March 7, 2012 17 Comments
March 2, 2012 Leave a comment
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!
January 16, 2012 1 Comment
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.
December 2, 2011 2 Comments
Every month we like to recognize the efforts of some of our over 100 stores doing what they do so well, participating in their local communities. In addition to their regularly scheduled Spin Doctor clinics & group rides, our retail associates support or host many great cycling events, including events like these highlights from November.
For this first event, we really have you to thank out there! Our Holiday Food Drive was a great success again this year, as we were able to collect 8690 food items, equaling 9115 pounds, across all of our stores!
We love being able to give back to our local communities, and our store teams were very proud to be able to bring these food donations to their local food banks across the country. Thank you to everyone who donated – your efforts were very much appreciated during this holiday season!
Of course we also love to get out on the road to support local rides. And rides don’t come much bigger than the annual El Tour de Tucson in Arizona, a fantastic fundraising ride that draws a crowd of over 9,000 riders!
Many riders really needed our expert services, and we worked on over 300 bikes at our tech station. Our team aired up tires, adjusted brakes and derailleurs, and even tensioned a wheel to offset a broken spoke – whatever was needed to keep riders on the road.
In the San Diego area, our Sorrento Valley, CA store was right in the middle of the popular Bike the Coast event, so our store team stepped up to serve as the ultimate aid station (our store was the only support station that the 100 mile riders would see twice). Since the ride was maxed out at 2500 participants, our aid station was a popular spot all day long (even the port-o-potties had a line around the building for those who hydrated a bit too much)!
We fixed many flat tires and broken spokes throughout the day – apparently there was a mean pot hole a few miles from the store! We did the best with what we had to get folks back on the road – a few of the wheels left with non-bladed or mis-colored spokes, but everyone was determined to finish the event!
Our support station was also popular for the 2 tables stockpiled with bananas, oranges, Granola, Brownies, Pretzels and freshly made PB&J’s. We had a 3 person assembly line for the sandwiches, and they would not sit on the plates for more than a few seconds! Plus we had plenty of sports drinks and fresh water to quench the thirsty riders – our team was busy all day long.
But probably the best story of the day was the rider who rolled in to our aid station with 2 broken spokes, a broken derailleur and derailleur hanger. Since we didn’t have a hanger that fit, we decided to go back to the basics – we took off his cable, derailleur and hanger, cut down his chain and turned his ride into a single speed! The look on the guy’s face when he realized he was going to be able to finish the event was priceless!
A few of our stores have organized in-store cycling classes, like this group at our Novi, MI store, since it’s so much easier to stay motivated when you are training with friends. The Sales Manager, Roger, lead the class in an hour of aerobic spinning, including sets of sprints with recovery and climbs of various lengths and then some stretching for cyclists. Roger even talked about proper form on the bike and mentioned a few drills people could do at home to improve their pedal stroke.
Here’s a shot from our Bloomfield Hills, MI store, who partnered with a local Team in Training group to hold a training day. It was inspirational to see all these people coming together to motivate each other even though they were all in different parts of their training, from beginners to experts. After their session we provided them with bagels and bottled water, plus a special discount for working out in our store. Our store team is already looking forward to their next training session!
Our Dayton, OH store also held their first indoor cycling event in November. Here’s a shot of the group who braved some nasty weather to maker it into the store. Everyone said they would be back and maybe bring some friends.
Our store teams also like to support local schools, like our Pittsburgh, PA store shown here at the annual Carnegie Mellon fair. We talked to over 800 people at the fair, and worked on quite a few bikes. We also gave advice on trainers and training, and assisted folks with proper fitment questions/issues they had with their current bikes.
Our Speedway Tucson store was back in action at the Basis Middle School Community Fun Day. This annual event has grown every year, with more than 500 people at this year’s event. There were many activities and events going on all over the venue for the participants – our team was there talking with people about bikes and doing repairs, plus running a tire pump contest, with the younger kids trying to set the best time for 60psi and the older kids and adults aiming for the best 110psi time. Our team had a great time and are already planning next year’s event…. maybe with a bicycle obstacle course thrown in the mix!
Here’s a shot of Store Manager James Harrell and our Tour De France cyclist and employee Bernard Croyet , from our Kearney Mesa, CA store, leading a bike rodeo with a local Cub Scout group. Working with smaller groups like this can be some of the most rewarding experiences for our teams, since it really does get these kids excited about cycling.
Our Greenwood, IN store hosted 2 small groups of Cub Scouts for clinics one weekend, and it was great to see how interested these young riders were in learning about the sport.
And it’s always great to get a little recognition for your efforts, so our Ann Arbor, MI store was very proud to receive this poster from the Rotary Club of Michigan. Store associates Chris Sams and Patrick Larkin worked with the local Rotary Club to fix and restore 24 bicycles for kids and teens without bicycles. The poster was presented to the store as a token of their appreciation to Performance Bicycle and its support to the local community.
October 26, 2011 Leave a comment
Can’t get enough of cycling when you’re off the bike? We know the feeling, so every month we can’t wait to check out what’s going on in the world of cycling journalism. This month we thought we’d share a few of the great stories that you might have missed in the latest cycling magazines – including ones that you can only find in print, but are worth the price of admission.
First up is a fascinating story about the Bordeaux-Paris race from 1963, won by Tom Simpson. Culled from the archives of their sister publication Cycling Weekly, the story is full of amazing race day photos that tell the tale of this 500km long former Classic race. Riders started the race at 2am, and stopped partway through to change into their race kits on the side of the road! The strangest part of the race was that for the last 250km, the riders were paced by motorized “dernys” (gas powered scooters) – a bit like a track race out on the open road!
Next up, from the latest Bicycling magazine, is a story of a quest to get an interview with the legendary Eddy Merkcx. Apparently Merckx is still tough to catch up to, just like he was in his racing days, but this profile about the present-day Merckx reveals a man that is supremely comfortable in his role as cycling legend, yet who rarely looks back at his racing career or seeks out acclaim for his accomplishments.
In the November issue of Velo magazine, there’s a great interview with everyone’s favorite hardman cyclist, Jens Voigt, but the article that caught our eye was the ranking of the top 10 hardmen of the post-wart era (I guess you have to rule out those early cyclists who rode unpaved roads with no derailleurs – by default they would probably win any hardman contest). Our favorite tale of adversity overcome is about Fiorenzo Magni, who broke his collarbone in the middle of the 1956 Giro d’Italia (the final race of his career), yet who refused to give up even though he had to have a strip of innertube attached to his stem to stabilize his bike – the other end of which he held with his teeth!
Finally, for our fellow mountain bike riders out there, we dug the short story, “The Picashaw Pedaler”, in issue #159 of Dirt Rag magazine. The winner of their Literature Contest, this spooky tale of a sleep-deprived 24-hour racer who starts seeing a figure in the woods strikes home for anyone who’s ridden all out through the night. Was it just a hallucination.. or was it something else?
September 29, 2011 2 Comments
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).
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.
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!
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.
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).
Onward 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!
Once 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).
Finally 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.
To see all of our pictures from the Alpine Loop Gran Fondo, check out our photo album on Facebook.
September 16, 2011 Leave a comment
We here at the Performance Bicycle Blog have decided that it’s time to see, in person, what’s up with the growing popularity of the Gran Fondo (literally “big ride” in Italian). Gran Fondos, or cyclosportives, as they are also known, are organized and timed mass-participation road rides, usually with an extra degree of difficulty not usually found in the typical charity ride (but still with rest stops!) Participants aren’t necessarily competing against each other, but they are racing against the clock, since you normally have to beat a pre-determined cutoff time to finish. Ultimately it’s this personal challenge that attracts riders to a Gran Fondo – the chance to test yourself on an epic route with other like-minded cyclists along for company (and ok, maybe a little competition).
But that’s not all that Gran Fondos have to offer, as they often act as a fundraiser for deserving charities and groups, plus you often get the chance to meet and ride with the famous cyclists who are hosting or participating in the ride. Famous Gran Fondos around the world include the Maratona dles Dolomites in Italy, l’Etape du Tour in France, or the popular Levi Leipheimer’s King Ridge Gran Fondo in California.
For our foray into the Gran Fondo world, we’ve decided to check off all of the above by registering for Jeremiah Bishop’s Alpine Loop Gran Fondo in Harrisonburg, Virginia (on Saturday, September 24th). In case you didn’t know, Jeremiah Bishop is one of America’s most accomplished mountain bikers in recent years, with multiple national championship titles and many other prestigious wins to his credit. Lately his focus has been on marathon events and stage races, but he’s also been mixing it up at a few World Cup cross-country events this year too. So when you hear that Jeremiah Bishop has set up a Gran Fondo, you get the feeling that you’ll be in for an epic ride.
Billed as “the most challenging and adventurous Gran Fondo in the United States”, the Alpine Loop Gran Fondo route (like most Gran Fondos, there are also shorter options) certainly sounds like it won’t disappoint! Covering 95 miles and with almost 11,000 feet in elevation gain, it adds to it’s “most challenging Gran Fondo in the US” credibility by including several miles of dirt road climbing, pitches of up to 15%, and some raging mountain road descents. This promo video shows what’s in store for the ride:
As a bonus, the Alpine Loop Gran Fondo is also a fundraiser for community charities, local schools and cycling infrastructure – all of the proceeds from the event get put to good use after we’ve finished suffering out on the road.
Chris and I (David), the same team that rode the Alps during the Performance Tour du Jour trip to the Tour de France this summer, are heading up from our headquarters for this Gran Fondo. There’s nothing like riding up Alpe d’Huez a few times to get your legs in shape for a challenging ride. Well, that’s our theory, at least! To be honest, we really haven’t been packing on the road miles since we got back to the States, so we’ll see if there’s any fitness left over from our Euro riding when we get to Virginia next week!
We’ve actually met Jeremiah at the Pisgah Mountain Bike Stage Race – he was even nice enough to pose for a picture with his comically oversized winner’s check. Of course the only time we saw him was at the start of the race and then at the awards ceremony, since he usually finished in about half the time that it took us to ride the course (we were lucky to make it to the finish before they actually took down the finish line)!
We have a sneaking suspicion that the same timing will apply to this Gran Fondo, but lucky for us there’s a gala dinner the night before the ride where we’ll get to rub shoulders with the pros and other riders (without being in a oxygen-deprived state, as we likely will be on some of those climbs). But out on the road there will still be fun goals to aim for, like age-graded king of the mountains jerseys, staffed rest areas, cowbell prizes for the last place finishers (this prize is definitely in reach), finish line festivities, and of course some beautiful scenery.
Now that we think about it, maybe we do get what this Gran Fondo business is all about after all. A chance to test ourselves with a challenging ride in a great atmosphere, along with a few hundred new friends, all for a good cause.