Paris-Roubaix champ: ‘It’s a bit out there but I fell in love with it’

Pic: GettySport
To hear 2016 winner Mat Hayman affectionately describe Paris-Roubaix’s brutal cobble stoning of bike and bone as “a bit special”, is to comprehend a little of the reverence in which the toughest of cycling’s five one-day monuments is held among (most of) the cycling community.

“Some riders get really hooked on it,” the 43-year-old Australian tells The Draft. “It’s the one race of the year they live for. It’s a bit special, it’s a bit out there but I fell in love with the it.”

The same can’t be said for all who’ve attempted Roubaix. Even though the Frenchman Bernard ‘the Badger’ Hinault, was in 1981 one of the few Grand Tour GC (general classification) riders to raise the famous mounted cobble trophy in the Roubaix velodrome, he only rode the race three times and later declared it “une connerie” – a bullshit race basically.

The Badger, like many others who have given Roubaix the swerve over the decades, turned his snout up at the random way 50+ kilometres of roughhewn, cobble stone farmer’s paths could cause punctures, mechanicals and crashes, not to mention a bodily jackhammering from hell.

Not Hayman, who even in Roubaix pavé royalty terms, is a bit special, sharing the record of 16 completed ‘Roubaixs’ (pl. Roubeaux?😬) with the Belgian Raymond Impanis (1947-1963) and Dutchman Servais Knaven (1995-2010).

“I liked it,” the Belgium-based Bike Exchange sporting director says by phone as he prepared to recon some of the pavé sections of this year’s 258k jaunt north to the Belgian border with his 7-man team this week. “But then I tended to be better at it than most.”

More here.

Neobanks: What next for the new challengers to African legacy banking?

 

Africa-focused neobanks are riding the wave of online banking’s growing global influence and are attracting big investment, creating another challenger beyond mobile money for legacy banks. But can they be any more successful in serving the unbanked than traditional counterparts?

Two of the biggest African neobanks are taking big strides: Kuda in Nigeria and TymeBank in South Africa.

South Africa founded TymeBank, which recently moved its headquarters to Singapore, in February won $109 million in funding from British and Philippine investors, including Apis Partners and the Gokongwei Group. In August, Kuda received $55m in a third funding round that valued the neobank at $500m – making it the 7th biggest among all Nigerian banks.
Africa’s fintech funding frontrunners Other payments and loan-focused fintechs attracting investment are: Nigerian payments operation OPay ($170m);Ugandan firm Chipper Cash ($152m); Cellulant (payments, Kenya, $54m); PalmPay (payments, Nigeria, $40m), Migo (loans, Nigeria, $37m); Paga (payments, Nigeria, $32m); OneFi (loans, Nigeria, $16m) and Paystack (payments, Nigeria, $12m). Between them, the Nigerian-dominated top-10 have raised almost $750m in 36 unique funding rounds. Source: Digest Africa

The intersection of high mobile phone penetration and mass numbers of unbanked or underbanked Africans are key drivers to neobank and fintech customer growth.

But Africa still lags other continents in neobanking exposure – less than 20 of the world’s 300+ neobanks are African-focused.

“The top funding guys in Africa are still behind some of the numbers you’re seeing in Europe, in Asia, in South America,” said Barcelona-based Exton Consulting analyst Lance Daniels, who co-authored a recent report on global neobanking movements.

African neobanks, he said, are attracting many first-time banking clients compared to Europe where the focus is converting customers to digital-only. “It’s still ramping up in Africa whereas a lot of other markets are reaching neobank saturation,” he added.

More here.

Press the pedals & mess with your stress

Pic: Eliseo Hernández


Use your noggin: Moving meditation

Physiologists, neurologists and other scientists have explored and documented why exercise forms like bike riding are so beneficial for mental health: from mood-boosting cannabinoid and endorphin release to the proliferation of proteins like the onerously titled brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and wonderfully named compound, noggin – both of which promote brain cell growth and better cognitive fluidity (which can help reduce stress).

Cycling has also been shown to reduce levels of stress-inducing chemicals like cortisol and adrenaline.

More prosaic benefits include cardiovascular regulation, skill and goal attainment (which boosts confidence and can reduce stress) and communing with nature and other riders.

“Just cruising on your bike, feeling the wind, even the rain, hearing the birds and just trying to connect with the feelings of your legs pedalling will be of great help for boosting your mind,” says Luxembourg-based Delphine Dard-Pourrat, a behavioural economist, yoga teacher, cyclist and fellow Haute Route bike race ambassador.

More here.

Vertical farmers to launch eco-standard as organics sector digs in on soil

Image by sippakorn yamkasikorn from Pixabay

Frustrated vertical farmers will launch a global sustainability standard in 2021 after years of campaigning failed to budge the EU from its soil-based organic fixation. 

The German-based Association for Vertical Farming (AVF), which has about 150 members worldwide, will present the standard/seal to its members at a September meeting in Munich, AVF chairwoman Christine Zimmermann-Loessl tells FoodIngredientsFirst.

It is intended the certification will be in play by year’s end.

“For many years, we have tried to explain the benefits of vertical farming to regulators in the EU and other countries; to show we are an ally of the organic movement, not a competitor or an enemy,” Zimmermann-Loessl says.

More here.

Italians crack down on COVID-19 claims abuse

Photo by Angel Sinigersky on Unsplash
Italy’s primary food supplements group is taking action to protect the EU’s biggest and most dynamic market from a surge in misleading coronavirus-linked immunity claims.

Federsalus, a 230-strong group of institutional and commercial organisations operating in the food supplements sector, told NutraIngredients it was “taking very seriously”​ the 200+ infringements logged in the country since the pandemic began and was engaging with its members and the broader Italian food supplements sector, as well as regulators and EU law experts to tackle the problem.

The trade group told members to remove any online or offline marketing that suggested any nutrient or supplement could treat or prevent coronavirus or risk expulsion from Federsalus, not to mention penalties that can run to millions of euros from Italy’s Competition and Market Authority (AGCM).

“We are committed to the fight against these kinds of false claims because Italy has the most important supplements market in Europe – we have to protect it,” ​Federsalus director general Madi Gandolfo said. “In some cases it is companies misinterpreting the health claims law and quickly remedied, in other cases other actions might be required.”

Italy’s €1.6 billion food supplements market dwarfs the next biggest in Europe: Russia at €1.08bn; Germany with €967m and the UK with €755m, according to analyst Statista.

More here.