Community Events: 2012 USA Pro Challenge

The USA Pro Challenge has already begun, and “America’s Race” is already living up to it’s billing. Winding its way among the majestic Colorado Rockies, this year’s route takes some of the best cycling pros in the world over a 683-mile course with more than 42,000 ft. of vertical climbing – through some of the most beautiful scenery in the world. With more than 1 million spectators in 2011, the USA Pro Challenge is already one of the largest cycling events in U.S. history, and the 2012 edition promises to be even bigger and better.

With 7 Performance Bicycle shops in Colorado, we couldn’t miss out on this exciting event. Look for a Performance Bicycle tent at the finish line expos of Stage 5 in Colorado Springs, Stage 6 in Boulder, and Stage 7  in Denver (August 24-26). We’ll have friendly store associates there each day talking about Performance, handing out free water bottles, and giving away a free bike each day! Drop by and say hello if you’re in the area (and did we mention we’ll be giving away a free bike each day!)

Of course we’ll also be at the final weekend of the USA Pro Challenge to check out the racing action and share it with you – we’ll post our behind-the-scenes photos and videos on Facebook and Twitter, plus right here on the Performance Bicycle Blog. We’re especially excited to see Team Champion System in person on their Fuji Altamira bikes. To catch the racing action live, head over to the USA Pro Challenge Tour Tracker (or download the app so you can watch it on the road), or watch the NBC Sports Network daily coverage.

Zach’s Training Diary: The bike

It’s time for another update from our man with a plan, Zach, a web merchant here at our home office. As you’ll recall from his earlier entries, Zach has been trying hard to balance work, family life and time on the bike as he gets ready to take on one of the hardest gran fondos in the US, Jeremiah Bishop’s Alpine Loop Gran Fondo in September. Read on below to find out how he’s doing and what bikes he’s tested in an effort to find the perfect setup for the ride.

My overall training is going well. I’m still working hard, riding 4-5 times a week, and doing off-the-bike workouts. I do feel as though I’ve hit a plateau with my progress and weight loss, but this is to be expected after three months of training. I took a short rest period of about a week or so, and now the next month and a half will be full of weekend climbing trips.

One of these weekend training trips will actually be up to Harrisonburg, VA to ride with Jeremiah Bishop and his posse. I’m super excited to go up for a weekend and pick his brain about training, get a preview of the route, and enjoy the cool mountain air! If you’ve got any questions for him, post them on the comments here and we’ll be sure to ask him. 

The route for one of Zach’s training rides.

Also, I was inspired by the charitable mission of the Alpine Loop Gran Fondo, and decided to raise money to support the fight against Prostate Cancer during my training. Prostate cancer is a growing health threat for men, and I want to do my part to raise awareness and help fight this disease. All funds I raise during the preparation of this ride will go to the Prostate Cancer Awareness Project. If you’re so inclined and are feeling generous, I’m taking donations on my personal fundraising page. Every dollar and penny will go a long way to help fight this disease, as well as push me a little harder towards the finish line!

So that’s my personal training update. Now let’s talk about bikes!

This ride has around a total of 11K + feet of climbing, so to say it’s hilly would be an understatement. It’s on pavement and dirt/gravel roads. It’s long, excruciating, and will be awesome. This unique ride definitely requires just the right bike with a unique setup.

Thanks to our friends at Fuji Bikes, I’ve been trying out a few bicycles during lunch rides and weekend training rides to see what feels like the right fit for the Gran Fondo. So far I’ve tested the Fuji SST 2.0 and the Fuji Altamira Di2 Limited Edition. I made some tweaks to the spec of each bike, such as changing out the wheelset to either a pair of Mavic Ksyrium SLs, which are one of the best all around wheelsets I’ve ever ridden, or a pair of Reynolds DV3K carbon clinchers, which are very aero, stiff, and fast, but don’t climb quite as well as the Ksyrium SLs. For each bike I also changed out the stem and handlebars to achieve the appropriate fit for me. Proper bicycle fit is the most important thing I’ve experienced in my four years as a cyclist. I’ve felt the difference in having a bicycle that has been professionally fit to my specific body needs, and I applied that fit to each of these bicycles.

First up was the Altamira Di2 LE, which may have spoiled the party for the rest of the candidates. The Shimano Dura Ace electronic shifting, the overall balance of compliance, comfort, sprinting and climbing capability, and the responsiveness of the bike make it a likely candidate right off the bat. It’s extremely comfortable on 100+ mile rides, yet with its carbon frame and oversized BB86 bottom bracket, it sprints and accelerates up the hills with quick precision and ease. It will be hard to pass this one up. The only problem could be the gearing setup. It has a standard double 53/39 crankset on the front, with a ten speed 11-25 cassette on the back. While the bike has been great around the rolling hills of the Piedmont of North Carolina, it’s definitely not set up to be a climbing bike. I took this bike to Western North Carolina and while I made it up some 14% pitches, I definitely needed lower gearing. Turning a low cadence/high power pedal stroke is doable for 50 miles or so, but wastes a lot of energy, and will not be suitable for the long steady climbs of a Gran Fondo. This will ultimately affect my decision and though the Fuji Altamira set the bar high, it may not be the best option.

My second ride was the Fuji SST 2.0. The SST is a lot different that the Altamira. Aside from the components, the biggest difference was the stiffness and the overall aggressive geometry of the frame. Once over 18 miles an hour the bike was extremely fast and required little effort to keep up its momentum. There was no problem sticking with the group on our weekly 40 at 20 rides (40 miles with a 20mph+ average speed). Sprinting on it was also fun. It was quick off the jump and I could feel every bit of power output being spit out the back wheel. Climbing was fairly sluggish, however. The bike seemed a bit unresponsive for me during long hills, and when stacked up against my other hill times, I was slower on the SST. The bike is also a little heavier than the Altamira. I’m sure there are other technical features I could talk about, but the overall difference was that it just didn’t feel right to me for a climbing machine. I love the fact that it’s super fast and sprints great. If I had room in the garage this would be a great addition to the stable of bikes at home, but as a climbing machine for the Gran Fondo, it’s not the one.

I’m still riding the Fuji SL1 Comp and the Gran Fondo, so I’ll write about those next, and make my decision after riding all four. I’m looking forward to getting out on those and finalizing my bike selection. Thanks for reading, and I’ll have another update soon!

Zach’s Training Diary: The Plan

We’ve decided to follow along this year as Zach, a web merchant here at our home office, works hard to get in shape for Jeremiah Bishop’s Alpine Loop Gran Fondo this fall. Like many of you out there, Zach has been juggling work and family as he tries to make time to  meet his fitness and training goals. Read on below to see how his plan has been coming along, and let us know if you’ve got any tips in the comments below.

Wow, the last month has been so busy!  I’ll start with a quick update on everything. In the last month I turned 31, my wife and I had our one year anniversary, I’ve been setting personal records on my Strava hill climb segments just about every time I go out, I placed 7th in one of the local races I usually do terrible at, I dropped a pant size, and I’ve started the search for the perfect bicycle to ride for the Alpine Loop Gran Fondo!

Unfortunately though, I’ve only lost one freaking pound! One pound over an entire month!  Totally frustrating when the goal is to lose another 20 lbs by September.  Fortunately my Strava segments have been keeping me motivated, so I’m feeling happy with my results so far. But I’ve got to find a way to drop that weight!

As I mentioned in my first post, riding bikes has helped me out quite a bit in the weight loss department over the last few years (76ish pounds dropped so far), but now I can’t seem to lose weight from riding bikes alone. I’m not very good at planning out training routines to provide structure on a daily and weekly basis, but my buddy Ken is a cyclist, crossfit coach, personal trainer, and an all around good guy.  He’s really good at working with people as a trainer, and a few months ago he decided to help me train for the Alpine Loop Gran Fondo.  He‘s created a weekly plan for me that’s structured, but is still a bit flexible, and leaves some space for conflicts that arise throughout the week.

My training plan for the Gran Fondo is pretty straight forward – here’s a little insight into what I’ve been working on (this is just my plan – always consult a training pro for advice for you):

INTERVALS:

Intervals ramp up the metabolism like crazy, rapidly increase VO2 Max, help your heart rate drop faster after hard efforts, and increase lactic acid threshold. They also will help you develop endurance, a huge kick and do not have the muscle wasting effect of long slow distance riding. I do 2 hard intervals per week, mixing in Tabata sprints, hill repeats, ¼ mile x 10, 1 mile x 4, or other variations.

TIME TRIAL AND TEMPO RIDES:

I try to get in 2 tempo or time trial rides per week, more if time permits. Group rides serve well for this, as tempo rides should be your easiest pace rides.

WEIGHT LIFTING:

I’ve been doing 1 heavy weight training session per week, switching up weight and rep schemes. Some days I do high weight/low rep and other days I do low weight/high rep. Some folks stay away from weights, but I’ve found that it works for me.

TRY NEW SPORTS AND EXERCISES:

Again, some coaches will tell you to just ride, but I like to keep it fun and new. An occasional run, game of tennis, swimming, soccer or flag football helps shake things up for me.

DIET:

This is a tricky one for me, as I like to eat. Basically I’ve been trying to keep things fresh and simple, not drink any calories (just lots of water), and throw in a cheat meal once a week. If my weight’s not coming down, I change it up and try something new.

On top of my day-to-day plan, I’ve also scheduled some trips to the mountains of Western North Carolina this summer.  There are many routes out there that are similar to the Alpine Loop (well, at least I hope so), which will be great warm ups for my big ride.

I’ve been on my plan for several weeks now, and it’s been going pretty good for the most part.  I’m definitely getting faster on the hills and starting to hang with some of the faster group rides.  The riding part is easy – the hard part has been eating really well, and sticking to the intervals, hill repeats, and other hard workouts!  I’ve been doing exercises called “Bulgarian split squats,” and “Romanian dead lifts.”  Oh yeah running too! I hate running. 202 lbs is a lot to throw on your knees and ankles while trudging down the road in a half-hearted gallop/trot/jog excuse of a run!

The weight loss is the biggest issue and is directly related to my love of good food and drink. I’ve been doing a lot better with my caloric intake, but I’ll be honest, it’s hard to pass up delicious tasty chips dipped in ranch dressing and complimented with a chilly cold brew! My brother had the best quote ever. We went on a long hot mountain bike ride and after he bonked pretty hard, cramped up, walked it out, and got back to the house, he said “It’s just a man’s instinct to want to eat a delicious juicy burger after a long hard ride!” Agreed!

But at the end of the day, these structured workouts and diet restrictions are seriously paying off.  I am getting faster, I am dropping inches, and I am building muscle.  Of course the Alpine Loop Gran Fondo is going to be harder than anything I’ve ever done so far, and I’ve got to keep up the training plan, as this is just the beginning.

I was listening to an interview with Jeremiah Bishop the other day and he was talking about the Gran Fondo in his own words. From what he said, he got the idea for the ride in the middle of one of his training rides. At the top of one of the climbs in a remote area of the West Virginia wilderness, he was looking out and felt like he was in the Alps, hidden away from cell phone towers, power lines, and civilization as a whole.  But then he mentioned that the fastest he had ever done that climb was 45 minutes at full-on diesel race pace –  45 minutes for JB will probably be more like two hours for me! But what goes up also gets to bomb down, and the views from the top of the long climbs will be worth every burning pedal stroke!

So there are three months to go. Time to get serious and get this training dialed in. I’m excited to share my experiences about the bicycles I’ve been testing while in search of the perfect Grand Fondo bike, as well as the rest of journey along the way!

Wordless Wednesday

Looking Ahead to 2012

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

Spinning the prize wheel at a Grand Opening celebration!

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

Getting up close and personal on the Galibier.

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

Our head copywriter Chas played Uncle Sam.

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

JuanJo Cobo winning the Vuelta on a Fuji Altamira.

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

To ones that involved crazy German mountain bikers:

To ones about the incomparable Chris Akrigg:

Or the equally awesome Danny Macaskill:

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

To a mountain biker losing a battle with a hartebeest:

Ouch!

Basically, we just loved all things cycling!

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

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

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.

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