Women’s Pro Cycling: La Course by Le Tour de France

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La Course by Le Tour de France

The upcoming La Course by Le Tour de France race is going to shine a spotlight on women’s pro cycling, as top women’s teams will be competing on the same finishing circuit in Paris just hours before the final stage of the men’s Tour de France, including the famous finish on the Champs Elysees. While this 90km race is not the same as having a full 3 week Grand Tour, holding it on the same day and location as the final stage of the men’s race means that it will get coverage for an elite women’s race unlike anything that’s happened before. We are excited to watch a great race and see an emphasis on women’s pro cycling – especially the Optum Pro Cycling presented by Kelly Benefit Strategies team racing on their Diamondback bikes!

Equal pay for equal pain

A few weeks ago we got the opportunity to see some of these pro cyclists in action at the Philly Cycling Classic, one of the toughest one day races on the women’s cycling calendar. The slogan of the race was “equal pay for equal pain”, as the men’s and women’s races featured equal prize money. The race was a fantastic showcase for women’s cycling, with a closely fought competition only settled on the last climb of the Manayunk Wall, when Evelyn Stevens pulled out victory in a ferocious sprint.

Q+A session with top female pros at the Philly Cycling Classic

Q+A session with top female pros at the Philly Cycling Classic

Importance of sponsoring women’s pro cycling

One of the most interesting parts of the weekend was the chance to hear directly from the pros at a question and answer session before the race. Before the cyclists spoke, Karen Bliss, Vice President of Marketing for Fuji, talked about how important it was for Fuji to sponsor riders and teams – for product development, brand recognition, and authority in the cycling world. Fuji puts a special focus on supporting and developing women’s teams because they see the potential for growth – Karen is an accomplished former professional rider herself, a seven-time national champion on the road and track, and sits on the UCI women’s cycling commission. Also speaking was Lisa Nutter, the wife of the Mayor of Philadelphia – she is an avid cyclist and a huge advocate for cycling in Philadelphia. Mrs. Sutter got back into cycling in her 40s, and now seriously competes on the track and the road – she was a big influence on the “equal pay for equal pain” idea.

 Can we compete with the men? We’d like to find out!

As the pros got the chance to answer questions, it became clear that they are just as dedicated, motivated and competitive as the male pros, but their opportunities for exposure and financial success were not the same. Alison Powers, the current US national road, criterium and time trial champion, spoke about there needed to be a change of mindset for cycling fans, promoters, and her fellow female pros – they needed to create an expectation for better treatment and improved exposure. This would lead to better teams, races, and opportunities to grow the sport. Her fellow pros train as much as the men, 8-20 hours a week, but they don’t train for the same distance since the UCI limits their races to 140km. When asked if female pros could compete in a men’s race, Powers and other replied that if they did train for the same distance as the men, they could probably hang in the race – maybe not to the end, but they’d like the chance to find out!

So the biggest difference between the men and women pro riders was in the opportunities they had to succeed. When asked if they also worked full time in addition to their racing, almost every pro in attendance raised her hand to say that they had to work another job – this might be expected at a lower level men’s team, but these were some of the top women’s teams in the world. That’s why the opportunity to showcase their talent at a showcase as big as La Course by Le Tour de France is such a big deal. We hope that it opens some doors, and some eyes, for just how entertaining women’s pro cycling can be.

What do you think would improve the acceptance of women’s pro cycling?

Ridley In Yellow

Tony Gallopin's custom painted Ridley Helium SL celebrates his wearing of the Yellow Leaders Jersey

Tony Gallopin’s custom painted Ridley Helium SL celebrates his wearing of the Yellow Leaders Jersey

On behalf of Performance Bicycle, we’d like to congratulate Tony Gallopin and the entire Lotto-Belisol team for capturing the Yellow Jersey at the Tour de France yesterday. After a hard day of riding, Gallopin was able to take the overall lead of the race from Vincenzo Nibali (Astana). Few professional riders will ever have the honor to earn the Yellow leader’s jersey at The Tour, and Gallopin definitely earned it with an amazing ride that saw him finish over 8 minutes ahead of most of the other riders.

It’s a huge accomplishment, and a career-defining moment for Gallopin.

To honor the occasion, Ridley painted up a special bike for Tony. Joachim Aerts, founder and CEO of Ridley, came into the office late on Sunday to personally select, prep, and paint a Ridley Helium SL in Ridley‘s new “retro” paint scheme.. They worked fast, and managed to hand-deliver the bike to the team to be built up for the start of the next stage of the race today (Monday, 14 July).

Check out his new bike below.

Shop for Bikes of the Tour

Shop for Bikes of the Tour

Want to learn more? Check out our articles below.

Ridden and Reviewed: Lazer Sports Z1 Helmet

The Z1 in action in Belgium

Testing the Z1 in Belgium

Back in April we got a chance to visit Lazer Sports at their headquarters in Antwerp, Belgium to check out their Lazer Z1 helmet. This brand-new helmet is designed to improve performance, enhance safety, and keep the rider cooler.

We first got a chance to try it out during the Ronde van Vlaanderen Sportif, and have been giving it a longer term test drive over the last few months in a variety of conditions.

About The Z1

When designing the Z1, Lazer created a whole new line of helmets, instead of just improving on previous models. While the helmet retains Lazer’s signature look and the Roll-Sys basket suspension system, it goes in a wholly new direction from previous helmets. Lazer has traditionally focused on making very lightweight helmets, but with the Z1 they looked at ways they could improve on safety and aerodynamics, while still retaining their fabled lightweight.

The biggest safety improvement is the T-Pro design. The T-Pro is an area of the front of the helmet that comes down further to better protect the temples in the event of a fall, and offer better side impact protection. In studying how cyclists fall when they crash, Lazer’s designers realized that the temples, one of the most vulnerable parts of the head, were under-protected by existing helmet designs.

The Z1 also has a redesigned vent layout that helps channel around the head to keep you cool, the Advanced Roll-Sys adjustment system, and an integrated airfoil wing to improve aerodynamics. The back of the helmet also functions as a “glasses garage” for Lazer-brand sunglasses.

The buckle is also compatible with Lazer’s Café Lock, which lets you use your helmet as a (very) temporary bike lock when you make your coffee stop.

 

Out Of The Box

The Z1 comes in three sizes (S, M, and L), and includes a removable aeroshell covering, which snaps on to cover the vents, offering better protection from the cold and rain, and improving aerodynamics. It also comes with a small plastic piece that inserts into the top of the helmet and protects the Roll-Sys adjustment mechanism from mud and grit—an essential for cyclocross season.

 

The Z1 is the lastest evolution in Lazer's line of helmets

The Z1 is the lastest evolution in Lazer’s line of helmets

The Fit

The Lazer Z1 helmet definitely has a more comfortable fit than previous Lazer helmets, and the new Advanced Roll-Sys adjustment system makes it incredibly easy to fine tune and adjust the helmet. Like previous Lazer helmets, however, the fit isn’t for everyone. The shape of the helmet is similar to Giro or Specialized, which means it should fit those with a slightly rounder head a little better. If you have a more oval-shaped head, you might want to look at a different model of helmet.

Lazer's designers hand sculpted the original helmet mold to ensure the perfect fit

Lazer’s designers hand sculpted the original helmet mold to ensure the perfect fit

The Ride

We initially used the Z1 in Belgium, but have also been able to test it here at our offices in North Carolina. Our first impression is that it’s probably one of the lightest helmets we’ve ever used. For the past few years we’ve been riding the Giro Aeon—one of the lightest helmets around, and the Lazer Z1 helmet feels about comparable on the head. It is also noticeably cooler than previous Lazer helmets we’ve tried, with excellent airflow even on the hottest summer days we’ve encountered yet. Sometimes even the lightest helmets can still feel suffocating on really hot, humid days, but the Z1 has the nice combination of being lightweight and having huge vents, which we find provide excellent cooling options.

Fortunately we haven’t had a chance to test the improved safety features of the Z1 yet, but on the head it definitely feels more secure, and like it provides much more coverage. Just looking at the helmet in the mirror, we can see that it covers more parts of the head, especially on the side, which gives us a lot of confidence in it’s ability to protect if the worst should happen. It actually comes down far enough that you can see parts of the helmet in your peripheral vision, which took a little bit of getting used to.

The Aeroshell definitely helped us stay warm in Belgium

The Aeroshell definitely helped us stay warm in Belgium

The removable aeroshell is a nice addition too, since it turns the Z1 into a four-season helmet. On some shorter, faster group rides where overheating hasn’t been much of an issue, we simply snap the shell on to close off the vents and get some free speed. The aeroshell also provided excellent protection in the colder, windier, rainier climes of Belgium, where it  helped keep our heads warm and dry. We’ll definitely be using it over the off-season. Be forewarned though, with the aeroshell covering on, there is basically no airflow through the helmet, and it heats up quickly. If it’s hot out, we’d recommend leaving it at home.

One very small niggle one of our testers did have with the helmet was glasses storage. He likes to take his glasses off while climbing or when it’s really hot, and in other helmets he’s usually able to tuck them neatly into the helmet vents for storage. The Z1 vents though are only designed to hold Lazer-brand sunglasses, so his shades won’t stay in the helmet.

 

The Verdict

The Lazer Z1  is one of our favorite new helmets that we’ve gotten to test, and certainly the most versatile. The improved comfort and safety features alone make it well worth it. The included aeroshell and Roll-Sys protection plate also really add to the value of the helmet by making it much more versatile. In one package you essentially get four different helmets: a lightweight summer/climbing helmet, an aero helmet, a winter helmet, and a ‘cross/MTB helmet. It’s an incredible value for the money, and we highly recommend it.

We saw this at Lazer's headquarters. No idea what it is, but we thought we should share it with the world.

This isn’t the Z1– in fact we have no idea what it is, but we thought we should share it with the world.

A Cycling Tour of Philadelphia with Fuji Bikes

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Cycling on the Schuylkill River Trail in downtown Philly

A few weeks ago we got to visit Fuji Bikes in their hometown of Philadelphia, PA, and one of the most interesting parts of our trip, other than riding up the infamously challenging Manayunk Wall, was seeing what the City of Brotherly Love has done to welcome cyclists as a part of the city. We got to ride all over the city with our hosts from Fuji Bikes, and we were constantly impressed by how cycling was incorporated into the fabric of the neighborhoods – no doubt one of the main reasons that Philadelphia was recently ranked the 6th most bikeable city in the US.

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Cycling sharrows were prominent on city streets

In the downtown areas of the city, we hardly ever rode on streets that did not have bike lanes or prominent sharrows to indicate that cyclists had the right of way. And folks on bikes definitely took advantage of this infrastructure, with commuters, transportation riders, and recreational cyclists out in force on the city streets. The city government is a big supporter of bike riders, even closing down a stretch of Martin Luther King, Jr Drive to car traffic (along the Schuylkill River) on summer weekends so that cyclists have priority to ride and race.

And speaking of recreation, the bi-directional Schuylkill River Trail was packed with coexisting joggers, walkers and cyclists on most days – which is no wonder since it was such an idyllic spot and easily accessible from downtown. Running from the historic Center City, past the Philadelphia Museum of Art (home of the famous “Rocky Steps”), and historic Boathouse Row, and out along the Schuylkill River into the countryside past Valley Forge – the trail is a fantastic outlet for city riders who want to get away from busy city roads. One stop along the trail that shouldn’t be missed is the cycling-friendly Manayunk neighborhood, with its absurdly steep climbs and bicycle-friendly businesses – definitely stop for lunch at Winnie’s Le Bus Manayunk, where they will loan you a bike lock while you eat!

All in all we had a great time cycling around Philadelphia – it’s got more to offer than just the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall (although you should definitely check those out if you come to visit), with a vibrant cycling scene and easy access to scenic roads and trails from downtown. So next time that you visit the City of Brotherly Love, bring your bike and go for a ride!

Check out the gallery below for some views from our rides:

2014 Tour de France Guide

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What It Is:

The Tour de France is considered the most prestigious bike race in the world. Over 100 years old, the race has been held every year, except during the World Wars. It is also considered to be the most difficult sporting event in the world. Even if you’re not particularly into racing or sports, it’s worth it to watch at least a few stages of The Tour every year (see below) to see the spectacle. There are few things in sports that can match the excitement of two riders battling it out on a high mountain pass or the drama of watching a lone rider try to hang on for a solo win. Despite past issues with doping and scandals, the sport has taken huge steps to clean up its act in recent years, and many say that the sport is now cleaner– and more exciting– than it ever has been in the past.

When:

The Tour de France will start on July 5th, 2014, and ends on July 27th, 2014.

Where:

The Tour will start in Leeds, England. After a few days of racing in the UK, the race will move to France. The final stage will be held in Paris with the traditional finish on the Champs-Elysees.

How Long:

The Tour de France is a 21 day race—with each day of racing called a “stage”. There are two rest days. The stages are divided between “flat” stages, “mountain stages”, and one day with a time trial.

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The high mountain climbs are some of the most exciting parts of the race to watch

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Must Watch Stages:

Stage 1: Saturday, July 5. Watch as The Tour gets off to its start in Leeds, England. All the drama will be focused on Mark Cavendish, who will hope to win the opening stage and wear the yellow jersey for a day on home turf.

Stage 5: Wednesday, July 9. Paris-Roubaix it ain’t, but this stage will feature cobbled roads on the Tour de France for the first time since 2010. Given the difficulty of riding on cobbles, this could be where early favorites get into serious trouble. Expect drama, crashes, and some epic heartbreak. This could be the stage that makes (or unmakes) the race.

Stage 10: Monday, July 14. This is going to be one of the toughest days of mountains that the Tour has seen in quite a while. The route will tackle two Category 3 climbs on the way to the La Planche des Belles Filles—a series of seven Category 1 &2 climbs that average around 8%. There is a chance that the race could be effectively decided on these climbs for both the GC and KOM battles.

Stage 14: Saturday, July 19. This one is going to hurt. As The Tour turns towards the French Alps, the climbs only get worse. This stage will feature the famous hors categorie Col du Izoard climb. After getting up the Col du Lautaret—a 34km long climb, the riders must then tackle the Izoard (19km, average grade 6%). Anyone having a bad day here will be out of the running for the win.

Stage 18: Thursday, July 24. This stage is relatively short, so expect to see some high speed racing in the Pyrenees Mountains, including the infamous Col du Tourmalet—the legendary climb that should see an epic battle between Froome and Contador, as well as anyone else brave enough to try and hang with them.  4° stage Lorient  Mûr-de-Bretagne

Want to look as good as the pro’s?

How It Works:

There are 5 prizes up for grabs in the Tour de France. The overall win, the points prize, the king of the mountains prize, the best young rider, and winning individual stages.

  • General Classification (GC, Yellow Jersey): This is the overall win for the race. The GC winner is the rider with the fastest overall time. The current winner of the race will wear a yellow jersey, which may change hands several times during the race.
  • Points (aka Sprinters Jersey): This is the award for the fastest sprinter in the race. The current points leader wears a green jersey. Unlike the GC contest, the points contest is awarded based on points. Each stage will feature an intermediate sprint in the middle, and a final sprint at the end. Points are awarded for the order in which riders cross.
  • King of the Mountains (aka KOM, Polka Dot Jersey): This goes to the fastest climber in the race. The current KOM leader wears a white and red polka dot jersey. Like the points jersey, the KOM award is based on points. Points are awarded based on the order in which riders make it up categorized climbs (mountains classified as: 5 (easiest), 4, 3, 2, 1, hors categorie (hardest), with the most points awarded for hors categorie finishes).
  • Young Rider: This award goes to the fastest rider under the age of twenty-five. The current leader wears a white jersey. The white jersey is awarded to the under-25 rider with the fastest time.
  • Stage Wins: Many teams will choose to forgo racing for the GC win and instead choose to win individual stages of the race. This is often seen as more prestigious than winning the green, polka dot, or white jersey. Teams may choose to adopt the strategy of “stage hunting” if they have no rider capable of genuinely challenging for the GC win, or to get more attention for the team and their sponsors.
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Netapp-Endura (who ride Fuji bikes) are making their Tour de France debut, and are hoping to do something big to mark the occasion

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Riders To Watch

GC Contenders:

Chris Froome (Kenya; 2013 winner)—Team Sky

Alberto Contador (Spain; sort-of kind-of former winner?)—Tinkoff-Saxo

Vincenzo Nibali (Italy)– Astana

Alejandro Valverde (Spain)—Movistar

Outside Contenders:

Tejay Van Garderen (USA)—BMC

Andrew Talanksy (USA)—Garmin Sharp

Romain Bardet (France)—AG2r-La Mondiale

Rui Costa (Portugal; current World Champion)—Lampre-Merida

Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Belgium)—Lotto-Belisol

Points:

Peter Sagan (Slovakia;  2012, 2013 points winner)—Cannondale

Mark Canvendish (UK; 2011 points winner)—Omega-Pharma-Quick Step

Marcel Kittel (Germany)—Giant-

Shimano Andre Greipel (Germany)—Lotto-Belisol

KOM:

Joachim Rodriguez (Spain)—Katusha

Pierre Rolland (France)—Europcar

Mikel Nieve (Spain)—Team Sky

Christophe Riblon (France)—AG2r-La Mondiale

Young Rider:

Andrew Talanksy (USA)—Garmin Sharp

Romain Bardet (France)—AG2r-La Mondiale

Michal Kwiatkowski (Poland)—Omega-Pharma-Quick Step

Tejay Van Garderen (USA; 2012 young rider winner) —BMC

Lotto Belisol Skoda team car

Riders are supported by team cars, who supply everything from drinks and snacks to spare wheels,new bikes, and mechanical help

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Teams:

The Tour de France will be contested by 22 teams. Each team will usually consist of a GC rider—usually the best all-around rider on the team—who will in theory try to win the entire Tour, though really only a few riders are capable of doing this. He is supported by eight “domestiques”, who will allow the GC rider to draft off of them, keep him away from dangerous riders, get him water and food, and even surrender their bikes or wheels if needed. Teams may also feature sprinters, climbers, rolleurs, and other types of riders who may try to contest for individual stage wins in the sprints or the mountains, if their team decides they no longer need to support their GC rider on that day. The teams for the 2014 Tour de France are:

  • AG2r-La Mondiale (France)            Leader: Romain Bardet (France)
  • Astana (Kazakhstan)                            Leader: Vincenzo Nibali (Italy)
  • Belkin Cycling (Netherlands)        Leader: Bauke Mollema (Netherlands)
  • BMC Racing (USA)                                  Leader: Tejay Van Garderen (USA)
  • Cannondale (Italy)                                Leader: Peter Sagan (Slovakia)
  • FDJ.FR (France)                                       Leader: Thibau Pinot (France)
  • Garmin Sharp (USA)                             Leader: Andrew Talansky (USA)
  • IAM Cycling (Switzerland)              Leader: Sylvan Chavanel (France)
  • Katusha (Russian Federation)      Leader: Joachim Rodriguez (Spain)
  • Lampre-Merida (Italy)                       Leader: Rui Costa (Portugal)
  • Lotto-Belisol (Belgium)                     Leader: Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Belgium)
  • Movistar Team (Spain)                       Leader: Alejandro Valverde (Spain)
  • Omega-Pharma-Quick Step (Netherlands) Leader: Mark Cavendish (UK)
  • Orica Greenedge (Australia)           Leader: Simon Gerrans (Australia)
  • Team Sky (United Kingdom)          Leader: Chris Froome (Kenya)
  • Giant Shimano (Netherlands)       Leader: Marcel Kittel (Germany)
  • Europcar (France)                                 Leader: Pierre Rolland (France)
  • Tinkoff-Saxo (Russian Federation) Leader: Alberto Contador (Spain)
  • Trek Factory Racing (USA)             Leader: Fabian Cancellara (Switzerland)
  • Cofidis (France)                                      Leader: Rein Taaramäe (Latvia)
  • Bretagne Seche Environment (France) Leader: Brice Feillu (France)
  • Netapp-Endura (Germany)            Leader: Leopold Koenig (Czech Republic)

 

Keep an eye out for this legendary fan...

Keep an eye out for this legendary fan…

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