Unplanned attack propels Niewiadoma to first WorldTour stage race victory

Although she has been among world’s best riders for two seasons, she waited until her debut on British roads to take the very first win on a WorldTour level. Katarzyna Niewiadoma (WM3 Pro Cycling) stormed to the victory in the opener of Ovo Energy Women’s Tour and held on to the green race leader’s jersey over next four days, celebrating the overall win on Sunday.

“I am super happy. That’s the only word that can describe my feelings,” Niewiadoma said to a group of journalists after the finish of the criterium-like final stage in central London.

Niewiadoma, 22, has already three stage race victories to her name: the Euskal Emakumeen Bira in 2015, and the Festival Elsy Jacobs and Giro del Trentino Alto Adige-Sudtirol in 2016. Winning the Women’s Tour is arguably her most significant achievement, a maiden WorldTour victory coming after two seasons of coming close during the key races on the calendar.

“I was waiting for a WorldTour victory for a long time. I was all the time somewhere there – second, third – but somehow always missed that victory. I’m super delighted I can grab it. After the Ardennes I was a little bit disappointed but I certainly didn’t expect to take my first WorldTour victory in the UK,” she said.

Women’s races are often more spontaneous and unpredictable than those of their male counterparts. The British race lived up to these expectations, and what happened on the road to Kettering on stage 1 was not a part of anyone’s script, certainly not WM3’s or Niewiadoma’s. The Polish rider attacked 47.5 kilometres before the finish and ended up winning the day by a hefty margin of 1:42.

“I did the same thing last year at Holland Ladies Tour. I attacked early and I got caught with 10 kilometres to go. This time it worked out… I don’t know, maybe they underestimated me. When I first realized I’m on my own, I thought, ‘oh gosh, what am I doing here alone out in this field?'” Niewiadoma said with a laugh when asked about the situation.

“It was a moment when we tried to form an echelon. But we got a headwind, not a cross-wind. I wanted to do something and I attacked. Worst part was, nobody followed. So I just pushed on, I was ashamed to just quietly go back to the bunch,” she explained.

“It was unexpected, the teams started riding late. But it’s also a little bit stupid to ride like Kasia [in the first stage]. Sometimes it happens, it worked good for us,” sports director Jeroen Blijlevens told Cyclingnews ahead of the final stage.

Niewiadoma’s debut on British roads was her first appearance after a month-long break following her spring campaign. After three podium results in the Ardennes classics in April, she struggled with a knee injury in the build-up period. As such, the leadership responsibility at the Women’s Tour initially rested upon the shoulders of Marianne Vos.

“Coming here, I didn’t even feel like fighting for a top 10 result. I just wanted to ride every stage hard and help Marianne,”  said.

Pink ribbon

Crossing the line in Kettering, Niewiadoma pointed to the pink ribbon plaited in her hair, shining a spotlight on the Breast Cancer Care campaign, an official charity partner of this year’s edition of Ovo Energy Women’s Tour.

At the outset of the five-day race, all participants received pink ribbons, the worldwide symbol of breast cancer awareness, each with a short message from a woman who suffered from the disease. The ribbons accompanied the peloton throughout the race and riders had the chance to meet some of those women during final stage in London. The closing act of WorldTour race was preceded by a Pink Ribbon Tour – a ride in a display of solidarity with the affected by breast cancer.

The Polish champion’s win on the first day and a subsequent exchange of tweets with Laura Hunter, whose ribbon Niewiadoma carried, prompted the race organizers to arrange an early meeting of the two. Hunter was present on the podium of stage 3, where Polish rider received leader’s jersey.

“She is super strong. Having a chance to meet her was just amazing. Even without knowing her, I really feel like I know her forever. I said to her that we’re going to do it together,” Niewiadoma said at press conference after stage 3.

Kasia Niewiadoma (WM3 Pro Cycling) smiles from the podium

Battle of Chesterfield

Niewiadoma kept a firm grasp on the jersey on a second day, finishing fifth in Stoke-on-Trent and arriving safely in the group as the bunch sprint on day three was claimed by Chloe Hosking. The battle for the overall podium took place on the fourth day, as riders tackled undulating course around Chesterfield on a 123km route with 11 climbs, though only two of them counted for mountain classification points.

Having lost Vos to a crash on a previous day, Niewiadoma was quickly isolated from her teammates and had to defend her lead against all the major teams. Following all the moves wasn’t feasible and in the key part of the stage a break spearheaded by Leah Kirchmann (Team Sunweb), Sarah Roy (Orica-Scott) and Christine Majerus (Boels Dolmans) launched a tireless assault on the podium.

“I was on my own for around 60 kilometres. That’s when attacks came, each team tried to put me in difficulty. I said to myself that no matter what, I have to go with every attack, do not let anyone get away. When Christine went, it was the hardest moment, because I knew she is a threat. She is strong, she is capable of pulling it off. I thought Wiggle High5 and Cervelo-Bigla riders would pull but none of them were willing to take up the pace.”

With Majerus assuming virtual leadership on the road, leading the frantic chase was up only to Niewiadoma. This couldn’t go forever and when the leaders’ group slowed down, the race saw yet another twist as previously dropped riders rejoined. Diverging interests of teams worked out in favour of Polish rider and inside final 20 kilometres the gap started coming down.

“After a hundred or so kilometres we were joined by a bigger group with Anouska [Koster]. There were more riders from Canyon and Bigla, they agreed to pull it back, so I could sit back a bit. I knew the difference will be less than two minutes,” Niewiadoma recalled.

This turn of events wasn’t unexpected to sports director Blijlevens, who highlighted the positive aspects of the chaotic stage.

“In the finals we missed Marianne but Kasia is so strong. If it ended up with a minute [gap], it’d be good for her but not other teams, who were also fighting for third place. So others made more mistakes in fight for podium or GC than we did. There was one rider from Boels and one from Sunweb at the front and they stopped attacking in the group. They were protecting the breakaway. So it was better for us. Some teams missed the breakaway so they had to ride. It was a perfect situation for us.”

WorldTour glory

The fifth and final stage in London was anything but a parade of victory. While in the morning crowds watched marching Queen’s Guard in front of the Buckingham Palace, hours later they saw an orange train of Boels Dolmans putting the pressure in the leader and going all guns blazing from the very start of a 62km race.

Niewiadoma was able to respond and controlled the situation, at the finish line joyfully gathering teammates as Jolien D’Hoore surged to the stage victory.

“Boels started really hard and of course they were successful. They split the peloton into two groups. Fortunately I was in the first one so I thought I need to stay in the wheel and control the situation,” she said at the post-race press conference on the heels of her maiden WorldTour stage race title.

The overall victory allowed Niewiadoma to climb to the top of Women’s WorldTour classification. Twice the best young rider of the series, she is now the first ever Polish rider to lead the standings of the series or its World Cup predecessor.

She is now turning her eyes towards Giro Rosa – a 10-day race that has traditionally been her summer target. This year, however, the route lacks substantial mountain stages and includes an opening team time-trial, in theory making it harder for a tiny climber.

“I hope I’m on the right track, I feel good. I’m not setting myself a goal. I want to simply race my bike and see what happens,” Niewiadoma told Cyclingnews when asked about racing in Italy.

“For the GC Kasia is the most important rider. And we will see how it goes on stages. But this is also a different Giro than in other years. [We have] no serious mountain stages. We will see what happens, we will take it day by day,” said Blijlevens.

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Michael Matthews edges out Peter Sagan to win Tour de Suisse stage three; takes overall lead

Australian rider too fast for Sagan and Degenkolb at end of stage three as race leader Stefan Küng dropped in finale.

Michael Matthews (Team Sunweb) won stage three of the Tour de Suisse, out-sprinting Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) and John Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo) from a reduced peloton in Bern.

The Australian rider remained ensconced towards the front of a diminishing bunch during a messy uphill final kilometre, biding his time to jump clear with 150m to go.

Sagan and Degenkolb were locked in behind Matthews, but were unable to come around him as they knocked shoulders behind.

The victory was also enough for Matthews to move himself into the yellow jersey as erstwhile leader Stefan Küng (BMC Racing) was dropped in the final kilometres.

How it happened

The two breakaway riders of Lasse Norman Hansen (Aqua Blue Sport) and Elmar Reinders (Roompot-Nederlanse Loterij) escaped from the gun at the start of the 159.3km stage from Menziken to the Swiss capital of Bern.

That duo quickly built a substantial lead of more than eight minutes over a relaxed peloton that seemed content to let them enjoy a substantial lead.

Going into the final 60km at the gap was down to less than five minutes and falling steadily, but the chase stalled as Astana leader Miguel Angel Lopez crashed.

The peloton seemed to ease up a little to allow Lopez to regain contact with a number of riders also taking the opportunity for a natural break, allowing a number of kilometres to pass without the gap being reduced.

Hansen clearly saw an opportunity here, and with 45km to go really started to apply the pressure at the front of the race, ramping up the pace and eventually dropping Reinders with 25km to go.

However there were fresh legs in the bunch, and Trek-Segafredo worked hard to pull Hansen back, leaving him with a lead of just 1-30 going on to the final classified climbs with 15km remaining.

Any chance of Hansen surviving to the finish were scuppered on the climb, as he saw his entire advantage disappear on the short, steep ascent of Gümligen, setting the race up for a bunch sprint in Bern.

Trek-Segafredo continued to control the bunch as they went into the final 10km, trying to set John Degenkolb up for victory, but the American team came under increasing pressure from Bora-Hansgrohe, Katusha-Alpecin, and BMC Racing, all eager to look after their sprinters and GC hopefuls.

Trek were back on the front as they went under the flamme rouge, setting a high pace as the road climbed towards the line. However that wasn’t enough to deter Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2r La Mondiale) from going on the attack with 800m remaining.

Unfortunately for the Italian his move was quickly shut down, and as the road flattened out in the final 500m, a sprint between Matthews, Sagan, and Degenkolb looked inevitable.

Most would have tipped either Sagan and Degenkolb to succeed, but instead Matthews beat them to the punch, launching a perfectly timed sprint to win the stage and move into the race lead.


Tour de Suisse 2017, stage three: Menziken to Bern (159km)

1. Michael Matthews (Aus) Team Sunweb, in 3-49-48
2. Peter Sagan (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe
3. John Degenkolb (Ger) Trek-Segafredo
4. Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto Soudal
5. Michael Albasini (Sui) Orica-Scott
6. Patrick Bevin (NZl) Cannondale-Drapac
7. Arthur Vichot (Fra) FDJ
8. Matteo Trentin (Ita) Quick-Step Floors
9. Jan Bakelants (Bel) Ag2r La Mondiale
10. Damiano Caruso (Ita) BMC Racing, all at same time

General classification after stage three

1. Michael Matthews (Aus) Team Sunweb, in 8-18-47
2. Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Team Sunweb, at 10 secs
3. Peter Sagan (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 11 secs
4. Damiano Caruso (Ita) BMC Racing Team, at 19 secs
5. Michael Albasini (Swi) Orica-Scott, at 20 secs
6. Patrick Bevin (NZl) Cannondale-Drapac, at 22 secs
7. Matteo Trentin (Ita) Quick-Step Floors, at 23 secs
8. John Degenkolb (Ger) Trek-Segafredo, at 24 secs
9. Jon Izaguirre (Spa) Bahrain-Merida, at 25 secs
10. Marc Soler (Esp) Movistar, at same time

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Britain’s best bike shops 2017

We are launching a UK wide poll to find the best bike shops in partnership with Lezyne, Muc Off and BikeZaar.

Every rider needs a good local bike shop. As places to go to buy, or just gaze at, new kit, get your bike fixed, get advice and generally have a chit-chat, bike shops are an essential part of any local cycling community.

Bike shops have also played a part in the careers of many aspiring young cyclists. There are even a few pro riders out there who once had a Saturday job in their local shop. Cleaning the boss’s bike and making tea before being let loose on the customers; that was a key part of my early career in cycling and it has served me very well.

But shops are having to change. While we all shop online sometimes, a good local bike shop is as essential as ever, it’s just what they offer is very different to that of 20 years ago.

Now they’re as much a destination as they are a shop. Somewhere to grab a coffee or a cuppa, get a bike fit, do a spinning session or meet others for a ride… All that and you still get to squeeze the tyres, flick the top tube and gaze longingly at the bike that’s just out of your price range.

This summer we’re celebrating bike shops by looking for the best in the country. Our Britain’s Best Bike Shops poll, in partnership with Lezyne, Muc Off and Bikezaar, allows you to vote for your favourite shop, and tell us why it’s so good. It’s your chance to give your local bike the recognition it deserves.

Winners will be announced in September. There will be an overall Britain’s Best Bike Shop in the road bike category and mountain bike category and regional winners for:

North East
North WestYorkshire
East Midlands
West Midlands
East England
South East
South West

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Local bike shop’s new initiative seeks to end battle with online retailers

Reigate and Cranleigh’s Maison du Velo bike shop is inviting customers in to order their direct bikes in-store, rather than lose them to online shopping

A local bike shop has adopted a new initiative that aims to overcome the rivalry between independent shops and direct sellers.

Maison du Velo – who have shops in Reigate and Cranleigh, Surrey – have introduced a Size and Source service, which sees them inviting customers to order any bike, from any brand – with their assistance. That includes direct only bike manufacturers and all the major online retailers.

The service includes a brief consultation to discuss the style of bike the customer is looking for, followed by a ‘Radlabour’ body scan to measure the shopper’s limb lengths. The information is used against a database of 28,000 frame geometries to determine the ideal new steed, before assistants scour the internet for the best deal available.

Finally, the bike is delivered to the store address, where it’s built up to customer specification – all for £49.

Commenting on the decision, owner Tom Hough said: “As far as we’re aware, we’re the first local bike shop to offer this service. The key motivation [behind setting up the offer] was a frustration with the current distribution models, which don’t seem to have evolved alongside the rest of the marketplace, and a desire to offer more of our services and expertise to more customers.”

>>> The changing face of the local bike shop

Hough added: “For us it’s all about giving customers more choice and getting them through the door to experience the range of services we, as an LBS, can offer and that they can’t get online. If it turns out that the right bike for them is one from our key brands – in whose products we firmly believe –  then we can offer even more additional services, such as warranty support.”

Whilst Maison du Velo will hunt out the best online deal, the Size and Source transaction takes place between the bike provider and the customer – meaning that they don’t take a cut, but they’re also not responsible for any warranty issues.

Maison du Velo's own bike collection [Image: facebook.com/bikeshopreigate]

Maison du Velo’s own bike collection [Image: facebook.com/bikeshopreigate]

Discussing the likelihood of other local bike shops adopting this method, Hough said: “Perhaps [other might follow suit]. We imagine many LBSs share our frustrations with the current distribution model but, at the same time, there are particular aspects of our set up here that leave us especially well placed to offer this service. [We do have] great relations with and high levels of trust among the local cycling community, and a well-established reputation for bike fitting and servicing.”

Commenting on the reactions he’s received from the sales reps the shop regularly deals with, he added: “We’ve had the whole range of reactions, from dismissiveness to confusion to excitement. Smaller, more niche or younger brands seem especially keen to work with us on the idea.”

Local bike shops are having to fight harder for business, thanks to the vicious price cutting that the internet allows. Commenting on the changing face of the industry, Carlton Reid, executive editor of BikeBiz, told us back in 2015: “It’s so easy to shop online now that it’s the new normal. Of course you buy your tubes and tyres online. Why wouldn’t you? It’s cheaper! Bike shops used to make a lot of money on, for instance, tubes. They’re bought for pennies and then sold at expensive prices. That’s just not happening now.”

Sales rep John Styles added: “Nobody is getting rich in the bike trade. Everything is competed down to its lowest possible price. As a result most people in the bike trade — shop owners, mechanics, sales people — earn 20-30 per cent less than they would in an equivalent industry.”

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Richie Porte: ‘Chris Froome obviously didn’t want to see me win. You don’t forget that for July’

Porte hints at Tour de France revenge after losing the Dauphiné on the final stage

Richie Porte (BMC Racing), who lost the Critérium du Dauphiné overall lead on the final stage on Sunday, indicates payback may come in the Tour de France for the way Chris Froome (Team Sky) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) raced.

The other favourites isolated Porte on the penultimate climb and took turns attacking. Froome accelerated away from his former Team Sky helper just before the summit and went solo on the descent from the Col de la Colombière.

“It was me against everyone for a little bit,” Porte said.

“Valverde and Froome obviously didn’t want to see me win the race. That’s racing, but you don’t forget that for July.”

>>> Five things we learned from the Critérium du Dauphiné

The 32-year-old Tasmanian held his ground and chased back to his rivals one by one, but was unable to regain enough time to prevent Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) winning the stage and the race overall.

Porte complemented Fuglsang’s “brilliant” ride. He had won stage six and sat third overall, only 1-15 behind Porte at the start of Sunday’s final stage.

Watch: Critérium du Dauphiné stage eight highlights

Froome sat 1-02 behind in second place overall and Spaniard Valverde was fifth at 1-43. They slipped to fourth and ninth, respectively.

Fuglsang won the overall by 10 seconds over Porte and 1-32 over Daniel Martin (Quick-Step Floors).

“I’ve been in those situations myself a lot of times,” Froome said of Porte. “That’s when the weight of having the yellow jersey really falls on your shoulders. You feel as if the whole world is out to get you. That’s part of racing.”

Porte switched to BMC Racing in 2016 and last year led the team to fifth overall in the Tour. This year, he appears to be on another level winning the Tour Down Under and the Tour de Romandie, and dominating the Critérium du Dauphiné.

>>> Analysis: It’s advantage Porte, but Chris Froome has reason for optimism as the Tour approaches

Porte won the time trial and appeared in control of the Dauphiné’s yellow jersey until Sunday. Despite finishing second to Fuglsang, the Australian now appears to be the favourite for the upcoming Tour de France.

“Obviously you could see they were ganging up on me. It would’ve been handy to have a few more team-mates there,” Porte added.

“They attacked the absolute hell out of us from the start. I found myself in a position with no team-mates. There were guys who preferred me not win the race instead of going for it themselves.

“I don’t know what you can learn from that. I think it swings and roundabouts. Maybe I have a favour to repay come July.”

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Chris Froome ‘on track for Tour de France’ despite falling short at Critérium du Dauphiné

The Brit feels on track for his Tour de France defence after missing out on a podium spot at the Dauphiné

Despite missing out on a podium spot by one second, Chris Froome has said he is “on track” for the Tour de France after a hard week of racing at the Critérium du Dauphiné.

Going into the race as defending champion, Froome took the positives from a performance that saw him slip from second to fourth on the final day.

>>> Analysis: It’s advantage Porte, but Chris Froome has reason for optimism as the Tour approaches

“If I’d just been here to defend second place I would have been more conservative. I would have waited for the last climb and just followed Jakob [Fuglsang] and [Fabio] Aru. That wasn’t the plan” he said.

“If I look at where I was a few weeks ago at the Tour de Romandie I seemed to be a long way off the pace. Here I feel as if I’ve got better and better over the week and at least I’m heading in the right direction. I feel as if I’m on track for July.

Watch: Critérium du Dauphiné stage eight highlights

“For us we weren’t here to try and protect second place – we wanted to race for the win. So we put all our cards on the table and I think that’s exactly what we did as a team.

“Even though it didn’t pay off in the end I think we’ve got to be happy with that. I came here looking for a hard week of racing and that’s exactly what I got” he explained after finishing fourth overall and eighth on the stage on Sunday.

After missing out on the day’s initial attack, Froome found himself with Porte as their rivals went for glory. The Team Sky man found himself having to rely on his descending skills as he dropped Porte over the top of the Col de la Colombiere. He soon bridged the gap to the front group but only after some considerable effort.

>>> Five things we learned from the Critérium du Dauphiné

“At one point I was close to being in the virtual yellow jersey” he said, “but I think I’d done so much work earlier on to try and set up that situation that when I got to the final climb I didn’t have much left unfortunately” he explained.

Froome can take solace in the fact that he is slowly progressing towards his season’s main goal, the Tour de France.

“I only had 19 days of racing before the Dauphiné so I’m really light on racing. Hopefully this will move me on now as well in terms of preparations for July.”

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Five thing we learned from the Critérium du Dauphiné

What did we gather from the Tour de France warm-up?

Richie Porte needs a better team

Richie Porte crosses the line at the end of stage seven of the Critérium du Dauphiné (Credit: ASO/A.Broadway)

The Australian cast a lonesome figure as he fought to save his title chances on the last day of the Critérium du Dauphiné as Jakob Fuglsang ate into Porte’s lead to take the win.

With a one minute lead on a short 115km final stage, it was imperative for BMC Racing to have all hands to deck to protect their team captain and race leader. However, unlike Chris Froome’s Team Sky or Fabio Aru and Jakub Fuglsang’s Astana, it became clear that Porte’s BMC couldn’t provide the same protection.

The former Team Sky rider found himself having to rely on the good faith of ex-colleague, Froome, to help. However, with his own faltering Tour de France prep there was no room for the pair to work together and Froome soon dropped Porte on the ascent of the Col de la Colombiere.

In a post-race interview Porte expressed his pain at losing by only 10 seconds. “It was bitterly disappointed to lose by such a small margin,” he said. “I could’ve done with a couple of team-mates up there today, it would’ve really helped.”

With no team-mates to protect him, he found himself effectively leading Froome out before he attacked over the top of the Colombiere. “I guess that’s racing but you don’t forget that for July.”

Froome can descend with the best of them

Chris Froome descends on stage eight of the 2017 Critérium du Dauphiné (Credit: ASO/A.Broadway)

Despite not winning the week long race, Froome really sparkled when he was chasing the race down the slopes of the French Alps.

After being distanced by Valverde, Aru and Fuglsang on the final stage, Froome had to make up time on the Col de la Colombiere and did so utilising his descending.

>>> Chris Froome: ‘Dauphiné descent was like playing a computer game… it could’ve gone one of two ways

His skills were shown on stage six too as he took fast and dangerous lines down the Mont du Chat, at one point undertaking Porte with only millimetres of tarmac under his wheels.

While the Team Sky rider might not be in as good a form as he’d like at this point in time, but he’s shown that his willing to take risks and attack on descents just as he did at last year’s Tour de France.

Fabio Aru has an impressive return

Fabio Aru leads Alejandro Valverde on stage eight of the Critérium du Dauphiné (Credit: ASO/A.Broadway)

While the Italian rider finished fifth and at 1-37 out from team-mate and overall winner, Fuglsang, Aru had an impressive return to racing after a lengthy spell on the sidelines.

After crashing on a training ride in April, the Astana rider was forced to shelve his plans to take on the Giro d’Italia, meaning the Dauphiné was the first time he had raced since Tirreno-Adriatico in March.

At the beginning of the race, Aru was Astana’s team leader but showed his versatility with a mid-race change of plans that saw him work for eventual leader Fuglsang. This was particularly evident on stage six with the pair working well together to allow the Danish rider the launchpad to out-sprint Froome and Porte across the line, gaining valuable bonus seconds.

For much of the race, Aru found himself asking questions of other riders and his own fitness. The answers he got will definitely leave him feeling confident he can improve come mid-July when he will try to achieve his maiden Tour de France victory.

We’re still no clearer as to who will be the Tour de France favourite

Richie Porte, Chris Froome, and Jakob Fuglsang sprint at the end of stage six of the Critérium du Dauphiné (Credit: ASO/A.Broadway)

At the start of the week a dominant victory for either Porte or Froome would have seen the winner tipped for Tour de France triumph, but as it is we go into the biggest race of the year without a clear favourite.

Away from Froome and Porte, other riders like Romain Bardet may also be disappointed. Labelled a future Grand Tour winner in the past with a second place finish in last year’s Tour, Bardet has looked like the rider most likely to deliver a first French victory in the race since 1986.

>>> Analysis: It’s advantage Porte, but Chris Froome has reason for optimism as the Tour approaches

While finishing sixth is commendable, the young Frenchman finished over two minutes down and nearly half a minute down on Aru who had only just returned from injury.

Stage four was also a blow as he finished 46th on the individual time trial. With fewer time trial kilometres in this year’s Tour, this might not seem like a major problem, but Bardet was far from dominant in the mountains where he will need to gain time come July.

Shorter stages provide a lot of exciting racing

The peloton on stage eight of the Critérium du Dauphiné (Credit: ASO/A.Broadway)

With less than two minutes separating the top five going into the final stage the yellow jersey was all to play for going into a short 115km final stage that encouraged a series of ambitious attacks and a thrilling day of racing.

This was endemic of the race as a whole with no stages breaching the 200km mark, the Dauphiné was a short and fast battle, with breakaway groups succeeding and long range attacks coming left, right and centre.

That combined with a short and lumpy individual time trial on stage four, it made the race the a close cut affair.

While the riders may not have enjoyed covering constant attacks or losing out to breakaways, it culminated in a real spectacle for fans.

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Analysis: It’s advantage Porte, but Chris Froome has reason for optimism as the Tour approaches

Despite a lack of wins this season, Chris Froome still looks in decent shape for a fourth Tour de Frane title

Few will disagree with Chris Froome’s assessment that Richie Porte will start as favourite for the Tour de France title when the race gets under way in Düsseldorf in three weeks’ time.

The best stage race performer of the season thanks to victories in the Tour Down Under and the Tour de Romandie, and the strongest rider at the Critérium du Dauphiné, where he finished a close second to Jakob Fuglsang after his team’s strength and tactics let him down on the final stage, Porte is a rider reborn – confident, stronger and more aggressive.

But what of three-time Tour champion Froome, who has been completely outclassed by his friend and former Sky team-mate this season, which will be the first since 2012 when he hasn’t won a single race going into July? What’s gone wrong this season? And can the Briton put it right before the Tour begins?

>>> Jakob Fuglsang distances Richie Porte to win Critérium du Dauphiné 2017 overall title

Froome’s most evident problem this season has been consistency. Since getting his European campaign going at the Volta a Catalunya in late March, he’s failed to hold his form through any of the three stage races that have been his launchpad for the Tour over the past four seasons.

At Catalunya, he impressed at the tough summit finish of Lo Port, losing out to Alejandro Valverde, but was caught out tactically the next day and lost nearly half an hour. At Romandie, he was well off the pace of his rivals in both the time trials and the mountains, and the same could be said to an extent of his performance at the Dauphiné.

However, comparison with his performances at those three races in previous seasons suggests that Romandie was the only one where his form was way off what we’ve seen in the past. Indeed, the Dauphiné offered some reason for optimism, as Froome looked more competitive as it went on.

Watch: Critérium du Dauphiné stage eight highlights

On the final day, his attacks from the first climb blew the race apart as he attempted to supplant Porte in the leader’s jersey. Although his attacks were ultimately in vain, they contributed immensely to perhaps the best day’s racing of the season so far.

Like Porte, Fuglsang, Valverde and Alberto Contador, Froome will spend a significant part of the period leading up to the Tour fine-tuning his preparation at altitude on Monte Teide in Tenerife. Although his time trialling needs some work, this shouldn’t be a huge concern given the lack of TT kilometres in this year’s Tour. The final time trial in Marseille might decide the title, but being strong on the climbs prior to it is imperative, and Froome will almost certainly improve in this area.

While Porte should also arrive in Germany even stronger than he was at the Dauphiné, Froome has other reasons to be confident that he will have an edge on the Australian. Crucially, Team Sky’s Tour line-up is likely to be more potent than BMC’s. Michal Kwiatkowski, Pete Kennaugh and David López all stood out at the Dauphiné, while Geraint Thomas, Mikel Landa, Wout Poels and Sergio Henao are also in contention for places.

>>> Chris Froome: ‘Dauphiné descent was like playing a computer game… it could’ve gone one of two ways

Froome also has good reason to be pleased with his performances in two areas where he once received substantial criticism – descending and strategy. At the Dauphiné he looked almost Nibali-esque going downhill and, with the perceptive Nicolas Portal advising him from the team car, the Sky leader has never looked better from the tactical perspective.

Of course, Froome also has the advantage of previous success in the Tour on his side. He knows and can deal with the demands of the yellow jersey both on and, particularly, off the road. Among his rivals, only Contador can say the same, while Richie Porte’s only experience of leading a Grand Tour was at the Giro d’Italia in 2010, one of just two occasions when the BMC rider has finished in the top 10 in a three-week stage race.

Consequently, while Porte is very much the rider to beat as July approaches, Froome still has good reason to believe that he can achieve at the Tour the feat that evaded him at the Dauphiné and add a fourth title to his palmarès.

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Jones and Shaw crowned 2017 Rapha Nocturne London Elite Criterium winners

An action-packed day of racing on the streets of the City of London

JLT Condor’s Brenton Jones was crowned 2017 men’s elite criterium winner at the Rapha Nocturne London on Saturday night as Drops Cycling’s Lucy Shaw emerged victorious in the women’s event. Finishing in a time of 36:28.484, Jones led home a JLT one-two as teammate Graham Briggs crossed the line in second, 0.150 seconds behind. Third place on the podium was taken by 2014 winner Tobyn Horton of Madison Genesis, who finished 0.354 seconds behind the winner. Click here for the Elite Mens race reuslts.

In the women’s elite criterium, Shaw took the title in a time of 36:52.997, 0.257 seconds ahead of Storey Racinu Neah Evans. Elizabeth-Jane Harris took third, crossing the line 0.28 seconds after her Storey Racing teammate. Click here for the JLT Womens race reuslts.

Briggs and Evans lead the Rapha Nocturne Series standings heading to the second leg in Copenhagen on August 19.

The men’s and women’s elite races concluded an action-packed day of racing in the City of London, with penny farthing, folding bike and fixed gear among the many races to take place in the shadow of the city’s iconic St Paul’s Cathedral.

Men’s elite winner Jones said: “It was a race we wanted to win as a team. To win and get second with Graham Briggs is a great result.

“I started pretty far back and I didn’t get to the top five until about a kilometre to go but I paced it smart, I kept my cool all race and knew when I needed to get to the front and got the job done in the end.

“My teammates rode really well at the front and kept a nice lead out for me in the finish.”

Women’s elite winner Shaw said: “I’m really happy with that. It was straight off from the go, I was on the back foot.

“My teammate bridged across and I sat tight for a bit. We formed a really good group together and I had a really good lead out from my teammates at the end, so I was pleased with that.

“I was confident that could do well, but I knew the competition was going to be really fierce.”

Rapha Nocturne Women's Elite

Images from the Women’s Elite Race during the Rapha Nocturne taking place at the Square Mile in the heart of London

The Rapha Nocturne London is part of a World Criterium Series with the next leg in Copenhagen, on August 19. For more information and to buy tickets go to www.raphanocturne.com.

Catherine McGuinness, Policy Chairman at the City of London Corporation, said: “We are proud to host an event of such magnitude in the Square Mile.

“The Rapha Nocturne not only brings together athletes but visitors from around the world, to the heart of London, in an impressive show of the diversity of the City of London.”

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Tech of the week: new Ultegra revealed, Dauphiné bikes and first ride reports

This week we’ve had Shimano’s new Ultegra groupset, lots of pro bikes, bike launches from BMC and Cervélo and electronics news

New Ultegra R8000 launched

The big tech news this week has been the launch of an update of every self-funding cyclist’s favourite groupset, Shimano Ultegra. Ultegra R8000 looks a lot like its Dura-Ace big brother and promises the same gains in comfort, usability and functionality.

Shimano Ultegra R8000

New Ultegra gets the Dura-Ace R9100 look

The chainset has the new Dura-Ace look and the rear mech adopts the same Shadow design. Ultegra Di2 R8050 allows you to programme synchronised and semi-synchronised shifting, just like Dura-Ace and there are new Ultegra-series hydraulic disc brakes.

We’ve covered the new groupset spec and run through the differences between the new R8000 and the previous R6800.

Critérium du Dauphiné bikes

We’ve had a snoop around the bikes at the Critérium du Dauphiné, spotting a black Specialized S-Works bike that we believe is the new Tarmac SL6. The new bike has more aero features and looks to have additional comfort built in over its predecessor. It’s an important bike for Spesh, given the Tarmac SL5’s outstanding tally of WorldTour wins over the years.

Specialized Tarmac

Could this be the next Grand Tour winning bike from Spesh?

At the Stage Four time trial, Tony Martin was using prototype Continental clincher tyres and had a single front chainring. They look like the ultimate marginal gains. But he still came second to Richie Porte.

And we spotted a rather nice white Pinarello Dogma F10, with the blue and black go-faster streaks carried over from the black team bikes.

We like the white variation on the team bike colours

Also this week, we’ve given you our pick of the eight sexiest pro bikes that we’ve seen in 2017. This includes the new BMC Teammachine. We’ve taken a ride on the Swiss brand’s new pro-level bike, as well as Cervélo’s new R5 and R3.

And you won’t be surprised to learn that cyclists form emotional bonds with their bikes – although sometimes it does end in tears.

Electronics for cars and bikes

Elsewhere, we’ve had a delve into motorised transport, with the news that Apple iOS11 will include a “do not disturb while driving” option which can be enabled on iPhones. While research has found that the Autopilot feature on Tesla electric vehicles does not always accurately identify cyclists.

do not disturb while driving

A “do not distrurb while driving” option for you iPhone

Turning to bike electronics, we’ve given you a run down of every Garmin Edge computer in Garmin’s quiver from the diminutive Edge 20 up to the all-singing Edge 1000.

stages dash

Stages has introduced a head unit and training app to go with its power meter

Stages has now added the Dash computer to its crank based power meter, along with Link training analysis software, giving riders a complete set of training tools. And Zwift hosted the first virtual cycling world cup.

We’ve also got the latest episode of Tech of the Month for you. June’s edition includes the Wahoo Elemnt Bolt aero computer, clothing from new brand Kalf, a super-strength bike lock and the Pinarello Dogma F10.

Canyon’s bike range explained

This week, we’ve had a look at the aerodynamic properties of fabrics used for cutting-edge skinsuits. We’ve had a look at Canyon’s bike range and Pinnacle’s tenth anniversary bikes and had our buyer’s guide to cycling mitts. And we’ve had a round up of deals in Sunday Trading and a few suggestions for Father’s Day gifts for cyclists too, in case the family needs some hints.

Look out for more tech highlights next Monday.

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