The Tour de France is well underway, with some thrilling finishes, wince-inducing crashes and a few controversies already under its belt (24-inch waist).
If there's anyone who knows about how to win cycling's most prestigious prize, it's Chris Froome. Back when he rode for Team Sky, he won it no fewer than four times – whilst adding wins in the Giro d'Italia and the Vuelta a España (twice) for good measure. Times have changed since then. Froome suffered a horror crash and Team Sky is now known as 'Ineos Grenadiers' – pur-leaze.
However, the former champ is now making a comeback with new team, Israel Startup Nation (ISN). Things have admittedly not got off to a flyer, as Froome was involved in another horrendous crash in the very first stage of Tour de France 2021. However, he is soldiering on.
Speaking of comebacks: have you seen Mark Cavendish has now won THREE stages? Here is the bike and gear Cavendish is using now...
Back to Chris: with Israel Startup Nation not being the most well established team in the peloton, Chris is having to rely on some tech that is different to many of the bigger teams. In a recent video, he revealed what some of his tech picks are for the race.
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The tech helping Chris Froome bounce back
Factor Ostro VAM
No more Pinarello for this seven-time Grand Tour winner. Instead, British brand Factor provides Chris Froome's bike for the Tour de France. This doesn't look like any kind of step down, though. With the frame weighing as little as 780g, it's easy to bring the complete build in under the UCI limit of 6.8kg. A power meter and Black Inc FORTY FIVE wheels come as standard. The Ostro VAM has already been ridden to five stage wins in major tours.
I don't know anything about the bike beyond that – and I got that from the press release. However, given its price and appearance, I am going to stick my neck out and say: good pair of wheels.
Hammerhead Karoo 2
The Karoo 2 is the official cycling computer of Chris Froome's ISN team. Hammerhead is a relative newcomer to the bike computer field, taking on the likes of Garmin and Wahoo. It launched the Karoo 2 earlier this year with the intention of giving cyclists features other bike computers lacked and, to an extent, it has delivered.
Karoo 2 includes smartphone-like features, including 4G connectivity and a touchscreen keyboard, and the ability to load routes wirelessly. At a glance, I would not say there's any given feature that leaps out at me as a Garmin and Wahoo ‘killer’, but this 3.5-inch touchscreened bike computer nonetheless looks like an attractive alternative. Chris Froome was enthusiastic enough to sign up as a member of Hammerhead’s advisory board.
Chris is not the only celebrity fan of Karoo 2 – Sean Gardner, the Everesting world record holder, also swears by it; in his case, for its advanced navigation features. The Karoo 2's navigation features are not likely to be called upon during the Tour de France, unless something else goes terribly wrong.
However, Hammerhead has worked with Chris and the other ISN riders to develop features of more use to Tour pros. For instance, Froomey requested a left-right power balance monitor, which was then rolled out to all Karoo 2 users. Chris has also been taking advantage of a new feature that breaks upcoming climbs into 100M segments and colour codes them based on steepness. Speaking as an amateur, that sounds vaguely terrifying.
Okay, so I was a little surprised Chris was using this, as I think of this stylish, analogue-style watch as being a fitness tracker for people who don't want anyone to know they are wearing a fitness tracker. However, its built-in, high-quality ECG, all-day heart rate sensor and oximeter also happen to make the ScanWatch an excellent sleep tracker.
Chris apparently takes full advantage of Withings' heart health sleep score, based on sleep cycles, duration and wake-ups. Sadly, no amount of rest seems to be able to prevent him from being involved in nasty bike crashes, but that doesn't undermine the overall excellence of the Scan Watch.
Withings Body+ Smart Scale
Clearly not a man who likes to mix his operating systems, Chris also uses Withings' excellent Body+ Smart Scale. Withings claims to have invented the smart scale, and this one gives readings on your weight and body fat percentages and then extrapolates your body's water percentage, muscle mass and bone mass from them.
This info also feeds into the same app as the ScanWatch, letting Chris check his progress over time. 'Keeping track of how these are changing and increasing muscle mass helps Chris plan what food and nutrients he needs to be consuming to help his recovery,’ it says here.
I am pretty sure that Froome didn't have to rely on Withings for this kind of analysis when he was at Team Sky, but there we go. Certainly, for people who aren't pro cyclists, Withings' gear is very useful.
Super Sapiens CGM
This device measures glucose levels in real time. It's actually been banned from use in competitions, but is fine for training, and Chris has been using it to 'manage his fuel levels during high intensity workouts.' In theory, something like Super Sapiens could also be used to calculate how long after consuming an energy gel a rider should start going flat out. If you're not a pro and not diabetic, you probably don't need this.