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  • Mark Smith

No Pulling the Wool

I received a typically minimalist message the other day from bike pal Robert, a man of few words but some determination. The email contained a link to a story about the continuing downfall of Team Sky, whose leaders Chris Froome and Bradley Wiggins are now found to have knowingly pedaled a fine line between immorality and legality in their pursuit of glory. The team apparently abused a loophole known as the TUE, or Temporary Use Exemption, which was originally conceived to allow cyclists suffering from non-performance related ailments to use certain otherwise illegal substances. “I think Rapha knew and got out just in time, smart,” said Robert’s message, a tad elliptical as usual. Robert knows I’ve got a bug under my skin about Rapha, the cycling apparel company that built an international reputation for hip gear, craftily conjuring a retro-cool image by associating itself with Raphael Geminiani, the Franco-Italian bike racer and bike maker of Tour de France legend. I stopped buying Rapha gear when I realized that it’s all made in China. I even wrote to Rapha’s marketing director to explain my decision and ask why they don’t manufacture in Europe. He wrote back saying they couldn’t find any contractors on the European continent capable of producing clothing of equivalent quality. He even denied that Rapha’s primary reason for manufacturing in China was economic—an argument that goes down about as easily as a golf ball. So Robert’s message—“Rapha knew and got out just in time”—was a reference to the fact that the clothing maker, a high-profile supplier of Team Sky, dropped its sponsorship at the end of 2016, just before Rapha began considering an acquisition offer from French luxury goods group LVMH. The suggestion was that Rapha management knew about Team Sky’s bending of the substance abuse rules and ducked out before their name was sullied. Perhaps it makes sense that a company good at building a name would also be good at protecting it. Anyway, I recently discovered a nifty cycling apparel company that, until proven otherwise, manufactures with a conscience. It’s called PEdal ED. Its gear is stylish, functional, high quality…and it’s all manufactured in Italy, where today’s cycle-cool movement was born, arguably. PEdal ED’s web site says, “We want to make the most comfortable and long-lasting garments on the market. Garments you will love and recommend.” Now there’s an honorable goal, stated frankly.

Team Sky has been ubiquitous in the Tour these last several years, with even its lesser members often finishing remarkably well. Hmmm.

Here's some of the smooth, subtle wheelman wear typically peddled by PEdal ED.

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