Race Recap: 2011 Swank 65 & Osprey Packs

Unlike recent years, we didn’t have the pleasure of suffering through the Pisgah Mountain Bike Stage Race in 2011. But since we missed on that epic 5 days of Pisgah Forest racing, we decided to send Christopher and Greg to Blue Ridge Adventure‘s Swank 65 race instead. Todd Branham has organized the Swank 65 race on for the last 13 years, and it’s a great opportunity to get a small taste of the huge trail network in the “Ranger District” of Pisgah National Forest.

Christopher and Todd

Swank 65 covers about 38 miles of trail but the top pro riders still take well over three hours to finish, and many amateur riders are still trickling in after eight hours! Luckily for us racers, Todd had arranged to have New Belgium beer on tap and burgers served hot off the grill. Nothing gets mountain bikers to socialize quite like an epic ride followed by fresh burgers and great beer!

Bikes, beer and stories after the race

Of course we weren’t just there to race on the world’s best mountain bike trails, we were also there to put a new product to the test – namely Osprey Packs.  We had read great things about their packs, but before we put something in the next Performance Bicycle catalog, we don’t just read reviews in magazines but instead test the products in real-world conditions.

Chris with his Osprey Raptor 14 before the race

To that end, our riders Christopher and Greg saddled up with Raptor 14 and a Viper 10 hydration packs for the race. Both bags feature Osprey’s 100 oz Hydraform Reservoir – able to hold plenty of  water to make it from checkpoint to checkpoint. The Raptor 14 holds a bit more gear, which worked out perfect for Christopher as we was carrying a spare jacket and a GoPro camera. Meanwhile Greg enjoyed the slimmed-down profile of the Viper 10, which held just what he needed and nothing he didn’t.

Greg finishing up with his slim Viper 10 pack

So what were the standout features for our racing testers? Both packs feature Osprey’s awesome bite valve with a magnetic clip, which holds the hose in place even when decending Farlow Gap. Most importantly, both packs were extremely comfortable – an important feature since it took Christopher 5 hours and Greg over 7 hours to finish Swank 65. Also telling was the fact that their Osprey Packs were not alone amongst the other racers – it looks like the word is out to the mountain biking elite that Osprey makes some amazing hydration packs. In fact, at least a quarter of the packs at the race were made by Osprey. It was clear by the end of the day that Osprey makes high-quality and well thought out hydration packs and that we needed to carry them in our product lineup. Our racer’s recommendations were passed along to our buying team, who have added a full array of Osprey Hydration Packs. If you’re planning a big mountain bike ride this year, make sure you consider bringing along an Osprey Pack.

This Weekend in Pro Racing

We’re definitely cycling fans here at the Performance Bicycle home office, so we’re always excited for another weekend of pro cycling action. Yes, we know that there’s already been drama this year with the Alberto Contador case, but  we still love watching the pros do battle out on the road – it inspires us to go out and push ourselves when we ride! And this weekend kicks off a flurry of pro racing, starting with some great European events.

First up, on Saturday, is the Strade Bianche in Italy. Last year Phillipe Gilbert won (and started his amazing season) this relatively new race that races across the fabled “white roads” of Tuscany and finishes in the hill-town of Siena. This race feels like a “new classic”, since it was inspired by the famous l’Eroica bike race – an amateur Gran Fondo-style event where participants ride vintage bikes and gear. Although the pros ride their 21st century technology, the Strade Bianche still has a fantastic combination of beautiful Italian countryside, a tricky climb to a finish on the main square of Siena (the same place where the Palio horse race is contested), and those infamous “white roads”, which are treacherous whether wet or dry! Gilbert will be back to defend his title this year, bringing along teammates Alessandro Ballan, Greg Van Avermaet, Cadel Evans and George Hincapie, while the likes of Fabian Cancellara, Christian Vande Velde, Johan Vansummeren, Dan Martin, Peter Sagan and Vincenzo Nibali round out a star-studded field of “all-rounder” riders. Check out the highlights from last year:

Is stage racing more your style? Then you can settle in to watch Paris-Nice, which starts on this Sunday and ends the following Sunday. Nicknamed the “Race to the sun”, Paris-Nice starts near Paris and then winds its way south through the French countryside to the French Riviera (not a bad way to spend a week, if you’ve got the time). The first true stage-race test in Europe, Paris-Nice offers up a solid mix of rolling stages, mountains and time-trialling to find out who’s got good early-season form. Tony Martin will be back to defend his title, but his new teammate Levi Leipheimer will also be there to back him up. They’ll face a tough lineup of Grand Tour contenders, such as Frank and Andy Schleck, Andrea Kloden, Bradley Wiggins, Janez Brajkovic, Damiano Cunego, Christian Vandevelde (in back to back races), Denis Menchov, Ivan Basso, and Tejay Van Garderen. Check out highlights from Stage 5 of last year’s race:

Interested in more of a Spanish flavor for your stage-racing action? Then you’ll want to check out the Vuelta a Murcia, a short stage race that features a climbing stage on Saturday and an individual time trial on Sunday. Spanish favorites Juan Jose Cobo and Samuel Sanchez will be lining up to challenge for the title, but last year’s champ, Alberto Contador, will not be back to dominate like he did in the highlights below (although this result was wiped out as part of his suspension):

Finally, if mountain bike racing is more your style, then we’ve got you covered there too! The Mellow Johnny’s Classic will take place this weekend on a ranch outside of Austin, Texas. The first race of the USA Cycling Pro Mountain Bike Cross Country Tour, the Mellow Johnny’s race will be the first test for the array of racers battling it out for spots on this summer’s Olympic Mountain Bike teams. Contenders on the women’s side include Heather Irmiger, Emily Batty, Katie Compton, World Champion Catharine Pendrel, and defending champ Georgia Gould . On the men’s side, last year’s winner Max Plaxton will battle Todd Wells, Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski and Jeremiah Bishop, among others. You can check out highlights of the 2011 race on Cycling Dirt.

Phew, kind of a busy weekend – just don’t forget to get outside and ride your own bike!

Community Events: January Recap

It’s a new year and our stores have already been busy in their local communities – riding, racing and volunteering. With over 100 stores all across the country, we’ve got quite a few events and people to highlight from January, so read on below to see a sample of what they were up to last month. Remember to check out our local store pages for regularly scheduled Spin Doctor clinics & group rides.

Katrina crossing the finish line in first place ©Steve Anderson

To start this month’s recap, we thought we’d start by highlighting the new World Champion at our Newark, DE store! Katrina Dowidchuk, one of our store associates, won the Womens 40-44 division race at the Masters Cyclocross World Championships in Louisville, KY. We recently caught up with Katrina to hear more about the race, her training, and her advice for those thinking about racing cross. To read more, click here!

While we’re talking racing, we want to congratulate Jon Chambers, a bike builder (on the left above) from our Allentown, PA store.  In the picture above, he’s holding trophies for the winning the PA Track BAR (or “Best all around”) stagiaire category and PA Track BAR Masters title. Jon also received 2 Silvers and a Bronze at Track Nationals this year, and won the 30-34 age group all around (you can tell he’s fast by the blurry photo – he can’t even hold still long enough for a camera!)

Sticking with our racing theme, a few of the associates from our Chandler, AZ store headed out to Fontana to race the Winter Series Downhill and Super D events.  Here’s a shot of one of our tents set up as base camp at the race – Dennis from the Chandler store took 2nd in his Super D class (with a crash) and 27th in pro Downhill!

Performance Bicycle made the news in Texas, as Jeff, from our North Austin, TX store, and Shelly, from our South Austin store, were on the local Austin Live morning show talking trainers and indoor training.  What do you think – Jeff’s got a future in TV if he ever gives up his bike gig!

Our Castleton, IN store was involved in a community event in Indianapolis, where they helped Brooksource with a team-building event where their employees built bikes for kids impacted by incarceration, in partnership with the U.S. Dream Academy. Our store manager, Tom, plus Jimmy and Brian, from our store team, helped supervise the build process and also donated a helmet for each of the kids who received bikes.

The Brooksource bike builders all had a great time and, considering the teams building each bike numbered about 6, they were surprisingly efficient at building! Our team completed the final bike safety checks just as the last helmet was being fitted.

Our guys helped build 13 bikes on site, had two pre-built, and got each kid fitted with their new helmets. The kids from the US Dream Academy were all surprised with their new bikes, and the build teams were just as thrilled to be able to present each kid with their new bike and helmet!

Associates from our Philadelphia, PA store participated in their local MLK Day of Service at Neighborhood Bike Works, a neighborhood bike co-op. Along with other volunteers, our 3 person team worked on projects to  renovate and organize the space.  They had a blast working with each other outside of their usual work environment, all while helping out a deserving non-profit.

Dennis and Adrian from our Chandler, AZ store, along with Adam from our Scottsdale store, broke out their work gloves last month to help Park Rangers with some trail-building on the South Mountain National Trail near Phoenix.

It always feels good to help out on trails that you love to ride, plus they got to work on a sweet rock garden (we’re a sucker for rock gardens).

Here’s a picture from our Pittsburgh, PA store last month as they hosted their local Major Taylor Club (Major Taylor was one of the first American cycling champions, on the track and in 6 day races). All members of the club needed to get certified on road safety as part of a national program, so we turned our virtual training area into a powerpoint display to help them out.

Our Akron, OH store played host to a younger crowd last month, as they hosted a local Cub Scout pack for a  clinic on basic bike knowledge taught by our Eagle Scout sales associate, Don. He taught them how to put the correct amount of air in the tires, how to clean a chain, and how to make sure that their brakes were working properly. Each scout left with a water bottle after answering a bike maintenance question!

Our Columbus, OH store held their own Cub Scout clinic in January as well, as a group of local scouts came by the shop. Our lead Spin Doctor, Mike, went over proper hand signals, tube/tire changes and basic maintenance to keep a bike in great shape. The scouts loved it and couldn’t wait for their chance to be tested about basic mechanical problems.

Of course we also held clinics for the big kids out there, like this Basic Maintenance Clinic in our Oceanside, CA store. Remember you can always check on our site to see when the next free bike clinic is scheduled in your local Performance Bicycle Store.

Our Cincinnati, OH store helped out with a fundraiser put on by a local elementary PTO.  The carnival raised money for science and music programs at the school – our team at the event talked about bike safety and helmets while handing out water bottles to the hundreds of kids!

While the energy-filled youngsters spun their legs out on our kids bike display, we talked to parents about our Grow Up kids bike program. We had the opportunity to fit the kids on bikes, and we even got to give away 2 bikes to lucky raffle winners!

Finally, our stores have been holding indoor training classes, including our Novi, MI store. Above is a shot from their latest class – that’s the daughter of one of our regular customers leading the pack! Below is a picture of the training group at our Tucson Speedway, AZ store.

Wordless Wednesday

Product Profile: 2012 Louis Garneau

For today’s product profile, we’re talking about Louis Garneau cycling gear. Founded in 1983 (incidentally, only one year later than Performance Bicycle), Louis Garneau has worked hard to create innovative cycling apparel, as they so aptly explain on their site: “It has and always will be our mission to conceptualize, design, and engineer technological products that will provide racers a competitive edge and recreational cyclists an improved experience.”

Of course one of the racers they were thinking about was Thomas Voeckler, leader of Team Europcar at the 2011 Tour de France. Here’s a shot of Voeckler during his gritty ride to hold on to the yellow jersey during Stage 18 of the Tour, on the slopes of the Galibier.

And just to show how passionate the Garneau folks are about their gear, look no further than this video ode to creating the special customized gear for Voeckler’s days in yellow:

Of course we said that we were going to talk about new 2012 Garneau gear, so what better place to start than with their Corsa cycling kit. As you can see below, the Corsa line was designed for ultimate cycling performance, with features such as the Aero Lazer Band at the arm and leg openings plus a “next to skin” fit so you can stay sleek and streamlined, and Carbon-X mesh for optimal muscle compression and support. The designers at Garneau even went so far as to use special Speed Tech shoulder panels to reduce frontal pressure and cut wind resistance while you are in a riding position.

The Louis Garneau Mondo kit includes many of the aerodynamic features of the Corsa line, including the Aero Lazer Bands and “next to skin” fit, along with nifty little details like a dedicated music-player pocket. The Equipe line of cycling wear is designed around an ultra-lightweight and breathable jersey, to maximize cooling, while the Equipe bib shorts offer a compressive fit (these shorts are a definite favorite around our office).

Like we said, the people of Louis Garneau are passionate about their work, and it shows in the details of their products. This passion can be directly traced back to the company’s founder, the eponymous Louis Garneau himself.  A former elite cyclist, Mr. Garneau still plays an active role in the development of his company’s products, for, as he says, “Our innovations exist because we create products that function, perform, and are proven on the bike. We ride, we ride, we ride again, until we are certain a product will provide our customers a competitive advantage, and I have never removed myself from that group of test riders.”

As a final note, it was also interesting to learn that Mr. Garneau is a bit of an artist, creating a series of canvases as a fundraiser for the Fondation du Musée National des Beaux-Arts du Québec (although with his company’s emphasis on design, maybe this shouldn’t come as a surprise):

You can find our full array of Louis Garneau products here, from their super lightweight Carbon X-Lite Road Shoes to their off-road Edge Helmet.

Race Recap: Katrina Dowidchuk at Masters Cross World Championships

This week we’ve got an extra special race recap lined up for you, because we’ve now got a World Champion at our Newark, DE store! Katrina Dowidchuk, one of our store associates, won the Womens 40-44 division race at the Masters Cyclocross World Championships in Louisville, KY. We recently caught up with Katrina to hear more about the race, her training, and her advice for those thinking about racing cross.

How long have you worked at Performance Bicycle?

Since August 2008, so almost 3.5 years.

How long have you been racing bikes and what’s your current team?

I’ve been racing triathlons primarily since 2005. Then I started dabbling in road racing, endurance mountain biking and time trialing, but found the perfect fit with cyclocross in 2009. I currently race with Team TBB/Deep Blue which is a local team based out of Wilmington DE.

What was your first bike?

My mom bought me an upright pink bike with a banana seat and coaster brakes when I was about 8 years old. That thing was cool – racing up and down the driveway – I wasn’t allowed on the road. My first upgrade was a giant orange flag that attached to the rear wheel. Then I didn’t ride again until after college, to rehab a torn ACL , and now I have more bikes than I can count. You can never have too many. For cross, I ride the Fuji Altamira CX. It was a great upgrade this year.

Katrina Dowidchuk (Team Tbb/Deep Blue) racing on her pit bike. Photo: Wil Matthews

What’s your favorite part about racing cross?

Best thing about cross is that it’s incredibly hard, but it’s only 40 minutes! I give everything (I am not working hard enough if the drool isn’t running down my face) – run up some steep muddy hills, leap over barriers – but you finish a race knowing that you got out of it what you put into it. Plus, the cross community in the Mid-Atlantic region is very supportive. You see the same people at every race, and it’s so great to cheer for your buddies and have them scream for you.

Let’s hear about the race – what was the course like?

Course was perfect cross conditions. I was lucky, it was frozen solid earlier in the morning, but my race was at 2pm, so it warmed to about 33 and sunny. That made it thick gooey mud almost everywhere, at times covering deep frozen ruts, with the steep short climbs becoming muddy frozen runs where it was difficult to get traction. Overall, one of the most challenging courses of the year because of the conditions.

Katrina Dowidchuk of Team Tbb/Deep Blue takes the win in the womens 40-44 race. ©Steve Anderson

It sounds like you had raced against many of your fellow competitors before – did you have a set of race tactics in mind before the start? Did the race go as planned?

I raced some of them previously at the National Championships in Madison so I knew what I was up against. Louisville was different in that I really wanted to get out in front at the start. I figured if I got caught behind a crash that would be a deficit too much to recover from. So I gave it everything at the start – it was wild, as we turned the corner off the pavement, it was very slick and everyone went for what they thought was the best line. We were all over the place, you could feel racers sliding and swerving, but fortunately I was able to move up to about 2nd wheel. If I didn’t get jammed early, I knew I could be competitive. This race, I also planned better knowing when to get off the bike and run versus attempting to power through a technical section – you can lose a lot of time making stupid decisions. And in Louisville, I made much better decisions – I pitted every half lap, which means swapping my heavy muddy bike for a clean one. I kept my outstanding pit crew very busy!

So what did it feel like to win a World Championship & pull on the rainbow stripes?

Coolest thing ever. Although it was so cold I was bundled up like the Stay-Puff Marshamallow man, and when they gave me the jersey I was sure it would not fit over my many layers of clothing. But then I did finally get it on, and they played the National Anthem and people were cheering – it was the greatest! I didn’t take it off for at least another 6 hours.

Official UCI world championship medals await presentation. Photo: Wil Matthews

How do you train for racing cross?

One of the great things about cross is you don’t need hours and hours of training time. I try to simulate race conditions as much as possible. So I run stair repeats, get on the trainer and do sets of all-out max power for 30 seconds, with 30 seconds rest, and I do sessions of 2 minute race-simulation intervals where I practice starts, sprint, dismount and carry the bike, all at max effort. I don’t do any long and slow riding during the season.

What’s your best advice for someone who’s thinking about racing cross?

Don’t stress. There are a lot of local races that are age and skill-level graded – borrow a bike and just get out there and try it. Learn the basics, then laugh as you have to get over a barrier or run through the sand – I guarantee it will be the most fun you’ll have in a race.

ProTour Team Kits

With the ProTour Cycling season already starting up this week at the Tour Down Under in Australia (in the middle of their summer, of course), we thought it would be fun to take a look at all of the ProTour team kits. After all of the changes and mergers for the new year, at least you’ll now have some idea what you’re looking at in the colorful professional peloton. Plus we threw in links to all of the official team websites, if you want more info about the teams and their riders.

AG2R La Mondiale Pro Cycling Team

Pro Team Astana

BMC Racing Team

Euskaltel-Euskadi

Francaise des Jeux-Big Mat

Team Garmin-Barracuda

Photo: © Mark Gunter

GreenEDGE Cycling Team

Katusha Team

Team Lampre ISD

Pro Cycling Team Liquigas-Cannondale

Lotto Belisol Team

Photo: © Mark Gunter

Movistar Team

Omega Pharma-QuickStep Pro Cycling Team

©Copyright Tim De Waele

Rabobank Cycling Team

Photo: © Mark Gunter

RadioShack-Nissan-Trek

Team Sky Pro Cycling

Team Saxo Bank

Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team

BettiniPhoto © 2012

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!

Wordless Wednesday

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