Tour de France 2017: 4 things we learnt

After three weeks, 21 stages and over 3,500km, the 104th edition of the Tour de France is over. Chris Froome claimed a historic fourth GC win, which puts him one behind the likes of Merckx and Indurain. But what did we learn from 2017’s race? Here are four talking points in honour of (Sir?) Chris’s achievements.
1) The inevitability of Team Sky
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History repeating itself. Old habits die hard, and winning Tours is certainly a good one to have. Despite Storm Brailsford swirling for the past year, with no signs of abating anytime soon, Team Sky weathered it out and produced a standout performance.
When 32-year-old Froome felt under the weather at Peyragudes, they took control of the peloton and dictated the race, creating an impression of normality when their star was struggling. The final 200m climb at the end of that stage was the only time he gave an inch throughout the whole Tour.
If Sky’s ability to manage races wasn’t clear enough, Froome’s wheel change on the road Le Put-en-Velay provided further evidence. Lesser teams would have panicked and floundered in a rush to rejoin the bunch. But they didn’t. They dropped back. They regrouped and calmly lead their main man through the field. A crucial moment in solidifying his position at the head of the pack.
Much credit has to go to the likes of Mikel Landa, Michal Kwiatkowski and Vasil Kiryienka. Landa could have mounted a stronger GC challenge had he not been entrusted with shepherding Froome to top spot. Unsurprisingly, the Spaniard is mooted for a move to Movistar in pursuit of the yellow jersey in 2018.
Next up is the Vuelta a España. And who would bet against Team Sky?
2) The Good: The French are back
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Two riders, in particular, held the tricolour high: Ag2r La Mondiale’s Romain Bardet and Team Sunweb’s Warren Barguil.
Bardet took third place on the GC podium, following a runners-up spot last year, after doggedly chasing Froome over the three weeks.
A monumental effort saw him claim stage 12 ahead of Froome and Rigoberto Uran. Unfortunately, a laboured time trial in Marseille ended his GC hopes for another year. The Brioude-born rider put his listless finish down to a lack of training in the discipline.
“I don’t like training on it and there’s no doubt that I paid for that today. I need to make more effort in that area. That will give me another boost,” he said.
Similarly, Barguil rode off with two stage wins, the mountains classification, a first top ten in a Grand Tour and the most-combative rider award. His stage 18 victory up the Col d’izoard confirmed his star status. Team-mate Mike Teunissen said on future GC hopes: “What does he need to do? Not much. He is already not far away. If he can beat Froome now, for sure there isn’t too much in this.
“He would need not too much time trial kilometres, and not many summit finishes. This Tour was one for him, but if he so strong it doesn’t matter [what the route is]. I’m really curious about how he will do in the next few years.”
FDJ’s Arnaud Démare and Direct Energie’s Lilian won stages, too.
Watch this space. French cycling may finally be back.
3) The Bad: UCI inconsistencies
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99.99% of stage four was pretty uneventful, at least until 300m from the finish. Mark Cavendish went on the attack before being flung into the railings by a Peter Sagan elbow.
Cav crashed out of the Tour with a broken shoulder while, at least initially, Sagan was relegated to last on the stage and docked 80 points in the green jersey competition. One hour later and the double world champ found himself out of the race altogether.
Bora-Hansgrohe appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport but the race rolled on without his inclusion.
Nader Bouhanni decided to take things up a level on stage 10, after being called an “idiot” and a “dick” by FDJ’s Jacopo Guarnieri on stage six, by punching Jack Bauer of Quick-Step Floors. He was fined just 200CHF.
Even Bardet bent the rules. En route to his epic Peyragudes triumph, video footage appears to show Ag2r La Mondiale taking a spectator’s bottle within 10km of the finish. Rigoberto Uran and George Bennett were docked 20 seconds apiece for identical offences, but the UCI jury accounted that because team cars had been unable to reach riders before the final climb, all feeding time penalties would be wiped off.
Consistently inconsistent.
4) The Ugly: French fans let themselves down, again
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Being spat at or having urine thrown over you is the biggest compliment French fans can give to a foreign rider. Been there, done that, so this year it was a cacophony of boos for Froome as he bore down on Bardet in Marseille.
Poor Romain even apologised for his fellow countrymen’s actions, saying “Froome is a champion and he deserves respect. I respect him as a rival and he does not deserve this sort of treatment”.
Listen to him, guys.

#MakeYourEscape: commute in style with Huez*

Life on the bike is a tale of two contrasting styles. 1) the lycra-clad, KOM setting, head-down rider and 2) the sweat-absorbing, suit-wearing cyclist.

Thankfully, there’s a middle ground for commuters who want to look good as good on two wheels as they do in the boardroom. This rise in multi-purpose clothing, featuring the latest tech and materials, simply didn’t exist 10 years ago. But increasing demand has seen a whole wave of aesthetically-pleasing, performance-focused products hitting the market. We’ve got the practical side of Olympic fever to thank for that.

British brand Huez*, which takes it’s name from Tour de France favourite L’Alpe d’Huez, is already known by bike aficionados for making high-quality bib shorts and jerseys. Now, with their new Summer 2017 range, they’re taking on the commuter market.

During some unseasonably hot weather, I went out on a few rides in a pair of Khaki Utility Shorts and a Tempest Bomber. What’s noticeable straight away is how light they both are, making it a lot easier to dart in and out of traffic. Doesn’t sound like much, but in everyday clothes this can feel like peddling through sand.

The stylish bomber, which you’d expect to feel heavy, was light and breathable. Small holes beneath the armpit help keep sweat at bay, with an open triple vent letting warm air out and cool air in – a welcome feature on clammy climbs.

Rain and low light are no problems, either. The reflective Darklight tape provides maximum reflectivity while a breathable, waterproof lining keeps you bone dry – essentials for a late-night dart back from the pub.

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Off the bike, it looks equally at home. A pair of zipped pockets keep your belongings safe and make a welcome change from being weighed down by a bulging jersey.

The durable utility short features some practical tech of its own, including reflective stripes. But, as I often ask myself, what if I fancy a swim after a hot ride? Well, this is where the quality of the quick-drying, water-resistant coating comes into its own. You can dive straight in! Mesh-lined pockets complete the transformation from bike to pool.

Bike security is covered, too. The reinforced belt loop means it’s simpler than ever to carry a sturdy D-lock around town. Ideal if you’re out and about, travelling from meeting to meeting.

When the temperature does drop, you can layer up with a Scandi-inspired softshell jacket and crewneck, keeping your legs warm with a slim-cut pair of utility jeans.

If you’d like to see the range, find it all here.

Or if you’re in the market for a new jersey, take a look at their sport gear.

Whether it’s a scorching urban ride or a rainy trek home, Huez* has it sorted. Go #MakeYourEscape

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Aliens, watches and The Lost Explorer with David de Rothschild

What do you do if you’re supposedly the devil incarnate and heir to an estimated £10 billion fortune? Create an adventure brand, as done by David de Rothschild. I recently had the chance to quiz the explorer, entrepreneur and member of the richest family of all time as he showcased his adventure-focused outerwear brand ‘The Lost Explorer’ at esteemed saddle manufacturer Brooks London’s Covent Garden store.

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So what links thoroughly modern, adventure-proof outerwear and an old-school saddle manufacturer? “Style and function”, says David. “They perform and you pay for it, but you feel comfortable paying for it because you are getting what you want from it. That’s the case with Brooks, and I hope it’s the same with The Lost Explorer.”

When it comes to cycling, David fits into the pannier-and-sightseeing brand of rider – with a bottle of his own-brand tequila lodged in a bottle cage, no doubt. “There’s something about being on a bike – finding your flow, with your mates, chatting, everything’s moving, everything’s changing on the road.I’m a bit more of an oh, I’ll go down this street, I’ll cut through here, I’ll explore more type of rider.”

It’s this active, outdoors lifestyle that has led David to take a keen interest in the current and future state of the environment. In 2010 he sailed Plastiki, a 60-foot catamaran made out of 12,500 reclaimed plastic bottles and other recycled waste products, across the Pacific Ocean to raise awareness for plastic pollution.

With the election of Trump and other right-leaning parties, does he think environmental policy is going to be put on the back burner?

“Yeah, I mean, It’s a really very poignant question. I think it comes much more around our ability to take the path of least resistance is far greater than one of struggle, right?

“We need to make the right choices, to live on a planet in a more sustainable, harmonious way with nature you need to make some really tough calls. And to do things that we are not going to feel comfortable about, myself included.

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“Humanity is Evil Knievel. We got all dressed up, went on our motorbike and hit the ramp – which was the industrial revolution – and off we flew. It’s great, look we’re in the air and now we’re at that point where we’re like shit, maybe that was too good a takeoff, maybe we’re consuming too much, maybe we aren’t actually going to hit the landing ground as we first anticipated. It’s not all smooth sailing, so the question is: are we going to break a neck or are we going to break a leg? We’re in mid-air. We’ve got to adjust.

While tough decisions need to be made in the future, no self-respecting billionaire heir would ever be seen without a watch fit for royalty – impending doom or not. Aboard Plastiki, David wore a special edition IWC Ingenieur Automatic Mission Earth Edition Chronograph.

As with Brooks, it was the skill, precision and passion of the Swiss watchmaker that convinced him they were the right partner. “The thing that I really liked is the craftsmanship,” he said. “People that know IWC, they love it, they live it, they know all the different models. I guess in a way it’s a bit like that with Brooks. You’re really into it and you collect the saddles, you love the different styles and you appreciate the craftsmanship.

“I’d rather work with brands where there’s a real niche audience, that really love the brand and are really passionate, because then, when you’re doing a collaboration, like we did around Plastiki, with the watches, you’ve got someone who’s not just wearing a watch, they’re living your message.

“They know everything, every single detail. That’s a really interesting ambassador, and some of the influence behind starting my own brand. It was that thing of trying to create a sense of real value in products, but also to appeal to people who really want to dig deep into the materials and subtleties and into the craftmanship, too.

While David may be firmly aware of his impact on Earth, his position as a Rothschild has ensured that whatever he does, he’s subject to some interesting (intergalactic) scrutiny. One of the wilder theories circulating online is that he’s actually the second coming, or an alien force. There’s an entire community dedicated to unearthing his hidden reasons for being – so, if he really is an otherworldly being, I had to ask where he’d travel in his spaceship.

“I would just go to the bottom of our ocean,” he said. “Live underneath there. There’s a nice conspiracy. I’d become a Merman. I think our oceans are incredible and under-explored – we know so little about them.”

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Make time for these 5 watches from Baselworld 2017

It’s that time of year again. When anyone who’s anyone in the world of watches heads to northwest Switzerland to launch, laud and lust over the latest timepieces at Baselworld. From Swiss classics to a future-focused South Korean throwback, I’ve taken a look at five of the most interesting items from 2017’s event.  See it all below…

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Techframe Ferrari Tourbillon Chronograph

They couldn’t have planned it better. While Sebastian Vettel clinched victory for Ferrari down in Melbourne, Hublot unveiled its simply stunning Techframe Ferrari Tourbillon Chronograph, with the case being the first non-car item to ever come out of Maranello. The near-skeleton design is a technical marvel; the eyes are naturally drawn to an impressive manual-wound caliber HUB6311, a monopusher chronograph with a tourbillon escapement. Another nice touch, (well, for $127,000 (titanium) or $158,000 (gold)) is the crown at 4 o’clock, positioned to create a feeling of speed. Forza Ferrari, indeed.

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Omega 60th Speedmaster 60th Anniversary Edition

It’s been 60 years since one of the most recognisable pieces of wristwear first hit the market. I’m of course talking about the iconic Omega Speedmaster. To commemorate this milestone, the Biel-Bienne-based manufacturer has released an ode to the original ’57 model, complete with a 38mm case, straight lugs, etched tachymeter and a faux-tropicalised dial (to up the nostalgic feel). It costs $6,740 and is limited to a run of 3,557, mirroring the release structure of the recent Seamaster and Railmaster – you can even buy all three for $20,185.

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Nomos Club Campus

Now, I’m a BIG fan of this new line from Nomos (though it does scream fixie bike and Vice fanatic). The German brand’s new Club Campus collection, “tailor-made for the next generation”, is made up of three watches: a 36mm, 38 and 38.5mm, and an additional 38.5mm called the Club Campus Nacht. The latter is the standout item, with Arabic and Roman numerals for even hours, ticks for odd and a simple subdial at 6 o’clock to indicate seconds. The 43-hour power reserve from Nomos Calibre Alpha is great value for money, too. They start at a very reasonable $1,500 – ideal if you’re making your first foray into mechanical watches.

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Samsung Gear G3 Pocketwatch

Concept. That’s the key word. The cynic in me thinks this is just a whole lot of peacocking from Samsung and watch designer Yvan Arpa. Nonetheless, the Samsung Gear S3 Pocketwatch (yep, pocketwatch) has piqued the interest of the watch world and beyond. Initially, the idea was to replace the mechanical movement with G3 tech, but the electronics giant went not one, but two steps further by having traditional innards and a compass (yep, compass) in the lid. Though these aren’t going to hit the market anytime soon, or ever, it’s certainly one of the most interesting fusions of classic watchmaking and futuristic designs on show at Baselworld.

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IWC Schaffhausen Ingenieur 40mm Automatic

I love it. It’s clean, classic and is the revamped version of a racing-inspired icon from the ’50s. I have to confess, I’m getting one in September. Prices start at a shade under $5k for the three-part collection.

If you’d like to read more, head here.

IWC Ingenieur at Goodwood 2017

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Shooting, sports cars and Swiss watches. What’s not to love? I was lucky enough to head down to Goodwood for the 75th Members’ Meeting, courtesy of IWC Schaffhausen.

Creative Director Christian Knoop kicked off the day at the hotel, alongside Lord March, unveiling the expanded Ingenieur 2017 line, building on the updated three-piece range from Goodwood 2016. The new collection covers the bases with three automatic models, four IWC-manufactured chronographs and a limited-edition reference with perpetual calendar.

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Starting at a shade under £4,000, the Automatic 40mm occupies the entry-level spot and draws most heavily on the original ’55, with a classic silver dial and black leather strap. However, a 18-carat red gold case is beautifully understated, complemented by a stylish black alligator leather strap.

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The IWC Ingenieur Chronograph starts at over 5k and comes in three 42mm styles: a 18-carat red gold and two stainless steel dials, with a hefty 120m depth rating on an all-new movement called the IWC Caliber 69375.

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Finally, the top-of-the-range model is the £34k IWC Ingenieur Perpetual Calendar Digital Date-Month. Based on the IWC Caliber 89800 movement, this limited-edition version of just 100 pieces, features a perpetual calendar and digital indicators for the month and date.

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My personal favourite was the Automatic 40mm, though. Clean, classy and sat rather nicely on my relatively small wrist. Sadly, I was unable to sneak it out of there, despite my best efforts.

It reminded me in many ways of the Bremont Solo – a watch I was planning to get this summer. But, the iconic racing heritage tied up in the Ingenieur may have tipped the scales in favour of the Swiss offering. Only downsides being the £1,200 difference and mooted September release for the revamped 40mm, we’ll see…

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Anyway, individual preference aside, this trip wasn’t just about watches.

IWC brand ambassador and former Formula 1 driver David Coulthard took an exquisite Mercedes-Benz 300 SL – Gullwing for a spin, once the herd of photographers had cleared, that is.

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Following the pit walk and Coulthard’s hot lap, I ventured out on the hunt for some original ’80 BMW M3s, luckily they didn’t take too long to find….

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Unsurprisingly – it was Goodwood, after all – there were a bevy of beauties I could wax lyrical about, including a stunning Jaguar XJ220, but clay pigeon shooting at the far end of the estate was calling.

I’ve never done it before, but if you’re even slightly competitive, this is the sport for you! Who knew taking aim at flying objects was so enjoyable?

And, though I’m no gun expert, legendary manufacturer Purdey was in town and had brought along a selection of its wares, with one pretty special 120k model taking centrestage. (I’m having a go on that below…)

9/12 hit rate – but who’s counting?

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Perhaps even more impressive is the fact Purdey, the only British manufacturer to be awarded three royal charters, handbuilds all its shotguns to order from the ‘Fort Knox of West London’ in Hammersmith. Which goes some way to explaining the monumental outlay.

So with that, and a final glass/bottle of Perrier-Jouët, we were back off to London. Thanks again to IWC and Mercedes Benz.

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Cycling: 5 Things I Wish I’d Known

Now, if you had asked me a couple of years ago what I thought of cyclists, I was a fully-fledged member of club: it’s desperately uncool/they look like idiots/why don’t they get a car. But, after a flurry of golds at Rio 2016 and a watch of the Armstrong and Pantani docs on Netflix, I was converted and picking my dream bike.

Fast forward a further twelve months and my lunch hours are now spent looking at lyrca and saddles. There are a few things I’d wish I’d known, though, listed below.

1. Set realistic goals

It may seem obvious, but if you don’t you may end up with a puncture, miles from home, knackered and completely soaked through. Trust me on this one. I took the attitude that, hey, it’s a bike, if I get tired, I can go a bit slower, I’ll still be moving. Yes, that is theoretically correct, but don’t make the mistake of thinking the ability to run 10 miles around the local park means you’ll be able to hop on a bike and take on 50 miles of undulating gradients straight off the bat. You won’t.

Head out for 30 minutes, enjoy it. Ignore the stream of passing cyclists, you’ll soon be dropping newbies yourself. Get used to the bike, build your confidence and gradually increase your mileage.

If you want to track your performance and ace familiar routes, the Strava app is a no brainer. The iPhone/Android app features detailed breakdowns of everything you could need for tracking two wheels, from speed to heart rate. Just try not to get too obsessive about beating your best times, Portland Pace has haunted me for the best part of 6 months. The app doesn’t take blind corners or roundabouts into account, so be safe and avoid jumping reds for the sake of saving a few seconds.

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2. Don’t be ashamed, wear the right kit

It’s there for a reason. Like most people, I saw commuters decked out in figure-hugging gear, parading around the office, swanning off for a shower at 10am, and used to think dicks, they’ve worked the system – is it really necessary?

In the same way you wouldn’t play football in a cable-knit jumper, jeans and dessert boots, wearing the right gear, however unflattering, makes being comfortable on the bike a hell of a lot easier. It can be a little pricey as you’ll need special shoes, bib shorts, tops, rain jackets…. but the investment is well worth it in the long run, especially if you’re going to be commuting.

An easy way to prepare for work is to take five days’ worth of clothes in on Monday. There’s nothing worse than sitting in a sweat-drenched shirt during an important meeting.

And buy some anti-chaffing cream, you don’t want to find out why the hard way.

3. Discover your inner mechanic

In all honestly, it’s probably my favourite thing about getting into cycling. Pissing about with your saddle, tweaking to the perfect height; adjusting cleats, improving the efficiencies of your peddle strokes; even cleaning your bike, because a clean bike is (unsurprisingly) a fast bike.

With regards to cleaning… I took a chance on propping it in the bath, which left the place looking like a coal mine. Thankfully Muc-Off Degreaser will rinse of literally anything. So good you can even use it as a general clean, if you don’t mind your home smelling like a Halfords, that is.

Thanks to the wonders of the internet, finding guides for basic repairs is a breeze. GCN’s (Global Cycling Network) YouTube is the bible for handy how tos, from chain repairs to indexing gear.

The tools required for such tasks can be a little pricey, but the initial outlay is more than worth it in the long run.

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4. Other people may not be that interested

This may come as a surprise, but friends, family and colleagues may not be as keen to hear about your new love for groupsets.

Keep your inner bike nerd to the cycle clubs and GCN comments section or you’ll be confined to the spare room; drawer for jerseys, tools and parts out of sight under the bed, stand in the far corner for your bike.

I’ve felt the full force from my girlfriend.

5. You’re probably going to get knocked off, so know your stuff

Is cycling dangerous? Possibly too broad a question for this humble 5-point list. Knowing what do following a collision is essential, though .From personal experience, I got knocked off turning into a junction.

It was dark, I was flustered and more concerned with making sure my bike was ok than getting the driver’s details. He went on his way and I was left ringing up Camden and Westminster Councils and London Zoo for CCTV footage. Unfortunately, I happened to have my crash in the one part of the capital with zero coverage, leaving me to foot the bill for a broken wheel.

This is all because I took his number plate without double checking, making it near impossible to trace. So, easier said than done, but do try to remember these 6 simple steps:

1) Get out of the road, best not to get hit again.

2) Give yourself a quick once-over . Forget the bike for a second. If you’re injured or think you may have lost consciousness, ring for an ambulance and the police.

3) Take the driver’s name, address and insurance information. Sadly, some people are dicks and will scurry. Double check it while you’re there, ring the number they gave, get right up to the number plate etc.

4) Swap details with witnesses. Makes solving a dispute further down the line easier. File with the police, preferably within 24 hours of the incident happening.

5) Have your bike inspected by a mechanic, your frame may be bent or your wheels may be knocked out of life. Get a damage report and quotes, so you know how much you’re entitled to.

6) If it’s relatively serious or your bike is written off, it can be a good idea to chat to a no win, no fee firm. They can handle some of the leg work in exchange for a cut.

Most importantly: enjoy it!

Find me on Instagram for more of the below: https://www.instagram.com/tomcauvain/

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