Bring on the Tour

Have you been watching the Tour?  We sure have here at the office, and it’s certainly lived up to it’s billing as cycling’s highest drama this year.  We’ve seen highs, lows, and everything in between.  From the sublime mountain battles between Andy Schleck and Alberto Contador, to the (sometimes too feisty) sprint battles between Mark Cavendish, Alessandro Petacchi, Thor Hushovd and Tyler Farrar (although he’ll be sitting out the rest of the Tour), to the just plain bad luck of Lance Armstrong and Cadel Evans, there’s been a lot on offer for the cycling fan!

But the cool part is, there’s still a week to go before a new champion is crowned.  And the extra cool part–we’re going to have a man on the scene to report back on a first-hand experience watching the Tour! Yes, our own David is headed to France this weekend, courtesy of Europeds.  He’ll be reporting back from road daily to give you a you-are-there account of what it’s like to experience the Tour in all its glory, all part of our efforts to Celebrate the Tour.

OK, so what can you expect from our man in France?  First up on the agenda, nothing less than the Tourmalet, the highest point on the Tour this year at nearly 7,000 feet high (a mountain that caused Octave Lapize to famously call Tour officials “assasins” for making the racers climb it for the first time 100 years ago)!  David will be hopping on his trusty Fuji SL-1 to battle the beautiful but imposing slopes of the Tourmalet as the real riders of the Tour work their way down to the Pyrenees (but he will be bringing a few more gears than Lapize had at his disposal).  Of course he’ll bring his camera to document the whole experience for this blog.

Lapize didn't have a compact crank

Next up, David will tackle another famous pass in the Pyrenees, the Col d’Aubisque, but this time it will be to watch the madness that is sure to erupt on Stage 16 of the Tour.  David will be in amongst the throngs that line the mountain roads of the Tour, to watch riders up close and personal, but also to take in the whole atmosphere that comes along with this great traveling spectacle (including the massive publicity caravan both before and after the racers fly by).

The Tour riders have a rest day after Stage 16, so David will take this opportunity to explore the countryside with Europeds to take in the scenic beauty on offer in this southernmost part of France.  But the next day the Tour is back in action, so David will be there to check out what should be quite the battle on Stage 17 (as the route heads back to the Tourmalet for a summit finish).  This could be the spot where the Tour is decided this year, but as a special bonus David will get you some behind-the-scenes access this day, to get a little taste of what it takes to make a Tour team tick.

After the battles of the Pyrenees, the Tour winds it way to the wine country of Bordeaux.  The individual time trial of Stage 19 will mark the last real chance that anyone will have to sway the balance of the Tour, if there is any doubt after the epic mountain battles in the Pyrenees.  Of course David will be there at the finish, to watch the riders rocket to the finish in a last grasp for glory.

So are you excited yet?  David sure is, and he’s ready to share this whole experience with you.  Check the Performance Bicycle Blog daily for updates from France, and let David know in the comments if you’ve got any tips or questions while he’s on the road.  Like we said, it’s time to bring on the Tour!

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Scattante Stories Grand Prize Winner – Gil

So without further adieu, it’s finally time to share our Scattante Stories Giveaway Grand Prize winner.  As we said before, we were thoroughly impressed by all of the funny, heartfelt, and inspiring Scattante Stories that we received.  It made for a very difficult process to pick our winner, but we had to pick one story to win our Grand Prize of a 2010 Scattante CFR Comp Road Bike, Scattante Spyder Road Helmet, Scattante Team Short Sleeve Jersey, Scattante Airfino Bib Short, Scattante Matrix Multi-Lens Eyewear, Scattante Race Gloves, and Scattante Race Socks, and our winner was Gil!

Gil’s Scattante Story is a simple but touching story of a father and son reconnecting by bike and enjoying their time together out on the road.  So congratulations Gil, we hope you enjoy your new bike and all the adventures you’ll have with your son while riding your new Scattante (we’ve heard a rumor that his son Alec will get to take over Gil’s R330)!

My Scattante story is one about a father trying to stay connected to his 13 year old son.

Alec has gotten into fixed-gear cycling in a big way over the past year and he’s really into his riding track bike. It’s been great watching him get into riding, customizing and maintaining his bike. It reminded me about when I was into road biking when I was a teenager. I often watched him take off with friends with a mixed feeling of pride and a bit of loneliness — yes, loneliness.

Alec’s rides were taking him farther and farther away from home. On weekends he’d be out riding with friends from morning til dark. It felt like a metaphor for a son growing up and asserting his independence. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe this is a bad thing, but sill as a dad, I felt our days of bonding over play were coming to an end. He had no interest in trips to the park, the zoo or bowling — the things we typically did before.

Part of me wanted to join him, but I had no bike that could keep up — I don’t count the ‘delivery bike’ that has been a fixture in our garage for the past 10 years and had become a bit of a family joke. When he came home, Alec would share his adventures with me. I would wax nostalgic about my 1982 Schwinn. Alec would meekly suggest I should get a new road bike. I would respond with a non-committal grunt. A fixed gear bike seemed too hardcore for me. A road bike?… At that point I moved the conversation onto the next subject.

Finally two months ago, I built up enough resolve to go into Performance Bike and walked out with the Scattante R330. I was impressed at the lightness, the smooth shifting Shimano Sora gears and the overall comfort for a road bike. I was amazed at how much bikes have changed since my 1982 Schwinn. After a few trial runs getting used to riding, I was ready. Alec and I went out on a ride together for the first time in years.

We both enjoyed road biking together a ton. We took a ride out to the beach together and cruised up PCH. We had lunch. We raced. We saw snakes along the side of the road. We spotted three Ferraris. It was an awesome day for the two of us.

Well let me tell you — Alec and I are now taking rides together 2-3 times a week. Night rides (with lights of course) beach rides, sprints, you name it. For the first time in years, I feel like we are “playing” together. He’s excited to talk to me about cycling, bikes and about planning our next adventures.

I don’t feel like I got my little boy back — instead I feel like I now have something even better. A rich, dynamic relationship with my teenage son, and ample opportunities to bond over shared adventures. My Scattante R330 has played a big part in bringing my son and I closer together.

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Scattante Stories – Chris

Another favorite Scattante Story entry was this tale from Chris.  For sheer poetic imagery, this story of a ride on the beautiful Skyline Drive was hard to beat, so we couldn’t help sharing it with the rest of you.

We’d thought something was wrong, opening the door to find a park ranger pointing at our vehicle in the nearby parking lot.

“Is that your vehicle?” Ranger Simmons asked my wife.

It turned out Simmons wasn’t so much interested in the SUV as he was my Scattante R650 bolted to the roof rack. In particular, he wanted to know if the owner of the bicycle was, in his words, “as capable as the ride.”

After talking about some of the rides I’d knocked out earlier in the week, he asked if I’d be game for an early morning run along Skyline Drive, the spine of the park and the reason for our visit.

We made a plan to set out at 5 a.m. the following morning, and he said that he’d stop back later with something I needed for a safe ride.

We slipped out of the parking area at 5:15, under a full moon and nearly two hours before sunrise. We each had a nifty bar zip-tied to the handlebars above the stem, featuring two bright LED beams and two things that he described as ‘deer whistles’.

We sprang out onto the drive, banking through turns and running up hills past overlooks and the low stone walls that define Skyline.

With our breathing often the only noise I could hear, Simmons explained during one descent that the purpose of the deer whistles was to emit a high frequency noise that White-Tailed deer in the area would hear. “You don’t want to crash into one of them driving, and you certainly don’t want to hit one without a front bumper and an airbag!” I wasn’t sure if he was joking, insane or serious until we rounded one of the furthest corners approaching a ‘bald’, or clearing that my wife mentioned as a nice picnic location on our drive in to the park.

Traveling at 25, 27 mph, I didn’t realize at first that we’d startled a grouping of four does that were working their way down the hillside to our left. They were still on the right of way and slightly in front of and to the left of me. Simmons was to my right, and looked over at me with the grin of a shark about to grab a seal. “Ready?” was all he asked.

At that invitation and challenge, I switched gears for a sprint and took a deep breath of clean mountain morning air. I’ve wondered since if the air I was inhaling didn’t contain the exhaled breath of one of the deer, or vice versa, for as the deer broke for the clearing we were on their tails, literally drafting as they approached their peak speeds. Simmons was nearly growling through clenched teeth, urging me on faster, and moments after we overtook the deer, they broke from us, danced over a low stone wall and into the clearing.

Within seconds they were gone, the moment forever burned into my memory.

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