Five talking points from stage 18 of the Tour de France

The final summit finish of the Tour de France didn’t quite deliver the fireworks we’d hoped for on the Izoard

Froome’s fourth Tour win within touching distance

Chris Froome receives his yellow jersey after stage 18 of the Tour de France (Credit: ASO/Alex Broadway)

There may still be three days of racing still to come at the Tour de France, but it now seems like there is nothing to stop Chris Froome winning his fourth Tour title.

The Brit went into Thursday’s final mountain stage  with a 27-second advantage over Rigoberto Uran and Romain Bardet, and although Bardet was able to trim that slightly courtesy of four bonus seconds on the line, neither put in the big attack needed to take the yellow jersey off the shoulders of Chris Froome.

In fact it was Froome’s own attack which looked the strongest of the race, and he’ll certainly be confident going into Saturday’s crucial 22.5km time trial around the streets of Marseille, a discipline that he has historically been stronger in than either of his main rivals.

That means that Froome now looks set to win his third successive Tour de France and fourth in total, putting him just one win off Merckx, Anquetil, Hinault, and Indurain.

Romain Bardet unable to produce hoped-for attack

Romain Bardet grimaces as he crosses the line on stage 18 (Credit: ASO/Alex Broadway)

After failing to open any time gaps today, Romain Bardet won’t be fancying his chances of overturning a 24-second deficit to Froome in Marseille, especially as he’s only ever beaten the Team Sky rider once in a non-prologue time trial (at the 2015 Tour de Romandie where the gap between the two was only 10 seconds).

Bardet went into today’s stage saying that because he’s already finished second in the Tour in 2016, he wouldn’t be afraid to take a few risks in order to deliver France’s first yellow jersey since 1985.

Many took that to mean an attack on the Col de Vars, and such a move looked possible when Ag2r La Mondiale went to the front of the peloton on the early slopes of the climb. However no such attack came, and Ag2r ended up using up all their riders before handing over to Team Sky on the Izoard.

Eventually Bardet did attack, but his move was quickly closed down by Froome, who then went over the top in a counter-attack. Clearly Bardet simply didn’t have the legs to distance the Brit, but it was still disappointing not to see a longer-range attack.

Rigoberto Uran’s consistency gets him a podium spot

Rigoberto Uran on stage 17 of the Tour de France (Credit: Sunada)

Proving that attacking riding isn’t a requirement to get on the Tour de France podium, Rigoberto Uran looks set to make it into then top three in Paris having hardly put his nose in the wind for three weeks.

Apparently riding for a podium spot and backing himself to overhaul Bardet in the time trial, Uran first locked himself onto the wheel of Froome as the yellow jersey shut down Bardet’s attack, before letting his French rival do much of the work to haul in Froome’s counter-attack.

To be fair to Uran, the Colombian is more than justified in playing it safe to secure his first podium finish in the Tour, a great result both for him personally and for the Cannondale-Drapac team which has enjoyed quite a turn around in the last couple of months after going more than two years without a WorldTour win.

Warren Barguil shows his potential yet again

Warren Barguil celebrates his second stage win of the 2017 Tour de France (Credit: ASO/Alex Broadway)

If there’s one man who’s really made a name for himself on this Tour de France, it’s Warren Barguil, who not only picked up a second stage win but also confirmed his victory in the mountains classification and all but wrapped up a top 10 on GC.

Being no threat to the yellow jersey on GC may have helped him escape midway up the Col d’Izoard, but from there he put in a ride of the highest quality to chase down Darwin Atapuma and to hold off a charging Froome, Bardet, and Uran by a comfortable margin.

The 40 points he picked up on the Izoard also meant he secured the most comprehensive victory in the mountains classification, the first winner of that classification to get more than double his closest rival’s tally since 1995.

The only problem for Barguil is that Tom Dumoulin is expected to lead Sunweb’s Tour GC challenge in 2018, meaning he may be forced to consider his options for the future.

Michal Kwiatkowski’s domestique masterclass

Star domestique yet again, Michal Kwiatkowski put in another huge turn on the Col d’Izoard, setting a fierce pace to mercilessly close down attacks by Alberto Contador and Dan Martin, simultaneously putting Fabio Aru out of the back door.

The Pole moved to the front of the lead group As Barguil attacked with 7.5km to go, and stayed there for a good few kilometres, going so deep that he had to pull over and come to a half once he’d finished his turn.

Quite amazingly, he then managed to lose nearly 14 minutes in the final four kilometres, giving him a time on Strava which may even be challenged by a few amateurs from last week’s Etape du Tour.

And finally, well done to the lucky fan got a nice little souvenir when Kwiatkowski decided to throw his expensive Oakley sunglasses to the side of the road rather than waste energy putting them in his helmet or jersey pocket.


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Chris Froome unshakeable on Tour de France’s final mountain stage as Barguil wins

Warren Barguil takes his second stage victory in the 2017 Tour de France as Chris Froome fends off rivals to keep overall race lead

Chris Froome (Team Sky) fended off several late attacks during the 2017 Tour de France‘s last mountain stage on Thursday to retain his overall race lead.

As they had done on previous stages, Ag2r had attempted to apply more pressure on Froome and Sky for their GC hope, Romain Bardet. But Sky once again proved to be the stronger team, safely delivering Froome to the line with no significant time lost to Bardet, or any of his other rivals.

The stage honours atop the Col d’Izoard went to Warren Barguil (Team Sunweb), who took his second stage victory of the 2017 race and secured his position in the polka-dot jersey of King of the Mountains. Darwin Atapuma (UAE) survived from the day’s large escape group to claim second, with Bardet in third and Froome fourth.

>>> Tour de France 2017: Latest news, reports and race info

Froome now leads Bardet by 23 seconds overall, with Uran slipping from second to third at 29 seconds – still a very tightly-packed top three after nearly three weeks of racing.

Fabio Aru (Astana) saw his hopes of a podium place fade further, as he lost touch with the Froome group on the Izoard to lose just over a minute. The Italian is now in fifth overall as Froome’s team-mate Mikel Landa elevates to fourth.

The stage represented the final real chance for the climbers to attempt to overhaul Froome before Saturday’s decisive time trial – the British rider’s favoured discipline. However, they all failed to do so and now the question will be how much time Froome can gain in the test against the clock in Marseille. Froome would surely love to seal a fourth Tour win with a stage victory, something that has eluded him so far.

The Big Break

The final mountain stage of the 2017 Tour de France was always likely to attract a large number of riders to get themselves in an escape group – but few would have predicted that number to be 54.

The vast break contained no rider within 30 minutes of Froome overall, so they were allowed plenty of leeway from the Sky-led bunch. By the mid-way point of the stage, after the category three climb of Côte des Demoiselles Coiffées, the gap was pushed out to over eight minutes.

Breakaway specialist Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal) did more than his share of pace-making at the front of the break going into the intermediate sprint at Les Thuiles, 88km from the finish, won by Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain-Merida).

Tour de France 2017 stage 18 profile. Image: ASO

On to the category one Col de Vars, the break split in two, with a lead group of 22 and a chase group of 32. Behind those two groups, the peloton was strung out in the tailwind with Bora-Hansgrohe assisting Sky in pacing the peloton.

Why Bora? The reason seemed opaque with no rider in the top 10 overall, although they had missed putting a rider in the escape. Either way, it meant that Sky could save the legs of Luke Rowe and Christian Knees for longer than originally expected.

Romain Sicard (Direct Energie), Darwin Atapuma (UAE), Tony Gallopin (Lotto-Soudal) and Alexey Lutsenko (Astana) broke free of the shattering escape group towards the top of the Col de Vars, with Lutsenko cresting the summit first.

Team Sky lead the peloton on stage 18 of the 2017 Tour de France. Photo: ASO/Alex Broadway

There was a change in the order of the peloton as they tackled the final kilometres of the Col de Vars, with Bardet’s Ag2r setting a fierce speed to put Sky and Froome under pressure. However, Froome looked relaxed, and at one point grabbed a mussette and passed them around his team-mates.

There were no attacks over the top of the Vars from the yellow jersey group, as they hit the descent together, Ag2r/Bardet still leading Sky/Froome.

At the front of the race, Lutsenko, Sicard, Atapuma and Gallopin were joined by six more riders as they headed towards the ascent of the Col d’Izoard, with five and a half minutes over the Froome group with 25km remaining. Lutsenko was on his own again as the final climb commenced but was chased down and passed by Atapuma.

Back in the peloton, Ag2r continued to set the pace ahead of Sky onto the Col d’Izoard but were burning through their riders one by one and with 6km to go only Bardet was left as Sky resumed control with Michael Kwiatkowski, Mikel Landa and Mikel Nieve sat in front of the yellow jersey.

Barguil attacked from the Froome group on the climb, followed briefly by Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo), and he quickly built up a gap. Next to attack from that group was Dan Martin (Quick-Step Floors), and although Sky caught up with him it put Fabio Aru (Astana) into trouble.

As Kwaitkowski swung off, Landa attacked off the front – a clever Sky move to put Froome’s rivals under pressure and be forced to chase. Landa started the day in fifth overall, just 1-24 behind Froome, and could easily move up the GC.

With 3km to go, Bardet launched an attack, with only Froome and Uran able to follow. Only 200 metres later, Froome accelerated away from Bardet and Uran to reach Landa. It was Uran who put in the effort to chase, with Bardet on his wheel.

At the same time, Barguil caught and then passed Atapuma to go solo at the front of the race – but now with only 25 seconds on Froome, Landa, Bardet and Uran into the final kilometre.

As Barguil celebrated his win over the line, Bardet tried to shake off Froome and Uran but could not unhitch the yellow jersey. Nonetheless, his third spot behind Barguil and Atapuma means his bonus seconds secured him second place overall ahead of Uran.

Aru was visibly struggling, and finished 1-02 behind Froome and Bardet. In the fight for the best young rider’s jersey, Simon Yates (Orica-Scott) lost 22 seconds to rival Louis Meintjes (UAE) as they finished ninth and seventh respectively. And Irishman Martin rode well again to finish eighth.

The 2017 Tour de France continues on Friday with stage 19, starting in Embrun and finishing in Salon-de-Provence, 222.5km later. Along the way there are three category three climbs with a final descent off the Col du Pointu and into a relatively flat run-in to the finish.

With much still at stake in the Tour, it is hard to predict how the racing will pan out: the stage winner could easily come from a break, a bunch sprint or perhaps a group of GC contenders.

Many of the GC riders will undoubtedly be mindful of the following day’s individual time trial in Marseille, before the race concludes with its traditional finale in Paris on Sunday, July 23.

Results

Tour de France 2017, stage 18: Briançon to Izoard, 179.5km
1. Warren Barguil (Fra) Team Sunweb, in 4-40-33
2. Darwin Atapuma (Col) UAE Team Emirates, at 20 secs
3. Romain Bardet (Fra) Ag2r-La Mondiale
4. Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky, at same time
5. Rigoberto Uran (Col) Cannondale-Drapac, at 22 secs
6. Mikel Landa (Esp) Team Sky, at 32 secs
7. Louis Meintjes (RSA) UAE Team Emirates, at 37 secs
8. Daniel Martin (Irl) Quick-Step Floors, at 39 secs
9. Simon Yates (GBr) Orica-Scott, at 59 secs
10. Alberto Contador (Esp) Trek-Segafredo, at 1-09

General classification after stage 18
1. Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky, in 78-08-19
2. Romain Bardet (Fra) Ag2r La Mondiale, at 23 secs
3. Rigoberto Uran (Col) Cannondale-Drapac, at 29 secs
4. Mikel Landa (Esp) Team Sky, at 1-36
5. Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana, at 1-55
6. Daniel Martin (Irl) Quick-Step Floors, at 2-56
7. Simon Yates (GBr) Orica-Scott, at 4-46
8. Louis Meintjes (RSA) UAE Team Emirates, at 6-52
9. Warren Barguil (Fra) Team Sunweb, at 8-22
10. Alberto Contador (Esp) Trek-Segafredo, at 8-34


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Lizzie Deignan ‘surprised’ by great form as she rides to second place on Col d’Izoard at La Course

“I think I overestimated the climb, I had not done a recon and I didn’t find it as hard as the nightmares I had about it.”

Finishing second at the top of the Col d’Izoard today, British champion Lizzie Deignan (Boels-Dolmans) exceeded her expectations. Though not planning on riding for the win, Deignan set a blistering pace up the climb, thinning the group and finishing second behind Annemiek Van Vleuten (Orica-Scott) in the Women’s WorldTour race.

After her team-mates did much of the work, 28-year-old Deignan went to the front with over 10km of the climb left to ride intending to set up her Boels-Dolmans team mate, Megan Guarnier. However, such was the pace Guarnier was dropped, eventually finishing in fourth place, 45 seconds behind the Briton.

>>> Annemiek Van Vleuten wins stage one of La Course atop Col d’Izoard; Deignan second

“I felt really good in training, particularly after the Giro,” Deignan said after the race. “Megan put her hand up and said she could be leader. I perhaps did a bit too much work because we wanted Megan to go for it, but that’s cycling, that’s how it goes sometimes.

“I surprised myself for sure. I think I overestimated the climb, I had not done a recon and I didn’t find it as hard as the nightmares I had about it. It wasn’t as steep as I had expected it to be.

“I have never never been successful on a mountain top in my career, so I did not have the confidence to be leader today. I am pleased with the form I had.”

Thursday’s race was the fourth edition La Course, a race created after pressure from a number of women’s cycling advocates calling for a women’s Tour de France. In previous years the race was held in advance of the Tour’s final stage, on the Champs-Elysées circuit. Today’s mountain race arguably provided riders with a better experience of the cycling’s crowds.

“It loved it,” Deignan continued. “Especially being able to ride through crowds like that. It would be great to do it more often, but it’s a positive experience. Difficult but positive.”

>>> The Col d’Izoard: A giant of the Tour de France

When originally announced the race received much criticism for being just 67km long, but Deignan saw the event as a success.

“It’s really positive that we have a mountain top finish, but I think it needs some work in terms of organisation, it’s great but but it felt like a little bit of an afterthought sometimes, with the organisation.”

One of the event’s overwhelming favourites, La Course was won by Dutch woman Annemiek Van Vleuten.

“After the Giro she was certainly in great form but I think there was a little bit of unknown after the ten day period after the Giro,” her Orica-Scott team manager Gene Bates told Cycling Weekly. “You could see some people were struggling to maintain form and some are still on the up and up.

“A climb that severe you can’t make too many plans, it has to be done on sensations and she took her opportunity. It did go perfectly to plan. We came here to win and we did.”

>>> ASO defends changes made to La Course for 2017

Dutch time trial champion Van Vleuten will take a 43 second lead into Saturday’s pursuit style time trial race, run on the same course as the penultimate Tour stage in Marseille.

Unlike the mountain stage, it is not even classified as a UCI competition, instead being an invitation race with only the top 19 riders from the Col d’Izoard starting.

Riders will start in Thursday’s finish order and with time gaps, in a race where drafting is allowed and only road bikes permitted.

“I wouldn’t call myself a time trialist, but it’s on a road bike so we’ll see what happens I think Megan is just behind me, so maybe I should wait and chase her down together,” Deignan concluded.


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What exactly makes a good bike shop?

What makes a good bike shop? What sets one shop apart from another?

Promotional feature with Lezyne

When it comes to answering that question, few brands can answer that question better than Lezyne.

The company, in just its 11th year, is a leading supplier in pumps, tools, bags, LED lights and GPS. Through their UK distributor Upgrade Bikes they are forever on the pulse of what keeps us going back to our local bike shops and what us customers want to see more of.

We are the voice and they are the listeners who react. “Let’s say a customer has an issue. They go back to the bike shop who in turn contact us and will maybe send a product back,” Rory Hitchens, the marketing and senior brand manager of Upgrade Bikes, said.

“If we at Upgrade Bikes spot a trending niggle, we’ll give feedback to Lezyne who will then tweak the product to make it better. That link is crucial with independent bike shops. They offer us a valuable view point and engage us in the customer feedback loop.

“What customers can give to their bike shop, and how they can improve it, is valuable part of our business.”

That circle of communication and adaptation has meant that Lezyne knows exactly what type shops are succeeding. Hitchens added: “The successful independent bike shops are very service-orientated.

“Customers have a choice where to buy their bikes, their accessories and their clothing from and the internet has made thing much easier. But the customer service aspect is really important, both during the sale and after the sale.

“You can buy a bike full of Di2 and something might not be working right. You go back to the bike shop and they fix the problem; you can’t get that level of service online.”

The understanding of what makes a bike shop successful is why Lezyne are delighted to sponsor Britain’s Best Bike Shop which allows you to vote for your favourite road and mountain biking store in the UK; and just by voting you will be entered into a prize draw to win goodies in excess of £600.

The future of local bike shops, Hitchens believes, can be a positive one, if they continue to evolve to the changing market and immerse themselves within the cycling community.

“Those shops that increase their customer service do better,” he said. “It’s about getting the community into the shop, generating club rides from their stores, having themed evenings.

“People like doing things with other people so if you can draw people into events, and create a group activity, people will go to the shop and probably buy something.

“If a customer goes on the Tuesday night ride from his local bike shop all the time but still shops online, they will eventually feel guilty and buy from the bike shops. It all starts with what goes in at the shop.”


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Fabio Aru, Dan Martin, and Elia Viviani all set to ride for UAE Team Emirates in 2018, reports suggest

UAE Team Emirates line up a number of big name signings for next season

Italy’s Grand Tour star Fabio Aru, currently fourth in the Tour de France, will leave Astana at the end of the 2017 to become on of a number of riders to join UAE Team Emirates in 2018, reports La Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper.

Aru has agreed to a three-year deal that will keep him in the Arabian team through 2020. However in line with UCI rules, general manager Giuseppe Saronni cannot confirm the signing until August 1.

The deal will be worth around €3 million annually, according to Cycling Weekly‘s sources.

The team is also said to have confirmed Italian Elia Viviani, who wants to leave Team Sky early to race Grand Tours for stage wins, and Irishman Daniel Martin from Quick-Step Floors.

Saronni said “no comment” when asked of the news this morning. Of course, he needs a replacement for South African Louis Meintjes. The 25-year-old, currently eighth in the Tour, has reportedly singed a deal with home WorldTour team Dimension Data with Mark Cavendish and Steve Cummings.

The Aru deal would beef up Saronni’s new team, which abandoned the Lampre sponsorship over the winter for a last-minute deal with the United Arab Emirates and the airline giant Emirates.


Watch: Tour de France stage 17 highlights


Aru won a stage in the Tour de France and held the yellow jersey for two days so far this year. He also claimed two stages and second overall in the 2015 Giro d’Italia and of course, the 2015 Vuelta a España victory.

With Aru leaving, Astana must look elsewhere. They are due to welcome Norwegian sprinter Alexander Kristoff, whose relationship with Katusha-Alpecin is on the rocks. It will also need a Grand Tour star.

Rigoberto Urán, currently second in the Tour, is top target for general manager Alexandre Vinokourov. The 30 year-old Colombian began racing in Italy and his fluent Italian is likely to help him fit in quickly at the team.

Frenchman Warren Barguil, winner of the Tour’s stage to Foix and likely mountains classification victor, is also on Astana’s radar for 2018.

Barguil is out of contract and if he is to have a chance to ride the Tour as leader, he may need to leave Team Sunweb who are likely to back Tom Dumoulin at the Tour in 2018..


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What do the riders think is the worst thing about the Tour de France?

What do the Tour de France peloton not find enjoyable about riding the race?

The Tour de France may seem all glamorous and every spectator may wish it was them completing a lap of the country, but La Grand Boucle does have its flaws and irritations.

While all riders enjoy riding the race, 21 stages through the French countryside and cities not only takes its tolls on them physically, but there are logistic problems that compound the riders’ recovery. The interest in the start villages and a nervous peloton also add to the stress.

Thomas Degand, who is riding his maiden Tour for Wanty-Groupe Gobert, said that the race is an “incredible experience” but that it isn’t without its problems.

“Always, after the race, we are blocked, usually for an hour,” he said of the traffic. “On stage 15, our bus drove eight kilometres in 1 hour and 30 minutes.

>>> Here’s the science behind why Paweł Poljański’s legs were so veiny

“We arrived at our hotel at 9pm and then we have to get a massage and eat. Then, on Wednesday, we had to leave the hotel at 9am for the start.

“In a three week race, it is very important to have maximum recovery and with this situation is it difficult to do so. When we are in the bus for two hours, it is to our loss. It is a problem but it is a very beautiful race.”

Orica-Scott‘s Daryl Impey, who in 2013 became the first African to wear the yellow jersey, agreed with Demand, saying that “the travelling and the transfers are the worst part of the Tour. But there is no way around it – there’s no easy way to do a whole lap of France.”

Impey, though, said that hour before the race starts is the biggest annoyance. “Signing on, rushing to the start, fighting through a million people to sign on… it’s not stressful but it’s just a pain in the arse to go through everyone. I’m on autopilot now!”

>>> Luke Rowe column: It’s been fun to ride aggressively at the Tour de France

For other riders, it is the actual racing that turns their smiles into frowns. Timo Roosen, riding his second successive Tour for LottoNL-Jumbo, bemoaned the pace of climbing in the mountains.

The 24-year-old said: “In the high mountains, you have to suffer for so long. Some climbs feel like they just don’t end.

“Everybody is riding full gas and I’m too heavy for this, I’m not a climber!

“The pace is higher in the mountains. The first climb yesterday [on stage 16], when it exploded, you can feel the pace get quicker. The level is so high and you push watts that would normally be quite good in any other race, but here everyone can do those numbers. You end up in the gruppetto with some powerful numbers.”

British sprinter Ben Swift (UAE-Team Emirates) said that crashes – of which are more common in the Tour – are the thing he hates the most. “The worst are the crashes,” he said.

“I think there’s more crashes in the Tour because the risks are higher and people are more willing to push to be at the front.

“The first day after you crash, you’re always more nervous and covering your brakes a little but more. You have more fatigue and you’re not pushing yourself through them gaps. A crash can play on you a little bit.”


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Dr. Hutch: It was the best of bike shops, it was the worst of bike shops

With CW’s search for the best bike shop in mind, the Doc recalls the charms of his erstwhile LBC

It was the best of bike shops, it was the worst of bike shops. I found it by accident, years ago, up a dingy back alley. It didn’t advertise, it didn’t have a sign. The windows were dark, the only clue was a few bikes outside that appeared to have been there since before the war.

These, I found out later, were bikes awaiting repair. For this bike shop didn’t do anything as quotidian as sell off-the-peg bicycles — it was a shop for the sort of rider who would only ever dream of buying bespoke.

>>> Britain’s best bike shops 2017 – Vote is now open

It combined, in the way bike shops used to, high-end aspiration with low-end ambience.

I was, as it happened, in the market for some wheels. So I went inside. A bell jangled, but no one came. Dark wooden shelves, stained from decades of leaky oil cans. Wheels hanging from the ceiling like stalactites. I looked in wonder, like the discoverer of a secret cave, far underground.

“Well, don’t just stand there, what do you want?” said a voice.

I’d missed the small, goblin-like man sitting behind a counter in a gloomy corner. “I, um, I’m looking for some wheels,” I said.

There was a long pause.

“Come on chum, I’m not f***ing clairvoyant,” he said. “What sort of wheels?”

“Ah, Mavic Open CD rims on Chorus hubs. Ideally the ceramic braking surface,” I said, for this was the era of handmade wheels. “Please,” I added.

“What spoke pattern?”

“32-hole three-cross. Please.”

“What spokes?”

“Double-butted. Please.”

“Chump. Of course double-butted, do you think you’re in Hamley’s? What make?”

“Sapim laser?”

Old-school grouch

He sighed a sigh that seemed to come from the Earth itself. I was expecting to be told to come back in three weeks, and then three weeks later be told to come back in a month. Instead, without moving, he produced a long stick and flicked two wheels, one at a time, from the ceiling above me.

I caught them. “£180, cash only,” he said. The prices were the only thing not stuck in the 1950s.

I went to the cashpoint, came back, and handed it over. He put it in a little drawer. “You’re wasting your money on the ceramic braking surface,” he said.

In all the times I went there it was the only occasion that I left with what I wanted. I never found out the proprietor’s name, and I never managed to ask him for anything he approved of.


Watch: Dr. Hutch – How to ride a penny farthing


When I requested a Flite Titanium saddle he said, “What does a lardy boy like you want with a lightweight saddle? Try a diet.” He wasn’t trying to cover up a gap in his stock — he had the saddle on a shelf. But I couldn’t have it. Not even after I showed him the cash.

He intensely disliked selling clincher racing tyres, clipless pedals, and anything described by the manufacturer as ‘aerodynamic’, and told you so. Things he refused to sell altogether included helmets, any chainring smaller than a 42, and bar tape with cushioning. He banned you from the shop if you asked for energy drinks.

He had a wooden chest with about a thousand tiny drawers. In it he had nuts and bolts and sprockets in every imperial size the old Empire could imagine. These were stockpiled against the day that the metric system would be unmasked as a communist plot.

The shop is gone, now. I don’t know when it closed exactly — I’m afraid I defected to a more modern shop where they were not only prepared to sell you a pair of sunglasses, they would let you try them on before deciding. The old site is a coffee shop now, inevitably.

Even after I’d stopped going there, it was nice to know that there was a place where five-speed was cutting edge, the only energy drink that mattered was tea, and Fausto Coppi would be forever in his glory.

For all that, I can’t really say I miss it.


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Best Decathlon deals: seven discounts on bikes, clothing and tools

We bring you the best Decathlon deals each month so you don’t have to go looking for them

If you’re in the market for some new cycling kit, clothing or gadgets then you’ve come to the right place as we showcase the best Decathlon deals that we’ve hunted down.

Starting in 1976 and extremely popular on the continent, Decathlon has made marks in the UK with 28 stores across the country. Founded by Michel Leclerq, the Frenchman opened his first store in Lille, northern France, selling everything from cycling apparel to water sports kit. Since then the huge chain has gone on to have over 1,100 stores worldwide.

Our pick of the best Decathlon deals

B’Twin Saddle Bag £3.99 £2.49

Stop carting all your spares around in your jersey pockets and start stuffing them in a saddle bag. Not only will it make your back more comfortable but you’ll also have more space for snacks.

Buy now: B’Twin Saddle bag for £2.49

B’Twin Warm Urban Cycling Jacket £39 £32

Despite perhaps being better suited to cold weather commuting, the B’Twin Warm Urban Cycling Jacket looks insulating and surprisingly stylish and should keep the worst off in the darker months.

Buy now: B’Twin Warm Urban Cycling Jacket for £32

B’Twin 100 Sleeveless Base Layer £4.99 £3.99

Here’s at Cycling Weekly we’re big fans of wearing a base layer all year round. Trust us when we say you’ll be more comfortable, and it won’t make you overheat any more than usual.

Buy now: B’Twin 100 Sleeveless Base Layer for £3.99

DC 4S Wired Cycle Computer £7.99 £4.99

Forget the Garmin Edge 820, or the Wahoo Elemnt Bolt. If you want to measure speed, distance and time and not spend the earth then grab one of B’twin’s budget computers.

Buy now: DC 4S Wired Cycles Computer for £4.99

Thule RoundTrip Traveler bike bag £314.99 £239.99

If you’re going abroad with your bike you’ll want to keep it safe and sound. This bag has a tough, durable exterior with an internal mounting system to hold all of your precious parts in place.

Buy now: Thule RoundTrip Traveler bike bag for £239.99

B’Twin 700 aerofit cycling overshoes £19.99 £15.99

It might not seem like the season to need a pair of boot covers, but they can come in handy at any time of year.

These have an aero fit, so they sit close to your shoe and will keep the wind and rain out thanks to their neoprene material.

Buy now: B’Twin 700 aerofit overshoes from Decathlon for £14.99

B’Twin Ultra 720 CF Carbon road £2,000 £1,800

Buy now: B’Twin Ultra 720 CF Carbon Road bike at Decathlon for £1,800

This is one of B’Twin’s higher end bikes. The French company bills it as either a training bike or a racing bike.

It comes equipped with Shimano Ultegra and a Mavic Kysrium wheelset, which for under £2000 is pretty good. Sadly, it’s only for those on the shorter side, with size small and extra small being the last available.


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Get the Stage 17 route on Chapter 2’s limited edition frameset

Special frameset is decorated with the stage’s climbs and profile

If you have withdrawal symptoms from the 2017 Tour de France already, with another three stages to go, the TDF 17 Limited Edition Tere frameset from Chapter 2 may help a bit.

Many pros stick a piece of paper with the key points on a stage’s route on their stem or top tube, so they can reference it during the race.

Chapter 2 has gone one better, decorating its special edition Tere frame with the route of Stage 17 of the 2017 Tour de France, played out yesterday, between La Mure and Serre Chevalier.

A reminder of the Stage 17 route on your top tube and down tube

The route included the highest point on the 2017 Tour, the Col du Galibier at 2642m and was won by Primoz Roglic of LottoNL-Jumbo. The Galibier was first used in the Tour de France in 1911 and has been the scene of epic rides by Fausto Coppi, Eddy Merckx and Marco Pantani amongst others.

>>> Five talking points from Stage 17 of the Tour de France

As well as the names and altitudes of the Stage 17 climbs on the top tube, the TDF 17 Special Edition Tere has the stage profile outlined on its down tube. And it’s yellow and black to match the Tour’s colours.



Available as a rim brake frameset, the TDF 17 Tere Special Edition frameset will be sold in limited quantities only, priced at £2019. Chapter 2 says that its limited edition frames change every six months or so, so you won’t get the chance to own the 2017 edition again. But there’s always the 2018 route to look forward to.

Of course if you’ve got the Stage 17 route and its epic climbs emblazoned on your bike frame, the only real option is to ride the 183km of the stage yourself.


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Luke Rowe column: It’s been fun to ride aggressively at the Tour de France

“It was quite fun to attack and race aggressively as opposed to defensively while controlling the break”

Welshman Luke Rowe is Sky’s road captain and is currently riding the Tour de France. He is also a Cardiff Devils ice hockey fan.

I’ve been recovering from that crash during the first week of the Tour de France and now feel back to my usual self.

I don’t care about how I go personally in the race but that feeling when you are at 90 per cent and you can’t give 100 per cent to the team because your body is not cooperating is one of the worst feelings. Luckily that’s been a lot different and I’ve felt a lot stronger.

Chris Froome losing the yellow jersey after stage 12 fuelled the fire — the past Tours I’ve been a part of, once he’s got it, he’s never really lost it. In 2015 Tony Martin took it off him for a couple of days early in the race but he was never a long-term threat. Losing it to Fabio Aru was something new for us but the very next day we bounced back.

>>> Tour de France 2017: Latest news, reports and race info

You could see Froomey was quite disappointed that day but he’s got a big heart and will keep fighting and that epitomises the last few days he’s had. It was quite fun to be on the other side, to attack and race aggressively as opposed to defensively and controlling the break.

Luke Rowe works for Team Sky at the Tour de France. Photo: Yuzuru Sunada

It was a breath of fresh air and showed people what we can do and how we ride super-aggressively if we don’t have the jersey to try and blow the race to bits. It was good for the fans to see a different side to the way we race.

The short 101km day on stage 13 was ballistic. After 25k we hit the first climb and I think myself and 120-130 others were dropped there.

Even in the first 25k I was getting involved and attacking, and it was pretty fast and furious. Those stages are good and exciting for the fans and are certainly the way forward. They’ve produced the best racing as well.

Someone came up and told me a couple of days ago I was the lanterne rouge after a few guys had pulled out. Honestly, I had no idea as I don’t look at the bottom end of the GC or where I am and where I finish on the stages.

I’m focusing on doing everything I can for Froomey then sit up and lose time where I can and make sure I’m fresh to do as good a job the next day. So I guess in one way it proves I’m doing my job right. Although Dan McLay overtook me the other day!

Note: Since this was written, Dan McLay has withdrawn from the Tour with illness, so Luke is back as lanterne rouge


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