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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

Charm City Cross – Day 1

These crisp early morning temps (at least in our area) can mean only one thing–cyclocross season is fast approaching!  This year we’re going to follow along with 2 of our Spin Doctor Advisors, Randy and Eric, as they navigate the sometimes crazy, but always fun (OK, sometimes painful), world of local ‘cross racing.  We hope it will encourage you to get out there and give cyclocross a try at an event near you–or at least go check out the excitement of a local race.

This year they decided to start out the season with a road trip, heading up to Baltimore, MD for an early-season test at Charm City Cross, part of the popular Mid-Atlantic Cyclocross series.  Without more preamble, here is Randy’s recap of the action in the Charm City:

Under the glow of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor nightlife, and temperatures that had us wishing we’d packed our favorite hoodies, EWEB, Turits, Josh and I giddily unloaded our bikes and bags and settled in to our weekend digs. After 30 minutes of bad TV, a careful outlaying of skinsuits, water bottles, and salt tabs, and a word or two about tire pressure and pre-ride strategies, we restlessly slumbered, each of us secretly nervous about the 45 minutes of vomit-inducing racing we were slated to face at 11am the next day.

The weekend’s venue was the beautiful Druid Hill Park. It butts up to The Wire’s Amsterdam, but the Barksdale crew laid low and seemed pleasantly amused by the 1000+ Lycra-and-ironic-facial-hair clad racers warming up around the park pond. The Charm City Cross course featured a fast prologue of pavement, wide sweeping grass turns, and a tight off-camber hole shot leading into a bottleneck of hairpins. The rest of the course undulated through shady expanses of grass, dirt and sand into sun-exposed fields replete with bone-jarring holes, hidden railroad tracks, and a man-made staircase run-up that was clearly designed to mock those short of leg and long in pain.

At 10:45am Webster, Turits and I made our way to the start line and broke the nervousness of the year’s first race with good-natured heckling, supportive high fives, and North Carolina-proud peacock posturing. Our 2-3 class was at capacity, and when the start whistle blew, 125 racers jumped out of the saddle and began the frantic and chaotic sprint for the hole shot. Turits and Webster both possess great power out of the gate and were quickly in the lead group. I am not so great out of the gate, but thanks to the purpose-built race machine under my saddle—the 2010 Fuji Cross RC—I managed to hold on to a spot in the chase group.

If there is one rule to live by when it comes to Cross, it is that one must get to the front quickly lest one fall victim to bottleneck pile-ups, unskilled rider mishaps, and course tape entanglements. I do not often live by the rules (and in this race, neither did my legs), and consequently found myself dismounting to step over fallen riders, track standing before hairpins, and pulling tape and compression socks from my rear derailleur, all as I watched Turits and Webster pull farther and farther away in the lead group.

Turits I didn’t mind seeing putting the gap on me—he’s much too strong to ever consider a rival—but Webster–WEBSTER!–was looking to decimate me, and that I simply could not handle. So began operation Reel ‘em In.

Three laps in and with three to go, I had recovered from the pain of the start and was feeling strangely…good. I stood and attacked on the climbs, took the inside line to pass riders in the corners, my dismounts and remounts were shockingly fluid, and most importantly, I was gaining on Webster and Turits (and they both knew it).

Turits yelled for me to push harder, knowing he had enough cushion to remain unthreatened by my kills. But Webster had the look of a zebra in the final moments before succumbing to the lion. His run-ups were labored, his dismounts were shaky, his head couldn’t stop turning back to search for the little man about to pass.

And so it was, that in the middle of the bell lap, I overtook Webster and nearly caught Turits. Turits took me by 6 positions and as many seconds. I took Webster by 3 positions and maybe 5 seconds. It was a damn fine first race and we all congratulated each other on great performances (although it should be noted that Turits experienced mechanical difficulties during his final 2 laps and basically rode singlespeed to the finish).

Post race festivities began in haste with Heavy Seas Loose Cannon IPAs and big, cheap and delicious taco truck burritos and fried plantains served up by Curbside Café. Well buzzed from the racing and the beer, we cheered on our buds Todd Hunter, Scott Frederick, Nathan Wyatt, Travis Livermon and Evie Boswell-Vilt and Cara Applegate (from the Performance Bicycle Racing Team).

Then we drank more beers (you know, for rehydration purposes). And when the day closed down, we ventured out to Federal Hill for more protein and carbo-loading at a great little place called Abbey Burger. Nothing beats a hand formed patty of medium rare meat, topped with a fried egg and artisanal sharp white cheddar, served between two halves of an English muffin, with a side of house made chips and the coldest micro brews in town. Food coma set in quick and we all slept like, well, guys who just raced Cross and drank and ate like kings for the day.

An aside: Josh was injured during a training run in the week prior to the race, but made the trip to B-more anyway. He was invaluable as our porter, wingman, photographer, videographer, biggest fan, motivator, pit crew, hand-up and stand-up guy, DJ, navigator, hipster-connect, chiropractor, and friend. Josh is a fast Cat 2 racer who will surely be having fun and looking relaxed during all future races.

Day two recap to come….

Triangle Fat Tire Festival + Mountain Bike Demo Day

We’ve got big news if you live in the Triangle Area (near our home town of Chapel Hill, NC).  We’re heading to the Triangle Fat Tire Festival, home of the 6 BC Endurance Race, and we’re bringing some sweet bikes along to test out.  In addition to the great events put on by the local Triangle Off-Road Cyclists group to keep the whole family occupied, plus a great 6 hour mountain bike race on the trails of Briar Chapel to test your skills and stamina (don’t worry, you can also race as a team or just do a 3 hour version), there will also be a chance to test-ride and ogle an array of cool new bikes!

Of course we’ll be bringing along 2011 versions of our exclusive Access line of 29″ mountain bikes (including some samples of our hot new Access Stealth Carbon 29″ mountain bikes–you will want one of these), but we’re also bringing along some friends with their new rides.  

Fuji Bikes will be in full effect with samples of their new lightweight carbon cyclocross ride, the Altamira CX, along with their totally redesigned full-suspension Outland 29er mountain bike.

Legendary company Breezer Bikes will also be there, showing off their gorgeous new Cloud 9 29″ hardtail (it’s almost too good looking to get dirty!)

Still not enough for you?  Well, you can also expect to see mountain bike star Eric Carter and the rest of the GT Bicycles Good Times Tour rolling into town, with a demo fleet of Carbon Forces, Marathons and Zaskars, along with aluminum Zaskar and Sensor 9rs (plus who knows what else in tow)!

So if you are around our area on Saturday, October 16th, and are interested in bikes, then the Triangle Fat Tire Festival is where you want to be.  Sign up to race the endurance race (you even get a post-race meal with your entry fee) or just show up to check out the festivities and all the new bikes.  We hope to see you there!

Performance Bicycle Racing Team – Roswell Store Ride

Some members of the Performance Bicycle Racing Team recently took part in a group ride and clinic at our Roswell, GA store, and from their report it sounds like everyone had a great time:

People always say that we’re crazy for riding road bikes. Usually I disagree, but this past Wednesday night I think I may have agreed with them! Icy water bottles in hand, riders from the Atlanta, GA metro area braved the 100 degree heat to join myself, Kate Mahoney, along with Kirsten Davis and Dana Martin from the Performance Bicycle Racing Team for a 22 mile Fun Ride.

As the riders assembled in front of the Roswell, GA Performance Bicycle store, it was great to hear the excited conversations as we all began to get to know each other. Riders traded stories of how long they’ve been riding, how they got into cycling, and why they keep at it.

I talked with a woman for whom this was her 5th group ride EVER, as she’d just bought her bike at Performance a little over a month before! I met a couple who have been riding road bikes together for the past 20+ years; a fellow who LOVED hill climbs (the longer, the steeper the better); a man who hadn’t had time to ride his bike much lately but saw that we were coming out from the Performance Bicycle Racing Team and said “I’m going… I need to make time to ride!”; a woman who, this year, had learned that century rides (100 milers) were her passion; a man who was riding so he could keep up with his son on the bike; and so many more great people and great stories! This is why I love cycling!

Since our group ran the the full range of experience levels there were lots of cycling tips, tricks and tools being shared before we hit the road.

How much water should I drink? “Sip at least every 15 minutes!” “Don’t wait until you feel thirsty!” “Hydration begins the day before.”

How do I get used to using cycling shoes with cleats? “Ride in the grass!” “Practice by sitting on your bike in a doorway!” And my advice? Laugh when you have your first (or second) slow motion fall! It happens to everyone! (if you join me for a ride I’ll tell you my story where I slow-mo fell next to a city transit bus full of people!).

Soon it was time to head out. Ryan, the store manager, gave us the details on the route. Covering 22 miles of beautiful rolling hills outside the city of Roswell, the route is well suited to both newer riders, who can ease up on the hills, and experienced riders, who can punch it up the hills for a good leg burn.

On the road, Kirsten, Dana and I had a great time. As the three of us moved through the pack, it was like a clinic in motion! People had lots of great questions for us as situations popped up: “What’s the best gear for a hill this steep?” “When should I stand up to climb?” “What is a good cadence?” And, despite the heat, people were having a great time! Working together, watching out for each other, and talking, joking, and laughing as we clipped along… It was awesome!

At the end of the ride, we were having too much fun to head straight home. Dana, Kirsten and I hung out at Performance post-ride, talking with a number of folks who had joined us on the ride. We LOVE to talk cycling, so happily answered questions on everything from our team bikes (the beautiful Fuji Supreme SL), to good hydration tools like NUUN, and what it’s like to race a road bike.

I met so many great people and it was such a beautiful ride! Thanks to the Atlantans who came out to join us, and next time we promise to do the ride when it’s cooler!

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Getting ready for Le Tour

Are you keeping up with the latest news from the Tour de France?  So far the race has been full of crashes and diabolical roads as the race weaves it way through Classics race country, and today’s stage over the cobbles could bring more of the same.  The yellow jersey has already changed hands, and the almost all of the race favorites have been involved in a pileup at some point.

Here at Performance, we’re following the Tour with rapt attention just like you, but this year we’re going to step up our coverage with actual eyes on the ground for the last week of the Tour!  We’re sending one of our own, David, over to France to ride and report about the Tour, courtesy of the folks at Europeds. It’s an opportunity we couldn’t pass up to bring you the story of what it’s like to actually be there at the Tour, riding the same slopes as the pros and then cheering on the racers with thousands of other die-hard cycling fans.  David will be reporting back about his experience as it happens, taking photos and videos to show you what it’s like to join the excitement that is cycling’s biggest stage.  It’s all part of our goal to Celebrate the Tour all month long, with special deals, news, and even a giveaway with some fantastic prizes!

Here are a few words from David himself, to tell you about the preparation for his adventure in France:

I can’t wait to get over to France and cover the Tour for all of the readers of the Performance Bicycle Blog.  I’ve been training hard to get my legs in shape to tackle the monster mountains of the Pyrenees.  Below you can see a Google Earth plot of one of my training rides out on the Blue Ridge Parkway in western North Carolina (just so I could get the feel of climbing for miles on end, which isn’t exactly common near our headquarters):

As for my equipment, I’ll be riding the stiff and lightweight 2009 Fuji SL1 with full SRAM Red components (thankfully now including a compact crankset), topped off with a Forté Pro SL Saddle, perfect for attacking epic climbs.  Here you can see me and my machine atop Waterrock Knob, off of the Blue Ridge Parkway:

But don’t get the impression that I’m an elite rider by any means!  I’m not much of a racer and I’m usually just trying to hang on during the group rides that leave from our headquarters.  I’m going to give you the perspective of the cycling enthusiast that is willing to push himself to go just a little bit harder and faster, but who’s still out there to ride for the joy of riding.

And I want to hear from you! Comment on my blog posts or send a message to the Performance Twitter account to let me know what you want to see or know about when I’m in France (or to give me any advice). I will document my trip as I go, and post regular updates from the road.  I am going to share this experience with all of you, and give you some insight into what it’s like to ride the roads and take in the spectacle of the Tour de France (and hopefully give you the inspiration to follow the Tour yourself next time).

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