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the helmet he will wear in his at – Rouleur

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If you've found professional cycling a little predictable over the past few weeks, one of the most exciting and longest-running competitions is now set to resume when the Tour de France starts in Florence on June 29.

If Tadej Pogačar continues to ride as he did at the Giro d'Italia, it is hard to imagine anyone being able to stop him from completing a Giro-Tour double. Whether Mark Cavendish, on the other hand, will win his 35th Tour de France stage and beat Eddy Merckx's record is one of the great unknowns. It is a prospect that cycling fans have waited for many years, as the once-volatile Isle of Man's sprinting power inevitably waned with age. He is now 39, and despite injuries, setbacks, team collapses and even not making the team, he has come tantalisingly close to the magical 35 wins. In 1994, George Foreman became world heavyweight champion at the age of 45 when he knocked out Michael Moorer, 19 years his junior. Can Mark Cavendish turn back time in 2024, repeat his own legendary shot and cross the finish line as the greatest Tour stage winner of all time?

Limar Air Atlas Cavendish on black base

Italian brand Limar is Astana's helmet sponsor and in March its CEO presented Cavendish with this special limited edition “white gold” version of the Air Atlas aero helmet he has worn this season. On the right side of the helmet is a small gold France, the iconic hexagon around a number 34, which of course represents his total number of Tour stage wins. On the right side is a square in the UCI World Championship colours and in the middle is a number 4. Cavendish won the 2011 Road World Championship in Copenhagen, but he is also a three-time Madison World Champion on the track, his first victory coming in 2005 at the age of 19.

Limar Air Atlas Mark Cavendish UFO tail

On the back, the Air Atlas features a removable tail called UFO – on this limited version of the helmet, the UFO is completely gold and very eye-catching.

construction

Limar says this is the “fastest and best ventilated helmet” and that aerodynamic computer simulations, numerous wind tunnel tests and collaboration with the Astana team led to the final result, which it describes as “astonishing”. In its tests, Limar claims that at 50 km/h the Air Atlas saves 1.4 watts over the next fastest Limar aero helmet, the Air Speed. Cavendish is significantly faster than 50 km/h in full flight and therefore saves more watts. No data is provided for testing with or without the removable UFO section, but it is safe to assume that the helmet with the UFO will be faster because it is a fairing that extends the chord length of the helmet.

Limar Air Atlas Mark Cavendish side vent ventilation

The UFO doesn't affect ventilation, as the Air Atlas' cooling system works like that of most modern helmets: inlets at the front of the helmet let in air, which is forced through constricted channels over the top of the head, where it is accelerated by the Venturi effect and exits the back of the helmet to rejoin the airflow over the top with minimal turbulence. For an aero helmet, the Air Atlas is hugely ventilated, with seven slots at the front, four NACA vents in the middle, and six at the back.

Limar Air Atlas – Mark Cavendish inside

The Air Fit Evo closure features five height settings for the most comfortable position of the mount on the back of the head, a magnetic Fidlock buckle and adjustable “wings” (the straps) over the ears.

The weight of the size L is 282g without the UFO tail and 315g with it – a little more than the stated weight of 260g. I tested the version without MIPS, but the MIPS version weighs the same. Aside from the extra grams, the weight minus the UFO is about right for a high-end aero helmet.

Performance

I found it very straightforward and quick to find a comfortable fit, with no uneven strap lengths in front or behind the ears, the strap dividers sit symmetrically and flat against the cheeks and the chin strap is correct. In particular, the adjustability of the straps around the ears is really excellent. The Air Atlas sits relatively low on the head – it's always a relief to avoid the mushroom shape, and it probably makes it more aerodynamic too.

At the time of writing we haven't had any sweltering hot days in the UK so I can't claim to have tested the Air Atlas' ventilation to the limit. However, it does feel like there is a lot of air leaking in at the front of the helmet and having worn the Abus GameChanger since the first version I can say that the Limar probably has better ventilation. I'm also currently testing the latest Specialized Propero 4 which aims for both ventilation and aerodynamics and would say that the Air Atlas easily matches that. I would have no concerns about overheating in the Limar and can safely say that it won't be necessary to wear a helmet with better ventilation on hot days.

Of course I can't comment on its aerodynamic performance and Limar's own data only compares it to another Limar helmet, but it is quiet and stable in the wind. I was also pleased to see that the external front vents work very efficiently as sunglasses ports. The glasses stay in place without sliding forward and you can easily tuck the temples into the helmet without having to make multiple attempts at tucking them in.

Diploma

Personally, I'd like to see the '34' upgraded to the '35' in France's small silhouette and I'll be watching closely and encouraging Cavendish to do so. In the meantime, I'm sure the Air Atlas won't stop him – it's a pro helmet that's comfortable, breathable, aerodynamic and stylish. It's not the lightest but there's just a touch of difference between it and some of the lighter aero helmets on the market.

The price of £214 for the MIPS version and £185 for the non-MIPS version is also reasonable – the S-Works Evade 3, for example, costs £250, while the MET Trenta 3K, as worn by Pogacarcosts £290. There are of course standard colourways available if you don't want to look like a Cavendish fan. I for one will be wearing it proudly this summer as I sprint towards every street sign.

For further details please visit the Limar website.