Performance Tour du Jour: On the ground in France

As should be expected when traveling from North Carolina to Grenoble, France, we spent most of the first day of our voyage on airplanes, in trains and trying to cram bike cases into tiny elevators! The flight to France was long but uneventful, with a few movies watched and not much sleep to be found. When we arrived at Charles de Gaulle airport, we ran in to many cyclists ready to ride and watch the Tour, much like ourselves.

We met a nice family on the train – we had met the dad at the Pisgah Mountain Bike Stage Race last year and were pleased to meet his family. We traveled through the airport with them and even competed to see who could fit the most people with bike cases in a tiny elevator:

As you can see, they won.  Eventually we made our way to the famous French high speed train, the TGV, for our high speed escape to the Alps. It was a pretty cool train ride flying through the French countryside, but we have to say that th TGV was not designed with hauling bike cases in mind! Our bikes ended up stacked right by the door of the train, in front of the bathroom – not exactly the best spot for storing some pretty sweet road bikes!

But eventually we made our way to Grenoble (with our bikes), our stopover spot for the night. The weather was wet and rainy when we arrived, but before the day was over (and we passed out from our exhausting day of travel), the clouds cleared and we were treated to our first view of the surrounding mountains where we will spend the next week.

Tomorrow (Monday), we’re off to meet up with our Europeds tour group and head up the Alpe d’Huez for the very first time. Yeah, you could say we’re excited! Or, as the sign says, we’re “fous du tour”:

To keep up-to-date on what we’re doing next, or to get in touch with us, be sure to follow Performance Bike on Twitter and Facebook. We want to hear from you as we head into the Alps!

Wordless Wednesday

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!

Celebrate the Tour Contest

Celebrate the Tour with Performance and you could be a winner, too!

It’s Tour time again, so we thought that it was only fair that you had the chance to win some  pro-level prizes at the same time that the world’s top pro cyclists battle their way toward the podium in Paris. Over on our website, we’re giving away over $5,000 in prizes to 3 lucky winners in our Celebrate the Tour Contest. You may not be podium-bound but that doesn’t mean you can’t look and ride like a pro. And instead of suffering in the peloton for 3 weeks, all you have to do is head over to our site and fill out the form for your chance to win!

1st Prize – 2011 Scattante CFR Race Road Bike

Total Retail Value: $3,499.99

With its feathery-light 3K-weave carbon frame, full-carbon fork, reliable Shimano Ultegra 6700 components and TRP brakes, the Scattante CFR Race Road Bike is fully equipped to live up to its name. From pavement pacing to podium chasing, you can count on the CFR Race to deliver top performance and one of cycling’s best high-end road bike values.

2nd Prize – Garmin Edge 800 Bundle, Giro Prolight Helmet, 2 Continental Grand Prix 4000 S Tires

Total Retail Value: $1,069.96

A favorite of many here at our headquarters, the Garmin Edge 800 GPS Cyclocomputer is ideal for touring, commuting, competitive cycling and mountain biking. It has a built-in base map and tracks your distance, speed, location and ascent/descent. Includes a premium digital heart rate soft strap and speed/cadence sensor.

Giro’s Prolight Helmet redefines what an ultra lightweight helmet can be. After an exhaustive, ground-up design and engineering process, Giro has created a helmet that tips the scales at only 200g.

The Continental Grand Prix 4000 S Clincher Road Tire is arguably the best all-around road bike tire you can buy. It’s fast, grippy as all-get-out and tough enough to deliver mile after mile of high-speed, high-performance service.

3rd Prize – Pearl Izumi Clothing/Cycling Shoe Kit

Total Retail Value: $430.00

Team-inspired construction and technical fabrics are combined with original Pearl Izumi sublimated graphics and Direct-Vent side panels in the Pearl Izumi SS Elite Ltd Cycling Jersey. Matching Elite LTD Bib Shorts blend team-inspired construction and materials with original Pearl Izumi sublimated graphics. The ultra-efficient, ultra-light Pearl Izumi Elite Road II Shoe combines Pearl Izumi’s 1:1 Anatomic Buckle Closure System, Elite Carbon 1:1 Anatomic Plate and a lightweight, one-piece upper.

Celebrate the Tour & Enter to Win Today!

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!

Europeds Tour Trip: Alpe d’Huez

Alpe d’Huez… the iconic climbing test that every cyclist wants to try at least once! One of the coolest parts about our Europeds Tour Trip is that you will be staying right at the top of l’Alpe d’Huez for 5 nights, in the small alpine resort town.  You’ll get the chance test your legs on this legendary climb every day if you want to,  right before the pros come thundering up the mountain, during Stage 19, to the roar of the thousands of fans who will line the narrow mountain road like a natural amphitheater.

L’Alpe d’Huez may not be the steepest, longest, or highest climb that is used in the Tour, but it’s definitely the most famous.  With it’s numbered 21 hairpin turns (each named after former stage champions), even those who don’t follow cycling have heard of this legendary ascent.  From the base of the mountain to the finish line above the town of Alpe d’Huez, it’s 13.8 km at an average gradient of 7.9 percent.

Each turn records the exploits of a legendary champion, from the first winner, Fausto Coppi in 1952, to the likes of Joop Zoetemelk, Bernard Hinault, Andy Hampsten, Marco Pantani, Lance Armstrong, Frank Schleck and Carlos Sastre (the last stage winner, in 2008).  The Alpe d’Huez has been included in the Tour 25 times since Coppi first won there, and on 20 of those occasions, the rider who ended the stage wearing the yellow jersey has gone on to win in Paris (as chronicled in the book The Tour is Won on the Alpe). It’s definitely the place to be when the Tour comes rolling through!

Photo of Alpe d'Huez by Eric Walthall (which he earlier posted on the Performance Facebook page, from a trip he took)

There have been many iconic moments on the slopes of l’Alpe d’Huez, including the famous scene below of teammates Greg Lemond and Bernard Hinault finishing the stage arm-in-arm in 1986, the year Lemond won his first Tour.  Notwithstanding the smiles in the photo below, their relationship wasn’t exactly what you’d call friendly that year, as Hinault, the defending champion, attacked every chance he got even though he’d pledged to support Lemond in his bid for the yellow jersey (as told in the book Slaying the Badger).

One of the most famous recent memories has to be when Lance Armstrong gave his German rival Jan Ullrich “The Look”.  After feigning fatigue on the lower slopes, Lance gave Ullrich this famous backwards glance, and then rocketed away from the German after turn 16 of the climb, just past the church at La Garde. If you join us on the Europeds Tour Trip you can try this trick on your climbing companions, but more than likely you won’t be feigning fatigue at this point of the climb!

There’s still time to book your spot on the Europeds Tour Trip, presented by Performance Bicycle, but there are only a few spots left, so book today!  We hope to see you in France, on the slopes of l’Alpe d’Huez!

Tour Trip Profile: David Martin

Have you been watching the Giro d’Italia and wondering what it’s like to experience a Grand Tour in person? Then don’t miss your chance to see the action up close and personal with a once-in-a-lifetime cycling experience, through our partnership with premiere bicycling tour operator, Europeds!

We’re proud to offer exclusive access to the 2011 Europeds Tour Trip, a dream trip for any cyclist. The 7 day/6 night trip includes five nights on the summit of the fabled Alpe d’Huez, the chance to watch three action-packed Tour stages in person, along with the opportunity to go on some of the most breathtaking bike rides you’ll ever experience.

To give you more insight into the trip, we’ve put together a little Q&A with the head of Europeds, David Martin, a man who knows his cycling and his French cuisine!

How long have you worked for/run Europeds?

I’ve worked at Europeds since 1996. I started as a guide, working primarily in France. In 2000, I bought the company and transitioned to more managing than guiding.

How many times have you been to the Tour?

I’ve been to the Tour de France around 14 times. This year (2011) will be my 12th year of guiding trips to the Tour.

What’s your favorite part of leading trips to the Tour?

To be honest, the best part about leading trips to the Tour is being able to be at the Tour. It’s just the greatest and craziest sporting event ever. The atmosphere, the mix of cultures and the drama that always unfolds makes it an event like no other.

I take pride though in being able to offer people a unique glimpse into this great event. Throughout the years I’ve learned how to best design and operate a Tour trip. The most important aspect starts with the hotels. Once you’ve secured the accommodations in a great spot, the rest is pretty easy. For this year’s Tour trip for Performance, we’ve got the best hotel location possible – literally at the top of the Alpe d’Huez. We’ll be there for 5 nights and we’ll ride every beautiful road within reach. That’s the best part about leading a Tour trip!

What’s it like riding in the Alps? Have you got a favorite ride from the Tour trip?

Riding in the Alps is the best thing in the world if you’re a cyclist. The beauty and magnitude of the climbs make it just breathtaking. On the upcoming Tour trip for Performance Bikes I’ve put together an amazing itinerary that focuses not only on some of the classic and well-known climbs, but also some lesser known yet equally as beautiful roads. We’ll get the chance to ride up the Galibier early in the morning of July 21st, the Galibier stage.

At the Alpe d’Huez, you are surrounded by all of the classic Tour de France climbs such as Galibier, Lauteret, Glandon, and the Izoard.  My favorite rides, however, are probably some of the lesser known climbs. Although some would argue that the Pyrenees are prettier, the Alps are more intense and the climbs are steeper.

One of the more beautiful roads in the area, and one that many people don’t know about is the road that goes out the back of the Alpe d’Huez. It is called Col de Sarenne. It is the most breathtaking road you will ever ride. Seriously. It is not to be ridden if you are scared of heights.

Besides the Col de Sarenne, there are a couple of other rides that are my favorite in the area, and we’ll ride them both on the Performance Tour trip. I think my favorite ride is probably this great out and back ride up to a very small village called La Berarde. It’s very cool to start the morning off with a 20 minute downhill ride off of the Alpe d’Huez. Once in the village of Bourg d’Oisans below, it’s a classic, gradual climb up to La Berarde where you can get a great meal in a small café on the side of the road. The cruise back down to the bottom of the Alpe d’Huez climb is world class, then the pain begins. The total distance for the day is about 55 miles.

What’s it like being on top of Alpe d’Huez on race day?

It’s really hard to explain what it is like at the Alpe d’Huez on race day. Think mayhem. It is one of the more exciting days you will ever experience. The energy is palpable. This year, we will most likely see between ½ million and 1 million people on the switchbacks and on the route. Being at the top, as you wait for the riders to arrive is like being at the center of the universe. This year, on July 22nd, we’ll wake up and take the day off of riding as we’ll let the pros do the riding today. Most people will probably choose to walk down the switchbacks and find a place on the hill while others will simply walk the short distance to the finish line and stake out a place among the crowds.

Have you got any favorite local food or wine specialties?

When you’re in the Alps, you have to eat Fondue. There are tons of choices for delicious, hearty Alpine cuisine. Another local favorite is a dish called “Tartiflette” – which is a gratin filled with potatoes, onions, bacon and cheese of course. Great riding food.

In terms of wine, the Alps aren’t really known for their wine, but my favorite red wine comes from the Cotes du Rhone, which is nearby. Many of the cyclists on the Tour trip tend to like beer too, but there is never a shortage of quality red wine.

Who’s your pick to win this year’s Tour?

Tough question. Much probably depends on whether or not Contador will be present, but even if he is, I suspect we could see a dark horse emerge. I’d like to say Chris Horner as he’s one of my favorite riders, but Andy Schleck is probably a good pick too. OK – truth be told, I have no idea. You’ll have to come and see for yourself.

Don’t miss your chance for the trip of a lifetime.  Book your spot on the 2011 Europeds Tour Trip today!

Wordless Wednesday

Performance Bicycle Presents the Europeds Tour Trip

Le Tour… that’s all you really need to say and any cycling fan knows what you’re talking about!  With the history, the prestige, the endurance, and the sheer pageantry of cycling’s biggest race, Le Tour is the ultimate cycling experience.  Last year, in partnership with premiere bicycling tour operator, Europeds, we sent one of our own employees, David, to France to see first-hand what it’s like to watch the race in person and ride some of the same epic climbs as the pros.  So what did he think?  He’s still raving about the experience, from the riding to the food, and you can read all about it right here on the blog, of course!

This year we’ve partnered with Europeds once again, but this time to offer this once-in-a-lifetime cycling experience to you! We’re proud to offer exclusive access to the 2011 Europeds Tour Trip, with only 16 total spots available.

And what a trip it  promises to be!  The 7 day/6 night trip includes five nights right on the summit of the fabled Alpe d’Huez, plus the chance to watch three action-packed Tour stages, along with the opportunity to go on some of the most breathtaking bike rides you’ll ever experience.

You’ll experience everything the Tour has to offer from a base camp perched at the top of the famous 21 switchbacks of the Alpe d’Huez, in the Southeast corner of France.  The itinerary for the week includes watching 3 Tour stages in person, miles of fantastic Alpine riding with a small group of only 15 other riders, plus the chance to be exactly where every cyclist wants to be on July 22nd, with a front row seat on the slopes of the Alpe d’Huez!  You’ll be there, along with thousands of cycling-mad fans, lining the mountain as the 2011 Tour thunders up to its last mountaintop showdown!  And after the stage is done, you’ll be hanging out in the midst of the racers and journalists while almost all of the other fans fight their way back down the mountain, as you stroll to your hotel atop d’Huez!

If you want a little bit of the flavor of the Alpe d’Huez on Tour day, check out this video of the finale of Carlos Sastre’s victory atop d’Huez in 2008 (which propelled him to the yellow jersey):

Watching the Tour in person is truly an experience that every cyclist needs to do at least once in their lifetime.  From the chance to watch the pros up close and personal:

2010 Tour passing over the Col du Soulor

To the opportunity to challenge yourself on some of cycling’s sacred ground with new friends:

David and the Europeds group on top of the Tourmalet

To riding on some of the most beautiful roads you could ever imagine:

David in the Pyrenees in 2010

We can promise that it will be an experience you won’t forget! So we hope you’ll join us on the 2011 Europeds Tour Trip, presented by Performance Bicycle.  Spots are filling up fast, so don’t miss your chance to see “Where great rides begin… in France!

2011 Racing

So what else are we looking forward to in 2011?  Well, how about another season of bike races.  We love to ride and race, but we also love watching other riders give it their all in 2-wheeled combat.  It could be the local Cat 4 cyclocross race (where you never know what will happen) or a hotly contested elite criterium… we’re just cycling fans through and through!  There’s something about the noise of a passing peleton: the whoosh of spinning spokes, the whirring chains, the snap of a gear change before the final sprint, and the kaleidoscopic array of jerseys and bikes.

But we’ve got to admit, our favorite cycling spectating is watching the sport at its highest professional level.  You’d be amazed at how popular the break room in our office becomes at the end of a Grand Tour stage!  Yes, we know that our sport has been known for its fair share of disappointing doping scandals, but the cheats are getting caught and we still love to watch some of the world’s greatest athletes racing in amazing scenery that can’t be topped by any sport!  Plus it also gives us an excuse to check out their drool-worthy gear.

Pro cycling has a little something for everyone: the solo breakaway, the mad dash of the bunch sprint, the mano-a-mano mountain-climbing duels, the pure efficiency of the time trial, and the epic scope and controlled chaos of the Grand Tour.  Just the sheer logistical madness of contesting an equipment-heavy professional sport across hundreds of kilometers of roads is impressive in its own right.

Of course if you want to get the full experience of a major race (including the pre-race caravan, the crowds, the team cars, and the TV helicopters), you really need to see one in person.  And if you can only see one race in person this year, we can personally recommend going to see the Tour de France.  Where else can you get so close to pro athletes without paying any admission fee, plus the very next day you can grab your bike and try out the same roads for yourself, to see how superhuman their exploits really were!

So we’re ready for a new year of pro bike racing (the Tour Down Under starts only a few days from now)!  Bring on the Classics of Paris Roubaix and Liege-Bastogne-Liege; the Grand Tours of the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France… we’ll be watching all the way to the Giro di Lombardia late in the fall (and there’s always cyclocross in the winter).  We’ll even get a few major international races here in the US this year with the  Tour of California and the new Quiznos Pro Challenge.

Forget what happened in pro racing last year?  Check out this really thorough year in review video (just be prepared for some dramatic musical selections):

And if you ever want to know when any race (at just about every level of the sport) is scheduled to take place, then you definitely need to bookmark the VeloNews race calendar.

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