Tips for buying a second hand bike

Whether you’re buying your first road bike or your fifth, let our tips for buying second hand bikes show you the way

Buying a new bike can be a costly affair, but you can make your money go further by buying second hand.

The internet is home to a plethora of great deals for second hand buyers, but it also hosts a few people looking to rip you off – so it’s important to keep your wits about you.

With our help you’ll be able to find the best bike to fit your needs: both on the road and in the wallet. Here are our best tips for buying second hand bikes.

Tips for buying second hand bikes: The DOs

DO use a dedicated service

Tips for buying second hand bikes

Use a dedicated service, like Bikemart

Online services like our Bikemart pages or eBay are a good way to go when buying second hand bikes. Forcing sellers to either provide contact details or housing feedback from previous buyers creates accountability.

Using Bikemart goes a long way at combating online scams by giving buyers the opportunity to meet before parting with any cash. Just make sure you choose somewhere safe when meeting a stranger, especially if you’re taking cash.

Sites like eBay provide feedback from past users which allows buyers the chance to make an informed decision on the seller’s trustworthiness before making a purchase.

On top of that, sellers must go through Paypal which uses Buyer Protection. This means that, should your item not arrive, be damaged in transit or be completely different from what you bought, you can still get your money back.

DO meet with the seller face to face

It’s not always possible to find the bike or your dreams in your local area, forcing you to look further afield. So what do you do when you find that two wheeled beauty you’ve been looking for? Well, go and see it in person.

Buying a bike is a lot like buying a car: you wouldn’t buy one without having tested it, so why would you with a bike? Asking to post a bike may be a lot less hassle for you but there is no way of knowing 100 per cent that you are getting a fair deal.

DO research the competition

tips for buying second hand bikes

Shop around before you set your heart on a second hand bike

Don’t go into this blind, be sure to see what prices similar bikes from that year, brand or set up have been going for before you open dialogue about the purchase.

Having researched the competition you can easily fight your case for a better price. Not only will this give you confidence going into things but will also show the buyer that you mean business and are eager to buy.

DO haggle

Once you’ve done your research, don’t be afraid to haggle. Be sure to have examples of other sales at hand. Make sure you have a number in mind before you start haggling and offer less than that: starting low you’ll eventually find that you work your way towards the middle ground which should be your preferred price if it all works out.

DO be prepared to walk away

Sometimes haggling isn’t successful – but that’s ok. If the owner isn’t budging and is determined to get their set price it’s key that you accept that and walk away.

Unless it’s a rare collectible, chances are you’ll find something similar soon enough so don’t feel like you have to pay through the nose.

DO check the bike for wear and tear

tips for buying second hand bikes

Inspect the bike to see if it actually works

It may seem obvious but be sure to check the bike over for any damage, particularly on the frame. Cracks should be major red flags, especially around the seat post and rear stays where they are most likely to fail catastrophically, causing you serious injury.

Things to check:

  • Frame for cracks (rust or scuffs are usually surface deep and only affect aesthetic)
  • Tyres are pumped
  • Chain and cassette aren’t rusted or stretched (these won’t cost much to replace if they are)
  • Brakes work and the pads aren’t worn down
  • Shifting and gearing is effective
  • The bearings work and move freely without any grating feeling (headset, bottom bracket and wheels)

DO consult a friend and bring them along

A great way of preventing you from spending above your means is to bring a friend along with you. Many of us get wrapped up in the romance of seeing a bike you love and wanting to get it at all costs but it pays to have an objective point of view nearby.

Whether it’s stopping you from paying £100 more than you should or realising the whole thing is a scam, an extra pair of eyes can make all the difference.

DO check if it’s stolen

Sometimes a deal that’s too good to be true is just that and you could be buying a stolen bike. Be sure to see if it has been security marked.

A good way to do this is by checking the frame number or BikeRegister ID’s free BikeChecker facility on the BikeRegister database to make sure that the bike is not listed as stolen. Alternatively, ask for any proof of purchase if the bike is relatively new.

Tips for buying second hand bikes: The DON’Ts

DON’T send money without seeing the bike

This is the most important tip for buying second hand bikes.

Apart from sites like eBay that have regulations in place to protect both buyer and seller, never send money having not seen the bike you’re buying in person.

Sites like Ukash, MoneyGram or Western Union are often used by scammers when asking for money to be sent prior to bike handover.

These services are not designed for money to be sent between buyers and sellers but for families sending money abroad, meaning that there are a number of loopholes that can be exploited costing you a hefty sum.

For more advice on transferring money, read this advice from Get Safe Online.

DON’T haggle too soon

Tips for buying second hand bikes

Hold fire before haggling on a second hand bike

Haggling is part and parcel of getting a good deal, but wait before going all guns blazing to get the best deal. Building a rapport with the seller, whether that’s through gentle conversation or talking about the bike will ease the seller into the deal.

Letting the seller bring up the issue of money first will go a long way to ensuring that you can work out a deal that you’re happy with. Storming in with low prices from the off can deter the seller from accepting any of your bids and could potentially lose you the deal.

DON’T buy from abroad

For best practice, keep your search to your home nation. As soon as a search goes abroad it becomes increasingly more difficult to secure a deal that won’t end in tears.

Buying a bike from France is tricky, but buying a bike from outside the EU is asking for trouble as the further the distance the less accountability the seller has.


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The Open 2017: Justin Rose says 1998 Royal Birkdale performance was a model

Justin Rose at Royal Birkdale in 1998

2017 Open Championship on the BBC
Venue: Royal Birkdale Dates: 20-23 July
Live: Listen to BBC Radio 5 live commentary and follow text updates – including in-play video clips – on BBC Sport website and mobile app. TV highlights on BBC Two. Click for full times.

Justin Rose is hoping to recreate the “innocence” of his performance as a 17-year-old amateur at Royal Birkdale in 1998 at this week’s Open Championship.

The Englishman chipped in for a birdie on the last hole to finish tied fourth.

“It surprises me that is still the best finish,” said the 2013 US Open and 2016 Olympic champion.

“The freedom I had that week, the confidence I had in my short game, the innocence in which I played the game, I think, is kind of still a model.”

Rose equalled the record low score for an amateur at The Open with a 66 in round two on the par-70 course, before delighting the crowd with his 50-yard birdie chip on the Sunday.

“When I look back I marvel at how I was able to compete so closely down the stretch, and finish within two shots of winning an Open Championship at the age of 17,” reflected the 36-year-old.

“It’s definitely a championship I’ve had great moments in.

“I don’t want to say that if I don’t win this it’s going to be a huge sort of hole in my career, but it was the one tournament that even before I finished fourth here as an amateur, I got to final qualifying at the age of 14 and created a bit of a story then.

“And to win it would kind of close the book in a way on my Open Championship story.”

‘Wise’ Westwood plotting his challenge

Lee Westwood

Lee Westwood plans to use “cunning and guile” to plot his way to a first major victory at his 78th attempt.

The 44-year-old has finished in the top three at majors nine times – a record for a player yet to win one – and three of those have come at The Open.

Darren Clarke, Ernie Els and Phil Mickelson were all over 40 when they won successive Championships from 2011.

“You have to think your way round,” said Englishman Westwood.

“I’m 44 and you think a little bit differently as you get older, but hopefully I can think a bit more wisely and use a bit of cunning and guile on the golf course.”

Westwood missed out on a play-off at the 2009 Open at Turnberry by one shot, was a distant second to Louis Oosthuizen in 2010 and then let slip a two-shot advantage when leading into the final round at Muirfield in 2013.

He believes links golf offers him the best chance of winning one of the sport’s four majors.

“One of the times I’ve come close to winning was Turnberry and Tom Watson lost in a play-off at 59,” he added. “Last time it was held around here [in 2008] Greg Norman made a run at it at 53.

“The US Open course [in June at Erin Hills] was a bomber’s style course where they had a big advantage, but this course brings a lot more players into it.

“The Open Championship always does with the weather and the way the golf course plays.”

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Off Deck: Ledecky, Sjostrom Lead Women’s Field at FINA World Champs

Photo Courtesy: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports

The swimming portion of the FINA World Championships begin July 23 in Budapest, with superstars Katie Ledecky and Sarah Sjostrom set to star on the women’s side. To preview what’s to come during the eight days of racing at Worlds, John Lohn joined host David Rieder on this episode of Off Deck.

Rieder and Lohn discussed what should be expected from Ledecky and Sjostrom, each favored for gold in four individual events, and also previewed the rematch between Lilly King and Yulia Efimova in the women’s breaststroke events.

The duo also discussed what events Katinka Hosszu might be vulnerable in, looked ahead to the exciting women’s backstroke events and discussed what might allow the U.S. team to sweep all three women’s relays. Watch the full episode below.

Watch more episodes of Off Deck by clicking here.

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Get the gear: Tour de France tech for your next sportive

Feeling inspired to take part in a sportive after watching the Tour de France? Why not use some of the same tech as the pros too?

Promotional feature with Cycleplan

Clothing

Whether it’s a Boardman or an Altura, almost everyone wears a jersey when taking part in a ride or sportive.

Want to take your performance to the next level? Think about a speed suit.

Previously reserved mostly for triathalons, the all-in-one design has plenty of aerodynamic benefits if you want to shave seconds off your PB.

While there’s little chance you’ll manage to get your hands on the brand-new Castelli Body Paint 4.0 as seen on Team Sky riders in this month’s Tour de France – there are plenty of other choices for a reasonable price.

The best part of speed suit tech to take from the pro’s? You can retrofit a speed pocket. No more of your number sticker falling off your bike in high winds – now it’s safe and strapped to your back!

Image credit: Nopinz UK

Nutrition

What is the most annoying part of any sportive? Apart from the pain in your legs – it has to be the amount of time wasted stopping at food stations, costing you precious seconds while you try to grab a banana. What’s even worse is when you come to a stop, only to find that there’s no food left!

Well, just like the professionals on the Tour de France do, the time has come to swap to ‘technical nutritional products’. Simply put, energy gels or duo bars.

There are a ton of choices on the market, so it’s important to make sure you pick a flavour you will be able to stomach at high speed.

Essentially, studies estimate sportive riders will need between 30g and 65g of carbohydrate an hour during the race to ‘maintain performance’.

So, it makes sense that instead of stopping and trying to plough down a thick flapjack, staying in the saddle and downing a small energy gel packet or energy bar is the way to go.

GPS

For last year’s Tour de France, Dimension Data offered a brand new, well, dimension on the sport.

Fans had long been clamouring to see more of the technical side of their favourite riders in action, and the company delivered.

They fitted a GPS live-tracking device underneath the saddle of every bike, meaning that with the official TdF app, fans could track each rider’s position, speed, distance covered and much more.

This year has seen even more evolutions, thanks to their ‘Data Truck’ – a hub that can process more technical info than ever.

With such advances made for the professionals, it seems only natural that amateur cyclists should adopt a similar strategy to help improve their rides – make some ‘marginal gains’ of their own!

Whether you choose to use Strava, Map My Ride or a similar GPS tracking app – you can pair it with a smart watch or fitness tracker.

Once your sportive is over, you can analyse your ride in detail from the comfort of home and see where you slowed down or could improve.

Just like those in the Tour de France, the numbers are all there – so why not use them to get ahead for your next ride?

Whatever gear you choose to emulate the professionals with – whether it’s clothing or your smartwatch – make sure you protect it, and you, properly with Cycleplan’s specialist cycling insurance.

Why not get your instant quote online today, along with your EXCLUSIVE Cycling Weekly 25% introductory discount?

Policies cover Public Liability, Personal Accident, Theft, Loss and Damage of Equipment. Plus: 0% APR on policies with premiums over £50, multiple bikes and accessories all on one policy, plus a Lowest Price Guarantee!


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FINA World Championships Predictions: Men’s 100 Fly

Photo Courtesy: Erich Schlegel-USA TODAY Sports

Joseph Schooling led the 100 fly through every round at the Olympics in Rio last summer, finishing with his first Olympic gold medal, and it would be a surprise if he does not add another gold in the event at the FINA World Championships.

Schooling finished in 50.39, making him the fastest performer ever in a textile suit and third-fastest in history. After taking down Michael Phelps to win Olympic gold, he has made no secret of the fact that he is gunning for Phelps’ world record of 49.82.

Chad Le Clos and Laszlo Cseh finished 1-2 in the event at the last World Championships, and those two, along with Phelps, shared Olympic silver last summer. Surely, both will be in the mix here.

As for Caeleb Dressel, who enters the meet with the No. 1 time in the world, he will to deal with a double on day seven, with the 100 fly final coming shortly after his 50 free final. He took down Schooling to win the NCAA title in the 100-yard fly in March, but a repeat upset in Budapest would surely be shocking.

Read below to see what Swimming World’s trio of experts think will happen in Budapest. David RiederJohn Lohn and Andy Ross will each offer their predictions for who will finish on the podium.

Men’s 100 Fly

Current Records:

World Record: Michael Phelps, USA (2009) — 49.82
Championship Record: Michael Phelps, USA (2009) — 49.82
American Record: Michael Phelps (2009) — 49.82

2015 World Champion: Chad Le Clos, RSA — 50.56
2016 Olympic Gold Medalist: Joseph Schooling, SIN — 50.39
2017 World No. 1: Caeleb Dressel, USA — 50.87

Swimming World Predictions

David Rieder’s Picks:

Gold: Joseph Schooling, SIN
Silver: Chad Le Clos, RSA
Bronze: Caeleb Dressel, USA

John Lohn’s Picks:

Gold: Joseph Schooling, SIN
Silver: Caeleb Dressel, USA
Bronze: Chad Le Clos, RSA

Andy Ross’ Picks:

Gold: Joseph Schooling, SIN
Silver: Chad Le Clos, RSA
Bronze: Li Zhuhao, CHN

Previous Events

Day One:

Day Two:

Day Three:

Day Four:

Day Five:

Day Six:

Day Seven:

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The Col du Galibier: The Tour’s most iconic climb (video)

What makes this famous climb just so special?

Alpe d’Huez is pretty unremarkable. There, I’ve said it. Take away the Tour de France and it’s just one of dozens of hairpin roads leading to an ugly ski resort in the French Alps, one of hundreds of roads that are famous thanks purely to professional cycling, places that we’d never know of were it not for a famous bike race.

The Mur de Huy is celebrated as the finale for Flèche Wallonne, as the Poggio is for Milan-San Remo. The empty cobbled farm tracks of Belgium and Northern France are exactly that for 364 days of the year.

There are, however, a few places that have that star quality of their own. Places that you don’t forget in a hurry. The Col du Galibier is one of them.

The very name ‘Galibier’ means something significant. These days it lends itself to a cycle clothing company, a PR firm, a capital management company, a Bugatti supercar, a minimalist house track, a management consultancy in Brisbane, and a turntable manufacturer in Colorado. All of them are trying to tap into a meaningful, semi-spiritual quality of this climb, with varying degrees of success.

Reaching 2,642m in altitude, for a long time it was the undisputed physical peak of the Tour de France.

A handful of Tour climbs are now higher, but none are so well renowned. While most places count the days until the return of the world’s biggest bike race, the Tour itself counts down the days until it can go back to the Galibier and have a little bit of the mountain’s magic sprinkled on it once again.

The highest-ever finish

Galibier by Gould 2

The Galibier is truly vast in scale. Photo: Daniel Gould

The first time the Galibier featured in the Tour de France, on July 10, 1911, only three riders got their crude single-speed bikes up the sloppy track to the summit without walking. The last time the mountain appeared was in 2011, 100 years and 11 days after its debut.

Its scale is vast. It dwarfs even the most imposing of high mountain passes elsewhere in Europe. The Col du Tourmalet is half a kilometre lower in altitude, and the climb from the bottom to the top is half as long.

Alpe d’Huez is 20km shorter, and climbs just over half the vertical metres. To use a more domestic comparison, you would have to ride up Box Hill in Surrey more than 16 times to replicate the distance and vertical ascent.

>>> How much difference does weight really make to your climbing speed?

There are three ways up to the top of the Galibier; all three are over 30km and include another col to climb on the way up.

From Briançon or Bourg d’Oisans you head up the southern face via the Col du Lautaret (2,057m); from St Michel de Maurienne you tackle it from the north via the Col du Télégraphe (1,566m), a route that includes a morale-sapping 4km descent, forcing you to climb 165 vertical metres all over again.

One man who knows the Galibier well is Andy Schleck. Now retired, he took the most famous victory of his career in 2011 when the Tour de France finished on top of the col for the first, and so far only, time in its history. It remains the Tour’s highest ever summit finish.

“You don’t find any other climb that is comparable to Galibier,” he tells Cycling Weekly. “You are so, so high up. It’s not like one of these climbs where you look up and see the trees above you, you just go up and it’s like you’re riding into the sky.

“And then when you are at the top there is hardly any space; hardly space for a finish line, no barriers, just a small epic road that goes up there. The scenery and the small roads going to the top so high up is what makes it, for me, the most beautiful climb in France.”

One of the best pure climbers of his generation, Schleck conquered the Galibier on stage 18 of that year’s Tour with a long-range solo move from over 60km out, cresting the Col d’Izoard before dropping down into Briançon and tackling the Lautaret and Galibier, two cols he says go together “like gin and tonic”.

Galibier by Gould 5 - Pantani memorial

The memorial to Marco Pantani. Photo: Daniel Gould

Even before the benefit of hindsight, it had the trappings of a ride that would go down in the history books. The Galibier is good at that. It hosted Fausto Coppi’s career-defining solo move on the way to the first ever summit finish at Alpe d’Huez in 1952.

It was where Marco Pantani made his Tour-winning move in 1998, a little speck of yellow and celeste in the sodden gloom, gliding up as others wallowed. A memorial now marks where he put in his attack.

A must-do

Galibier by Gould 4

Ascending above the snow line. Photo: Daniel Gould

It’s easy for the scale of the Galibier to obfuscate just how hard it is. On the tougher, more famous north side, which has featured most often in the Tour de France, it’s 100 metres shy of 35km in length.

The average gradient is only 5.5 per cent, but that includes the downhill section from the summit of the Télégraphe into Valloire. In total there is 17km of climbing at over seven per cent.

All this begs the obvious question: why would anyone want to do it at all? Well, try to explain to your non-cycling friends what it is that you enjoy about climbing up hills and putting yourself through hours of discomfort. It’s not particularly logical, but there’s nothing else like it.

All we can say is this: climb that final stretch of road that clings to a foamy white tip of a wave of rock. Ride over the top, towards a valley dozens of kilometres away from your starting point, and look down on another world where the light and the landscape are totally different.

It is one of those places you will never forget. Whether you have thousands of fans cheering you on or not, it’s something every cyclist must do at least once in their lives. Ride up the Col du Galibier and let a little bit of its magic rub off on you too.

Appearances in the Tour

Galibier by Gould 3

The Tour will surely be back here again soon. Photo: Daniel Gould

The Tour de France has crossed the Col du Galibier 58 times, 37 from the north via the Télégraphe. It was due to feature in 2015, however a landslide towards Bourg d’Oisans meant the Tour had to divert via the Col de la Croix de Fer.

It makes it’s return on stage 17 of the 2017 edition of the Tour, where the riders will tackle it from its north side before descending down to the finish in Briançon.

It was the favoured climb of the man who founded the Tour, Henri Desgrange, and in 1949 a memorial to Desgrange was erected on the southern side, just by the entrance to the tunnel.


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Illness forces Philippe Gilbert out of Tour de France

Belgian rider abandons ahead of stage 15

Philippe Gilbert (Quick-Step Floors) has been forced to abandon the Tour de France ahead of stage 15 after suffering with viral gastroenteritis.

Gilbert had been active towards the tail end of the second week, finishing fourth on stage 13 to Rodez, but has since fallen ill and will not start on Tuesday.

The Belgian rider has enjoyed a busy but successful 2017 season so far, heading to the Tour de France on the back of victories in the Tour of Flanders and the Amstel Gold Race, before warming up for the Tour with a stage win at the Tour de Suisse.

>>> Who’s out of the Tour de France after stage 15?

Quick-Step are yet to announce Gilbert’s race programme for the rest of the season, particularly whether he will race the Vuelta a España ahead of the World Championships in Bergen, Norway in September.

The Tour de France continues on Tuesday with a 165km stage to Romans-sur-Isère where the Belgian team will be hoping to guide Marcel Kittel to his sixth stage win of the race.


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Dutchman Ferry Weertman Captures 10K World Championship Gold

Photo Courtesy: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Editorial Coverage provided by Suit-extractor-logo

In a three-man mad-dash to the finish, Dutch veteran Ferry Weertman emerged victorious in the 10K Open Water in Budapest on Tuesday. Weertman came in as the reigning Olympic champion and ended up victorious in the 10K for the second year in a row, beating out defending World Champion in American Jordan Wilimovsky.

Weertman finished second to Wilimovsky two years ago in Kazan and that order was flipped today as the Dutchman finished at 1:51:58.5 to Wilimovsky’s 1:51:58.6. 5K champion from earlier in the week Marc-Antoine Olivier finished in bronze position with a 1:51:59.2.

The top three also had a tight chase pack that included Great Britain’s Jack Burnell (1:52:00.8), Hungary’s Kristof Rasovszky (1:52:01.7) and France’s David Aubry (1:52:01.9).

This is the first time the Netherlands has won the men’s 10K at the World Championships as Weertman’s silver from 2015 was the first time the country had medaled in the event.

Italy’s Simone Ruffini (1:52:07.7), Russia’s Evgenii Drattcev (1:52:10.1), United State’s Brendan Casey (1:52:18.6) and Italy’s Federico Vanelli (1:52:21.0) finished in the top ten.

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‘It’s like riding a Classic everyday’: Tour de France debutants reflect on their first Grand Tour

Three men making their first appearance at the Tour de France give their first impressions on the world’s biggest bike race

If you’re going to become a king of the road, you’ve got to ride your first Tour de France sometime. A daunting prospect, but with the Vuelta a España or perhaps the Giro d’Italia offering a less stressful and well-trodden path to a first Grand Départ, going in blind isn’t a requirement. Sometimes though, it’s just what happens.

This July there are a total of 13 riders taking part in what is not only their first Tour de France, but also their first ever Grand Tour.

For most pro bike riders this is the dream ticket; the zenith of everything they have worked for since signing their first contract; the world’s biggest annual sporting event and the pinnacle of the sport. Perhaps that is exactly the very reason that experiencing your first Grand Tour here is such a formidable challenge.

Dion Smith of Pro Continental team Wanty-Groupe Gobert, reflects: “It’s pretty crazy and hectic — as expected; but they usually say the first week in the peloton is very stressful… and all the media — I think that’s gonna be all the three weeks but it should calm down a bit by next week.

>>> Five things to look out for in the 2017 Tour de France’s final week

“But first impressions are it’s a pretty unreal and crazy experience.”

“At the start I was reasonably nervous,” adds the 24-year-old Kiwi, “but once you get into the Tour you kind of just get into a routine and just do the job at the end of the day really.”

Smith is far from alone in riding his first Tour — in fact, while some have ridden the Vuelta previously, the whole of the Wanty Tour roster are riding their first Grande Boucle.

It’s not a situation that Lotto-Soudal’s Grand Tour debutant Tiesj Benoot finds himself in. His Tour team includes seasoned pros such as André Greipel, Adam Hansen and Lars Bak, who boast a total of 57 Grand Tour starts between them.

“[We have lots of] riders who have done a lot of Grand Tours already, so yeah, I’m the only one out of them that is new in this kind of racing but it’s great,” says the 23-year-old Belgian. “They give me a lot of tips and I think I’m doing a good Tour.

“You have a lot more press around, a lot of people on the road. It’s really nice, gives a good feeling but also brings a lot more stress and danger — you have to be focused all day. But I like it, I really like it,” he adds.

The road to the Tour

Tiesj Benoot has achieved a number of top 10 finishes in his first Tour de France (Credit: Chris Auld)

Benoot’s sports director, Herman Frison, a Belgian ex-pro who himself won a stage of the Tour back in 1987, explains how he framed the race for his young charge.

“From the beginning we told him every day it’s like a Classic — it’s the Tour of Flanders,” he says. “You are riding on the Oude Kwaremont and there are a lot of people but in the Tour it’s the whole day. It’s from the start to the finish and for him it was a little bit of a surprise. Also you have the helicopters, everything, and after three or four days he told us, ‘It’s true, it’s true!’”

Frison also admits that the Tour de France wouldn’t necessarily be his first choice, but sometimes needs must: “The best Tour for a young rider is, for me, the Giro. That for me is the best for the first three years. You can go there but for him that’s a little bit of a problem. You see, he does all the [Spring Classic] races in Belgium, but then you must have a little bit of a recovery. So what do we do? Do we take him to the Tour or do we take him to the Tour of Spain? We decided the Tour de France.”

>>> Analysis: why is this Tour de France the closest it’s been since 1951?

But whichever Grand Tour a young pro goes to first, the end result — so the theory goes — is a stronger rider the following season: “For us, for a young rider, and for the next year, [Benoot] is a little bit better and stronger. It is my opinion and also Marc [Sergeant, Lotto boss] that he’ll get stronger, so next year in the Classics I hope he has a little bit more body and is a little bit stronger.”

One easily overlooked aspect of Grand Tour riding that young riders may never have experienced before is the sheer volume of food that is required just to survive. Dion Smith for one is not finding the unrelenting all-you-can-eat extravaganza particularly gratifying.

“You almost get sick of eating to be honest,” he laments. “It’s just non-stop… just keep eating and eating. It’s pretty hard for your body to digest that much food and you’re still not getting enough in. So, yeah, it’s almost a job in itself — reminding yourself to eat and drink.”


Watch: Tour de France 2017 preview – what will happen in week three?


Both Smith and Benoot give the same, determined answer when asked whether they plan on completing the entire race: “For sure.”

Both say they are planning to make their presence felt by finding their way into a breakaway at some point. “I’m gonna get stuck in and try not to be afraid,” Smith explains. “I’ll try and get in a break or two, and top 10 on a stage would be good.”

As Frison cautions though, making it into a breakaway with the big guns is easier said than done. “It’s hard also to get in the break. Now he knows it a little bit,” Frison said of his young charge. “He told us yesterday when the good riders went [on the attack], ‘I will jump into there’… but,” he smiles, “it’s just not possible in the Tour. I think he knows it a little bit now.

>>> Who’s won the most prize money at the Tour de France so far?

“We give him confidence and everything but I think he has to wait a little bit, a little later in the Tour he can do what he wants to do. He will go in the break, he’s young but I think he must wait a little bit and see what happens next week.”

Benoot may have learned this “a little bit”, but it didn’t stop him trying, as evidenced only two days after CW spoke to the pair, when the young Belgian spent the entire day among the front groups on the way to Chambéry via the formidable Mont du Chat.

He eventually came in 12th, 3.32 behind winner Rigoberto Uran (Cannondale-Drapac) and a group of hardcore GC favourites, moved himself well up the GC and will no doubt take confidence from the experience.

Drop the pressure

Having never ridden a Grand Tour as a rider, Tom Southam is making his Tour de France debut in the team car (Credit: Sunada)

Benoot’s courageous stage nine escapade notwithstanding, there’s a way to approach your first Grand Tour, counsels Frison, and one thing it doesn’t involve is pressure: “Keep on, look around you and everything, eat, big massage, every day riding… and eventually he can go in the break. After the Dauphiné everybody said, ‘Yeah, he [Benoot] can do the big Tours,’ and he’s a climber. No no no no no, no pressure. We’ll see every day and he can go for a stage win. But when, I don’t know.  No pressure.”

Seeing his first Tour de France — and indeed first Grand Tour — from a different perspective to Benoot and Smith is British Cannondale-Drapac directeur sportif Tom Southam. The 36-year-old Cornish ex-pro joined his old partner in crime Charly Wegelius at the US team after Drapac — with whom he was a DS — and Cannondale joined forces.

It is not Southam and Wegelius’s first venture: the pair became infamous for being blackballed from the GB road team after working for the Italians at the 2005 World Championship road race.

“This is my first three-week race — the length is extraordinary,” says Southam. But as an already-experienced DS, it’s the logistical extras rather than any kind of stage fright that have struck him: “All those extra little things that you have to get right, you know, even just the timing of the stage. You want to get here early enough because there’s extra press. You [try to] build in an extra 10 minutes of time in the hotel when you’re relaxed.”

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The old ‘five Ps’ adage — proper preparation prevents poor performance — could never be applied more aptly than to the Tour, Southam says. He did a huge amount of prep work on the race before it started and says it has been vital to keep things running smoothly.

“We try to keep the pressure off ourselves with the work we’ve done,” he says. “If you’ve done things properly and you’ve done your homework then you don’t have to gap yourself all the time. Which is kind of what this big thing does, because you see five teams leaving the hotel before you leave and you think, ‘Oops, s***’, and look at your watch. And it weighs on your mind more when you know that the stage is live from start to finish and everybody in the world is watching.”

It’s hard not to feel a guilty pang, standing in front of these men and brandishing a dictaphone, as one by one they tell you how much stress the media brings to the Tour. But the huge amount of coverage is part of what makes the race what it is, and is only one of a vast number of factors facing teams and riders — especially the new guys — which combine to create that unique Grand Boucle experience.

Tom Southam sums it up perfectly with five words: “The Tour is the Tour.”


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Michal Kwiatkowski: ‘Froome thanks me a couple of times a day at the Tour de France’

The former world champion has proved to be one of Chris Froome’s most invaluable domestiques during the 2017 Tour de France

Michal Kwiatkowski has led Team Sky’s Chris Froome through the Tour de France‘s mountains and out of some sticky situations so far, and says “Froome is thanking him a couple of times a day.”

Froome holds a slender lead ahead of three riders tightly packed in the general classification, all within 29 seconds, with the final week ahead. Kwiatkowski, like on the stage 15 to Le Puy-en-Velay with his quick wheel change for Froome, has helped hold that lead.

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“It’s just great to hear from Chris, and with his thankful tweets,” the Polish rider told Cycling Weekly.

“Even when we see each other, he says ‘thank you’ a couple of times of day.”

Kwiatkowski, 2014 road world champion, developed into a stage racer for week-long races and one-day racer for races like the Ardennes Classics.

In his four years with Quick-Step, he won the Amstel Gold Race, the Volta ao Algarve and of course, the Worlds. He and the Belgian team wondered if he could switch to become a Grand Tour cyclist, but there were doubts.

Kwiatkowski found his form again in 2017 with wins in Strade Bianche and then Milan-San Remo (Sunada)

The 27-year-old suffered in his first year in Team Sky after moving there at the start of 2016. He won the E3 Harelbeke, but his form took a dive through much of the rest of that season.

Kwiatkowski said in March, “There are plenty of reasons. I had health problems, but I was pushing my limits. I wanted to impress everyone in training and everywhere. I’m not like a machine, sooner or later you pay the bill.”

The difficult 2016 season made his mountain rides in this Tour de France much more impressive.

“This year I found the balance, for sure. I was back into shape each year but not for very long time, especially last year, maybe just January, February and March in 2015, then through maybe the Classics, but then it was just worse and worse.

“Also 2014, I didn’t have a great Tour de France. And 2013, not a good end of season.”

“I needed to find a balance between racing and training. In Team Sky last year I trained so hard, we found that being ambitious with the recon and power meters wasn’t the way.”

Over the winter, he sat down with head trainer Tim Kerrison and team boss David Brailsford. They decided to back off and, instead of training like Froome or Geraint Thomas, they let Kwiatkowski mix part of Sky’s training in with his former methods.

The mix worked. He won the Italian one-day race Strade Bianche in March and then the big one, Monument Milan-San Remo shortly after.



And now, in the Tour de France, he is one of the most visible helpers for three-time winner Chris Froome in the mountains.

“I know that I’m in really good shape, I knew I could deliver, but for sure, I surprised myself with my climbing. I’ve been feeling great each day and not these gaps after such hard efforts,” he added.

“It’s great to win big races, but of course, it’s also great to change an environment and help someone. When I signed with Sky, I was sure I wanted to be in the Tour team and support Froomey and maybe in the future, I could use it in my own results.

“If you look at G [Geraint Thomas], a great rider coming from the track and made a big step forwards, now leading the Sky team, if there’d be any sign that I could progress in the climbs and in the time trials that I’d be able to lead the team in Tirreno-Adriatico and Paris-Nice. It’s just step by step.”


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