Eddie’s Shenandoah 100 Recap

eddie MTB

Eddie all smiles at the start. Smile…or practicing his suffer face? We’re still unsure.

Last weekend our coworker Eddie rode the Shenandoah Mountain 100 mountain bike race. When we first heard about his decision, we were a little envious and a little like “why would you do that?”. But, Performance being a supportive work environment when it comes to doing cool stuff on bikes, we went with it and gave him plenty of (possibly unsolicited) advice.

Last week we profiled his race prep, and now that the race is all done and dusted it’s time to check in with Eddie for a race recap.

Read more below to find out what worked for Eddie, what didn’t work so well for Eddie, and what you need to know it you’re thinking about doing an epic MTB race next year.

-HI Eddie. Can you tell us a little bit about how you felt going into the race?

Going into the race, I felt good. I had my bike dialed, I knew my fitness was good, and felt like I got a lot of good information about the course. Everything worked out perfectly, aside from a series of flat tires (3 within the first 40 miles). Other than that, I felt great for the whole race. My finishing time was just over 10 hours, which I was totally happy with.

-What was your favorite part?

Aside from crossing the finish line, I think the highlight of the race was how nice and helpful everyone was. I got three flat tires and guys racing would stop to give me a tube and let me use their hand pump (mine fell out somewhere) with no hesitation. That was awesome how people were willing to stop and help out, even in the middle of a race. Everyone cheered you on and really kept morale high. Also, my girlfriend was volunteering at aid station 3 and after 45 miles, the PB&J she handed me was maybe the best I’ve ever had.

Eddie MTB 2

Eddie all smiles at the finish. Not sure if that’s a smile or a Chris Horner rictus grin.

-What was your least favorite part?

My least favorite part would be the first climb, the Briery Branch ascent. With so many people, your pace was pretty much determined by the person in front of you. I pretty much had to walk the whole thing because there was a line of people walking up the mountain and the pace was too slow to ride. It was frustrating, but the descent made it well worth it.

-What equipment choices worked well?

The biggest thing that worked for me was a last minute saddle swap before the race. I typically ride with a lightweight road saddle, but decided to trade it out in favor of a softer Fizik saddle which really made 10 hours on a bike much more comfortable. The e*Thirteen 40 tooth extended range cog (now available standard on some 2015 GT mountain bikes) was a life saver. I probably did 90% of all my climbing in that gear and was definitely happy to have had it, especially at about mile 90.

The e*thriteen 40T extended range cog was a life-saver on the steep climbs

The e*thirteen 40T extended range cog was a life-saver on the steep climbs

-What equipment would you change next year?

Next year I would definitely go with a bigger rear tire. This year I was running a Racing Ralph 2.25”, but will definitely be running 2.35” tires front and rear next time. A bigger tire would help with traction on the climbs as well as some extra cushion on the descents. Also, while the 36 tooth chainring was manageable, I think a 34 or even a 32 would have made some of the singletrack climbing a bit easier.

A wider rear tire would definitely be a change for next year

A wider rear tire would definitely be a change for next year

-Would you do it again?

Absolutely! I have already started planning my set-up and strategy for next year.

-Any advice for someone thinking about doing it next year?

- Install new brake pads before the race. The descents are so long and fast that sometimes all you can do is hold the brakes and try to stay on the trail. Be ready for some fast descending. Everyone talks about the climbs, but the descents were just as tough.

- Don’t try to win the race in the first 15 miles. Pacing is key and having some energy left for the final climbs makes the race much more enjoyable.

- Use the aid stations to your advantage. They were spaced 15-20 miles apart and had everything you needed; food, maintenance, enthusiasm. I had heard that they were well stocked, so I limited the amount of food I carried with me and still got everything I needed.

Jeremiah Bishop may have won this race, but Eddie will be back next year. Oh yeah, and we'll see you again in a few weeks JB.

Jeremiah Bishop may have won this race, but Eddie will be back next year. Oh yeah, and we’ll be seeing you again in a few weeks JB.

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

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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…

2014 Philly Cycling Classic with Fuji – Riding the Manayunk Wall

In the first weekend of June we were lucky enough to get an invitation from our friends at Fuji Bikes to check out the Philly Cycling Classic in their hometown of Philadelphia, PA. Although this race has changed names a few times over the years, it’s remained one of the richest and most prestigious one day races outside of Europe. Beyond the world-class international field, and high caliber bike racing, the Philly Cycling Classic also brings a party atmosphere for the communities of Philadelphia along the 12 mile route from Manayunk to Fairmount Park. With a ride open to the public, then a professional women’s race, and then the pro men’s race all taking place on the same day, it’s a smorgasbord of cycling fun that should be on your agenda at least once in the future – plus Fuji puts on a great house party at the top of the wall, just past the finish line!

CLIMBING THE MANAYUNK WALL

If there is one feature that defines the lore of the Philly Cycling Classic, it’s got to be the fearsome Manayunk Wall. It’s one of those climbs where the numbers don’t really do it justice – it’s a little over half mile long, with a average grade of 8%, and an ascent of 226 feet. No problem right? Well, that’s what it feels like after you turn on Levering Street and then make a quick right on to Cresson Street, then turn left back on to Levering Street and face the Wall proper.

Turning on to Cresson Street at the base of the Wall

Turning on to Cresson Street at the base of the Wall

When you first see the Wall itself, you are feeling good, the cranks are turning over fast, and you start to think that this whole Manayunk Wall reputation is overrated. Sure, it’s a hill, but you’re still flying up in the big ring.

Heading up Levering Street - the bottom of the Wall

Heading up Levering Street – the bottom of the Wall

But about halfway up it hits you – this isn’t getting any easier! The street starts tipping up to 18% and you start shifting to an easier gear, and then shifting again. Once you make the slight left onto Lyceum Avenue, you start to understand why they call this the Wall. It feels like you are in a canyon, with a rock wall on one side and houses on the other, and there is nothing to do but keep pedaling until you get to the top.

The Wall gets really steep on Lyceum Avenue

The Wall gets really steep on Lyceum Avenue

The steep section doesn’t last long, but it seems like it takes forever. As Lyceum Avenue straightens out, the grade starts to relent and you can put your head down and churn out the last few hundred feet to the top. This is where the strongest riders can put in their final attack – but for most of us it’s just a matter of surviving.

The slog to the top up Lyceum Avenue

The long slog to the top up Lyceum Avenue

Finally you make it to the top and the right turn on to Pechin Street – the fall from the Wall. It’s all downhill from here – but did that climb only take 3 minutes (the record is just under 2)? Now remember, you just climbed the Manayunk Wall only one time – the pro men have to climb it 10 times!

The top of the Wall, turning on to Pechin Street

The top of the Wall, turning on to Pechin Street

PHILLY CYCLING CLASSIC COURSE

The route of the Philly Cycling Classic has changed over the years, but its current incarnation is as a 12 mile circuit course that connects the communities of Manayunk, East Falls and Fairmount Park. It races through neighborhoods, past restaurants, and along the scenic Schuylkill River via Kelly Drive. The course is bookended by Lemon Hill at the far end, and of course the Manayunk Wall at the other. One of the major changes to the race was to make the finish line right at the top of the Manayunk Wall – creating a finish line atmosphere not unlike a Spring Classic in Europe. Another change in the Philly Cycling Classic this year – the prize money is split evenly between the men’s and women’s fields! They both ride the same course, so they both have the chance to earn the same cash!

FANS OF MANAYUNK

Of course no race would be complete without fans to cheer on the riders and create a party atmosphere. While there were crowds all along the entire route of the Philly Cycling Classic, the biggest and loudest spectating spots were Lemon Hill and the Manayunk Wall. And it is Manayunk that has acquired almost mythic notoriety over the years – there are tales of epic house parties with live house bands and a hundred thousand people packed in to a half mile of Philadelphia rowhouses. While the atmosphere and crowds are more mellow these days (no doubt thanks to the overwhelming, but very polite, police presence), it’s still a great crowd many thousands strong that is not shy about getting loud when the race comes flying by. We may even have spotteed a few beer hand-ups for riders who were going to drop out of the race a few laps early, their jobs done for the day (don’t tell the UCI).

FUJI’S BIGGEST PARTY OF THE YEAR

We would also like to say thanks to Fuji for hosting us during the race weekend – since this is their hometown event, they put on a great party and cookout at the top of the Manayunk Wall. With nearly endless supplies of food and drink, and ample bike parking – the Fuji party was the place to be on race day! Even the Mayor of Philadelphia, Michael Nutter, dropped by and hung out for a few hours!

Check out our race day photo gallery on Facebook.

Skratch Labs Neutral Human Support at the Amgen Tour of California

Who hasn’t dreamed of having a support staff to feed you before, during, and after every bike ride? Our friends at Skratch Labs have turned that dream into reality, at least at the AMGEN Tour of California! In what marks a first for the cycling world, Skratch Labs will be supporting the human element of racing as the Official Hydration and Real Food Sponsor of the AMGEN Tour of California.

Skratch Labs will be directing their efforts toward supporting the actual humans involved in the race (both riders and staff) by providing real food and hydration products throughout the weeklong event. During each road stage Skratch will have a support car and moto inside the caravan to distribute needed items to riders on every team.

Chef Biju and his team will be cooking up delicious and nutritious recipes from The Feed Zone Cookbook every day from their mobile kitchen – everything is all natural and made from scratch (of course).

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Tasty real food is cooked up daily for racers and support staff.

A Skratch Labs motorcycle and car will even deliver their healthy food options during the race. How would you like this nutrition delivery vehicle for your next ride?

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Skratch Labs Neutral Human Support moto

Because when guys are racing this hard, they need some real food to recover:

A Visit To The Lotto-Belisol Service Course

Last week we were fortunate enough to have an opportunity to visit the Lotto-Belisol team service course in Belgium. It was only a few days before the Tour of Flanders (Flemish: Ronde van Vlaanderen) and Tour of the Basque Country (Spanish: Pais Vasco; Basque: Euskal Iztulia) so the place was pretty cleared out, but Chris, one of the team mechanics was there, and was nice enough to take the time to show us around.

Lotto-Belisol is a strongly Belgian team, so of course they ride Ridley bikes. Most of the bikes were gone to either Oudenaarde or Bilbao for the races, but we did get to see some pretty cool stuff there, with plenty of eye candy for the bike geek in everyone.

Beyond Andre Greipel’s distinctive Gorilla bike, Adam Hansen’s Helium SL with a set up no bike fitter would ever recommend (but hey, it works for him), and plenty of Dean FAST time trial bikes, we saw the new custom-built Ridley X-Night cyclocross bikes the team will be riding at the 2014 Paris-Roubaix (April 13, 2014). For most classics races, the team opts for the Ridley Fenix, which is more than equal to the cobbles found in Belgium and the Netherlands, but the cobbles of Northern France require a more specialized machine.

Check out this video tour of the Lotto Belisol team bus by CyclingTips, with Adam Hansen as the guide, for a better look around their home away from home on the road:

Paris Roubaix Special Edition Ridley X-Nights

Special Paris Roubaix edition Ridley X-Night bikes

Special Paris Roubaix edition Ridley X-Night bikes

According to Dirk, the Ridley product manager, all of the frames are stock off-the-shelf Ridley X-Night’s– like all the rest of the Ridley bikes the team races. The only change made to the frames was the front derailleur hanger was mounted slightly higher to allow for a 53T chainring, instead of the usual 46T chainring used in cyclocross.

The bikes were also specially spec’ed to handle the rougher cobbles of Roubaix. Instead of the standard Campagnolo Super Record 11 EPS electronic groupsets and deep-section carbon fiber Campagnolo Bora Ultra wheels the riders usually use, the Ridley X-Night bikes were built up with the just released mechanical Campagnolo Super Record RS groupset and lower-profile Campagnolo Hyperion wheels with specially-made Continental tires, with a unique tread profile and casing that can handle the tough cobbled sections. Instead of the usual cyclocross cantilever brakes, the team opted for TRP Mini-V brakes, which offer more powerful stopping and better cable pull with road levers.

For those of you who are already salivating in anticipation, don’t worry. The Ridley X-Night frameset will be available from Performance Bicycle later this year.

Before the Tour of Flanders, we visited with the Lotto Belisol team mechanics at the team hotel as they were getting the bikes and team cars prepped for the big race. If you thought that the team mechanics kept everything organized and tidy in the service course, that was nothing compared to how diligently they worked while on the road, on their bus and mechanic’s truck.

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