Race Report: North Carolina Cyclocross Grand Prix

Folks here at our HQ love racing cyclocross, and the 2 days of the UCI North Carolina Grand Prix in Hendersonville are definitely a highlight of their racing calendar. One of our bike buyers, Ben, decided to step up to the big leagues and test his skills at this UCI Elite event, so we thought a Q&A was in order about his weekend (and cyclocross in general). For more highlights and interviews from the race, check out Cycling Dirt  (a great source for cyclocross coverage in general). Here are their highlights from the Day One Men’s Race at the NCCGP.

Why do you race cyclocross?

I race ‘cross because it’s just flat out fun! People are always there to cheer, there is always plenty of beer and food at races, and the attitude is more layed back than a Pro 1/2 road race… plus it’s not 3 hours long like a Cat 1 mountain bike race!

How long have you been racing?

I have been racing CX for 4 years, but racing bikes for almost 20!

What do you ride?

I race on a Fuji Altamira CX Carbon with full SRAM Red components and a Reynolds Carbon 32 wheelset.

So who were the big guns in the race?

Starters included Belgian ‘cross star Ben Berden (kickin arse in the USA right now), ‘cross Zen master Adam Myerson, and regional stars like Travis Livermon, Jake Wells, and Ryan Knapp.

What was it like racing a UCI elite cyclocross race? How was it different than local ‘cross races?

It was a whole different level of fast, there was nowhere to hide and the pace never let up. It was flat out with sharp elbows into the first 3 turns and then on the gas until the race ended – it was amazing seeing someone like Berden drop the field.

What was your worst day racing ‘cross?

Worst day racing ‘cross was more of a training day. I was doing a hard interval and washed out and snapped my fibula… it was a rough ride home.

What was your best day racing ‘cross?

It was a total mud fest 2 years ago in Fayetteville during a January winter series race. I ended up only getting second but you couldn’t see an inch of my kit after the race was done, it was awesome!

Best hand-up during a race?

Probably the Merry Crossmas beer handup in last years Merry Crossmas Elite race – it was Foothills bottomless pints!

Favorite beer?

Right now, Left Hand Milk Stout… that could change any day though.

Product Profile: New 2012 Fuji Bikes

We know it’s still 2011, but we couldn’t wait to talk about the new 2012 Fuji Bikes that are showing up online & in our stores. Fuji has a great lineup ready for the new year, and they’re building on the success of their first Grand Tour-winning bike! Juan Jose Cobo of Team Geox-TMC won the Vuelta in style aboard Fuji’s new flagship road bike, the Altamira. Cobo, the “Bison”, stormed into the lead atop the feared Angliru by riding away from the field in dominating fashion.

The new 2012 Fuji Altamira 3.0 Road Bike is built on the same DNA as the Cobo’s Vuelta winning ride, and we got to see this great looking bike in person here in the lobby of our Headquarters (one of the benefits of working here is getting to see cool bikes like this on the way to your next meeting).

While we can’t promise that you’ll ride like Cobo, the 2012 Fuji Altamira 3.0 is an ultralight road platform that has been tested and refined on the Pro Tour, so it won’t let you down if you’re powering up a climb, sprinting for the county line or railing the hairpins on a high-speed descent.

The shapely C4 carbon frame features a tapered head tube and oversized downtube to provide a stiff and stable platform that responds instantly to rider input.  Plus it just looks good – these pictures don’t do the very cool carbon finish justice.

In back, the slender seatstays provide for a resilient and comfortable ride built for long days in the saddle. Rounding out the package, the 2012 Fuji Altamira 3.0 is outfitted with a ready-to-race mix of Shimano 105 and color-matched Oval brand components.

At the core of the frame, the oversized downtube mates with a massive bottom bracket junction to provide maximum strength and stiffness for efficient power transfer. The 2012 Fuji Altamira 3.0 definitely lives up to its Grand Tour pedigree.

Of course we’ve got a few more new rides from Fuji to offer right now, including the 2012 Fuji Cross 3.0 Cyclocross Bike seen below,which features a flattened top tube for shouldering the bike more comfortably and securely, plus a lightweight alloy fork with plenty of clearance for even the most mud-slathered cross tires.

The 2012 Fuji Newest 1.0 Road Bike is built around a lightweight aluminum frame and carbon fork to provide both responsive handling and a comfortable ride, along with the flexibility of a 30-speed drivetrain, so you never run out of gearing in the hills.

The 2012 Fuji Roubaix 3.0 Road Bike is the latest iteration of the popular Roubaix line, a great combination of value and performance.  Its lightweight, custom-butted aluminum frame with bonded carbon fork delivers a supple, responsive ride, and the Shimano Sora drivetrain provides quick, precise gear changes.

The 2012 Fuji Absolute 2.0 is great for those looking for a more upright riding position than a drop handlebar road bike offers – it’s a great combination of the performance and handling you want on the road with the all-day comfort of a hybrid bike.

Finally, and definitely not least, we present the 2012 Fuji Altamira 2.0 Di2 Ultegra Road Bike.  Offering all of the features of the 2012 Fuji Altamira 3.0 above, the 2012 Fuji Altamira 2.0 features Shimano’s brand new Ultegra Di2 shifting system – the latest development in Shimano’s Di2 electronic drivetrain systems, Ultegra Di2 delivers fast and accurate shifts every time, yet is engineered to be highly durable and dependable.  We’ll definitely have more to say about this amazing bike soon!

Wordless Wednesday

Ironman World Championships – Kona

The 2011 Ironman World Championships will take place on the big island of Hawai’i for the 33rd year on Saturday. Long heralded as one of the ultimate athletic tests, the instructions handed out to the very first Ironman participants succinctly summed up the challenge:

“Swim 2.4 miles! Bike 112 miles! Run 26.2 miles! Brag for the rest of your life!”

After an open water swim from Kailua Pier, racers face an often scorching out-and-back ride up the Kona coast (including the famous lava fields of the Queen Ka’ahumanu Highway), before finishing with a marathon run that is routed back on the Queen K Highway, through the feared Energy Lab section, and back to town for the finish. Here’s the preview from the coverage of last year’s race, if you’ve never checked out the Kona Ironman in action:

We’ll be watching the pros riding bikes by our partners at Kestrel, including Andy Potts and the husband and wife duo of Michael Lovato and Amanda Lovato, plus Fuji sponsored rider Matty Reed (seen below training on the Queen K Highway), who is racing the Kona Ironman for the first time. You can check out a gallery of Reed’s Fuji D-6 race bike over at Triathlete. All season long the Fuji & Kestrel sponsored athletes have been engaged in a Tri Wars competition for brand bragging rights – Kestrel has the edge before the racing at Kona.

But the pros are only part of the story at the Ironman World Championships, as the vast majority of the field is made up of amateur age group competitors, from age 18 to over 80, there to challenge themselves and compete against an elite group of their peers. Athletes gain entry into the Ironman World Championship through worldwide qualifying events, or by being selected in the Ironman Lottery Program or even by winning a slot through the Ironman’s charitable eBay Auction. But no matter how they gained entry to the race, all athletes must finish by midnight in order to officially complete the Ironman, which has led to the tradition of raucous crowds (including some of the pros) cheering on the final Ironman finishers of the day.

2011 Kestrel 4000 Pro SL Shimano Ultegra Triathlon/Time Trial Bike

If you’re planning to give an Ironman a try next year, or maybe just start with a local triathlon, check out our selection of men’s and women’s triathlon clothing, compression wear for apres-ride recovery, plus our array of aero handlebarstime trial helmets and wheels to make your existing bike more aerodynamic. Or you can always pick up a sleek new Kestrel time trial bike or special order a Fuji D-6 or Aloha for delivery to one of our stores.

Ride Report: Jeremiah Bishop’s Alpine Loop Gran Fondo

Well, we were warned that Jeremiah Bishop’s Alpine Loop Gran Fondo was “the most challenging and adventurous Gran Fondo in the United States”, and we can now safely say that it was definitely the hardest road ride that this author has ever been on! Right from the start we (that’s David and Chris, from our headquarters) could tell that we were in for an epic day in the countryside around Harrisonburg, VA. But let’s begin at the beginning, as they say.

We started our adventure loading up the car in the rain, which we have a knack for finding whenever we head out. We drove up to Harrisonburg the night before the big ride to attend the gala dinner, where we got the chance to meet some of our fellow gran fondo riders, and even chat with Jeremiah Bishop himself. As he was all weekend, Jeremiah was approachable and excited to talk cycling – we talked about his experience riding in the pre-Olympic mountain bike test race (the course is harder than it looks) and he even talked a little smack about the upcoming Pisgah Mountain Bike Stage Race (where he’s the 2-time defending champ). But mainly we talked about the route for the Gran Fondo – the route was designed by Jeremiah to be the most challenging training ride for himself and his friends  that he could devise. He scoured Google Earth to find back roads, country lanes, wicked climbs and amazing views. He promised us that the route would make us think that we had been transported to the Alps, while also testing our limits to the fullest. When a guy with Jeremiah’s record tells you that a ride is going to be hard, you tend to believe him.

The next day we were up early to get to the start in downtown Harrisonburg, VA. Greeting us was a crowd of almost 300 like-minded riders, ready to enjoy a slightly overcast day out on the road. Here we are kitted out in our Scattante Team jerseys and Forza bib shorts. We had updated our respective Scattante and Fuji road bikes with brand new Kenda Kriterium Endurance 700x25c tires, built to handle rugged roads with their puncture-resistant Iron Cloak protection (inflated to 95 psi, per Jeremiah’s advice).

alpine_loop_2011_1 With the blowing of an alpine horn, we rolled out of town to start our long day in the saddle. Everyone started their respective route on the same road, in one big peloton (there were also shorter Medio and Piccolo route options). Jeremiah circulated throughout the pack, making sure that everyone was having a good time.

alpine_loop_2011_2

Photo by Jay Moglia http://www.rawtalentranch.com/

But after a convivial few miles at an easy pace, Jeremiah moved to the front and put the pedal down right before the first King of the Mountain climb (award jerseys were determined by your time on 2 pre-selected climbs, not on your overall time).  The field quickly strung out over the 4 miles to the top of the Shenandoah, and we settled in to a pace we could maintain for the 70 miles we still had to ride. Of course the long climb up meant that a fantastic descent awaited us on the other side. We flew down the mountain to rural West Virginia roads, where the first rest stop awaited us. Fully stocked with tasty treats and friendly volunteers, you really could get used to this treatment! But we’re here to talk about the ride, so we’ll move along – to the dreaded first dirt road climb!

alpine_loop_2011_3

Photos can’t do this monster justice – it was super steep and just slick enough that you couldn’t stand up without your rear tire spinning out. Sometimes it felt like you were about to topple over backwards, and we saw more than one person walking with their bike. It made us think of what the earliest Tour de France riders must have faced, such as Octave Lapize in his assault on the dirt roads of the Tourmalet in 1910 (thankfully we had more than 2 gears)! Once over the top, it was time for the equally challenging dirt road descent to the valley below.

alpine_loop_2011_4

After this road, the ride was more of a blur, but in a good way. Our legs were toast, but the riding was fantastic – we rode through valleys, down deserted country roads, and through small West Virginia towns. Take a look at the picture below – it could just as easily be a photo from France or Switzerland as the Virginia/West Virginia countryside (and since we just rode in the Alps in July, this comparison was fresh in our minds).

alpine_loop_2011_5Onward we rolled, sometimes joining up with other riders in a small pack, and sometimes just sailing along by ourselves. The course was so well-marked that there was never a chance of getting lost, so we just found a rhythm and kept on pedaling. Eventually we made it to the final KOM climb of the day, a 6 mile ascent to Reddish Knob, up another dirt road, of course. We just kept telling ourselves, Jeremiah really rides this as a training ride!

alpine_loop_2011_6Once over the Shenandoah again, it was all downhill to the finish in Harrisonburg.  No, scratch that, it was sort of downhill to the finish. The last 20 or so miles wound their way through the rolling farm fields outside of town, with barely any flat road in sight. Our route was expertly mapped to bypass the main roads into town, opting for the purely pastoral path, with plenty of friendly locals waving hello as we rode by (we even passed an Amish horse and buggy).

alpine_loop_2011_7Finally we rolled into town and made it to the finish line festivities – with nary a flat tire between us all day thanks to our rugged Kenda tires. Food and finisher’s medals were waiting for us as soon as we crossed the finish line – the helpful volunteers even had moist towels ready so we could clean off a day’s worth of hard-earned grime. And it was indeed hard-earned, as we could see when we downloaded the data from our Garmin Edge 800 GPS bike computers. We rode over 90 miles in total, with almost 11,000 feet of climbing (and just as much descending). Once we got cleaned up, we caught up with Jeremiah to see what he thought about putting on his very first Gran Fondo, and also about his preparation for the Pisgah Mountain Bike Stage Race (mixed with some ride highlights we captured with our Contour GPS helmet cam):

So would we ride it again? Absolutely (although maybe give us a week to recover)! If you judge by the results page, you’ll see that we didn’t exactly light up the record books, but that’s only part of what a Gran Fondo is all about. It’s really about challenging yourself, experiencing something new, and just having fun. Jeremiah and his team of volunteers (led by his wife Erin) made sure that all of those boxes were checked for the Alpine Loop Gran Fondo. Definitely make plans to give it a try next year, because now that Jeremiah has let everyone in on his secret training ride, this event is only going to get bigger and better. Just bring a positive attitude and your climbing legs and you’ll have a great time.

alpine_loop_2011_8To see all of our pictures from the Alpine Loop Gran Fondo, check out our photo album on Facebook.

2011 Giro d’Italia Preview

The 2011 Giro d’Italia, the first of the 3 Grand Tours of the cycling season, starts on Saturday.  Known for its unpredictability and excitement, not to mention the rabid tifosi, last year’s Giro will be a tough one to outdo.  Don’t remember the crashes, lead changes and climbing exploits that led to Ivan Basso’s victory of the final pink jersey last year? Then check out this race highlight reel to get caught up on what happened:

This year’s route promises more outstanding bike racing, with a route celebrating the Risorgimento, or unification of Italy in the 19th century.  This year’s Giro will roam all over Italy, in a wide-ranging route from the Alps all the way down to the slopes of Mount Etna on Sicily.

Many people are proclaiming this edition of the Giro as one of the toughest Grand Tours in history, and one look at the stage profiles bears out that assessment.  With 8 mountain stages on tap, including an uphill time trial, this is a Giro for the climbers (not that Tyler Farrar, Mark Cavendish and Alessandro Petacchi won’t battle it out in the sprints when they get the chance!).  Alberto Contador has said that this Giro would be the hardest 21-stage race of his life.

And yes, and we did say Alberto Contador; participating in his first Grand Tour since his infamous drug test during the Tour de France, Contador will be vying for his 6th Grand Tour title.  But he’s not the only one with a shot at the final maglia rosa in Milan this year.  Ivan Basso may have opted not to defend his title this year, but his young teammate Vincenzo Nibali (seen below in the pink jersey) will try to build on his triumph at the 2010 Vuelta a Espana, while Italian Michele Scarponi and former winner Denis Menchov will also be contenders for the overall (and don’t rule out Menchov’s Geox-TMC teammate and 2008 Tour de France champion Carlos Sastre).

But knowing the Giro, all we can be sure of is that the race will be filled with the twists, turns and surprises that make the Giro d’Italia so entertaining.  If you want to dress the part while watching the race, you can always pick up a pro jersey from Katusha, Vacansoleil or (a personal favorite) the always distinctive Lampre-ISD kit:

And you might as well pick up a pro-level helmet while you’re at it, like the sleek Lazer Helium or the brand new, and super-light, Giro Aeon:

Or you could just go all out and pick up a pro-level ride in honor of the Giro, such as the Fuji Altamira 3.0 road bike, or the race-tested Focus Izalco Team Replica road bike:

So are you excited for this year’s Giro d’Italia yet?  We sure are, and we hope to have so extra-special, behind-the-scenes footage and stories to share with you during the second week of the race!  Stay tuned for details!

Enter To Win: Fuji SL1 Pro Road Bike

What’s better than getting a brand new road bike? Getting a brand new road bike for free.

We’re giving away a 2011 Fuji SL1 Pro road bike to one lucky winner in May. Just stop by one of our stores, fill out an entry form, and this $2999 carbon fiber dream could be yours.

2011 Fuji SL1 Pro Road Bike

  • Monocoque C4 carbon frame with 12K weave carbon strands and C-4 carbon curved stays for incredibly fast and lightweight performance
  • Fuji bonded carbon fork smoothes out road vibrations
  • Shimano Ultegra 20-speed drivetrain with FSA Gossamer Compact crankset blends race-proven technology with perfect ergonomics to give you a new level of shifting performance
  • Shimano Ultegra STI levers put quick and efficient shifting right at your fingertips
  • Alloy handlebar, stem and seatpost for a lightweight, high-performance cockpit
  • Tektro dual-pivot brakes deliver efficient braking power and smooth modulation throughout the entire range
  • Vittoria Zaffiro II tires for comfort and responsive handling

Click here for for official contest rules

Cyclocross Season Wrap-up

The long cyclocross season here in North Carolina has finally drawn to a close, but not before the guys and gals on the Performance Bicycle team proceeded to have a blast racing, spectating, and otherwise torturing themselves on their Fuji and Focus cyclocross steeds.

Cross racing is a short, intense, and usually painful experience, but you find yourself wanting to do it all over again the next day!  Plus it helps to have a big and varied team like ours, so that there were always teammates there to cheer/heckle you when it was time to push yourself to the limit.

The races even managed to be fun when you found yourself hopelessly tangled in the course tape, hoping that your friends weren’t there to see it (but this always happened right in front of the biggest crowds).

And if you found yourself in the back of the pack, we could count on our teammates to keep things interesting–sometimes with a round of “human barrier” jumping (don’t try this at home)!

Of course it’s nice to win too, and we had our fair share of podiums and even an overall series win to our teams credit this season, not that we’re bragging.

But now that our season is done, it’s time to sit back and watch the real pros duke it out for the coveted World Championship titles.  This year the Worlds are being held in Sankt Wendel, Germany, with the elite men’s and women’s races scheduled for Sunday afternoon (German time), but there will be a whole weekend of racing when you factor in the Under-23 and Junior titles up for grabs.

In the men’s elite race the favorites have to the Belgians Sven Nys and Niels Albert or defending champ Zdenek Stybar, but don’t count out the American team of veterans Jonathan Page, Tim Johnson, Jeremy Powers and young gun Jamey Driscoll.  The women’s elite race has a bevy of contenders as well, including defending champion Marianne Vos and four-time champion Hanka Kupfernagel, but American hopes rest squarely with Katie Compton, who has already won five World Cup races and her seventh straight US national title this year!

Needless to say, we’ll be watching somehow or some way this weekend.  How about you?

2011 Fuji Outland 29er & Breezer Cloud 9 Mountain Bikes

Since the folks from Advanced Sports dropped by the Triangle Fat Tire Festival last week, we thought we’d share a couple of short videos about the 2011 mountain bikes they brought along to show off.  First up is the completely redesigned Fuji Outland 29er, a great looking 29″ full-suspension bike with 100mm of travel front and rear:

Also on display was another all-new design for 2011, the Breezer Cloud 9.  Designed by mountain bike pioneer Joe Breeze, the Cloud 9 is a 29″ carbon-framed hardtail, with performance features like extra-short chainstays and the Apex disc brake mount:

These are 2 great looking new bikes from Fuji and Breezer, ready to make some waves in the mountain bike world.

Triangle Fat Tire Festival Wrap-Up

For those of you near our home base here in Chapel Hill, NC, we hope you had a chance to stop by the Triangle Fat Tire Festival this past weekend.  The weather was fantastic, the crowd for the endurance race was huge, and we had a great time hanging out, racing, and talking to folks about our new mountain bikes and Hans Rey’s fantastic Wheels 4 Life charity.

The field for the endurance race was deep and varied, with a mix of first-time racers, blazing-fast expert riders, and one awesome tandem team (of which we somehow failed to get a picture)!  One of our favorite rides for the day was this vintage GT All Terra steed, with period components and shoes.

Of course we also wanted to show off our new 2011 Access mountain bike lineup.  As you can see in this shot of just some of the new bikes, we’ve worked hard to expand our exclusive line of mountain bikes.  In the coming weeks we’ll share more details about the amazing array of mountain bikes in the Access line (with both 26″ and 29″ wheels), which will expand and build upon the heritage of the Access bikes we currently have on sale right now.

Fuji and Breezer Bikes were also in attendance with redesigned 2011 bikes to show off, so we’ll have some great video previews to share with you soon (sadly the GT demo crew was waylaid by traffic and couldn’t make it to the festival in time).

After the race was over and as the festival was winding down, everyone got down to the serious business of refueling while swapping tales of epic singletrack and the next big ride.

We thought we’d get in on the fun of the after-race awards ceremony, so we gave away a GT Sensor 9r to one lucky festival-goer–the very same bike that our own David and Chris put through its paces in the Pisgah Mountain Bike Stage Race (out in western North Carolina) last month.  But we also talked to everyone we could about Hans Rey’s great Wheels 4 Life charity, a non-profit organization that provides bikes for people in developing countries that truly need them.  Thanks to the generosity of everyone at the festival, we were able to send $568 straight to Wheels 4 Life on their behalf–enough to provide for 4 bikes that will help change lives for the better.

So thanks to everyone who stopped by our demo tent to talk, or who helped out in our efforts on behalf of Wheels for Life.  The Triangle Fat Tire Festival was a great event once again (thanks to the efforts of many volunteers and organizers from our local mountain biking organization) and we at Performance were happy to be out there with our hometown crowd.

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