Eighteen weeks into 2014 and events have yet to slow down.

With the Grande Partenza of the Giro d’Italia set to roll out in Ireland, the Grand Départ of the Tour de France scheduled for Yorkshire, and the Commonwealth Games pledged to Glasgow, we knew we had a busy year in prospect. Nothing so far has changed our estimation.

A trip to the Dolomites to ride with Alberto Contador was one of the many onerous tasks confronted by the staff at RCUK Towers in the last seven days

In the last seven days, we’ve reported on the final race of the Ardennes Classics, taken delivery of LOOK’s stunning 675 Light, considered aloud our favourite aspects of Strava, got the low down on cycling shoes from Jules and James at Cyclefit, and thought about ways to survive the spring showers.

We’ve delivered a verdict on the Tifosi CK8 Duro, offered our early thoughts on the Koga Solacio and Sportful’s new R&D kit, and made a trip to the Italian brand’s Dolomites HQ to ride with a certain multiple Grand Tour winner, El Pistolero himself, Alberto Contador.

If your week has been anything like as busy as ours, a single handy post with our best bits from the last seven days might be of use. Well, here it is. Get up to speed with all our news, reviews, interviews and more over the following pages at your leisure - it’s the weekend, after all.

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[part title="Buyer’s guide: cycling shoes"]

Buyer’s guide: cycling shoes

If the shoe fits…

Choosing a pair of cycling shoes can be a tricky task and there’s far more to consider than merely the stiffness of the sole. No two riders’ feet are the same and expert advice is often needed to find a pair that are comfortable and effective – remember, the shoe serves a biomechanical purpose and is more akin to a component of the bicycle than a piece of clothing.

Cycling shoes come in all shapes, sizes, and materials. Which to choose? We asked the experts at Cyclefit for our latest Buyer's Guide

As luck would have it, we had expert advice to hand in the form of Jules Wall and James Hewitt of London’s Cyclefit. When Tour of Flanders winner, Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing) needs a shoe fit, he calls Jules. And James is a sport scientist with a specialism in power output – all of which is transmitted through the foot. Who better then to ask?

Follow this link to our detailed look at a host of considerations for choosing a pair of cycling shoes in our latest buyer’s guide.

[part title="Top five climbs of the Pyrenees"]

Top five climbs of the Pyrenees

RCUK’s sportive guru, Mike Cotty, is a man who knows a thing or two about the Pyrenees. He once rode non-stop for nearly 700km across its vertiginous peaks and terrifying descents, so when we asked Mike to share his top five Pyrenean cols, he wasn’t stuck for choice. Cottydale is a rider who knows what of he speaks.

The Pyrenees is littered with iconic climbs. Mike Cotty picked out five 'must ride' climbs for us.  pic: ©Media24

Pyrenees sign, pic: Media25, submitted by Mike Cotty, used with permission

His selections included some of the most famous climbs in cycling, complete with distances and altitudes for the various approaches that can be made to each. First-hand knowledge is a precious commodity, and Mike has it in spades. Luckily for all of us, you can find it on the pages of RCUK.

Follow this link to see Mike’s ‘must ride’ climbs of the Pyrenees.

[part title="LOOK 675 Light"]

LOOK 675 Light

Regular RCUK readers will know that we hold the French brand LOOK in high esteem. Inventors of the clipless pedal, and with integration between chassis and components seemingly uppermost in their thoughts, they are one of the few genuinely innovative brands in cycling. When we unboxed the 675 Light earlier this week, it was with a keen sense of anticipation.

The LOOK 675 Light was the latest machine through the gates of RCUK Towers

LOOK 675 Light, pic: Timothy John, ©Factory Media

The machine we’ll be testing in the weeks ahead is the more slender sibling of the French firm’s 675 endurance bike and a striking machine it is too, with the semi-integrated handlebar stem continuing the line of the top tube. We’ll be racking up the miles on this French fancy in the weeks ahead, but we’ve started the ball rolling with a ‘first look’ article – a detailed inspection, with tech specs and pricing.

Follow this link to our early thoughts on the LOOK 675 Light.

[part title="Giro d’Italia preview"]

Giro d’Italia preview

From Belfast to the Dolomites, this year’s Giro d’Italia looks set to be a classic. Three stages will be held on the island of Ireland, with the first – a team time trial in Belfast city centre – now less than a week away. Excitement is mounting on both sides on the border, with images of pink sheep, horses, and even fish and chips posted on Twitter as the arrival of the corsa rosa  draws closer.

The Giro d'Italia, one of the biggest prizes in cycling, is now less than a week away. Read how the teams have been gearing up for the Belfast Big Start pic: ©Sirotti

Vincenzo Nibali, Giro d'Italia 2013, podium, ©Stefano Sirotti

More serious business is at hand, however. With the likes of  2011 Tour de France winner, Cadel Evans (BMC Racing), and Colombian climbing sensations, Nairo Quintana (Movistar), runner-up at last year’s Tour de France, and Rigoberto Uran (OPQS), runner-up at last year’s Giro, among the favourites, a thrilling contest is all but guaranteed.

Throw in Irishmen Dan Martin (Garmin Sharp), who came within 300m of defending his Liege-Bastogne-Liege title, before being robbed by a crash, and Nico Roche (Tinkoff-Saxo), and the home fans will have much to cheer during the three-stage Grande Partenza.

Follow this link to our detailed preview, in which we consider the key stages and key contenders.

[part title="Six things we love about Strava"]

Six things we love about Strava

When Paris-Roubaix winners start posting their times on the race’s hellish cobbled secteurs as Strava segments, you know that cycling’s favourite GPS service has become a bona fide phenomenon. Niki Terpstra is the latest pro cyclist to record his efforts on the ride-logging service, although being handed the cobbled trophy in the Roubaix velodrome was perhaps a surer sign that no-one had gone faster on that particular 258km outing.

Cycling's premier social networking/ride tracking tool is a bona fide phenomenen. Our man George Scott celebrated his six favourites things about Strava.

Strava logo

Our man George Scott is one of thousands of cyclists who’ve found their experience on the bike – and afterwards – enhanced by Strava’s social functions and the ability to analyse ride data from the comfort of the sofa. Follow this link to George’s six favourite things about Strava and his suggestions for a few minor improvements. Have you joined the RCUK Strava club yet? What are you waiting for?

[part title="Tifosi CK8 Duro review"]

Tifosi CK8 Duro review

Titanium is a material seemingly blessed with magical properties in the opinion of some, able to deliver a wonderfully smooth ride with none of the harshness associated with some carbon frames. It’s incredible strength to weight ratio is another plus, as is the hardness of the tubing and its ability to resist corrosion.

Tifosi CK8 Duro road bike (Pic: George Scott/Factory Media)

Tifosi CK8 Duro road bike (Pic: George Scott/Factory Media)

With all this in mind, the Tifosi CK8 Duro that arrived at RCUK Towers for test in March had much to live up to. After six weeks of solid testing we were ready to deliver a verdict on its ride quality: the smoothness or otherwise, its handling, abilities on climbs and descents, and more.

Follow this link to our thoughts on the chassis, the components and, most importantly, the ride.

[part title="Racing round-up"]

Racing round-up

It’s the time of year when it’s accurate to report that the season is already in full swing and, if anything, about to get busier. Just ask Mark Cavendish. Three times a winner already this week at the Tour of Turkey, taking his tally for the season to six victories, the British road race champion already looks well placed to launch an effective campaign to win back the Tour de France green jersey he last wore in Paris in 2011. But who must he overcome to win?  Follow this link to find out.

Mark Cavendish was in scintillating form at the Tour of Turkey. pic: Tim de Waele/OPQS

Mark Cavendish, Tour of Turkey 2014, stage two, pic: OPQS/Tim de Waele, submitted by Alessandro Tegner, used with permission

Speaking of Cavendish, the Manx Missile will form part of a British Invasion of America later this month when he and Britain’s other cycling superstar, Bradley Wiggins, head to the Tour of California. Can these two charismatic and defiantly clean riders restore America’s faith in cycling after the damage done by Armstrong, Landis, Hamilton et al? We consider the evidence here.

Liege-Bastogne-Liege brought down the curtain on the Spring Classics last Sunday and with Dan Martin deprived of a second consecutive victory at La Doyenne by the cruelest fortune we were left with much to consider about the nature of professional sport, the Irishman’s status, and more. Read our five observations here and relieve the race through the images of Stefano Sirotti.

And then there is the Tour de Romandie. With Britain’s Chris Froome pipped on the line at the end of stage three and now separated from the yellow jersey by a single second, the Tour de France champion looks well placed to defend his Romandie crown. Follow this link to all our coverage of the race so far, including reports, galleries, and post-stage analysis.

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