Cross Vegas at Interbike

While checking out all the latest cycling gear and making business deals is the real reason for the Interbike trade show in Las Vegas, getting the chance to check out some of the fastest cyclocross racers on the planet at Clif Bar CrossVegas is a pretty close second for many of the industry show attendees. Having grown from more modest beginnings in 2007, CrossVegas is now rated as a Category 1 race, just a notch below the biggest events on the European World Cup circuit. With early season ranking points on the line, CrossVegas now always draws a deep field to the Desert Breeze complex a few miles from the Vegas Strip – a grassy oasis that is transformed into a raucous arena of 10,000 fans under the lights for some nighttime racing.

Cross_vegas_hill

Big and noisy crowds lined the hillside near the barriers

Before the pros took to the course, a motley crew of amateurs from the cycling industry racers tried their luck in this early season cyclocross spectacular. Everyone from bike manufacturers, to clothing vendors, to cycling journalists, to your very own Performance Bicycle was represented in the ‘wheeler and dealer’ race – former pro (and race ringer) Christian Heule of KoolStop took the victory atop a brand new Diamondback Steilacoom RCX Carbon Pro Disc. This race also gave everyone a chance to check out the course and find their preferred vantage points for the later races – we were a big fan of the elaborate wooden banked turn at the base of the run-up and barriers (although there were also 2 flyover ramps, and 2 more sets of steps to keep things interesting).

crossvegas_ramp

Cycling industry racers tackle the wicked cool banked turn

But the crowds really came to see the top pros duke it out in this first major cross race of the year – having grown in stature over the years, CrossVegas now regularly attracts a great field of racers from the US and Europe to race under the lights. By far the top name in town was reigning world champion Sven Nys of Belgium –  the seemingly ageless ‘Cannibal from Baal’ who has been a dominant fixture on the pro cross circuit for 15 years. An undisputed hero in his home country, Sven was back to race in the US for only the second time ever (his first being the World Championships in Louisville, Kentucky earlier in 2013).

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Sven Nys being interviewed by Belgian sports channel Sporza

However before Nys and company took to the course, the elite women had to settle their scores. Even though the sun had set at the Desert Breeze race venue, it was still blazingly hot when a stacked field of Katerina Nash, Lea Davison, Catharine Pendrel, Meredith Miller, Georgia Gould and Amy Dombroski, among others, lined up for the 40 minute women’s race. Racing was fast and furious from the starting gun, but a lead pack of about 20 riders stayed mostly together through the first few laps.

But about halfway through the race Katerina Nash jumped clear of the pack and never looked pack. The Czech rider kept the chasers at bay for the last half of the race and cruised home for an undisputed victory – American Lea Davison held off former mountain bike world champion Catharine Pendrel to round out the podium. Afterwards Nash announced that she was going to retire from pro cycling, only to un-retire a few days later. Hey, why quit when you’re ahead (although those are famous last words in Las Vegas)?

Cross_vegas_women_finish

Katerina Nash takes the win in the women’s race

After an exhilirating women’s race, the crowd was fired up to watch the elite men battle it out. Toeing the line from the international contingent were the champ, Sven Nys, Wout Van Aert, Quinten Hermans, Bart Wellens, and Sven Vanthourenhout, while the North American racing scene was represented by Jeremy Powers, Geoff Kabush, Ryan Trebon, Tim Johnson, Adam Craig, Jamie Driscoll, US champ Jonathan Page, and Belgian transplant Ben Berden. It was a formidable lineup for any cross race anywhere in the world – and the action didn’t disappoint. If there was one word to describe cross racing at this level, it would be ‘ferocious’. Pro cross racers attack from the gun, and don’t let up until the last lap an hour later!

Constant attacks on the very first lap left the field strung out across the wide-ranging grass circuit – it was amazing to see the raw speed and skill on display. If you ever get the chance to see world-class cyclocross racing in person you won’t be disappointed – watching these racers float over the barriers (many simply bunny-hopping them) with barely any drop in speed, or expertly dismount and re-mount at full gas, or even rocket through turns while jostling for position definitely makes for a fantastic spectator sport.

But back to the race – the seemingly inevitable soon happened and Nys glided off the front and established a gap. American Ryan Trebon grimly covered the move and hung with Nys for a few laps, but the Belgian’s relentless laps soon shed the rangy Trebon and the champ was all alone at the front. Riding solo for the last half of the race, Nys stayed comfortably ahead of the chasers and was able to casually cruise home the final straight for his second victory on US soil, much to the delight of the crowd (they came to see the best, and a winner in rainbow stripes certainly fit the bill). Behind Nys, American Jeremy Powers jumped away from the chasing pack to take second, while Canadian Geoff Kabush snuck in for third.

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Arms up for Sven Nys as he cruises in to victory in the men’s race

All in all, CrossVegas definitely lived up to the hype – 2 worthy champions, lots of furious cross racing, and a pretty rollicking party rolled into one event. If you make it out to Interbike next year and someone offers you an invite to CrossVegas, don’t pass up the opportunity to check out some world-class cyclocross in the Nevada desert (OK, it’s at a grassy city park, but it was still really hot and dusty).

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Amy Dombroski (on the left) talking to Georgia Gould before the start of CrossVegas

On a sad note, we did want to take a moment in closing to remember American cyclocross racer Amy Dombroski, who was tragically killed in a training accident in Belgium a few weeks after this race. A well-known and respected member of the women’s cyclocross scene in the US and Europe, Amy’s friends have put together a Facebook page to remember a life cut much too short – donations for her family can mailed to: Memorial of Amy Dombroski; c/o Wells Fargo Deposits; 1242 Pearl St.; Boulder 80302.

Wordless Wednesday

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Eurobike Wrap-Up

We’ve finally recovered from the jetlag after Eurobike, the cycling industry’s biggest international trade show. A 3 day festival of anything and everything bike-related, Eurobike takes place every year near the idyllic shores of Lake Constance in the southwest corner of Germany. While the show is really too big to sum up in just a few paragraphs, we’ll hit a few highlights and trends below – before we head out to the biggest US cycling show, Interbike in Las Vegas.

The scenery around Eurobike is slightly different than at Interbike in Las Vegas.

The scenery around Eurobike is slightly different than at Interbike in Las Vegas.

1. 27.5″ (or 650B) wheels for mountain bikes are here to stay. This in-between wheel size (although it is closer in size to 26″ wheels than 29″ wheels) was on full display at Eurobike, with every major manufacturer offering a trail bike in this ‘tweener format. Mostly these bikes are being pitched as “all-mountain” or “enduro” bikes – but in reality that’s what most of us ride every day! We ride up, down and over whatever the trail throws at us, and want a bike that makes any trail more fun, so 27.5″ bikes should be a great fit. The continued rise of 27.5″ bikes also mean that more tires, wheels and suspension are also becoming available for upgrades later on. We’re especially excited about the new GT Force and Sensor bikes, and Joe Breeze’s very first full-suspension bike, the Breezer Repack.

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2. Hydraulic disc brakes for road/cyclocross bikes were also highly evident throughout the show. While we know that not everyone is going to be interested, many manufacturers have incorporated at least one road bike with hydraulic stoppers into their lineup, and definitely on a cyclocross bike if they have one. Both SRAM and Shimano offer hydraulic options on their newest high-end road components, and Campagnolo has partnered with Formula to offer a system. With the promise of increased braking power and consistency plus more freedom for the design of road bike wheels, it will be interesting to see how this trend develops over time.

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3. E-bikes, or electronic-pedal assist bikes, also had a huge presence in the halls of Eurobike. From city bikes to road bikes to full-suspension mountain bikes, manufacturers have jammed electric motors into just about any type of bike you can imagine. While e-bikes have not made inroads in the US so far, in Europe they already have a huge presence, even with costs of over $4,000 per bike (e-bikes account for 10% of all bike sales in Germany). We actually test-rode quite a few models of e-bikes at the show, including one rated at an assist level of up to 45km/h (or almost 30mph), and they are fun to ride, even if it does feel like you are cheating a bit.

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4. On the fashion front, Eurobike was awash in bright and highly visible colors, from safety orange, to brilliant blues, to fluorescents yellows and greens – although we noticed some camo patterns making a comeback as well. There were still plenty of traditional colors being used, but in our books these bright colors are good news – we’re in favor of anything that makes us more visible while we’re riding our bikes!

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5. Finally, Eurobike was exciting simply for it’s proliferation of creative and, sometimes, wacky ideas for bikes and gear. The energy and enthusiasm for anything bike-related was great to see – the world of people who love bikes and see great opportunities in this market is vast. Not all of these ideas might make it, but we love seeing what people dream up for the future of cycling.

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You can find all of our photos from Eurobike in a gallery on our Facebook page.

Find the Right Fuji For You

If you were looking for the oldest bike brands, it might surprise you to know that Fuji would be among them. Fuji Bicycles has been helping riders conquer their mountains since 1899, and to this day they’ve continued to develop some of the most cutting-edge bikes on the market. The Fuji stable of products is enormous, with everything from high-end road bikes, to race-winning mountain bikes, cruisers, comfort bikes and everything in between. A blog article that dealt with all of it would probably be more like a text book, so for the moment we’ll just stick with their road bikes. Fuji makes some of the best road bikes out there, but with so many to choose from it can be difficult to figure out which model is the right one for you.

Never fear, we took a look at the whole Fuji road bike line-up, and broke it down for you to help you think about what kind of rider you are, and decide which bike is for you.

Fuji Carbon Fiber Bikes

Fuji Altamira 1.1

The Altamira

Best for: riders who push themselves and their equipment hard, and demand the very best

This is Fuji’s flagship road model, and is designed with the racer or serious enthusiast in mind. In 2011 Juan Cobo won the Vuelta a Espana aboard an Altamira, and for the last two years the German-based NetApp team has been riding them in races from the Tour of California to Paris-Roubaix.

Every model of the Altamira features a full carbon fiber frame and fork, making this a lightweight, stiff and fast bike. The Altamira was created for long, fast days in the saddle, and can climb with the best of them. The geometry is more aggressive than the Gran Fondo, but doesn’t sacrifice comfort in the name of speed. Make no mistake though, this is a pure, unadulterated race bike.

  • Altamira SL: Pro-level specialized climbing bike shaves every possible gram with SRAM Red and carbon tubular wheels
  • Altamira 1.1: Pro-level bike pulls out all the stops in the name of speed with Dura-Ace 9070 Di2 and aero carbon fiber clincher wheels
  • Altamira 1.3: Pro-level bike is designed to win races with a Dura-Ace 9000 drive train
  • Altamira 2.1: delivers cutting-edge performance with Shimano Ultegra Di2 drive train
  • Altamira 2.3: take any town-line sprint with Shimano Ultegra drivetrain
  • Altamira 2.5: features Shimano 105 for riders ready to graduate to a new level of riding

Fuji SST 1.3 C

The SST

Best for: the rider who has an unabashed need for speed

The Fuji SST first debuted under the riders of the Footon team (to see the notorious team kits, click here…if you dare) during the Tour de France. The swoopy, graceful carbon fiber frames looked fast and aggressive, and indeed they proved to be.

The SST is Fuji’s straight up speed machine. The arched tubes and compressed geometry are a sprinters delight, and will best serve criterium racers and enthusiasts who like to go fast. These are not bikes that will keep you comfortable during an 8 hour day in the saddle, but with the Fuji SST, the town line sprint or the top of the podium are yours for the taking.

  • SST 1.3: Pro-level bike delivers all-out sprinting performance with Ultegra Di2 drive train
  • SST 2.0 LE: take the top of the podium with Ultegra mechanical drivetrain
  • SST 2.3:  features Shimano 105 for those looking to get lots of speed at an exceptional value
  • SST 3.0 LE: get ready to move on to competitive riding with this Shimano 105 equipped bike


Fuji Gran Fondo 1.1 C

The Gran Fondo

Best for: the rider who likes to go fast, and demands performance, but doesn’t mind sacrificing some speed to be more comfortable

There are some who say that comfort and performance aren’t good bed fellows, but those people obviously haven’t seen the Fuji Gran Fondo. These bikes use the same blends of carbon fiber found in the Altamira and the SST, but with a geometry that won’t push your body to the limits. For sure, these bikes don’t have an aggressive race geometry, but when you’re spending 6-8 hours in the saddle during a Gran Fondo this is a bike that’s nice and forgiving on the back.

  • Gran Fondo 1.1 C: features 11-speed Dura-Ace 9000 for the serious Gran Fondo rider
  • Gran Fondo 1.0: features 10-speed Dura-Ace 7900 for those who demand the best
  • Gran Fondo 1.3 C: take your ride to the cutting-edge with Ultegra Di2
  • Gran Fondo 1.5 C: features mechanical Ultegra for those who desire high-end performance but prefer mechanical shifting
  • Gran Fondo 2.0: cutting edge Ultegra Di2 and a beautiful Italian-themed paint job
  • Gran Fondo 3.0 LE: for the rider looking for a great new road bike that won’t break the bank
This geometry chart compares the Altamira with the Gran Fondo

This geometry chart compares the Altamira with the Gran Fondo


Fuji Aluminum Road Bikes

Fuji Roubaix 1.0 LE

 The Roubaix

Best for: the rider who wants to go fast on a budget without sacrificing performance

The Fuji Roubaix got its start in life as a specialized frame built to take pros through the murderous Spring Classics of Paris-Roubaix and the Ronde van Vlaanderen. The hellish cobblestone roads of those races have long sent pro-racers begging to their sponsors for a new kind of frame, and Fuji responded with the Roubaix—an aluminum bike that was built with enough compliance and high-tech features to tame the horrific roads of the northern Classics.

Times have changed though, and so has this venerable aluminum bike. While many riders have moved on to carbon fiber, the Fuji Roubaix continues to be one of the longest and best selling bikes in the world thanks to its impressive mix of comfort, performance and handling. The Roubaix is the perfect bike for the beginning racer, someone looking for a first road bike, or even the veteran racer who needs a durable yet fast bike for crit racing.

  • Roubaix SL: this race bike is equipped with a carbon fork and Shimano Ultegra mechanical shifting
  • Roubaix 1.0 LE: features a fast, durable alloy frame and dependable Shimano 105 shifting
  • Roubaix LE: equipped with Shimano 105 shifting for optimized performance
  • Roubaix 1.5 C: Shimano Tiagra 10-speed shifting and a pressfit bottom bracket for a high-end feel and dependable performance
  • Roubaix 2.0 LE: features Shimano Tiagra 10-speed shifting
  • Roubaix 3.0 LE: road bike with Shimano Sora 9-speed shifting is perfect for the beginning road cyclist

Fuji Sportif 1.1 C

The Sportif

Best for: the rider who wants to stay fit and have some fun on the road

The Fuji Sportif was created to answer the needs of the everyday road cyclist. Traditionally, Sportifs are non-competitive organized rides that don’t recognize winners, but celebrate the joys of the road. In America we now know these rides as gran fondos, but the tradition is an old one, and it demands a certain kind of bike. A bike just like the Fuji Sportif.

If you’re eager to discover the joys of the road, but don’t have much interest in racing, then the Fuji Sportif is for you. These bikes are built with the same high quality standards as the Roubaix, but with a more relaxed fit and geometry to suit riders who believe road rides are more about the journey than the suffering. Think of the Sportif as an aluminum version of the Fuji Grand Fondo. If you want it to go fast, it will, but this bike is more about staying fit and having fun.

  • Sportif 1.1 C: road bike with Shimano Tiagra 10-speed shifting is ideal for the long distance rider
  • Sportif 1.3 C: Shimano Sora equipped bike is great for someone looking to stay fit
  • Sportif 1.7 C: Shimano components make this a great value for a first road bike
This geometry charts shows the difference between the Roubaix and the Sportif

This geometry charts shows the difference between the Roubaix and the Sportif


For more information and an in-depth model comparison, check out these videos from our The Performance Bicycle Learning Center.

Fuji Pro Bikes at the 2013 Amgen Tour of California

While we were out on the west coast watching the action at the 2013 Amgen Tour of California, we dropped by the 2 Fuji-sponsored pro teams in the peloton, Team Champion System and Team NetApp-Endura. Both teams put up a strong showing in the race, including a victory on top of Mount Diablo, the Queen stage of the race, by Leopold Koenig of Team NetApp. Don’t miss our photo galleries of Stage 6Stage 7, and Stage 8 over on our Facebook page to see more of the race.

Of course since we were so close to these pro bikes, we couldn’t miss the chance to do a quick bike check to see how they set up their Fuji Altamira and SST road bikes. Read on below to find out what Ryan Roth of Team Champion System and Leopold Koenig of Team NetApp-Endura  rode in America’s biggest race.

Ryan Roth – Team Champion System – Fuji SST Team

DSC_0026Ryan is a 30 year old “all-rounder” for Team Champion System, and has been a pro cyclist for 7 years. Ryan is the current Canadian national road champion and at 5’9″ tall, he rides a 54cm Fuji SST Team C10 High Modulus frame in Team Champion System colors.

DSC_0027His bike is outfitted with 2012 SRAM Red components (10 speed), including a 53-39 SRAM crank with an SRM power meter and Speedplay Zero pedals with stainless steel spindles.

DSC_0028The stem is an Oval Concepts R700 aluminum model, 130mm in length – note the stage’s important info taped to the top.

DSC_0038Red Velo bar tape (for Canadian pride) wraps around an Oval Concepts 700 aluminum handlebar, with a fairly round drop (and a 5mm spacer below the stem).

DSC_0032Custom number plate mount is definitely a pro touch.

DSC_0033Vittoria Corsa Evo CX 23mm tubular tires are mounted to Oseous T-FCC 38 carbon wheels (38mm deep).

DSC_0034Out back, Ryan either ran an 11-25 or 11-26 cassette (a SRAM PG-1070 model to add weight), with a PC-1091 chain.

DSC_saddle Selle Italia Flite Gel Flow team edition saddle (with anatomic cutout & ti rails).

DSC_0044In talking to the team mechanic, he noted that it doesn’t take much to keep the bikes spotless, since they are washed every night. Just a light spray down with very gentle cleaners (like diluted Dawn detergent) and water, then a light lube for the chain. At most they are only cleaning off one day’s worth of road grime. And nothing is changed on the bike unless the rider asks for it – wheels, tires and cassettes are left with the bike at all times unless the rider specifically requests a change. Most of the team riders rode the same wheels and cassettes on every stage, even the climbing stages. At most they would use an 11-26 – that’s all you can use if you want to keep up with the group on the climbs! An 11-28 cassette sounds nice, but if you shifted into those gears you would immediately get dropped and lose too much time.

Leopold Koenig – Team NetApp-Endura – Fuji Altamira SL

DSC_0749This is Leopold Koenig’s second year riding for Team NetApp – a 25 year old from the Czech Republic, Leo has been a pro since 2007. A climber and GC contender by nature, 5’9″ Leo piloted his Fuji Altamira SL C15 Ultra Light High Modulus carbon frame, a 54cm model in custom NetApp colors, to victory in the mountainous stage 7 of the 2013 Amgen Tour of California (after placing 8th in the stage 6 individual time trial).

DSC_0750Drivetrain duties were handled by new Shimano Dura-Ace 9000 series components (mechanical 11 speed), with a 53-39 crankset (although Leo runs an SRM power meter on his race bike) and Speedplay Zero Pedals.

DSC_0752In back there was an 11-25 cassette, with a Dura-Ace 11-speed chain.

DSC_0754Lightweight Oval Concepts 924 carbon tubular wheels were shod in Vittoria Corsa Evo CX 23mm tubular tires.

DSC_0758The Oval Concepts 713 aluminum stem measured 130mm, and there was no spacer below the stem.

DSC_0761Oval Concepts 700s aluminum handlebars, with a short drop, were wrapped in Prologo bar tape.

DSC_0756Leo uses a Prologo Zero TR saddle with sturdy titanium rails.

DSC_0760While this was Leo’s backup bike, it was outfitted exactly the same as his primary race bike (with the exception of an SRM power meter) –  the same bike that conquered Stage 7 of the 2013 Amgen Tour of California, the Queen Stage of the race that finished on top of the mighty Mount Diablo. But the Altamira isn’t just a lightweight bike for climbers – on the final stage in Santa Rosa, Daniel Schorn of Team NetApp came up just short in a pure drag race to the finish, taking second place behind Peter Sagan.

Wordless Wednesday

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2013 Alpine Loop Gran Fondo – the Finale

If you’ve been following on our blog, you’ve read how Zach, from our home office, had prepared his body and his bike gear to get ready to tackle the challenge of Jeremiah Bishop’s Alpine Loop Gran Fondo in Virginia. But we couldn’t just send him up to the ride by himself, so we put together a team of 3 to report back on the most challenging and adventurous Gran Fondo in the United States!

Peloton heading out of town | Photo by Joe Foley Photography: http://www.joefoleyphotography.com

Below is a photo of our crew the night before the big ride, with Jeremiah Bishop in the middle, sporting his extra-special white tuxedo for the pre-ride dinner (he was the host, after all). Ross, on the left, is a merchandise assistant in our bikes division – and is also an all-around fast dude on a bike. David works in our marketing department as our social media guy – documenting adventures such as this ride. And finally, Zach, one of our web merchants, is on the right – he’s been training hard all year to lose weight, gain fitness and get ready for the Gran Fondo. Read on below to find out how the ride worked out for each member of our team.

Ross, David, Jeremiah Bishop and Zach | Photo by Joe Foley Photography: http://www.joefoleyphotography.com

Ross:

After hearing rave reviews from a few friends, I knew that the Alpine Loop Gran Fondo had to be highlighted on my calendar this year.  Any time you hear the words mountains, bikes, beer, gravel, and fundraising in an event description, a great time is to be had… and it was. I was very thankful to have taken Jeremiah up on his pre-fondo training ride a few weeks prior to the main event.  This ride gave me a chance to test out new equipment on many of the infamous sections of the course such as the hour long paved and gravel climbs and subsequent hair-raising descents of Reddish Mountain.  This ride was when I discovered my fondness for road tubeless setups and disc brakes on the road.

I’ll start my recap with a quick rundown of my bike setup, since it was a little different than the other guys. I rode a Scattante CFX Black cyclocross bike, running on Stan’s ZTR Alpha 340 disc front and rear wheels with Maxxis Padrone 700x23c tubeless tires, set up tubeless with Stan’s sealant (of course).

Following a brief staging, the ride was underway, we were winding through the streets of historic Harrisonburg and then off into the farmlands of the foothills.  After an hour riding over rollers, you could feel the peloton starting to get a little antsy as the first timed climb of the ride began and the pain began.  It wasn’t long before I was up near the front hanging on for the next several miles as Ben King set the pace.  As we passed over the summit, I was very thankful to have disc brakes on the wide open descent into the valley.  The Avid BB7 road disc calipers provided consistent stopping power no matter what the descent had in store.

Ross on his Scattante CFX Black | Photo by Joe Foley Photography: http://www.joefoleyphotography.com

With the first climb out of the way, the small re-grouping at the front was off to tackle the next few climbs… which happened to be the hardest of the day!  The second climb was 30 minutes riding 10-20% grades on gravel.  It was nothing short of exhausting with no chance for legs to recover.  The next few climbs were paved but equally as steep and energy draining.

Half-way through the ride, and with virtually no chance for recovery and another food/water break, the “final” climb of the day, a gravel road to the top of Reddish Knob, was breathing down our neck.  I don’t think that this road can really be considered “gravel”, it is more of a road cut into solid stone.  Tubeless tires won the day on this rough terrain with low tire pressure and virtually no chance of a pinch-flat.

After a grueling hour of climbing, the final check point came and went with a sigh of relief.  It was only downhill to Harrisonburg, or so it showed on the course profile. But don’t be mistaken by the elevation loss, the last 20 miles of the Gran Fondo were extremely hard! Fatigue and saddle time had taken their effect but the finish was so close that it encouraged us to ride harder – that and the fact that gobs of food and New Belgium beer were waiting at the finish line.

If you plan on riding the Alpine Loop Gran Fondo, be sure to look at Jeremiah’s equipment recommendations on the event website.  The route is nothing short of brutal.

Ross in the Amish countryside | Photo by Joe Foley Photography: http://www.joefoleyphotography.com

David:

I had one advantage over my coworkers, Ross and Zach, going in to the Alpine Loop Gran Fondo – I had completed the ride last year. Yes, Zach and Ross had gone up to Harrisonburg for a special training ride with the host of the event, Jeremiah Bishop, but there’s nothing quite like riding the whole route and knowing how your body will react. Then Jeremiah went and changed the route! So it was back to square one for me – I knew how hard the first road climb and the last rolling miles into town were, but the whole middle of the ride (including the fearsome backside of Reddish Knob) was going to be a new experience. My only real equipment change from last year was rolling on a Stan’s ZTR Alpha Comp Road Wheelset, set up tubeless with Stan’s sealant.

At the start of the ride, I rolled along comfortably ensconced in the peloton with my coworkers – the pace was casual until the first big climb of the day. And that’s the last place I saw them until the finish line – Ross motored on up the road with the leaders, Zach started his battle to finish under the time cutoff for the glockenbell finisher’s medal, and I settled in to a comfortable place somewhere in between.

David climbing to Reddish Knob | Photo by Joe Foley Photography: http://www.joefoleyphotography.com

It’s always interesting on rides like this how quickly you find the group that is going your same pace – for the whole rest of the day I saw a rotating group of the same faces as the pack that crested the first climb near me – a moving mini-group within the group. The good news is that I felt better than I had last year – although for some reason the second dirt road climb felt even harder than before. I blame selective amnesia – 20% pitches on a bumpy dirt road will do that!

The highlight of the ride had to be the soul-crushing ride up the backside of Reddish Knob, a new addition to the Alpine Loop Gran Fondo route. I neglected to read up on this devious climb beforehand, so I was convinced that it was only 3 or 4 miles. Nope, that’s not Jeremiah’s style. Instead it was 9 miles of undulating dirt and gravel road, checkered with potholes, steep climbs, flowy mini-descents, and a finish high atop Reddish Knob with a stunning 360 degree view of the mountains.

Top of Reddish Knob

On this climb I experienced the high and low-points of my ride. The high point (other than the delicious rest stop food – Nutella, waffles and Orangina are my new favorite mid-ride snacks) was finding an extra burst of speed and power halfway up the climb, which found me flying by fellow riders and the expertly placed photogs from Joe Foley Photography. My low point came shortly afterwards, where I paid for my sudden acceleration with the most painful leg cramps that I’ve ever experienced – I was only able to soldier through by pounding down as many margarita flavored extra-sodium Clif Shot Bloks as I could stomach. All in all, it was another grueling, amazing and memorable ride (and my longest ride ever at 107 miles), and I can’t wait to give it another go next year!

David near the top of Reddish Knob | Photo by Joe Foley Photography: http://www.joefoleyphotography.com

Zach:

I’ve had a few weeks to digest the Alpine Loop Gran Fondo. The scenery, both beautiful and tranquil, provided a picturesque background in which to suffer.  The event was quite the experience.  There was almost every type of cyclist there.  Everyone from “fat bike” riders, to Radio Shack Nissan team pro Ben King, and of course, the emcee of the weekend, the man himself, Mr. Jeremiah Bishop.  Everyone had fun. Everyone suffered.  Everyone made new friends.  We suffered together, we laughed together.  There were long grinding climbs, world class descents, and hours of relentless focus.

As for me, I did what I set out to do.  Finish in under 10 hours – I did it in 8 hours and 45 minutes.

Every time I tell recall the experience, whether to friends or just in my mind, the more details I remember.  It’s as if it was an epic, suspenseful movie with ups, downs, twists, and turns.  Every time you watch the movie, you pick up on new things you hadn’t noticed the first time you watched it.  I remember the folks I had conversations with, where they were from and what inspired them to ride in the ALGF.  I remember suffering for hours, by myself, turn after turn yielding nothing but more elevation around the next corner.  I remember that pothole I hit at 38mph during a 15 mile descent around mile 80 that could have thrown me from the bike and thinking that, ‘I should try not to lose focus’. After all, I had ridden 80 miles and climbed over 10,000 feet  at that point in the day and my mind and body was fading.

Zach on the first climb of the day | Photo by Joe Foley Photography: http://www.joefoleyphotography.com

I could point out around 20 highlights of the weekend in general, but the two that stand out the most have to be the second climb of the day, and crossing the finish line.  The second climb of the day was 3 miles, 1400 feet, on gravel, with nothing but 15-20 percent grade stair step pitches.  Many people were walking up most of the pitches.  Somehow I managed to stay on the bike, and never walked at any point during the day. Epic. Finishing goes without saying.  It was just good to accomplish something that I had spent all summer thinking and training for.

All in all, this was the hardest event I’ve ever done in my life.  After three weeks I’m just starting to get my legs back.  I’m undecided as to whether or not I’ll try and tackle it again next year, but I highly recommend it for anyone looking to take their riding to the next level.  I did things on a bike that I never would have dreamed about when I first started riding a few years ago.  It was an event I’ll never, ever forget.  Thanks to all my supporters who helped me do it, and most of all, my wife!  From here on, I’m looking forward to bike rides to the park with the family, Spaten Oktoberfest, and the off season.  Oh yeah wait, there is no off season!

For more pictures of the Alpine Loop Gran Fondo, check out the photo gallery on our Facebook page or take a look at the amazing photos from the pros at Joe Foley Photography (who were gracious enough to let us use their images in this post). Plus we want to give a special shout-out to all of the volunteers at the Gran Fondo, who did a great job of making everyone feel welcome all weekend long – and especially to Jeremiah and his wife Erin, who were gracious hosts for this great event, even if Jeremiah did poke fun at Zach after the ride:

Interbike 2012 Wrap-up: Part 2

Since there is almost no way to see everything at the annual Interbike trade show, in our wrap-up we’re just talking about the interesting bikes and gear that caught our eye as we walked the convention hall floor or the Outdoor Demo. Check out our photo album on Facebook for even more shots from the show, and if you missed Part 1 of our wrap-up, you can find it here.

When we visited the Outdoor Demo at Interbike, the bikes we really wanted to check out were the new carbon mountain bikes from Devinci – they’ve updated their entire lineup, from the World Cup winning Wilson downhill bike, to the nimble 29er Atlas to the super fun Dixon all-mountain 26″ ride. We had a blast testing out their new bikes, and even got suspension designer Dave Weagle to break down the 2013 lineup for us:

And since he was hanging out, we even got Dave to explain how Devinci’s patented Split Pivot rear suspension works, and what makes it great:

While we’re talking bikes, Fuji has a great lineup of road, mountain and cyclocross bikes on tap for next year, with updated graphics and components. One of our favorites was this gorgeous 13.2 pound Altamira road bike with Oval components tubular wheels:

This new Outland 29er mountain bike also caught our eye, with its flashy paintjob and short rear chainstays, for great handling:

One of Fuji’s most interesting new bikes was this Altamira CX Disc model, featuring cable-actuated disc brakes – almost every bike manufacturer featured either a cross or road bike with disc brakes:

Giro was at Interbike with an updated 2013 lineup, but their new Air Attack helmet was drawing lots of attention. Its aero shape may look odd, but Giro designers claim that it is almost as efficient at cooling your head as their standard helmets, yet almost as efficient aerodynamically as their time trial helmets:

Meanwhile their new Empire shoes are all about style, adjustability and fit – laces are back, and they’ve never looked so good:

Pearl Izumi was busy at Interbike showing off their Project X mountain bike shoes, which are as colorful as they are well thought-out. The heart of these new shoes is the sole, which features a flexible carbon shank embedded in the bonded outsole.

This shank is designed to be stiff while pedaling, for maximum efficiency, while still retaining sufficient flex for comfortable walking – a great combination for cyclocross or mountain biking:

Louis Garneau debuted their lightweight Course lineup of shoes, helmets and clothing at Interbike – including this great-looking new helmet and Boa lace-closure cycling shoe:

 Louis Garneau won a design award for this Course vest, which features a gripper hem and open back panel so that you can reach in your back jersey pockets – one of those “why didn’t anyone think of that before” moments:

Ergon was on hand with new grips and packs, but their most interesting new gear was this intriguing CF3 Pro Carbon seatpost. It is designed to act as a leaf spring to absorb shock while riding – and it’s intended for use on the road:

And finally, just to show that even the hottest new trend has been tried before, check out this pair of 650B (or 27.5″) mountain bikes from Ritchey – the one on the left is their latest and greatest creation, while the one on the right is Ritchey’s first foray into the 650B world… from 1977!

Zach’s Training Diary: Getting ready for the Gran Fondo

It’s almost time to see if our web merchant Zach has what it takes to ride hard in Jeremiah Bishop’s Alpine Loop Gran Fondo in Virginia. If you’ve been following on the blog, Zach has been training all summer to take on the hardest Gran Fondo in the US – 104 miles, over 11,000 feet of climbing and dirt road climbs thrown in for good measure! So now it’s time to see how he’s feeling and what gear he’s picked to take on the challenge.

The big ride I’ve been training for is in just a couple of days!  I’m ready for it.  I feel like I spent the entire summer training for it and thinking about it.  I got burnt out on training for a while, right after I peaked too early and then fell off the wagon a bit.  Since then I have rested up, done some active recovery, and come back a bit stronger and more prepared.  I’ve got everything lined up and dialed in!  The only thing that’s bothering me is a brutal allergy attack, but I’ve been getting plenty of rest and come Saturday morning I’ll be riding no matter what condition I’m in!

Zach’s training log

Over the summer I’ve had the pleasure to ride a few bikes from Fuji to try out and see which one was the best for me, given the riding conditions of the Gran Fondo.  In an earlier post I talked about the Fuji Altamira and the Fuji SST.  I was able to test out two more bikes over the summer, the Fuji SL1 Comp and the Fuji Gran Fondo.

The SL1 Comp was a very comfortable bike, and would be the perfect bike for someone transitioning into their first carbon road bike, or doing long group century rides.  For me, though, it wasn’t quite as responsive as the Altamira during the long climbs. Since there will be 11,000 feet of climbing in the Gran Fondo, I may need to pass on this one.  Otherwise, the bike did great on long training rides with rolling hills around the Piedmont of NC.  I could easily get 80 miles in on it and feel great afterwards.

Zach riding the Fuji SL1 Comp

The fourth and last bike was the Fuji Gran Fondo.  This bike is designed for exactly what it’s named after, riding long and hard during a Gran Fondo, or any other similar style of ride.  The bike is a very fast machine, climbs great, is comfortable, and absorbs potholes and gravel easily to give a smooth and plush ride.  The upright geometry gave me no problems while reaching for energy gels, a water bottle, or getting my phone out of my back pocket to text my wife that I was OK while riding (just kidding on the texting part).  Plainly put, the Fuji Gran Fondo delivers!

Fuji Gran Fondo 3.0

So which one did I go for?  It was a hard choice. The SST and SL1 Comp were ruled out as top contenders for a Gran Fondo.  They’re great machines for what they’re designed for, but not great at long ascents on gravel roads.  The Gran Fondo would seem to be the obvious choice, but given that I also had the option of the similar Altamira that’s decked out with Shimano Dura Ace electronic shifting, I went with the Altamira!

There was just something about the Altamira that felt better for me.  It’s quick and snappy on the climbs, is very comfortable, it delivers optimal power transfer with its oversized bottom bracket, and at the end of the day was lighter than the rest of the choices. I’ve been riding it for quite some time now, and have made a few changes to prep it for the gran fondo riding conditions.  The Altamira came with an Ultegra standard 53-39 double crankset and an 11-25 cassette on the back.  I swapped those out for an Ultegra 50-34 Compact Crankset paired with an 11-28 cassette.  With that low of a gear ratio, I should be able to ride the hills of the Gran Fondo with no problems! For tires I chose Continental Gatorskins in a 700X25 size, that, when paired with Zipp 303 Firecrest Carbon Clincher wheels, actually measure out to about 26mm in width. Running this set up at about 90 psi gives it all the cush and grip needed for those long gravel climbs.

So that’s the bike!  It’s a very important part of the puzzle, but there’s plenty more that’s needed for the fondo.  After testing several products over the summer, I’ve come up with my own personal checklist of things that have worked the best for me from head to toe:

  1. Shoes: I use Sidi Ergo 3 shoes (similar to the Sidi Ergo 2 Carbon Lite Road Shoes) as the adjustability and control of personal fit on these shoes is unmatched!  They’re light, stiff and make for great climbing shoes!
  2. Socks: DeFeet Air-E-Ator HiTop Honey Badger Black Socks are sooooo nasty!!  Defeet has stood the test of time, miles, sweat, rain, multiple washes, and continue to be at the top of the sock drawer.
  3. Kit: Louis Garneau Mondo Evo Bib Shorts and Team Short Sleeve Jersey – This kit is the absolute most comfortable kit I’ve ever had.  It’s light, breathable, and it wicks and dries sweat away in the blink of an eye.  Our Garneau Custom Cycling team from Performance wears this combo for our team kits.
  4. Jacket:  Depending on the weather report, I may be packing my Cannondale Pack Me Jacket.  It stows away into my jersey pocket nicely and is a welcome addition if the rain starts pouring.
  5. Gloves:  Pearl Izumi Select Gel Gloves because they fit great, are comfortable, and my hands don’t go numb after four hours in the saddle.
  6. Eyewear:  Smith Pivlock V2 Max – I’ve never in my life owned a better pair of cycling glasses than these.  The tapered lens tech is no joke, and after riding them I’ll never go to another brand.  They’re very lightweight, and extremely durable.
  7. Helmet:  Giro Aeon Helmet – I switched to this after riding a Specialized Prevail for a long time and I have to say, the Aeon feels lighter and it fits my head better.  The red and black also match my kit.  DONE!
  8. Nutrition:  I thought I had this dialed in, but at the Gran Fondo training ride, I had some severe cramps despite staying hydrated and eating.  Since then I’ve started taking GU Brew Electrolyte Drink Tablets.  They’re packed with plenty of sodium and seem to be doing the trick!  For solid food I’ve always enjoyed the multiple varieties of Honey Stinger Waffles, and margarita flavored Clif Shot Blocks Energy Chews!  I also take some supplements here and there such as SportLegs or Endurox Excel, depending on what I’m doing.  Lastly, I love Endurox R4 for a recovery drink.  The chocolate flavor is my favorite, but they’re all good.
  9. Inflation:  The Spin Doctor Rescue HP mini pump will be tagging along with me.  With all the gravel I stand the chance of having to change multiple flats, and I’d rather not carry a bunch of CO2 cartridges.
  10. Pocket Essentials:  The Blackburn VIP SL Ride Wallet will be carrying my ID, credit card, phone, etc.  I’ve been using this thing for months and have been caught in downpours and sweat through my jerseys.  Everything inside stays completely dry.
  11. Computer:  Garmin Edge 500 with H/R monitor and the BarFly computer mount.  All around I think this is the best GPS device out there.  I love the compact design and that it’s fully customizable to give me everything I want to know.  The BarFly makes it a quick glance of the eye to view the Edge 500, instead of having to tilt my neck all the way down to view the stem mount.
  12. Water Bottles: CamelBak Podium ChillJacket Insulated Bottle – I dismissed these until I forgot my bottles on a training ride and ended up having to buy water bottles.  Now, I’ll never use anything else.  It keeps your water cool and that goes a long way both mentally and physically when you’re out there grinding it out.

Well, that’s the gear.  The only thing left to do is head back up to Harrisonburg this weekend and ride the Gran Fondo!  I can’t wait to get back up there and do it.  Hopefully this allergy attack will subside and I’ll have a strong ride come Saturday morning.  I’ll have a full report after I get back. Thanks for reading!

Zach’s Training Diary: Alpine Loop Training Ride

It’s time for another update from Zach, one of the web merchants here at our home office, who has been training all season to get ready for Jeremiah Bishop’s Alpine Loop Gran Fondo in Virginia. Zach has been working hard to get his training rides in around work and family life (1 year old twins keep you busy), but he’s got his work cut out for him to get fit for the hardest Gran Fondo in the US – 104 miles featuring 11,000 feet of climbing and two dirt road climbs! Last week he headed up north for some course recon to see if his training has paid off.

Last weekend I headed up to Harrisonburg, VA to get a sneak peak at the course for the Alpine Loop Gran Fondo (which takes place for real in three weeks).  I headed up with Ross, one of the other merchants here at Performance, on Friday night and we had dinner with Jeremiah and some other riders there for the training ride.  Friday night was great, as Jeremiah told us all about the history of the Fondo and Harrisonburg.  We talked about everything from dodging deer on your road bike during descents to the latest Lance drama. JB was a great host and being that this was the first time I had met a professional cyclist, he set the bar very high with his friendliness and honesty.

We started the training ride at around 9:30 on Saturday morning – in store for us was an 80 mile ride that went over the hills of Virginia and West Virginia.  There were four total climbs, the last of which was a 10 miler with a gain of 3,000 feet on gravel roads called “The Backside of Reddish.” After Reddish we had a 15 mile descent and then a few more miles of rolling terrain until we got back into Harrisonburg.

It was a great time to test my legs and see if I was ready for the real deal.  I felt very prepared for it, but despite eating a lot of food and drinking tons of fluids throughout the day, I started to fight cramps at the start of the last climb up Reddish. Not sure what the cause was (other than the 60 miles and 5K ft of climbing we had already done) but it was definitely a red flag for me. I was able to get some extra salt in me and fight through the cramps after 45 minutes or so.  I definitely thought about throwing in the towel and hopping in the sag wagon, but quickly dismissed that thought.  As painful as it was, I kept on, fought through them, and made it to the summit.

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Over the next few weeks I’ve got a good gameplan provided by Jeremiah.  This week is some stong muscular endurance building and hill repeats along with some off-the-bike exercises.  Next week is a little more mild with a few hard efforts, and the final week is active recovery, and tapering for the fondo.

Overall I’m feeling great about the ride.  The training over the summer has helped a whole lot!  I’ve lost close to 15 lbs, logged 152 hours, 2,307 miles, 137 rides, and 82 personal records (data provided by Strava).  As long as I get my nutrition dialed in, I think I’ll be golden! Plus I’ve even been able to raise some donations for the Prostate Cancer Awareness Project.

All this definitely wouldn’t have been possible without my wife Haley, my training partner Ken, Jeremiah Bishop, and the great company I work for, Performance Bicycle.  Just over two weeks, and it’s go time!

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