Tour Devinci, Build a Bike Giveaway Factory Visit

Last week the lucky winner of our Tour Devinci, Build a Bike Giveaway, Kaden (from Ann Arbor, Michigan), got to live out his dream to visit the place where his new bike was designed, built and tested. So we packed up our own suitcase to go along for the ride to find out what the guys (and gals) at Devinci are up to up north.

The first thing we found out was just how far north Devinci‘s factory really is – scenic Chicoutimi, Quebec, Canada is about 2 1/2 hours drive north of Quebec City (if you drew a straight line across, the latitude of Chicoutimi is about the same as the North Dakota/Canada border). So why Chicoutimi? It’s easy – aluminum. Chicoutimi (and the surrounding Saguenay region) are a global hub for the aluminum industry. With a deep water harbor on the Saguenay River, huge cargo ships carrying bauxite (the principal ingredient of aluminum) unload their cargo to feed the aluminum factories of Rio Tinto Alcan. Once the aluminum ore leaves the ship, it never travels more than a few miles from the Devinci factory in Chicoutimi before it is turned into the durable hand-crafted bikes that Devinci is famous for.

Chicoutimi is part of the city of Saguenay

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves a bit – let’s start at the beginning of our journey to Canada. As soon as our trip winner, Kaden, arrived in Chicoutimi, Julien, our Devinci guide for the next few days, ushered him to the local ski hill for a little taste of Canadian downhill mountain biking. Once Kaden got a handle on how to ride up the T-bar (which is harder than you would think), he was having a blast on a loaner Devinci Dixon mountain bike. Devinci sponsored the trails, and it seemed like the entire Devinci factory turned out to ride on this Wednesday evening. As we came to learn, everyone who works at Devinci has a passion to ride – and ride really fast! Folks were shredding the downhill runs, but they still took the time to wait up for us from time to time – since that also gave them the chance to take in the view over La Baie.

After a rousing few runs, and just as we were getting the hang of riding the T-bar, the sun was setting and it was time to grill. The post-ride hangout is the same everywhere – everyone was dirty and tired, but still basking in the glow of some great riding while recapping their greatest runs (although there was definitely more French spoken than at our usual trailhead). After some tasty grilled hot dogs and chips, it was off to bed after a long day.

The next day, we were up early with Kaden to get the factory tour started. The Devinci factory sits in an unassuming industrial park outside of town – the only indication of what was going on inside was the near universal bike rack on the back of the cars in the parking lot. But once inside, it was more than clear that what was going on was bikes, bikes and more bikes. We started our tour in the Devinci offices, where the bikes are dreamed up and designed. Every office had a Devinci road or mountain bike leaning against the wall, ready for the requisite lunchtime ride – their creations have to tested in the real world, of course. We learned about the Devinci design process, from the initial meeting to start the ball rolling, through the computer-aided design and testing (where all of the bikes are put through their paces virtually before any metal or carbon is ever used), to the first real prototypes where the final designs start to take shape. Their mantra is to test, test and re-test – Devinci strives to create innovative bike designs, but also well-thought and thoroughly tested bikes.

Once we left the offices, we moved into the hubbub of the Devinci factory floor. While the space isn’t huge, it was full of activity, material and bikes in various stages of construction. Our hosts walked Kaden through all of the steps of the bike building process, from shaping the raw tubing, to CNC machining, to welding, heat-treating, and ultimately painting and assembly of the finished bike. A lot of experienced hands touch each bike as it makes its way through the construction and testing process.

At the time we visited, their assembly line was busy cranking out BIXI bikes –  the world-renowned bike share system currently in use in London, Minneapolis, Washington, DC and other cities around the globe. As you can see below, the current fleet of bikes under construction was for New York City’s new bike share program – you’ll soon see thousands of these big blue bikes at bike rental stations across the city, every one of them built by Devinci in Chicoutimi. Since Devinci has such an experienced bike-building team, BIXI contracts with them to build these rugged bikes – they are a far cry from Devinci’s own line of mountain and road bikes, but the BIXI bikes are built with practicality and reliability in mind above all else.

Of course the real fun part of Kaden’s trip to the Devinci factory was in getting to try out the steps of the bike-building process first-hand. Up first was electrostatic spray painting – after a few quick words of advice from Devinci’s in-house paint expert, Kaden fired up the spray gun on a new Devinci Atlas frame. His painting mentor said that his first effort was pretty good – although that could have just been a friendly translation from French that meant “he wouldn’t have been immediately fired from a job as a painter”.

Next up was the real fun task, welding. When welding together a bike frame, the first step is to have an apprentice welder tack the shaped tubes together as they are held in a jig to maintain their alignment. Only then does an expert welder step in to finish the frame, in a carefully choreographed series of buttery welds. It’s vital that the welder have a steady and skilled hand to end up with a bike frame with perfect alignment – Devinci welders apprentice for over a year before they are entrusted with creating the smooth finish welds on a bike frame. Needless to say, we weren’t exactly ready for a real frame, but everyone in our group had fun testing out their arc welding skills (even Julien, our Devinci guide).

Running the CNC machine was a less skill-intensive task (since most of the work is done in the computer beforehand), but it was neat to see the before and after results. Into the machine would go  a basic metal shape, and moments later out would come an intricately carved and shaped bicycle frame component.

Once Kaden had seen every step in the design and build process, he wanted to check out the finished product, of course. Overlooking the Devinci factory floor was the storage area with all of their new 2013 bike models, including the sweet new ride that Kaden had won – a Devinci Atlas RC 29er mountain bike. With 110mm of Devinci’s patented Split-Pivot suspension and a 29″ wheel platform, Kaden’s new Atlas is perfect for ripping the trails back on his home trails in Michigan.

And we did mention that the folks at Devinci love to ride, right? After our factory tour was over, we literally headed out the back door to hit the trails that Devinci bikes were born to shred. Just a few minutes ride from the factory was a great local trail network – full of twisty singletrack, rocks, roots and bridges. If there was ever a spot to test out a mountain bike, this was it – since their bikes are designed to stand up to these trails, the guys at Devinci know that their bikes can take whatever abuse you throw their way (and which is why their bikes are guaranteed for life).

Speaking on behalf of our contest winner, Kaden, we had a blast visiting Devinci‘s factory and hometown – whether riding or welding, everyone at Devinci was friendly and fun to hang out with. When you ride a Devinci bike, you can know that not only are you getting a machine that was designed and built by experienced craftsman, but also by folks that are passionate about their brand and love to ride as much as you do. It’s an old adage, but at Devinci they really do work hard and play hard, and it shows in their bikes.

Our thanks go out to Devinci for this amazing opportunity – you can find more photos from the trip on the Performance Bike Facebook page and you can find your own Devinci bike on PerformanceBike.com.

Tour Devinci Build A Bike Giveaway Winner

We’ve picked a winner in our 2012 Tour Devinci, Build a Bike Giveaway – please join us in congratulating Kaden Milkovich of Ann Arbor, Michigan!

As our giveaway winner, Kaden is going to receive a 3-day, all-expense-paid, hands-on Devinci factory tour where he will get to meet Devinci staff, see how Devinci bikes are designed, tested, machined, welded and assembled and help build a Devinci bike with his own hands, from machining to assembly. To top it off, he will also get to ride local trails with Devinci staff, plus take home a Devinci Atlas RC 29er Mountain Bike as a souvenir of his trip!

Kaden was so excited to win that he wanted to share a few words with us about what he’s looking forward to most about his upcoming trip up north:

When I was a kid, Toys R Us would run these lotteries for a kid to have a one-or two-minute shopping spree in their completely empty store. Touring the Devinci Factory in Chicoutimi feels kind of like winning my own Toys R Us lottery. Instead of heading to the local shop to view bikes I only wish I could own, I get to go to the place where bikes–and not just any bikes–SWEET bikes are born! I won’t mortify anyone with my current ride, but suffice it to say, winning the Atlas RC 29er is a major, major upgrade. It’s like switching from Dewar’s(serviceable) to Lagavulin 16-year single malt (egads).

I’ve ridden all over lower and upper Michigan. The former’s filled with tricky, rock-and rolly-single track if you know where to look and don’t mind driving a bit, and the latter’s a sweaty mix of steep, rooty climbs, shade-peppered piney loops and endless swaths of sandy washes. I love being the first one on the trail in the morning and I’m going to love being on the trail on probably the sweetest bike I’m ever likely to own. I can’t wait to see the craftsmanship that goes into bike-building at Devinci. They source the aluminum for some of their frames locally and I am stoked to tour the factory and see how a bike comes into existence, from conception to completion.

Tour Devinci Build a Bike Giveaway – Factory Tour

Our friends at Devinci are very proud of their bikes and the fact that they have been designed, tested and built at their factory in Quebec, Canada since 1987. It is this reputation for designing and handcrafting extraordinary bikes that makes our 2012 Tour Devinci, Build a Bike Giveaway so interesting.

The winner of our 3-day, all-expense-paid, hands-on Devinci factory tour will get to meet Devinci staff, see how Devinci bikes are designed, tested, machined, welded and assembled and help build a Devinci bike with their own hands, from machining to assembly. To top it off, our winner will get to ride local trails, scenic road loops, or both, with Devinci staff, plus take home either a 2012 Devinci Leo SL K Road Bike or a 2012 Devinci Atlas RC 29er Mountain Bike as a souvenir!

For a sneak peek of what you might see, take a look at the series of videos about the Devinci factory in Quebec:

Producing bikes in-house allows Devinci to keep tabs on the pulse of every bike, from raw materials incubation through heat-treat processes, painting, assembly, and finished perfection:

At Devinci, the ultimate riding experience starts with hand-welded frames built by senior craftsmen:

Devinci bikes are driven by precision engineering and innovation. That’s why its team of engineers developed CNC programming and the custom tooling necessary to painstakingly fine-tune the build quality of each frame before it leaves Devinci Laboratories:

To ensure Devinci exceeds your riding expectations, each bike undergoes brutal and calculated testing before ever leaving the factory doors:

Enter the 2012 Tour Devinci, Build a Bike Giveaway now for your chance to visit Devinci‘s factory in Quebec! Contest entry dates are 4/30/12 – 5/28/12 and only one entry per person (US residents only).

2012 Tour Devinci, Build a Bike Giveaway

Have you ever wanted to see how a bike is born, in person? Enter our 2012 Tour Devinci, Build a Bike Giveaway & you could be on your way to Quebec this summer to do just that – thanks to our friends at Devinci Cycles. This is an extraordinary opportunity to find out first-hand how Devinci designs and handcrafts their high-quality road and mountain bikes, from the ground up, in their high-tech factory in Chicoutimi, Quebec. Check out their factory tour video for a sneak-peek of what you might see if you win our giveaway:

Devinci has been building bikes since 1987, and they’ve forged their reputation by designing and creating bikes that deliver extraordinary performance. Devinci stands for excellence, vision and an unwavering devotion to the art of the bicycle and the thrill of the ride. Devinci road bikes and mountain bikes are products of constant innovation. They’re rigorously tested beyond industry standards, and actually warranted for the life of the original owner.

So what do you get if you win our 2012 Tour Devinci, Build a Bike Giveaway? The winner will fly to Quebec (from the US) to meet the Devinci staff and see how Devinci bikes are designed, tested, machined, welded and assembled – and participate in every step of that process. You’ll even get the chance to test out Devinci‘s quality by riding local trails, scenic road loops, or both, with Devinci staff. Check out the trip itinerary here for all of the details of this action-packed 3 day trip in August.

Plus you’ll get a new Devinci bike as a souvenir: your choice of either a 2012 Devinci Leo SL K Road Bike or a 2012 Devinci Atlas RC 29er Mountain Bike. Check out this quick video from Adam Carr of the Ekoi.com-Gaspesien pro cycling team talking about his personal Leo racing bike to learn more about the design of the Leo (the team uses different components than our 2012 Devinci Leo SL K Road Bike, but the frame is the same):

And here’s a product overview video of the 2012 Devinci Atlas RC 29er Mountain Bike, with details on this maneuverable and great-handling big-wheel XC sled:

Be sure to read the contest rules for more details about the 2012 Tour Devinci, Build a Bike Giveaway and enter now! Contest entry dates are 4/30/12 – 5/28/12 and only one entry per person.

Wordless Wednesday

Product Profile: Devinci Cycles

Savvy cyclists have been grooving on this Canadian company’s handmade offerings since 1987. Forging its reputation by designing and handcrafting extraordinary bikes that deliver extraordinary performance, Devinci stands for excellence, vision and an unwavering devotion to the art of the bicycle and the thrill of the ride. Devinci road bikes and mountain bikes are products of constant innovation. They’re rigorously tested beyond industry standards, and actually warrantied for the life of the original owner. That’s passion. That’s Devinci.

Check out this tour of the Devinci factory in Canada to see what Devinci’s dedicated staff of bike pros, skilled engineers, and visionary designers are all about, and the work that they put into every bike:

Devinci Road Bikes

The Devinci Leo SL R road bike is race-ready, rider-friendly and priced to put high performance within your reach. A full-carbon frame and carbon fork strike a perfect balance between compliance and rigidity, and Devinci’s exclusive High Performance Geometry design puts you in the optimal position for comfort, ergonomics and aerodynamics.

The Devinci Leo SL R delivers excellent power transfer, precision control and responsive handling for a truly amazing ride, whether you’re fond of Gran Fondos or determined to dominate county line sprints.

Devinci Mountain Bikes

From the fast and lightweight Dexter high-performance XC bike, to the Dixon all mountain rig with 145mm of super-compliant travel, to the Wilson downhill bike with its motocross-inspired shape, each bike in the Devinci lineup of full-suspension mountain bikes features innovative Split Pivot design for optimum traction, efficiency and reliability. Equipped to rip, Devinci mountain bikes are ready to rock your rooty, rocky, rut-filled world.

Here’s Dave Weagle, designer of the Split Pivot suspension design, giving an overview of what makes this suspension design work so well:

You can see Devinci bikes in action on the World Cup Downhill MTB circuit under the Devinci Global Racing team. Currently Steve Smith, riding his Devinci Wilson downhill bike, is in 4th place in the World Cup Overall standings with one race remaining in the 2011 UCI World Cup.

Shop our selection of Devinci bikes here.

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.

Performance Tour du Jour: Rainy day on Alpe d’Huez

Today dawned cloudy, cold and rainy on top of Alpe d’Huez, but that wasn’t enough to deter us from a ride up the mountain! Since our original ride had to be changed because of the weather, some of the folks on our Europeds Tour Trip decided that a quick assault on the 21 hairpins would be enough for today. While some of us loaded our bikes and gear into the vans for a valet ride down the switchbacks, a few folks from our group braved the slick descent (difficult enough on a dry day). Below you can see our mechanic, Brad, prepping the bikes for the day, as Spencer and John get ready to load their bikes into the waiting vans.

After a few of our crew decided that discretion was the better part of valor, we set off with John for a wet ascent of Alpe d’Huez. Nothing like a constant cold drizzle to make the ride up even more challenging than it already is!

Over the course of the 8 plus mile climb, the road to Alpe d’Huez averages about an 8 percent grade (although it gets shallower at the corners, and steeper in other sections). If you’re having trouble picturing what this grade looks (and feels) like, just take a look at the picture below.  That’s a pretty big gap from one bend of the road to the other!

Up and up we climbed once again, to be rewarded with fog-shrouded vistas overlooking the snaking course of the lower switchbacks that we just finished climbing.

Here’s a shot of David powering his way up to turn 3, where barriers have already been laid out to protect the pros from the hordes of fans sure to descend on the mountain on Friday! But today we had the mountain pretty much to ourselves, except for the handful of other cyclists brave/crazy enough to attempt this climb today.

Once we reached the top, the weather and the view weren’t much improved. The drizzle got heavier and the temperature dropped down to 36 degrees Fahrenheit as we crested the climb! Nothing like summer in the French Alps!

After heading back to the hotel and warming up with a hot shower (and trying to dry out all of our wet gear), we headed out for a tasty lunch and a little shopping (after watching the exciting Tour stage finish, of course – Thor Hushovd is just amazing!) We found a great little bike shop called Cycles Huez, run by a friendly English/Australian couple, that sold cool Alpe d’Huez jerseys. Check them out if you make it up here one day!

Tonight it’s off to a dinner of traditional Alpine fondue, and then to sleep with dreams of better weather tomorrow!

To keep up-to-date on what we’re doing next, or to get in touch with us, be sure to follow Performance Bike on Twitter and Facebook. We want to hear from you as we head into the Alps!

Performance Tour du Jour: Arrive a l’Alpe d’Huez

Day two here in France began with a walking tour of Grenoble, as our Europeds Tour group wasn’t meeting up until the afternoon. As it turns out, Grenoble can be an incredibly pleasant place when it’s not raining and you’re not pulling bike cases 1.5km to your hotel! Nestled in an Alpine valley, Grenoble is filled with lovely cafes, quaint streets, and this peripherique (cable car) that went to an overlooking mountainside.

But soon enough it was time to head back to the train station to meet our tour group (luckily we discovered that Grenoble has a highly efficient tram system that ran right by our hotel, so we didn’t have to drag our bags this time).  We loaded up our gear and headed up to Alpe d’Huez with Charly, one of the guides.Once on the road, we finally saw our first sign for the Tour de France (OK, it was  a warning about road closures, but we knew we were getting close!):

Just about the moment we arrived on top of Alpe d’Huez, we tore open our bike cases and set to work getting our bikes ready to ride! It may have been late in the afternoon, but when you get a chance to ride Alpe d’Huez, you go for it! Here we are at the bottom of the climb, in matching Performance Ultra jerseys and shorts, with Chris on his Scattante Team bike and David on his Devinci Leo bike.

So what can we say about the climb up Alpe d’Huez?  Well, it’s pretty darn hard and unrelenting, but it’s definitely climbable.  You just find your rhythm and count off the 21 hairpins as you go up – the pitch of the road varies a bit, but really it’s a fairly constant (if steep) grade.  But don’t get us wrong, we were still maxing out our bike’s gearing range! Of course we felt a little less impressive when we passed this guy on the climb… towing his child in a trailer!

The payoff for all of your hard climbing work was the view – checking out the hairpin bends from above, after pedaling your way up, was a totally rewarding experience.  Plus there were already tons of folks camped out on the side of the road cheering you on – especially a Dutch contingent who even brought their own DJ (we hammered out a little sprint as we passed this crowd, just to give them something to cheer about)!

Finally, after a little over an hour, we crested the summit of Alpe d’Huez – although it turns out that this isn’t really the top of the climb for the Tour riders, which is really about 3km further up the mountain! But it does give you some sense of the crowds of folks already filling up this legendary climb, in anticipation of the big day!

Here we are after our little jaunt up Alpe d’Huez, with a pretty amazing vista in the background.  All in all, not a bad way to spend an afternoon. Tomorrow rain is in the forecast, but we’ve got our fingers crossed that we’ll get to share another epic ride in the Alps with you!

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