Wordless Wednesday

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Wordless Wednesday

Product Profile: 2012 Louis Garneau

For today’s product profile, we’re talking about Louis Garneau cycling gear. Founded in 1983 (incidentally, only one year later than Performance Bicycle), Louis Garneau has worked hard to create innovative cycling apparel, as they so aptly explain on their site: “It has and always will be our mission to conceptualize, design, and engineer technological products that will provide racers a competitive edge and recreational cyclists an improved experience.”

Of course one of the racers they were thinking about was Thomas Voeckler, leader of Team Europcar at the 2011 Tour de France. Here’s a shot of Voeckler during his gritty ride to hold on to the yellow jersey during Stage 18 of the Tour, on the slopes of the Galibier.

And just to show how passionate the Garneau folks are about their gear, look no further than this video ode to creating the special customized gear for Voeckler’s days in yellow:

Of course we said that we were going to talk about new 2012 Garneau gear, so what better place to start than with their Corsa cycling kit. As you can see below, the Corsa line was designed for ultimate cycling performance, with features such as the Aero Lazer Band at the arm and leg openings plus a “next to skin” fit so you can stay sleek and streamlined, and Carbon-X mesh for optimal muscle compression and support. The designers at Garneau even went so far as to use special Speed Tech shoulder panels to reduce frontal pressure and cut wind resistance while you are in a riding position.

The Louis Garneau Mondo kit includes many of the aerodynamic features of the Corsa line, including the Aero Lazer Bands and “next to skin” fit, along with nifty little details like a dedicated music-player pocket. The Equipe line of cycling wear is designed around an ultra-lightweight and breathable jersey, to maximize cooling, while the Equipe bib shorts offer a compressive fit (these shorts are a definite favorite around our office).

Like we said, the people of Louis Garneau are passionate about their work, and it shows in the details of their products. This passion can be directly traced back to the company’s founder, the eponymous Louis Garneau himself.  A former elite cyclist, Mr. Garneau still plays an active role in the development of his company’s products, for, as he says, “Our innovations exist because we create products that function, perform, and are proven on the bike. We ride, we ride, we ride again, until we are certain a product will provide our customers a competitive advantage, and I have never removed myself from that group of test riders.”

As a final note, it was also interesting to learn that Mr. Garneau is a bit of an artist, creating a series of canvases as a fundraiser for the Fondation du Musée National des Beaux-Arts du Québec (although with his company’s emphasis on design, maybe this shouldn’t come as a surprise):

You can find our full array of Louis Garneau products here, from their super lightweight Carbon X-Lite Road Shoes to their off-road Edge Helmet.

Looking Ahead to 2012

The title of this post may be looking ahead to 2012, but it seems like we should start by looking back at 2011. It was a busy year around the world of cycling, and the same was true for us here at Performance Bicycle. We opened 11 new stores across the country, from Michigan to Texas to California to Illinois to Indiana to Georgia to Idaho, bringing our grand total of stores to over 100!

Spinning the prize wheel at a Grand Opening celebration!

We’ve been busy here on the Blog as well, bringing you our always different Wordless Wednesday posts, our informative Spin Doctor Tech Tips, plus our coverage of interesting events like Jeremiah Bishop’s Alpine Loop Gran Fondo, racing with our coworkers at the Burn 24 Hour Challenge mountain bike race, and getting  to see a small race in France that you might have heard of (we’ll give you a hint, it involved some pretty cool scenery).

Getting up close and personal on the Galibier.

We’ve also had a great time giving away some great prizes, through our website and over on our Facebook page, including some lucky Ride Like a Pro SRAM winners, and of course our Scattante Americano Giveaway over the Fourth of July.

Our head copywriter Chas played Uncle Sam.

We always enjoy watching the professionals do their thing every year,  and 2011 didn’t disappoint in that regard. The folks over at Bicycling magazine put together a great slideshow of pro cycling highlights from 2011, from the season-long dominance of Phillipe Gilbert, to Alberto Contador’s win in the Giro d’Italia, to the drama of Cadel Evans’ first Tour de France win, to Juan Jose Cobo’s Vuelta a Espana triumph (aboard a Fuji Altamira):

JuanJo Cobo winning the Vuelta on a Fuji Altamira.

We also loved finding and sharing all manner of cycling videos, from ones that inspired:

To ones that involved crazy German mountain bikers:

To ones about the incomparable Chris Akrigg:

Or the equally awesome Danny Macaskill:

To a postman living his dream of riding with the Pros:

To a mountain biker losing a battle with a hartebeest:

Ouch!

Basically, we just loved all things cycling!

So what are we looking forward to in 2012? More and better things, of course! We’ve got new store openings planned, a fantastic lineup of new gear and new bikes (seriously, there are some awesome bikes we can’t wait to show you), more cycling events to cover, and fun giveaways and prizes to share. Plus it’s our 30th Anniversary, so that’s a pretty big deal (and it should be easy to find “pearl” cycling gifts)! Performance Bicycle was started in Garry Snook’s basement here in Chapel Hill, NC in 1982!

We promise to share everything with you here and on our Twitter and Facebook pages, and we hope to see you out on the road (or trail) in 2012!

Wordless Wednesday

Wordless Wednesday

Product Profile – Diadora Shoes & Cadel Evans

In honor of the Tour de France victory of Cadel Evans, we’re making it a little easier to ride like Cadel, or at least wear his Diadora shoes! Our Diadora shoes are on sale right now, including the Proracer 3 road shoes worn to victory in the 2011 Tour de France.  We’ve had a chance to check out the Proracer 3 here in the office, and it’s definitely got Italian style to go along with it’s pro-level features (which include an extra-thin, yet highly rigid carbon sole, durable D-Skin microfiber upper, and Multifit Adjust closure system with Micro CL buckle and Quick Adjustment strap, to find your perfect fit).

One of the most respected brands in cycling, Diadora has been worn to victory in the Giro d’Italia, the Vuelta, the Olympics, the World Hour Record, and, of course most recently, in the 2011 Tour de France. Diadora makes a full array of road and mountain cycling shoes that employ innovative technology to offer unmatched, pro-level power transfer, superior ventilation and the ultimate in ergonomic comfort.

But since we’re talking about Cadel, we thought we’d share the best pictures of Cadel that we took during our Performance Tour du Jour trip to France. Above, Cadel is powering the chase group up the Col du Galibier on Stage 18, to narrow the gap on Andy Schleck.

Cadel sprinting to the finish on top of the famous climb of Alpe d’Huez in Stage 19, with Andy Schleck in the background.

Here’s Cadel in a moment of calm after Stage 19, bundling up for the ride to the team bus.

Cadel rocketing off at the start of his time trial in Grenoble, in Stage 20.

And powering home to take the yellow jersey from Andy Schleck with a dominating performance, easily making up his 57 second time deficit from the start of the day.

Here’s Cadel in the peloton during the final stage in Paris, riding down the Rue de Rivoli in his new yellow jersey.

Photograph by Bettini Photo

So if you’re ready to ride like Cadel, check out our Diadora shoes on sale today!

Wordless Wednesday

Performance Tour du Jour: Watching the Tour de France

We thought that we would wrap up our Tour du Jour recaps with a series of posts about our experiences watching the last 4 stages of the 2011 Tour de France. Seeing the Tour in person is truly an experience every cyclist should do at least once, but hopefully our posts will give you an idea of what it’s like to see this crazy rolling sideshow live! To see more pictures from each day of our trip, check out the Tour du Jour photo albums on our Facebook page.

Stage 18 - Pinerolo to Galibier Serre-Chevalier

Since the climactic Galibier climb of Stage 18 was about 25 miles away from our hotel on Alpe d’Huez, we had the perfect opportunity for a great ride before we watched the pros rocket up the road. Our Europeds tour group was up early to beat the road closures – closed roads and diverted traffic are a fact of life when the Tour is in town. You never really know when the gendarmes will close the roads to traffic, sometimes even including bikes! Our ride began with a little known gem of a ride off of Alpe d’Huez, the Col de Sarenne – an amazing winding road that plummets off of the back of Alpe d’Huez, and conveniently enough serves as a shortcut to the Col du Galibier.

Once we regained a main road, it was pretty clear that we were headed in the right direction. As you get closer to the route of the Tour, you become part of a gigantic and unofficial gran fondo ride! The road is clogged with riders of all ages and abilities, and you find yourself hopping from group to group, tucking in to different pacelines as you go.  As we neared the Galibier, we were pleasantly surprised to find that our guides Charly and Brad had managed to sneak our support vans up ahead, to lay out this sumptuous spread to refuel us before our day of watching the Tour.

Once we finally intersected with the race route, all thoughts of riding were over – the gendarmes let you know that it was time to lock up our bikes and walk the rest of the way. As you can see, it gets awfully crowded as you near the end of the stage route. But, in reality, if you make your way past the big crowded areas (usually near the big screen TVs), it was never a problem to find a perfectly nice spot to watch the Tour pass by.

We staked out a spot on a bend in the road up the Galibier, and settled in to wait for the race to come to us. If you’ve only watched the Tour in the US, you don’t always think that the stages usually finish around 5PM in France – since we had started our ride early that morning, we had quite a few hours to wait for the race. But there is always a cafe nearby, and the people-watching is usually an excellent diversion as well!

One sure sign that he Tour is only an hour or so away is the arrival of the famous publicity caravan. Passing over the entire route of the Tour ahead of the racers, the caravan is a winding parade of crazy sponsored cars (literally miles long), blaring terrible music and throwing cheap gifts into the crowd. Somehow when they pass everyone turns into a little kid once again, and yells and screams for the chance to grab a free keychain or awful hat!

Once the caravan passes by, you know that the real race is getting near. Then everyone waits for the appearance of the TV helicopters, which swarm above the leaders like angry bees. Looking down the mountain, we saw the choppers swing into view first, then, just barely, we could make out a tiny line of riders headed our way. The excitement builds in the crowd, and the noise level climbs in tandem. Everyone starts to edge farther into the road to get a better look, forming that crazy closed-in pathway that you see on TV (where you wonder how he riders will ever find a path – it really does happen quite naturally when you are there). Then the lead motorcycles come roaring through, and suddenly the race is upon you! As you scream and yell despite yourself, the racers flash by, only inches away from you, in groups of 2 or 5 or 10 – some looking confident, others seeming downright despondent.

And just like that, your day of watching the Tour is over! Everyone starts packing up and heading down the mountain, only parting to let the stragglers in the “autobus” group (made up of sprinters and other domestiques who don’t contest the high mountains) pass by in their business-like fashion. The ride back to our hotel was quite an adventure though, as suddenly the roads were clogged with thousands of walkers, cyclists, cars and campers heading back home. There is no way to prepare yourself for the chaos after a Tour stage passes by – you just try to survive and make it to the next day!

Stage 19 - Modane Valfréjus to Alpe-d’Huez

For the big stage that finished on top of Alpe d’Huez, we decided to try a different viewing tactic for the day. Throughout the morning we strolled around the top of the route to Alpe d’Huez (staying on top of the mountain made this a relaxing walk, as we didn’t have to battle any traffic), making our way down to the turn 1 (the last switchback). As you can see, the crowds were already camped out on the surrounding hillsides, ready for the madness.

But, thanks to an invite from our friends at Powerbar, our plan for the day was to check out the VIP trailer (l’Espace Tourmalet), located 50m from the finish line! With 3 levels of viewing platforms, the view from the VIP space was pretty sweet, plus there were free snacks, beverages and flat screen TVs to watch the progress of the race. Like we said, not a bad way to spend the afternoon (even if it did get crowded by the time the race rolled by).

As we watched the race develop on TV, we made the move down to street level, to subtly insinuate ourselves into a prime viewing spot along the railing (this takes some skill, since people tend to stake their claims early for the best spots). As you can see below, we got a great view for the final sprint to the finish, won by Frenchman Pierre Rolland, much to the delight of the home crowd (and if you listen closely, you can hear that the crowd still boos Alberto Contador!):

 But the best part about our VIP access came after the ride. As soon as all of the riders finished this grueling stage, they were directed down a road right behind our VIP space. We got to see most of the riders up close and at ease (well, as relaxed as they could be after this brutal stage) as they headed back to their team buses or stopped to give interviews. We even got to give a few words of encouragement to American Tom Danielson, of Garmin Cervelo, as he passed by (here he is saying “Thanks”):

VIP access gives you a different experience of the Tour than just viewing it from the side of the road – not necessarily better, mind you, just different.

Stage 20 - Grenoble Individual Time Trial

Next up was the pivotal time trial stage in Grenoble – the ultimate mano a mano test. Watching a time trial at the Tour is a more relaxed affair, since riders are heading out on the course over many hours. You can wander around and enjoy the atmosphere, then head over to the barriers to watch a rider or 2 fly by (they are usually spaced out at 2-3 minute intervals). However, one of the more interesting aspects of the race to watch is the pre-race inspection. As you can see below, UCI officials inspect and weigh every time trial rig right before the rider heads off, to make sure it meets all of the arcane rules as determined by the arbiters of the sport (all in full view of the public).

Reading the body language of the riders before they started, it looked like Cadel Evans was super confident of his ability to make up his time difference to the Schleck brothers in this time trial (as, of course, proved to be the case).

As the time ticked by, the crowds around the finish line grew, everyone glued to the big video board for time split updates.

Then suddenly it was time, and the leaders flashed by in quick succession. Here’s Evans powering to the finish line with the second best time of the day, with more than enough of a lead over the Schlecks to earn the yellow jersey, the first ever overall win for an Australian!

After the end of the stage each rider had to make their way through the scrum of fans, journalists, trainers and more. There was a small fenced in area for the riders to cool down and give interviews, but then they were unceremoniously dumped into the street to make their way back to the team bus (about 1km away). Andy Schleck was hustled off down a side street, but his brother Frank (wearing Andy’s skinsuit), was left to walk part of the way through the mass of people, until a team assistant brought his bike up so that he could escape. The look of disappointment on his face was clear.


Stage 21 - Créteil to Paris Champs-Élysées

Ah Paris, the site of the final, partly ceremonial, stage of the Tour de France. We strolled about “La Ville-Lumière” without much of plan on this, our final day in France. We caught the peloton just before they made it to the Champs-Élysées (where the race would finish with a series of laps). Cadel Evans, resplendent in yellow, was led onto the Champs in his place of honor, behind his BMC teammates.

Once the peloton hit the final circuits, the race really started! A breakaway forced the pace at the front, and the pack commenced the chase soon after. But the most entertaining part of this turn (right before the tunnel under the road from the Louvre), was watching the support cars roar through the corner at full speed, squealing their tires!

We checked out a few different spots to watch the end of the race (except for the Champs itself, which was too crowded to even attempt), and then had a moment of inspiration and pure luck. We decided to try an aerial view of the racing from the Ferris wheel on the Rue de Rivoli, and (unplanned beforehand) we managed to be at the top of the wheel as the racers poured down the Rue de Rivoli for the final lap of the Tour de France! Below you can see Phillipe Gilbert and Thor Hushovd putting in one last effort, before giving way to the HTC train of eventual winner, Mark Cavendish.

It was a fitting end to 4 straight days of watching the Tour de France live and in person! We hope that you enjoyed our Performance Tour du Jour coverage, here on our blog and on our Facebook & Twitter pages. It was truly a great race to watch and we had a blast covering it with our friends at Europeds, who organized this amazing experience. Maybe next year we’ll see you on the roads in France!

Performance Tour du Jour: Alpine Wonderland

After a slight delay due to jet lag and foreign internet access, David & Chris are back with more Tour du Jour updates from their foray into France.  Our fourth day in France began, yet again, with a chilly and drizzly morning (there was actually fresh snow on the mountainsides above and around us). Everyone kept telling us that this frigid summer weather was highly unusual, yet it remained cloudy and cool for the start of our ride.

But we were here to ride, so we layered our warmest base layers under our Scattante Team jersey and Forza shorts and headed out (or in this case, down the Alpe d’Huez). After a somewhat white-knuckled descent of Alpe d’Huez in the mist, we reached the valley floor at Bourg d’Oisans and immediately noticed an improvement in the weather. Clearing skies and warmer weather made our plan for the day much more appealing – this was going to be our biggest ride of the tour, a 70+ mile loop over some lesser-known climbs in the neighborhood, with an ascent of Alpe d’Huez as a bonus at the end (if we were up to it). Here’s part of our crew stopping for a quick break in a lovely Alpine valley.

The first climb of the day was the Col d’Ornon, a steady 8 mile ascent up a forested valley dotted with fresh waterfalls and quaint villages (this is France, after all). Our group spread out along the road, but reconvened at the summit of the Col d’Ornon, which was really more of high pass than a summit.  But the best part about reaching the top of the col was that that meant we were about to drop down a 12+ mile descent!

We chased each other down the fast and flowy country roads, with hardly any traffic or towns to slow us down. The Devinci Leo really shined on this curvy descent, as it’s stable ride made the long descent super-smooth and fun (plus it was more than ready to respond if you wanted to sprint). At the bottom of the valley, we rolled across the covered Pont des Fayettes, our picnic lunch spot for the day.

And what a lunch was waiting for us! Charly, one of the Europeds guides, really knows how to lay out a spread. Fine French cheeses, bread, salami and wine (this being France, after all) were all there for our hungry peloton to devour. We tried, in vain, to balance our desire to eat everything in sight with the fact that we still had over 40 miles to ride! Even some pro cyclists were jealous of our spread, as the pro continental Skil Shimano team rode by on a training ride as we were eating and seemed very disappointed that they couldn’t stop for a snack!

Soon enough we were off again, this time heading up more idyllic Alpine valleys.  Here’s Chris posing on his Scattante CFR Team road bike, enjoying the sunshine.

Once we started climbing again, though, the clouds and cold weather rolled back in.  When we reached the top of our second big climb of the day, the Col de la Morte, the name of the pass seemed ominously fitting (the temperature swings on this ride were impressive, from the mid 40s on top of the passes to mid 70s in the valleys)!

Of course since we had just reached the top of a pass, that only meant one thing – it was now time to head back down (in case you haven’t noticed, there wasn’t much flat road on this particular ride). And by down, we mean down. The valley floor you see in the distance is where we would be in about 10 miles and 3,300 feet of elevation!

This being France, that meant some expertly engineered and swooping switchbacks were in our future. Yeah…  it was a pretty fun descent.

After the long descent, we waited for a few other members of our group to catch up (and to get some feeling back in our hands) so that we could form a paceline for the ride along the valley floor back to Bourg d’Oisans and the base of Alpe d’Huez. We arrived just in time to catch the end of stage 17 on TV in a cafe (the stage was won by Edvald Boassen Hagen) . Inspired by Boassen Hagen’s solo victory, Chris, Dan and I (David) decided that we should finish our ride in style with a closing climb up Alpe d’Huez (after 70 miles of hard Alpine riding).

Let’s just say that climbing Alpe dHuez after that many miles in the saddle really gives you a new appreciation for what the pro riders are able to do day after day in the Tour de France. My legs were totally shot after the first 3 switchbacks, and I spent most of the ride getting passed by skinny pre-teens and folks riding commuter bikes with full panniers! I looked for any excuse to stop and take a picture, like the shot above of  the notorious “Dutch corner” about halfway up, complete with its own DJ and a steady supply of beverages (beer hand-ups were not uncommon).

But up and up I crawled, counting down the switchbacks as I went. Once again the record for fastest ascent of Alpe d’Huez was safe, but eventually I made it back at the hotel to meet Chris and Dan, who had pulled ahead on the lower third of the mountain. Exhausted but satisfied with our efforts, we got cleaned up and met the rest of our Europeds tour group for a well-earned hearty French dinner. You can check out more photos from Performance Tour du Jour on our Facebook page.

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