2011 Il Lombardia

For the 105th year, the famed Il Lombardia (formerly known as the Giro di Lombardia) will once again close out the European cycling season this Saturday. One of cycling’s Classics or Monuments, the “Race of the Falling Leaves” will be moving to an earlier date next year (no word on if the nickname will change), no longer serving as the exclamation point to the UCI WorldTour circuit. Last year, strongman Philippe Gilbert dominated a decimated field on a cold and wet day, winning Il Lombardia for the second year in a row:

This year Gilbert is back for a try at his third straight win, but he’ll face a host of cycling stars looking to close out their season with a prestigious win. He’ll also have to tackle a new race course, featuring tough new climbs and a new finish in the town of Lecco, but still featuring the famous Madonna del Ghisallo climb (spiritual home of the patron saint of cycling):

But, since this is the end of a long racing season, we thought that perhaps the riders might need some inspiration to really liven up Il Lombardia, so we’re sharing this video of no-handed finish line salutes, just in case the victor wants to add some signature flair (although Juan Antonio Flecha already has dibs on the bow and arrow salute):

You can catch Il Lombardia on Universal Sports this Saturday – and if you see a “cup of tea” salute from the victor, now you’ll know why.

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.

Wordless Wednesday

Product Profile – Diadora Shoes & Cadel Evans

In honor of the Tour de France victory of Cadel Evans, we’re making it a little easier to ride like Cadel, or at least wear his Diadora shoes! Our Diadora shoes are on sale right now, including the Proracer 3 road shoes worn to victory in the 2011 Tour de France.  We’ve had a chance to check out the Proracer 3 here in the office, and it’s definitely got Italian style to go along with it’s pro-level features (which include an extra-thin, yet highly rigid carbon sole, durable D-Skin microfiber upper, and Multifit Adjust closure system with Micro CL buckle and Quick Adjustment strap, to find your perfect fit).

One of the most respected brands in cycling, Diadora has been worn to victory in the Giro d’Italia, the Vuelta, the Olympics, the World Hour Record, and, of course most recently, in the 2011 Tour de France. Diadora makes a full array of road and mountain cycling shoes that employ innovative technology to offer unmatched, pro-level power transfer, superior ventilation and the ultimate in ergonomic comfort.

But since we’re talking about Cadel, we thought we’d share the best pictures of Cadel that we took during our Performance Tour du Jour trip to France. Above, Cadel is powering the chase group up the Col du Galibier on Stage 18, to narrow the gap on Andy Schleck.

Cadel sprinting to the finish on top of the famous climb of Alpe d’Huez in Stage 19, with Andy Schleck in the background.

Here’s Cadel in a moment of calm after Stage 19, bundling up for the ride to the team bus.

Cadel rocketing off at the start of his time trial in Grenoble, in Stage 20.

And powering home to take the yellow jersey from Andy Schleck with a dominating performance, easily making up his 57 second time deficit from the start of the day.

Here’s Cadel in the peloton during the final stage in Paris, riding down the Rue de Rivoli in his new yellow jersey.

Photograph by Bettini Photo

So if you’re ready to ride like Cadel, check out our Diadora shoes on sale today!

Flashback Friday – Road Components in 1987

Inspired by the original 7-Eleven team, the first professional American cycling team to compete in the Tour de France (in 1986), we’re going to look back at road components in the Performance Bicycle catalog of the late 1980s (1987, to be precise). Organized by Jim Ochowicz, and with a fun-loving group of riders including Alex Stieda, Eric Heiden, Bob Roll, Ron Kiefel, Chris Carmichael and Davis Phinney, the 7-Eleven team laid the groundwork for the growth and success of American professional cycling. But, as you can see in the following video, they had a bit of a roller coaster ride in their very first Tour:

So with the 7-Eleven team in mind, we thought we’d delve into our archives to share a few pages from our Summer 1987 catalog, to see what kind of components you could get after you were inspired to ride by watching America’s first pro team in France:

But before you got your components, you first had to get a kit that looked the part. We had you covered with our own pro-inspired gear featuring the top teams of the day (like 1986 Tour winner Greg Lemond‘s La Vie Claire team):

 But we’re here to talk parts, so let’s get started with cranksets.  In 1987 you had many manufacturers to choose from, including Suntour, Sugino, Campagnolo and Shimano, all with elegant cold-forged style crankarms. Of note was the Sugino crankset, which featured a carbon-fiber reinforced outer chainring:

As we move on to brake levers and brakes, you’ll find no integrated shift/brake lever setups, as road bikes were still using downtube-mounted levers to handle the shifting duties. But you could choose from brakesets made by Shimano, Campagnolo and Modolo, an Italian brand whose brakesets had a definite sense of panache (or maybe we’re just suckers for black):

When it came time to complete your component setup with a rear derailleur, your options were manifold, as evidenced by our offerings from Suntour, Sugino, Mavic, Campagnolo, Shimano and Huret. Of note here was the increasing prevalence of indexed shifting systems (where one click of the shifter meant one gear shift), instead of the old-style friction shifting (where you had to listen for the chain as it shifted gears). Also interesting is the (at the time) “worlds lightest derailleur”, the Huret Jubilee, item K below. At 146 grams, it would still be lighter than SRAM Red or Campy Carbon Record!

After all this focus on components, though, we couldn’t resist sharing a few pages of the road bikes we had on offer in 1987. Hailing from our own Performance brand of bikes, we had the Corsa frameset, featuring lugged aluminum tubing. Available with an array of custom build kits, the Corsa was a true race-ready steed:

But if your taste was for a bike with European flair, we had you covered there as well, with beautiful bikes from Eddy Merckx, De Rosa and Pinarello. In case you’re wondering, the lovely paint job on the Pinarello is called “Spumoni” after the tasty Italian dessert:

We hope you enjoyed our quick trip back in time to check out road components from our catalog during the time of the 7-Eleven team. It’s always fun for us to look back at where we came from as we work to bring you the best cycling value and selection in the present day!

Ready for Le Tour

What can we say, other than we’re ready for the Tour! We’re ready for all 3 weeks, 21 stages and 3471km of the La Grande Boucle; from the Passage du Gois on Stage 1, to the Team Time Trial, to the sprint stages, to the Alpe d’Huez and the 100th anniversary of the mighty Galibier, to the finish on the Champs Elysees:

We’re ready for exquisite photo albums from legends like Graham Watson, with shots of gorgeous scenery, of epic suffering, and especially of dream-worthy bikes, all immaculately clean and ready to ride before every stage:

We’re ready for the favorites, the underdogs and no more excuses:

We’re ready to read expert analysis, BikeSnobNYC, and anyone else who’s sharing their insight and opinion!

We’re ready for our daily dose of  Bobke, Paul, Phil and their suitcase of courage.

We’re ready for the scenery, the fans, the publicity caravan, and the excitement of seeing the Tour in person during the Europeds Tour Trip, presented by Performance Bicycle:

We’re even ready for Didi the Devil with 1km to go!

Yeah, you could say we’re ready… bring on the yellow, green, polka dot and white jerseys! It’s time for the biggest stage in cycling. It’s time for the Tour de France!

Cycling Stories: NC State Time Trial Championships

We’re passionate about cycling, whether it’s riding around the neighborhood with our family, or racing in the local criterium.  So every now and then we like to share cycling stories from our own employees, in their own words.  This week Bob and Erik, product distributors at our HQ in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, are sharing their day at the NC State Time Trial Championships:

Bob and I [Erik], two members of the Garneau Custom p/b PowerBar team, decided to try our luck at the North Carolina State Time Trial Championships. Although it’s my 3rd year racing, I had never been on a TT bike until this spring. I was hopeful & confident going into the event, but Bob’s been racing his bike since the late 70s, so this was pretty much routine for him. He knew what he could do and what his opponents could do, so all he had to do was execute and hope for a tailwind!

Ed.: photo proof that Bob's been racing for a while

We loaded up Bob’s truck with our gear and headed up one day early to give the course a good pre-ride. After a loop with a local (to us) rider, we headed into downtown High Point, NC to watch the North Carolina State Championship Crit races. The crit venue was great; a covered, outdoor bus terminal was transformed into the start/finish line, with a stage, bleachers, food vendors, P.A. system, big-screen TV that popped out of the top of a van (with a video feed of the race from numerous roof-top cameras), plus a VIP area that Bob and I somehow got invited into! Nothing like sitting in the shade, eating free food, drinking free beer, and watching some bike racing! This must be what Phil Liggett and Bob Roll do year round; what a job!

Bob on top of the Master's 50-54 podium

The next morning we staged at a local high-school and set up our trainers. As a testament to the difference in experience between Bob and I, I spent the night prior carefully pinning my race number to my jersey, while Bob simply pulled out a can of Elmer’s spray glue to affix his number just before hopping on the trainer! We started warming up for the atypical TT course, discussing mental notes from the prior day’s recon ride. The course was a true 40k, but it wasn’t as flat as most, which I preferred. Bob, on the other hand, wasn’t quite so happy with it, going so far as to say, “this isn’t a TT course!”

Erik on the Cat 3 podium

Bob went off first, shortly after 8:35 am, and I started about 10 minutes later. I won’t bore you with the details (since hearing a play-by-play of a time-trial is only exciting to the one telling it, and even that’s a stretch) but as I rolled across the line, 40k later, I looked for Bob to see how he rode. Not sure of our exact times, we traded stories of how the race went and waited for the announcement from the race organizer. I was able to put down a time of 56:22.327 (26.45 mph avg), good enough for the silver medal in Cat 3! But Bob was the big winner, with a time of 58:47.759 (25.37 mph avg), putting him atop the podium in the Master’s 50-54 category! So congratulations to Bob for a great effort and well earned win! All that was left to do was load up the truck, find a good Mexican restaurant to grab lunch, and head home.

Burn 24 Hour Challenge 2011 Recap

Over Memorial Day weekend, a team of 4 from our corporate HQ (in Chapel Hill, NC) set out for the Dark Mountain trails (in Wilkesboro, NC) for the 2011 Burn 24 Hour Challenge mountain bike race.  If you’ve never raced in a 24 hour mountain bike race before, it’s a pretty simple proposition: ride as many laps as you can in 24 hours, all through the day and night, either by yourself or as part of a 2-person or 3-5 person team.  As you might imagine, it’s part endurance, part speed, part madness, and completely fun (well, maybe not for the solo riders)!  The organizers and volunteers of the Burn 24 Hour Challenge really work hard to put on a first-class event, so all you have to do is get on your bike and pedal, and pedal, and pedal….

Here’s our crew at the start of the race (that’s Chris, Greg, Tom and David from left to right), posing in our intimidating all black Performance Ultra II jersey and short race kits while standing next to our equally intimidating Access Stealth 1.0 29er mountain bike.  While we were at the race, Tyler from Bikerumor.com dropped by our tent to take a look at the new Stealth 1.0, and you can check out his post about our sub-21 pound trail rocket here.

To get a sense of what the race was like, we asked both of our 24-hour race rookies to write up a few words about their experiences – first up is Greg, our freeriding, dirt-jumping expert:

The race was a blast. I always love riding new trail, even if Dark Mountain offered way more climbing than I was used to. But the atmosphere was what really sold the whole experience. The folks at Burn put on one heck of a race. Sure, there were a few people out there with their eyes on the podium, but there were plenty of racers just content with alternating decent laps with some chill time sitting in the pits cooking dinner and cheering on the constant stream of riders.

I’d have to say my favorite part was the final descent. As you dove down the ridge, you’d start to hear the cheering and cowbells. The pace picked up quickly, and the trail would start throwing in massive berms and a few doubles just to keep things interesting.

Our other rookie racer was Tom, a former triathlete who has lately found his true passion riding fat tires:

24-hour racing is a blast.  As a newbie I was concerned I wouldn’t get enough riding in sharing the load with 3 strong riders…but I got all I could handle.  This was the most fun I’ve ever had suffering.  It was hot and hilly and great company for all.  I was a bit disappointed to see the compression sock phenomenon spilling over though!  Thought I got away from that when I left triathlon.

It was a great atmosphere, and a fantastic way to spend the weekend. Highlights… guilt-free Nathan’s hotdogs, night riding, and the amazing scenery.

Our team may not have been turning the fastest lap times,  but we definitely had a great time and made a bunch of new friends, as folks dropped by our tent to check out the Stealth 1.0 or snag some free samples of PowerBar Gel Blasts and PowerGels (the green apple flavor gel was a crowd favorite).

We also took the opportunity to test out a slew of cycling headlights in real racing conditions, from tried-and-true favorites to some brand new options.  We’ll share some of our light testing results here on the blog in the coming weeks, for those looking for a new setup to hit the trails at night.  Even if you don’t try out 24-hour racing, you should definitely give night riding a try – it makes riding trails that you know like the back of your hand a whole new, and exhilarating, experience!

To see more photos from this year’s Burn 24, head on over to the Performance Facebook page and check out our Burn 24 Hour Challenge 2011 photo gallery – be sure to log in and let us know what pics you like!

2011 Giro d’Italia – Riding in the Vittoria neutral support car

Eric, one of the buyers here at Performance HQ, was lucky enough to fly to Italy last week to check out a few days of the Giro d’Italia, and he shot some amazing video footage that we’re sure you won’t  find anywhere else.  Eric was able to score a seat in one of the Vittoria neutral support cars during Stage 9, which ended high atop smoldering Mount Etna, and he was doubly lucky to be in the car that followed the leaders for the entire stage!

Eric was there, video camera in hand, to watch the breakaway, along with the mad dance of cars, motorcycles and fans that accompanied them as they led the way up the mountain.  And he also had a front-row seat as Alberto Contador launched the attack that would put him in the pink jersey at the end of day (the famed maglia rosa of the overall race leader).

So enjoy our behind-the-scenes view into a day in the life of a Grand Tour stage, as seen from inside the race:

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