CHRIS Froome has lit up this year's Tour de France, and remains the favourite to win in Paris, but his choice of hat is threatening to create the next big scandal in cycling. Across the sport, purists are campaigning for winners to rescue the traditional cycling cap from the tyranny of its baseball counterpart.
Nearly all victorious riders step onto the podium wearing American caps bearing sponsor names. But for the leader of the "caps not hats" campaign, only cotton and short brims properly honour the sport's heritage.
"One thing I love about cycling is the odd traditions that still exist no matter how hi-tech it get," says Bill Strickland, a cycling writer. "The cycling cap is one of these so it seems a shame that on the podium, the showcase for the race, you always see baseball hats."
Strickland's campaign has taken off online and has had key support from Mark Cavendish and his teammate, Tony Martin. But all other teams snub the headwear favoured by generations of cyclists. The Belgian Eddy Merckx was among those who donned caps with distinction, drawing a classic image of cycling more recently embraced by urban cyclists on fixed-gear bikes. Caps are still used under helmets to keep out rain, but most pros now won't be seen wearing them in public.
Strickland is particularly disappointed with Team Sky, whose kit is supplied by Rapha, the London brand that helped create a boom in interest in cycling's sartorial heritage. But its boss, Simon Mottram, supports Strickland's campaign. "We definitely favour caps and have sent the team hundreds of the things but it's up to them what they wear," he says.
Will Froome do the right thing on Sunday and reach for a cap when, all being well, he greets fans on the Champs-Elysées? Alas not, says Fran Millar, a Team Sky manager and sister of David Millar, another cap refusenik: "We developed three different caps but young riders tend to have a different idea of what's cool and the majority insisted on hats. At the end of the day, we want to keep them happy."