Seven things to look out for at the 2017 Tour de France

We take a look ahead to the 2017 Tour de France and mark out seven things to watch out for during the race

Is Chris Froome ready?

Chris Froome at the 2016 Tour de France. Photo: Graham Watson

For once, Chris Froome (Team Sky) goes into a Tour de France (July 1-23) looking vulnerable. We’re used to seeing him dominate pre-Tour stage races, but this season he is without a win altogether and could only manage fourth at the Critérium du Dauphiné.

These results have inevitably triggered questions regarding whether he is at the optimum level necessary to win what would be a fourth Tour de France title, but Froome himself has retained a calm public demeanour, insisting that he has no concerns about his form. We’ll find out soon enough how accurate this assertion is.

>>> Tour de France 2017: Latest news, info and videos

There is no ambiguity surrounding the strength of his team, however, which is so chock-full of talent like Geraint Thomas, Paris-Nice winner Sergio Henao and Milan-San Remo winner Michal Kwiatkowski that no room could be found for British stalwarts Ian Stannard and Peter Kennaugh.

The usual suspects

A familiar assortment of riders frustrated in recent years in their attempts to defeat Froome are again planning on taking the race to him.

We’re itching to see whether Nairo Quintana (Movistar), for whom finishing on the podium at the Tour behind Froome has become habit, will (as his team are insisting) be as strong as usual, despite having ridden the Giro in May. If he isn’t, teammate Alejandro Valverde – who hasn’t been out of the top eight since 2013 – is an able deputy.

For what feels like the umpteenth time Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) is also among the pre-race favourites. Despite his underwhelming from and the fact he hasn’t mounted a genuine yellow jersey challenge since before his doping ban, such is his history and experience of winning that he can never be discounted as a threat.

A more recently established Tour stalwart is Romain Bardet (Ag2r-La Mondiale), whose runner-up finish was also his third successive top ten, and proof that he possesses the climbing skills, intelligence and daring to potentially become the first French winner in 32 years.

Can Richie Porte come of age?

Richie Porte and Chris Froome (behind) in the 2016 Tour de France. Photo: Yuzuru Sunada

Overall victories at the Tour de Romandie, Tour Down Under, as well as a very impressive display of strength to finish runner-up at the Dauphiné earlier this month, has led some to declare that Richie Porte (BMC) could even be considered the favourite to win the yellow jersey.

That seems a big statement, however, for a rider whose highest Grand Tour finish in ten attempts across his career is still only fifth place (at last year’s Tour).

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

Many of those past shortcomings can be put down to youthful inexperience, riding as a teammate and simple bad luck, but there is a feeling – perhaps reinforced by his slightly tetchy response to being attacked on the final stage of the Dauphiné – that he struggles under pressure.

Nevertheless, off the back of some career-best form, and having finally cracked the top five of the Tour last year, this feels like Porte’s moment to fully deliver on his potential. With the additional narrative of the old apprentice Porte looking to usurp his former master Froome, we should be in for some thrilling drama.

Youthful challengers

Simon Yates wins stage six of 2017 Paris-Nice. Photo: Yuzuru Sunada

As well as the familiar, older riders we’re used to seeing battling for the yellow jersey, there are several younger riders who could upset the established order this year.

Simon Yates, for instance, has developed considerably since his last appearance here two years ago to the extent that a top five challenge is realistic, even if his similarly youthful 27-year old Orica-Scott teammate Esteban Chaves may lack the form to make much of an impact on his debut Tour.

Fabio Aru (Astana) may no longer be eligible for the young riders’ white jersey, but he will still only be 27 when the Tour starts and is making just his second appearance. Recent results, including fifth overall at the Dauphiné and victory at the Italian national championships, suggest he’s nearing the same form that saw him win the Vuelta a Espana in 2015.

An unusual route

Col d’Izoard. Photo: Yuzuru Sunada

One of the main talking points concerning the route has been its lack of major mountain top finishes.

There are only three in total – stage five to Planche des Belles Filles (where Team Sky and Vincenzo Nibali asserted their authority in 2012 and 2014 respectively), stage 12 to Peyragudes and stage eighteen to Col d’Izoard, of which only the Col d’Izoard has been assigned the most difficult ‘hors categorie’ status.

>>> Tour de France 2017 route guide: every stage

That’s not to say that there isn’t a awful lot of climbing this year – it’s just that the big mountains are to be tackled further from the finish than usual. The first week ends with a pair of stages in the Jura mountains that feature 10 climbs between them; there’s an intriguing looking Pyrenean stage 13 that crams three mountains into just 101km of racing; and the day before the huge finish to Izoard is features the monolithic hat-trick of the Col de la Croix de Fer, Col du Télégraphe, and the Col du Galibier.

Sprinters showdown

The news that Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) will ride the Tour means that the big three of he, Marcel Kittel (Quick-Step Floors) and André Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) will once more duke it out in the bunch sprints.

Their fortunes have alternated in recent Tours, with Cavendish winning four stages last year, Greipel four in 2016 and Kittel four in 2015.

It’s unclear which, if any, of the three are likely to dominate the sprints this year, with Cavendish battling for form and fitness having suffered from glandular fever, and Kittel and Greipel having had inconsistent seasons.

What is clear, though, is that they’ll have plenty of opportunities, with at least eight stages looking likely for bunch sprints.

A peloton full of stars

Peter Sagan is one of pro cycling’s biggest stars

Such is the prestige of the Tour that it’s not just the world’s best GC riders and sprinters that turn up to compete, the peloton’s best of every discipline.

World champion time-triallist Tony Martin (Katusha-Alpecin) will go for yellow in the opening 14km time-trial (and later for victory in stage 20’s 22.5km effort), against the likes of silver and bronze medallists Vasil Kiryienka (Sky) and Jonathan Castroviejo (Movistar).

Classics specialists like Philippe Gilbert (Quick-Step Floors) and Greg van Avermaet (BMC) will have their eyes on punchy uphill finishes like stage three’s in Longwy, and rolling days like stage fourteen’s to Rodez.

Michael Matthews (Sunweb), Alexander Kristoff (Katusha-Alpecin) and Arnaud Demare (FDJ) are among the high calibre sprinters who would be in the mix on days potentially too undulating for the pure sprinters, such as stage sixteen, while the recently-crowned British champion Steve Cummings (Dimension Data) is always a good shout on potential breakaway days like stage 15 in the Massif Central.

And, of course, the peloton’s chef superstar and world champion Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) will be frequently the centre of attention, whatever the terrain is.

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Swimming Injuries: Beyond the Physical Impact

Photo Courtesy: R-Sport / MIA Rossiya Segodnya

By: Ashley Illenye, Swimming World College Intern.

Being a student-athlete on any level is very demanding, especially as a swimmer. With three-day meets, 5 a.m. practices, and sleeping and eating habits you have to maintain, there is no question as to how swimming is time-consuming. What happens, however, when you have to take a swimmer out of the pool?

Injuries on all parts of the body are a negative part of sports that go along with being an athlete. The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons did a study where they found that up to 91 percent of swimmers suffer from shoulder pain. This is problematic because 90 percent of a swimmer’s movement through the water is upper body-based. Emotionally getting injured is very different than ending your swimming career on your own terms or at the end of a 10-15 year run.

Tendinitis in the knees, wrists, elbows, and shoulders can lead to season or potentially career ending injuries. There are also smaller restrictions that may be frustrating which are usually temporary such as concussions, spraining an ankle or any variation of agitated/tight muscles.

Swimming injuries are common but often may be missed, not taken seriously or misdiagnosed. As opposed to sports like football or lacrosse where you can identify most impact injuries immediately, injuries in swimmers are quiet. They sneak up on you as the result of years of intense training then may be mistaken for general soreness.

According to Stop Sports Injuries, the most common injury in swimming is the “Swimmer’s Shoulder.” This is the impingement of the bones into muscle due to inflammation in the rotator cuff which extends to the scapula and shoulder blade. Other than this, tendon issues in the knees (especially in breaststrokers) and lower back disc disjunction are common swimming injuries.

Any of these injuries may pull swimmers out of the water or require them to modify practices on a daily basis. Watching practices instead of participating in them may make swimmers anxious to get back into training too early. Not swimming for an athlete that loves the sport can seem as difficult as maintaining up to 30 training hours a week.

For an age group swimmer, an injury means not having their release at the end of a long day at school. For a high school or club swimmer, it could mean missing a championship meet along with valuable times for colleges to recruit you with. In college, an injury could lead to a narrow dual meet defeat or missing the opportunity to represent your team at your conference championships.

Swimming injuries aren’t just physical. They have a negative mental effect as well. Particularly when you’re in college, swimming has a strong hold on many parts of your life. This includes where your closest friends are, why you chose to go to that college, and how much financial aid you receive.

The NCAA did a study evaluating the mental impact of injuries on athletes. Some of the side effects include isolation, anger, lack of motivation, trouble sleeping, disengagement, and frustration. These feelings can potentially lead to more serious mental disorders such as anxiety, depression, and eating disorders. These effects turn the sport from being swimmer’s fight against these symptoms to the catalyst of them. Athletes are encouraged to seek help if any of the above effects occur in themselves or teammates.

So, how do we prevent swimming injuries?

There is little point in discussing injury without providing measures to prevent them. The technique of swimmers is the first place to look at. Dropping the elbow and over rotation are indicators of poor freestyle technique. Intense spikes in training should be carefully monitored as well.

There are exercises that can stabilize the shoulder to prevent swimming injuries.

  1. Use stretch bands for an internal/external exercise to stabilize the rotator cuff. For internal rotation, start with your arm positioned in front while your elbow rests on your side and pull in towards your belly button. Turn to the other side of the band and complete the movements from the belly button outward for the external effect.
  2. TYI exercises strengthen the scapular shoulder regions. Lay on your stomach and lift your arms 4-6 inches creating a T, Y, and I position with your arms.
  3. “Monster Walks” establish control in the rotator cuff. With the side of your forearm against the wall and a band wrapped around your wrists, slowly walk up as far up the wall as your reach allows then down to a 90-degree angle.
  4. “Field Goals” create a similar strength to monster walks. Stand with your back toward the wall. With the top of your hands against the wall slowly slide your arms up so they are straight and back down to the 90-degree angle.

All exercises should be completed in two sets of 15 or three sets of 10. In any case where an athlete performs these exercises, a professional should be present to give guided instruction. In addition to these exercises, swimmers should consider controlled active stretching before workout and icing and foam rolling after.

Swimmers should also be aware there is a difference between soreness and injury. If at any point, the soreness swimmers experience is sharp or doesn’t go away after icing and resting, this is a warning sign to start taking preventative measures. If a swimmer is experiencing any type of exceptional pain they should immediately contact their coach or any sort of qualified professional. Identifying potentially swimming injuries early can prevent athletes from having to end their season or career early.

All commentaries are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine nor its staff. All swimming and dryland training and instruction should be performed under the supervision of a qualified coach or instructor, and in circumstances that ensure the safety of participants.

Associated Links

  • Shoulder problem
  • Sports injury

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    American Sprinters Surging With 400 Free Relay World Titles in Sight

    Photos Courtesy: Matt Rubel & Andy Ringgold

    Morning Splash by David Rieder.

    The last time the United States won gold in both the women’s and men’s 400 free relays at an Olympics or World Championships, at the 1998 World Championships in Perth, Australia, Caeleb Dressel and Simone Manuel were not yet two years old, and Mallory Comerford wasn’t yet a year old.

    Two years later, the Australians knocked off Gary Hall Jr. and U.S. men for the first time ever at an Olympic Games. The Americans did not reclaim the gold medal in the event until the 2005 World Championships, and after a five-year win streak, a subsequent five-year lull culminated in missing the finals at Worlds in 2015.


    Photo Courtesy: David E. Klutho-USA TODAY Sports

    But last year at the Rio Olympics, the Americans won a statement gold medal in that relay. After years of searching for the right balance, the U.S. coaches combined veterans Michael Phelps and Nathan Adrian with international rookies Dressel and Ryan Held, and it worked.

    As for the women’s relay, the U.S. finished second behind Australia at the 2004 Olympics and has only topped the podium once since at a major meet—when Megan Romano ran down Alicia Coutts on the anchor leg at the 2013 World Champs. Aside from a four-year Dutch reign in the event from 2008 to 2011, it has been all Australia since.

    In Rio, it was something of an upset that the Americans stayed as close as they did to the Aussies, led by 100 free world record-holder Cate Campbell and 2015 World Champion Bronte Campbell. Abbey Weitzeil and Manuel gave the team a lead at the halfway point, and Dana Vollmer and Katie Ledecky over-achieved to finish only 1.24 seconds behind.

    What’s changed this year? Well, come Budapest, there will be no sign of Cate Campbell. She announced earlier in the year that she’s taking the year off from the biggest international meet to prepare for the Commonwealth Games early next year.

    With the world record-holder out of the picture, Australia’s top four swimmers this year are Bronte Campbell (52.85), Emma McKeon (53.12), Shayna Jack (53.40) and Madison Wilson (54.29). Brittany Elmslie is capable of much better than her season-best time of 54.38, but that’s as much as she had to give at Australia’s World Champs Trials in April.

    Those top four times average out to 53.42, and while its conceivable the Americans could put up four marks that beat that average in Tuesday’s 100 free at U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis, it’s far from a certainty.. Manuel has been riding high since tying for Olympic gold in the 100 free last year, and she’s the clear domestic favorite in the event. But behind her, the pecking order is less clear.


    Photo Courtesy: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports

    Weitzeil has not been all that impressive this season, finishing eighth in the 100-yard free at her first NCAA championships, and Vollmer is out as she prepares to give birth. Ledecky’s 100 free ceiling is still unclear, and if she’s on the 400 free relay at Worlds, it would likely require racing that event after the individual 400 free final on the meet’s first night.

    Can Comerford make a real contribution? She hold the No. 2 time among Americans so far this year, as her 53.91 from the Arena Pro Swim Series meet in Mesa (behind Manuel at 53.66). In a field full of strong options (Amanda Weir, Kelsi Worrell, Olivia Smoliga), Comerford has a high ceiling but yet-untapped long course potential.

    Still, even without Cate Campbell in the mix, the women’s relay figures to be the much tougher challenge for the Americans to win, even before seeing how the races stack up at Nationals.

    The U.S. field in the men’s blue-ribband event is that good? Sort of, but that’s not why the Americans are such big favorites. Just look what happened to their closest competition since Rio.

    The French, on the podium at every major international meet since 2007 and the silver medalists in Rio, will not even enter a 400 free relay in Budapest. Even if they were to compete, Florent Manaudou taking a post-Olympic hiatus from racing would have crippled their medal hopes after Manaudou posted a 47.14 split in the Olympic final.

    Australia won bronze in Rio as Kyle Chalmers provided a massive 47.38 split on the second leg. But Chalmers, who three days later won an individual gold in the 100 free, won’t be in Budapest, either, as he deals with a heart condition.

    So who does that leave as the toughest competition? Russia finished fourth in the 400 free relay Rio, but so far this year, only Vladimir Morozov and Danila Izotov have even cracked 49. It’s actually Brazil that looks like the biggest threat right now, with Gabrielle SantosMarcelo Cherighini and Bruno Fratus having been 48.5 or better this year.

    As for the Americans, Adrian is the old man of the bunch, but the 2012 Olympic gold medalist in the 100 free hasn’t lost any pop to his stroke. He’s already posted a 48.18 in the 100 free this year, and he ranks fourth in the world going into Nationals.

    The other favorites for that event are all 22 years old or younger. Dressel should have plenty of room to drop from his best time of 47.91, especially after what he did in his last trip to Indianapolis—40.00 in the 100-yard free at the NCAA championships in March.

    Held has already swum in an Olympic relay final, and Blake Pieroni was a prelims swimmer for the U.S. in Rio. Michael Chadwick has already been as quick as 48.69 this year, the No. 2 time among Americans this year.

    Obviously, what happens in the 100 free events in Indianapolis will tell a much clearer story, but with both 400 free relays stripped of explosiveness compared to last year, the American women and men should have clearer than normal paths to World titles.

    All commentaries are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine nor its staff.

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    Tour de France 2017 live TV guide

    Where to watch the 2017 Tour de France live on television – Eurosport and ITV4 schedules

    The 2017 Tour de France takes place over July 1-23, and will feature the most comprehensive television coverage of any Tour to date with every stage shown live from start to finish.

    Eurosport and ITV will be broadcasting live coverage of each stage, in addition to analysis and highlights programmes.

    Watch: Tour de France 2017: Essential Guide

    The 2017 Tour starts on Saturday, July 1, in Düsseldorf, Germany, before returning to France via Belgium on Monday, July 3.

    >>> Tour de France 2017 route

    Fans will not have to wait long for the first summit finish, with La Planche des Belles Filles acting as the finale of stage five.

    It’s then on to the Alps on week two and Pyrenees on week three, before the traditional finale in Paris on Sunday, July 23.

    Tour de France TV Guide

    Saturday 1 July
    1400-1815 LIVE stage one on Eurosport 1
    2000-2200 Stage one highlights on Eurosport 1
    1400 -1800 LIVE stage one on ITV4
    1900-2000 Stage one highlights on ITV4

    Sunday 2 July
    1100-1645 LIVE stage two on Eurosport 1
    2000-2200 Stage two highlights on Eurosport 1
    1100-1645 LIVE stage two on ITV4
    1900-2000 Stage two highlights on ITV4

    Monday 3 July
    1115-1700 LIVE stage three on Eurosport 1
    2000-2200 Stage three highlights on Eurosport 1
    1100-1645 LIVE stage three on ITV4
    1900-2000 Stage three highlights on ITV4

    Tuesday 4 July
    1100-1645 LIVE stage four on Eurosport 1
    2000-2200 Stage four highlights on Eurosport 1
    1100-1630 LIVE stage four on ITV4
    1900-2000 Stage four highlights on ITV4

    Wednesday 5 July
    1200-1700 LIVE stage five on Eurosport 1
    2000-2200 Stage five highlights on Eurosport 1
    1200-1645 LIVE stage five on ITV4
    1900-2000 Stage five highlights on ITV4

    Thursday 6 July
    1100-1700 LIVE stage six on Eurosport 1
    2000-2200 Stage six highlights on Eurosport 1
    1100-1700 LIVE stage six on ITV4
    1900-2000 Stage six highlights on ITV4

    Friday 7 July
    1100-1700 LIVE stage seven on Eurosport 1
    2000-2200 Stage seven highlights on Eurosport 1
    1100-1700 LIVE stage seven on ITV4
    1900-2000 Stage seven highlights on ITV4

    Saturday 8 July
    1100-1700 LIVE stage eight on Eurosport 1
    2000-2200 Stage eight highlights on Eurosport 2
    1100-1630 LIVE stage eight on ITV4
    1900-2000 Stage eight highlights on ITV4

    Sunday 9 July
    1030-1645 LIVE stage nine on Eurosport 1
    2000-2200 Stage nine highlights on Eurosport 1
    1030 -1630 LIVE stage nine on ITV4
    1900-2000 Stage nine highlights on ITV4

    Monday 10 July
    1900-2000 Rest day highlights on ITV4

    Tuesday 11 July
    1215-1700 LIVE stage 10 on Eurosport 1
    2000-2200 Stage 10 on Eurosport 1
    1200 -1700 LIVE stage 10 on ITV4
    1900-2000 Stage 10 highlights on ITV4

    Wednesday 12 July
    1145-1715 LIVE stage 11 on Eurosport 1
    2000-2200 Stage 11 on Eurosport 1
    1200-1715 LIVE stage 11 on ITV4
    1900-2000 Stage 11 highlights on ITV4

    Thursday 13 July
    0945-1630 LIVE stage 12 on Eurosport 1
    2000-2200 Stage 12 on Eurosport 1
    0945-1630 LIVE stage 12 on ITV4
    1900-2000 Stage 12 highlights on ITV4

    Friday 14 July
    1315-1700 LIVE stage 13 on Eurosport 1
    2000-2200 Stage 13 on Eurosport 1
    1315-1700 LIVE stage 13 on ITV4
    1900-2000 Stage 13 highlights on ITV4

    Saturday 15 July
    1200-1700 LIVE stage 14 on Eurosport 1
    2000-2200 Stage 14 highlights on Eurosport 1
    1200-1700 LIVE stage 14 on ITV4
    1900-2000 Stage 14 highlights on ITV4

    Sunday 16 July
    1200-1715 LIVE stage 15 on Eurosport 1
    2000-2200 Stage 15 highlights on Eurosport 1
    1200 -1730 LIVE stage 15 on ITV4
    1900-2000 Stage 15 highlights on ITV4

    Monday 17 July
    1900-2000 Rest day highlights on ITV4

    Tuesday 18 July
    1230-1645 LIVE stage 16 on Eurosport 1
    2000-2200 Stage 16 on Eurosport 1
    1230-1645 LIVE stage 16 on ITV4
    1900-2000 Stage 16 highlights on ITV4

    Wednesday 19 July
    1100-1700 LIVE stage 17 on Eurosport 1
    2000-2200 Stage 17 on Eurosport 1
    1100-1700 LIVE stage 17 on ITV4
    1900-2000 Stage 17 highlights on ITV4

    Thursday 20 July
    0900-1100 LIVE La Course by Le Tour on Eurosport 1
    1145-1700 LIVE stage 18 on Eurosport 1
    1900-2000 La Course by Le Tour on Eurosport 1
    2000-2200 Stage 18 on Eurosport 1
    1130-1700 LIVE stage 18 on ITV4
    1900-2000 Stage 18 highlights on ITV4

    Friday 21 July
    1115-1700 LIVE stage 19 on Eurosport 1
    2000-2200 Stage 19 on Eurosport 1
    1100-1700 LIVE stage 19 on ITV4
    1900-2000 Stage 19 highlights on ITV4

    Saturday 22 July
    1245-1700 LIVE stage 20 on Eurosport 1
    2000-2200 Stage 20 highlights on Eurosport 1
    1230-1700 LIVE stage 20 on ITV4
    1900-2000 Stage 20 highlights on ITV4

    Sunday 23 July
    1730-1845 LIVE stage 21 on Eurosport 1
    2000-2200 Stage 21 highlights on Eurosport 1
    1530-1900 LIVE stage 21 on ITV4
    2100-2200 Stage 21 highlights on ITV4

    Tour de France 2017 stages

    Stage 1, Saturday July 1: Düsseldorf (DE) 13.8km ITT
    Stage 2, Sunday July 2: Düsseldorf (DE) – Liège (BE), 202km
    Stage 3, Monday July 3: Verviers (BE) – Longwy, 202km
    Stage 4, Tuesday July 4: Mondorf-les-Bains (LU) – Vittel, 203km
    Stage 5, Wednesday July 5: Vittel – La Planche des Belles Filles (Summit finish), 160km
    Stage 6, Thursday July 6: Vesoul – Troyes, 216km
    Stage 7, Friday July 7: Troyes – Nuits-Saint-Georges, 214km
    Stage 8, Saturday July 8: Dole – Station des Rousses (Summit finish), 187km
    Stage 9, Sunday July 9: Nantua – Chambéry (Mountains), 181km

    Rest day – Monday July 10

    Stage 10, Tuesday July 11: Périgueux – Bergerac, 178km
    Stage 11, Wednesday July 12: Eymet – Pau, 202km
    Stage 12, Thursday July 13: Pau – Peyragudes (Summit finish), 214km
    Stage 13, Friday July 14: Saint-Girons – Foix, 100km
    Stage 14, Saturday July 15: Blagnac – Rodez, 181km
    Stage 15, Sunday July 16: Laissac-Sévérac L’Eglise – Le Puy-en-Velay, 189km

    Rest day – Monday July 17

    Stage 16, Tuesday July 18: Brioude – Romans-sur-Isère, 165km
    Stage 17, Wednesday July 19: La Mure – Serre Chevalier, 183km
    Stage 18, Thursday July 20: Briançon – Col d’Izoard (Summit finish), 178km
    Stage 19, Friday July 21: Embrun – Salon-de-Provence, 220km
    Stage 20, Saturday July 22: Marseille, 23km ITT
    Stage 21, Sunday July 23: Montgeron – Paris, 105km

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    Open 2017: Richard Bland hopes return to form will set up run to Royal Birkdale

    Richard Bland

    Richard Bland hopes he has found some timely form ahead of July’s Open at Royal Birkdale after recent struggles.

    The Southampton-based golfer finished joint second at the BMW International in Munich, having shared the lead with Sergio Garcia after three rounds.

    Bland, 44, had his best European Tour performance of the year in Germany and feels his game is coming together.

    “If I can keep improving my game in the month ahead, the sky’s the limit,” he told BBC Radio Solent.

    Bland has already qualified for The Open by virtue of finishing in the top 30 on the 2016 European Tour money list after a strong finish to last year, but had struggled so far this year before Munich.

    “I’ve got a big confidence boost after Germany,” he said. “Hopefully I can take a step forward next week and really look forward to Royal Birkdale.

    “There’s four huge events before The Open, so it’s a big four to five weeks that could be massive and really set the season up great.”

    Bland will also hope to tap into some of the current feel-good factor around Hampshire golf after Harry Ellis secured his place at Royal Birkdale by winning the British Amateur Championship on Saturday.

    “I’ve heard lots about his game and that he’s doing his scholarship in the States,” he said. “Hopefully we can set up nine holes with Justin Rose on the Wednesday before the Open.

    “It would be nice to see how he plays and that was incredible achievement for him to come from four holes down with five to play to win the amateur championship.”

    Bland’s only previous Open experience was in 1998, also at Birkdale, when he missed the cut.

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    How Gaerne makes its cycling shoes

    It takes 109 pieces to make Gaerne’s top-end G.Stilo+ cycling shoe. Here’s how its shoes are assembled.

    Based near Asolo in northern Italy, Gaerne prides itself in its all-Italian production and quality. Founded in 1962, the company still makes mountain footwear, its original product. But it’s been making cycling shoes since the 1980s and also makes a wide range of motorcycle boots.

    It’s a family business, with founder Ernesto Gazzola in his 80s still in the factory every day and his children running different parts of the business. Its 55 employees produce 79,000 pairs of cycling shoes and 116,000 pairs of motorcycle boots every year.

    These are all the component parts of a pair of G.Stilo+ shoes

    The company says it takes up to two years to design a new shoe and bring it to market. During that time, it works closely with companies such as Boa to ensure that its closures are used optimally. It worked with Speedplay on its four-bolt sole for its G.Stilo+, which is the only one approved by Speedplay.

    The uppers are sewn together first

    Gaerne buys the microfibre for its shoes’ uppers in bulk, then cuts the rolls up into blanks that are laser cut and perforated off site. Gaerne sews the component pieces together to assemble the shoe uppers and add the closures – in this case for a tri shoe.

    >>> Best cycling shoes 2017: a complete buyer’s guide

    The toe is then glued to the inner section of the sole

    The next step is to glue the upper to the inner side of the sole. This is a two-part process that uses two different machines: first the toe box is assembled around the last, then the sides are stretched and glued into place. The glue is heated to 250C to ensure an effective bond.

    The sides of the upper are stretched around the last and glued down in a second machine

    The glued edges of the fabric are then sanded down to make them flatter before the carbon outer sole is glued in place and pressure is applied to bond the two pieces.

    Before the outer carbon sole is attached

    Finally the last is removed, the insole fitted and the shoes boxed for shipment. There’s a large warehouse of shoes awaiting shipment to shops and distributors, with bulk sea freight usually used to the USA and Australia.

    Gaerne has a lot of lasts. They stay in the shoe for up to 24 hours

    Gaerne has racks of lasts for different foot sizes. There are also different male and female lasts and wider ones for Asian feet. Since the last is left in the shoe for up to a day after it’s been made, there’s a need for a lot of them.

    There’s a rack of special lasts fine-tuned for famous pros

    There are lasts for some famous names, with most having some fine tuning to fit the wearer as well as custom insoles. Beside André Greipel, there are lasts for Fabian Cancellara, Alexander Kristoff and, poignantly, for Michele Scarponi.

    Signed photos on the warehouse wall include Marco Pantani and other famous names

    There’s a long list of other famous pros who have raced in Gaerne shoes in the past too.

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    Searching out Britain’s best cycling café

    Cycling friendly cafés can transform a good ride into a great one. Here are a few of our favourites

    Promotional feature

    Bike Beans Cycle Café

    Just 20 minutes from the top of Box Hill, Bike Beans Cycle Café is famous for ‘fuelling the revolution’ over the last five years. A friendly, vibrant, hidden gem – a must for any club/group ride stop. Fantastic homemade food, cakes and coffee. New members welcome.

    Spoke & Co


    Spoke & Co are passionate about good food, the local community and cycling! We provide great quality, locally sourced food and drink. Based south of Nottingham in a converted church we also have a fully stocked bike shop, workshop and Wattbike studio run by cyclists with years of experience to share.

    Ronde Bike Café

    Cycling and coffee have long had a close relationship. Nestled in a wee corner of Stockbridge in Edinburgh, Ronde is where speciality coffee and cycling collide. The former butchers’ shop retains many of its original features, although now the only carcasses hanging on the walls are those of custom-built road bikes. Vintage-ska, the hiss of espresso steam wand and the whirr of wheels provide the soundtrack at this unique venue which specialises in bikes built to order.

    Roll for the Soul

    Roll for the Soul is a non-profit bike shop and vegetarian/vegan café bar, right in the centre of Bristol. The full-service workshop specialises in custom touring cycles and wheelbuilding, as well as servicing and repairs for all types of cycles.

    Maison du Velo

    Just 20 minutes from the top of Boxhill, Bike Beans Cycle Café is famous for ‘fuelling the revolution’ over the last five years.
    A friendly, vibrant, hidden gem – a must for any club/group ride stop. Fantastic homemade food, cakes and coffee. New members welcome.

    Stan’s Bike Shack

    Nestled next to the South Downs National Park, Stan’s Bike Shack is an unusual stop-off and meeting place that offers
    tasty treats and a selection of cyclist services including free-to-use tools, work stand, track pump, locks, tap to refill
    water bottles and bike accessories.

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    Movistar announce team to support Nairo Quintana at the Tour de France

    Nairo Quintana will be backed by a solid line-up of riders in Movistar’s Tour de France roster – but there’s no place for British rider Alex Dowsett

    Spanish WorldTour outfit Movistar have unveiled the team that will support Nairo Quintana in his aim to win the 2017 Tour de France.

    The 27-year-old Colombian goes into the race on July 1 as one of the leading favourites to contend for the overall victory – and he has a solid team to support his ambitions.

    Topping the list is Spaniard Alejandro Valverde, who at 37 still shows no sign of slowing down and provides Movistar with a second option for a high general classification placing should Quintana falter. Winner of the 2009 Vuelta a España, Valverde placed third in the 2015 Tour – his best result in the race.

    >>> Nairo Quintana: ‘Chris Froome is still the favourite for the Tour de France’

    Three further Spanish riders feature in the team: Imanol Erviti, Jonathan Castroviejo and Jesús Herrada. They are joined by Andrey Amador (Costa Rica), Jasha Sütterlin (Germany), Daniele Bennati (Italy) and Carlos Betancur (Colombia) to complete Movistar’s nine-man roster.

    Double Tour stage winner Bennati provides an option for the sprints, with Spanish time trial champion Castroviejo always a contender on stages against the clock – one to watch on the opening day of the 2017 Tour in Düsseldorf.

    There is no place for Britain’s Alex Dowsett, who was named on Movistar’s original 12-rider Tour shortlist in mid-June.

    Quintana had set out to try and win both the 2017 Giro d’Italia and Tour, but looked slightly off-form to place second at the Giro behind Dutchman Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb) in May.

    However, Quintana’s Grand Tour abilities cannot be disputed with victories in the 2014 Giro and 2016 Vuelta a España, plus second places at the Tour in 2013 and 2015, and third in 2016.

    The lack of time trial kilometres in this year’s race and number of mountains perhaps play more into Quintana’s hands than that of defending Tour champion Chris Froome (Team Sky).

    Richie Porte (BMC), Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) and Romain Bardet (Ag2r) rank among Froome and Quintana’s biggest rivals for the coveted yellow jersey.

    The 2017 Tour de France starts with a 14-kilometre individual time trial Düsseldorf on Saturday, July 1, and finishes three weeks later in Paris on Sunday, July 23.

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    A tour of Look’s retro bike collection

    They don’t make them like that any longer – a tour of Look’s back catalogue

    One of the most interesting parts of touring bike manufacturers’ premises is the collections of bike which were cutting edge in their day, that they often have stashed away in a back room somewhere.


    Toe clips and straps ruled before Look’s clipless pedals

    Look’s factory in Nevers, in central France, is a prime example. Look has been at the cutting edge of bike design ever since it moved from ski bindings into bicycle components and frames, back in the 1980s.

    >>> The top ten game changing road bikes


    The KG86 had carbon/kevlar tubes bonded to aluminium lugs

    Bernard Hinault won the Tour de France back in 1985 using Look’s revolutionary clipless pedals and Greg Lemond won the 1986 Tour on Look’s KG86 carbon frame. We found a KG86 complete with Look’s original composite clipless pedals leaning against a wall in a room full of old machines in one of Look’s offices.

    >>> Icons of cycling: Look’s clipless pedals


    There’s a round titanium tubeset under all those fairings

    Before the UCI put the spoilers on bike design with its 3:1 tube profile and non-structural components rules, there were some increasingly radical machines being built. Look’s 1997 KG296 CLM was made of titanium and developed especially for the time trialist Alex Zulle. The frame was actually made of round tubes but with added titanium fairings to improve aerodynamics. Wheels were either 650c or 600c and the frontal cross-section was only 28mm.

    >>> How would an end to the 3:1 rule affect bike design? Experts have their say


    Look’s engineers worked on aerodynamic designs from 1994 onwards

    An earlier aero design from Look was this 1994 track bike, which was ridden to the French national championship by Philippe Ermenault. Look’s engineers worked with the French national coach and an aerodynamics expert to develop the bike. It won the 1994 national championship on its first outing.

    >>> Icons of cycling: Francesco Moser’s 1984 hour record bike


    The KG381i used tubes with differing wall thicknesses

    2002’s KG381i was ridden to a second straight Tour de France polka dot jersey by Laurent Jalabert.

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