since 1999 every Tour has been won on carbon.

Aluminium outweighs the sale of carbon and steel

Before I set off with why the best aluminium bikes should still hold a place in everyone’s heart, I agree it is hard to see past its ‘cheap and cheerful’ image. Steel seems to hold this nostalgic memory of great, long, comfortable rides and bikes built by skilled frame builders who put their hearts and souls into their work.

And now, in the modern era, carbon-fibre is not only relatively wallet friendly but it can also be made much lighter than aluminium and with aerodynamically superior tube shapes.

However, consider that aluminium as a material far outweighs the sale of carbon and steel. The technology has not stood still, meaning that the best aluminium bikes shouldn’t be totally disregarded.

Aluminium is about half as strong and a third the weight of steel. When built into a bike aluminium tubes must be larger in diameter to offset this, but the aluminium bike will still be lighter than the steel one and just as stiff.

Aluminium is much more resistant to corrosion and should, if properly looked after, last a long time. However, even the best aluminium bikes will be vulnerable to failure over time. If weakened by a crash or impact it can crack and fail and can’t be repaired as easily as steel.

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Best aluminium bikes we’ve tested

Trek Emonda ALR 5 Disc

best aluminum bike 2019

Trek Emonda ALR 2019

Read the review: Trek Emonda ALR 5 Disc 

The Trek Emonda ALR 5 disc made it into our Editor’s Choice awards for 2018, and absolutely bowled us over with a frame that neither looks nor rides like aluminum.

Our size 52 weighed in at just 7.8kg, in part due to the ‘invisible weld technology’ which adds to stiffness and reduces weight. Slender seat stays and a lack of brake arch aid compliance too and the geometry is ‘H2’, which in Trek talk means relaxed.

This build, at under £1800, comes with a Shimano 105 groupset and hydraulic brakes.

Buy now at Evans Cycles for £1750

Cannondale CAAD12 Ultegra

best aluminum bikes 2019

Cannondale CAAD12 disc Ultegra 2019

Read the review: Cannondale CAAD12 Ultegra

Believe to be the pioneers of aluminium it would be foolish not to include these guys. The CAAD range picks up from £1099.99 with Shimano Tiagra, right up to £3499.99 offering a range of rides to suit you and your needs. There’s rim and disc brake models on offer.

Cannondale and the CAAD12 range pushing the boundaries of what aluminium can do and offer major performance gains, whilst trying to limit aluminium road buzz.

This racey little number wouldn’t be out of place in a professional road race or cruising with a group of mates – it really is that good.

Buy now for £2200 from Evans Cycles

Canyon Endurace AL 7.0 disc

Read the review: Canyon Endurance AL 7.0 disc

As the AL name denotes, this is the highest-specced aluminium version of Canyon’s Endurace bike. Made with 6000 aluminium, the frame is light – the whole bike comes in at 8.2kg, which is actually lighter than some carbon bikes we’ve tested.

It’s a big claim but the German company has always managed to offer a staggering number of options at a mind-boggling number of price points. Happily, though, the lower price point and aluminium frame don’t necessarily mean a compromise in quality or enjoyment.

Buy now for £999.99 from Canyon

Specialized Allez Elite

best aluminium bikes

Specialized Allez Elite 2019

Read the review: Specialized Allez E5 Elite

The Specialized Allez Elite forms part of the Allez range which has dominated the ‘first bike’ market for years.

In 2018 the Allez had a major rejig, and this continues into 2019. There’s a lesser emphasis on pure racing with a more ‘wide range’ geometry that should work for the majority of cyclists. Specialized says that this hasn’t detracted from its racing form, however, with the bike still able to adopt the slammed position, which can match its more aggressive partner that is the Tarmac.

Buy now for £999 from Evans Cycles

B’Twin Ultra AF GF

Read review: B’Twin Ultra AF GF

Built with 6061 aluminium of “variable thickness” in Decathlon’s words (ie butted tubes) the B’Twin won’t ever worry the UCI weight limit of 6.8kg but it’s certainly no porker with our sized medium test model tipping the scales at 9kg with pedals – a respectable enough weight for an alu frame with a mid-range build.

Overall this is a good solid frame with the angular and square tube shapes adding lots of stiffness where it’s needed. The 27.2mm seatpost that comes with the Ultra 520 does a good job of adding comfort.

Buy now for £879.99 from Decathlon

Boardman Road Sport

best aluminium bikes

Boardman SLR 8.9 alloy

Read the reviews: Boardman Road Sport (previous model)

Boardman Road Sport is a triple butted 6061 alloy frame completed with a lightweight carbon fork and alloy steerer – typical at this price point. What is nice about this frame, however, is the smooth welds at the seatstay and head tube joins, which really helps make the entry-level bike look like a mid-level machine. It even has partial internal cable routing to help clean up the frame.

Buy now at Halfords for £840

The ride of an aluminium frame

The USP of aluminium is its performance for price. The best aluminium bikes are far superior to steel, titanium and lower models of carbon in terms of performance and stiffness so racing them doesn’t present an issue.

As for the price itself, compared to steel, titanium and carbon, aluminium is far cheaper and easier to obtain and mass produce, meaning the cost saving is passed on to the customer. This also means a better end product with higher-grade componentry for a cheaper price. Sometimes it’s the difference between owning a Shimano 105 bike or a Shimano Ultegra bike for the same money but with a different frame material.

The best aluminium bikes benefit from good performance characteristics but the lower-end ones can still give the harsh ride that aluminium has always been criticised for. Aluminium bike frames struggle to absorb vibration in the way that steel or carbon ones can. Must-haves with all modern aluminium bikes are a decent full carbon fork and seatpost to help deflect that road buzz.

Types of aluminium and butted frames

Two most common types of aluminium used for bike frames are 6061 and 7005. 6061 is considered the better of the two for being easier and cheaper to work with. It is said that 6061 is a little lighter than 7005, though to the everyday rider we are not sure there is a huge difference.

Aluminium frames can come with different wall thicknesses too. Butted tubes are often talked about but not everyone knows what that means. A plain gauge tube will have the same wall thickness throughout the length of the tube.

A double butted tube will be slightly thinner in terms of wall thickness in the middle of the tube compared to the two ends. So the top tube will be thinner in the middle than it is at either end (at the head tube and by the seatpost). Triple-butted frames will have three different wall thicknesses along the length of tube, still being at its thinnest in the middle.

This allows the frame to be as light as possible without losing its stiffness.

Many frame manufacturers use hydroformed tubes. This technique is used to give the ability to change the shapes to less traditional styles and using fluid under high pressure allows this.

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Seven riders with a point to prove in 2019

Fabio Aru

Fabio Aru on stage 11 of the 2018 Vuelta a España (Sunada)

At a time when Fabio Aru (UAE Team Emirates) should be coming into the peak of his career, the 28-year old is instead at risk of falling into terminal decline.

It’s been over three years now since he won the Vuelta, but whereas in 2016 and 2017 Aru at least managed to mount a challenge at the top of the GC in Grand Tours, last season he failed to get anywhere near the other favourites at both the Giro and the Vuelta.

Now entering his second season at UAE Team Emirates, his status as the team’s star rider has been curtailed, with last year’s underwhelming performances and the arrival of star sprinter Fernando Gaviria potentially taking away his luxury of choosing which Grand Tour to target.

Whichever – if any – Grand Tour Aru ends up leading, he needs a big performance to get his career back on track.

Marcel Kittel

Marcel Kittel at the 2018 Tour de France (Sunada)

Between 2017 to 2018, Marcel Kittel dramatically slumped from being the best sprinter in the world to a guy who couldn’t buy a win.

His transfer from Quick-Step Floors to Katusha-Alpecin evidently played a significant part in his struggles, but shouldn’t be ascribed as the only reason, and Kittel has opted to stick with his current team for the new season.

With a new generation of young sprinters looking more and more accomplished, Kittel will be desperate to reassert his authority in the peloton’s bunch sprints.

The German has bounced back before from a lean patch in his career when illness decimated his 2015 season – can he do so again?



Lisa Brennauer

Lisa Brennauer on stage five of the 2018 OVO Energy Women’s Tour. Photo: Justin Setterfield/Getty Images

A one-year spell at Wiggle-High5 did not really work out for Lisa Brennauer, who only managed victory at the Thuringen Ladies Tour in the team’s colours, and the German will be on the move again to WNT-Rotor following her former team’s disbanding.

In truth, it’s been a while now since we’ve seen the very best of Brennauer. Four years have passed since she shone on British roads by winning the Women’s Tour, and five years since she was crowned time trial world champion, and victories in the biggest races since then have become fewer and further between.

Set to turn 31 later this month, she faces a stern task to rediscover her glory days in 2019.

Nairo Quintana

Nairo Quintana at the 2018 Vuelta a España (Sunada)

Whereas Nairo Quintana’s (Movistar) failure to win a Grand Tour in 2017 can be put down to the excellent form of Tom Dumoulin at the Giro and his own tired legs at the Tour, his difficulties last season cannot be so straightforwardly excused.

Despite planning his whole season around the Tour de France, the Colombian barely managed to scrape a top-10 finish. Then at the Vuelta a España, what had looked like potential redemption for Quintana turned sour when he faded in the final week to eighth overall.

That’s a significant downturn in fortunes for a rider who until recently looked like the best climber in the world. The 28-year old still shows flashes of his best – his attack and victory on the Col du Portet at the Tour de France for instance, as well as winning the queen stage of the Tour de Suisse – but it’s his former consistency he really needs to rediscover.

Elisa Longo Borghini

Elisa Longo Borghini at the 2018 Road World Championships (Sunada)

It’s been nearly two years now since Elisa Longo Borghini last won a World Tour-ranked race, during which time she’s mostly only added a handful of small Italian races to her palmares.

Illness prevented her from bringing top form to the classics last season, but despite recovering she failed to make much of an impression during the second half of the season.

Having recently turned 27, the Italian is in need of a boost to start adding the other major classics to go alongside her victories as an under-25 at the Tour of Flanders, Strade Bianche and Trofeo Alfredo Binda, and a move to new team Trek-Segafredo could be just what she needs.

In theory she’s very well suited to the Ardennes Classics, but hasn’t had the chance to ride Amstel Gold and Liege-Bastogne-Liege at the peak of her powers since both races were introduced in 2017. Overcoming Anna van der Breggen’s supremacy in those races will be no easy feat, however.

Zdenek Stybar

Zdenek Stybar at the 2018 Giro d’Italia (Sunada)

Time is running out for Zdenek Stybar (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) to at last land the major Classic he has spent his career threatening to win.

The Czech rider has come close many times in the past, most notably with runner-up finishes at the 2015 and 2017 editions of Paris-Roubaix, and has played a key role for teammates in Quick-Step’s many Classics triumphs.

The departures of last spring’s star Niki Terpstra as well as Fernando Gaviria, and the fact that Philippe Gilbert is now 36, may pave the way for Stybar to adopt more of a leadership role in the Classics line-up, and thus provide him with the best chance for personal glory in years.

But he himself has recently turned 33, and will need to transform his consistency from last season into more explosive form if he’s to win big.

Edvald Boasson Hagen

Edvald Boasson Hagen at the 2018 Tour de France (Sunada)

Edvald Boasson Hagen has had a curious career. Whenever he’s looked on the brink of greatness, he’s faded, and whenever his career seems to be flagging, he’s bounced back.

Last season was another case of the Norwegian flagging, as he failed to build on the momentum of a prolific 2017 to pick up just the two wins all season.

There remains the nagging sense that Boasson Hagen has never quite fulfilled his considerable potential, but a few major wins in 2019 – which remain a very real possibility if he can stage another comeback – would help silence such doubts.

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