Rudy Project North America, exclusive distributors of Italian-made endurance sports gear, are proud to have supported teams Bahrain-Merida, Trek-Segafredo, and Lotto-Soudal with award-winning helmets and eyewear through the 2018 Tour de France. Cyclists battled the elements, the road, and each other through the intense three-week race that saw grueling climbs, challenging cobblestones, and even unruly and careless fans. Rudy Project provided the three teams with the limited edition Tralyx Fade in this historic Grand Tour, as well as top of the line helmets in exclusive colors for Team Bahrain-Merida. In total, Rudy Project teams brought home a stage win and two top ten placements in the points classification, with 5 consecutive stages in the polka dot climber’s jersey for Trek-Segafredo’s Toms Skujns.
Going into the Tour de France, Lotto-Soudal was hungry for stage wins. With the legendary Andre Greipel and Thomas De Gendt leading the charge, the team led surprise breakaway efforts and fought hard for podium finishes.
Greipel came down hard in Stage 4, taking third place. De Gendt roared back with a solid effort in Stage 13, leading the breakaway off the start line and took the first intermediate sprint of the stage, even after three grueling days in the Alps that forced several of the race’s hardened sprinters to abandon the race.
Vincenzo “The Shark” Nibali came out strong and confident throughout the opening stages of the Tour, maintaining a presence near the top ten in the General Classification even after a cobble-ridden stage 9 split the peloton and resulted in lost time for several riders, including 2017 Giro d’Italia winner Tom Dumoulin. After the first rest day of the race, Nibali displayed his trademark tenacity and began to chip away at the GC contenders, climbing from the bottom of the top 20 to within striking distance of the malloit juane, with the mountains looming in the distance. Team Bahrain-Merida looked confident, with Sonny Colbrelli targeting stage wins and pushing hard to the finish line.
As the peloton climbed the legendary Alpe d’Huez, Nibali accelerated up the punishing grade through raucous crowds and smoke. The course was lined with fans on both sides of the road cheering on the riders, and then disaster struck. As Nibali pursued defending champion Chris Froome with less than 4km to go, a bystander’s camera strap caught his handlebars, sending him crashing into the pavement. Helped up by fans amid the chaos, Nibali mounted his bike, gritted his teeth, and finished the stage in 4th overall. A post-stage medical examination revealed that Nibali had fractured a vertebra and would be forced to return home for further examination and surgery. “It was confirmed that I had suffered a fractured vertebra, and tomorrow I will return home for a period of recovery,” said Nibali on Twitter. “Thank you for all your affection shown to me! Until next time…”
Even with their GC leader gone, Team Bahrain-Merida refused to throw in the towel and continued to fight hard for stage wins, with sprinter Sonny Colbrelli coming in second twice and the Izagirre brothers putting in solid performances in three mountain breakaways.
Nibali’s crash served to highlight the sport’s need for high quality helmets – the RaceMaster features dual-density Hexocrush foam and a nylon scaffolding frame, designed to absorb impacts and reduce rotational damage to the head and neck. In what is only Bahrain-Merida’s second year on the Grand Tour circuit, they performed admirably, sporting Rudy Project the entire way.
In a performance that was called the highlight of the entire Tour de France, German rider John Degenkolb stole the show with an emotional win at the end of stage 9. After a 2016 crash in which Degenkolb and five of his teammates were seriously injured, this year’s win marked the official turning point of his triumphant comeback.
In an emotional post-race interview, Degenkolb dedicated the win to a deceased friend. Struggling to stay composed, he said, “I’m so happy to dedicate this win to one of my best friends, he passed away last winter… this was really something for him. Everybody said I’m done, after this accident, and I said no, I’m not done. I have to make one big victory for this guy.” Still dusty and sweat drenched from the cobbles, Degenkolb turned right around and thanked his team, saying on Instagram, “This is a win of the whole Trek-Segafredo team. A great day for all of us.”
Latvian rider Toms Skujins had an excellent race in his own right, sporting the climber’s polka dot jersey for five stages over some of the toughest terrain the Tour had to offer. The hills came easily for him, and Skujins was overcome with joy upon getting to sport the dots for as long as he did. “The best thing is definitely the recognition,” he said in an interview with Peloton Magazine. “Not just the recognition that I am getting, but the recognition that the team is getting and that Latvia is getting… And of course it is great for the team. Everyone is excited.”
The remainder of Team Trek-Segafredo was less fortunate – Bauke Mollema dropped out of GC contention after a very painful crash but continued to stay aggressive throughout the race with the help of his team. The spirit of the team never faltered – at one point through the dust-streaked stage 9, Toms Skujins gave his special edition polka dotted Rudy Project sunglasses to team leader Bauke Mollema just so he could see past the dust, while Degenkolb thanked his team effusively for his epic stage win.
“This entire Tour was one non-stop rollercoaster ride,” said Paul Craig, Co-Founder and Co-CEO of Rudy Project North America. “It goes to show that carefully engineered and tested protective equipment is critical for our riders. I am always amazed at conditioning, commitment and endurance needed in one of the hardest races on the planet. Chapeau to all the riders!”
All Images Courtesy of Bettini Photo