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Cycling's most famous race, the Tour de France, pedalled off this weekend and for the next few weeks it will be hard to escape the competition's many twists, subplots, intrigues and allure. Founded in 1903 by Henri Desgrange, it is the biggest annual sporting event in the world and has more live spectators than the Olympic Games or the Fifa World Cup.
With so much being said about pro-cycling in recent years, how has the sport - and specifically cyclists' attire - developed for those of us not blessed with the near superhuman ability to ride as great speed over huge distances and up and down intimidating mountain ranges?
Lorenzo Curci, founder of London-based luxury cycling lable Huez, explains why you don't need a yellow jersey to look good on two wheels:
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"The world of cycling has grown exponentially since its somewhat niche following at the turn of the 19th century. The combination of a bicycle's use as a means of transport and technological advancements at the upper echelons of the sport have revolutionised the clothing and equipment that comes with it.
"Many cycling brands attach their identity to the history of the sport, but in starting Huez, we wanted to create a brand that looked forward not backwards. We respect and love the heritage of cycling, but we wanted to bring the advances of fabric and construction technology to improve the experience and maximise cyclists' enjoyment of the sport. Professionals and amateurs alike will tell you there is a level of suffering intrinsically linked to the sport, but selecting the correct garments designed around your specific movement, and choosing pieces that have been carefully created to withstand the elements, prevents you from feeling uncomfortable, which in turn helps you exercise.
"At Huez, we start the design process by looking at the purpose of the garment. Take a wind-jacket for instance. In cycling, this garment can have multiple purposes. It's what you take on a chilly morning ride and it's essential for keeping you warm on a descent - especially if you find yourself following in the tracks of the Pro-Peloton on an Alpine pass. But it must also be easy to pack away when your body temperature rises and be light enough to ensure you can climb the peaks of the most famous cols unburdened.
"In trying to satisfy all these requirements, we searched around the world for the most technical mills to find a material that would not only be light and durable, but also highly water resistant in the rain. Our search ended with a Japanese mill capable of creating a Nylon Rip Stop material weighing just 25g per square meter.
"We also went a step further in solving the issue of how to remove such a jacket without having to get off your bike by introducing the quick-burst zip. This zip, when you pull it at the centre, allows the jacket to burst open, removing the need to find the slider and pull this the entire length of the garment.
"To some, this might seem like overkill, but if you're looking to get the best out of your ride then just like the pro-peloton, the marginal gains all add up to improve your ride and help you reach your goals.
"Such attention to detail and analysis of form and function goes into all of our pieces. As the best riders in the world start their 2,220 miles around France, they will do so in some of the warmest conditions of the year. Every year the spectacle inspires people to dust off their bikes and jump back in the saddle – but all too often, it can end in disaster because they haven't carefully selected their attire. You'll be happy to know that even the pros aren't totally immune to this - famously, three-time Tour winner Chris Froome was badly sunburnt after wearing an aero suit with mesh material that didn't offer any UV protection.
"Our super-lightweight Bleed Print Jersey is designed for those rides when the summer sun seems like your enemy. The material will wick away moisture from the skin so you can keep riding through the heat, while the bi-fabric construction uses an Italian Lycra designed to offer 50 SPF sun protection without adding to the weight of the garment. The open-knit mesh under the arms also allows cool air to flow between the jersey and the skin. The end result is a top that lets you concentrate on the challenges ahead, rather then irritations from sweat or sunburn.
"Technological clothing is at the heart of what we do, but Huez also delivers an elegant and modern aesthetic. Historically, cycling clothing derived it's look directly from the designs of the pros - often scattered with logos and bright colours to attract the attention of the cameras and fans lining the roads. We wanted to carry the same elegance and personality through our designs that you would find at the best fashion houses. For this, we partnered with Nick Bond, a graduate of Central St Martins, London, who had experience working with brands such as Paul Smith but was also an avid cyclist and could understand their needs.
"It's with Nick's help that we also recently launched our first women's collection. The sport was previously the domain of men, but in recent years women's cycling has grown at a tremendous rate and with it, a greater desire to look good on a bike. Where some brands simply "pink it and shrink it" for their women's collection, we have created specific patterns to work with the female form, while also building in our technical know-how to the range. Our Bia Jersey is the perfect example of this.
"So, if you happen to glance at the TV in the next few weeks and see the remarkable spectacle of the Tour de France, know that the technology that has derived from the heights of the sport is now available for cyclists of all abilities - the ideal collection in which to reach your goals when you set out on your next two-wheeled adventure. "
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