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Bike Racing

  • The 5 Defining Moments of the 2014 Tour de France

    2014 Tour de France

    It's been a little more than a week since the 2014 Tour de France ended with Italian rider Vincenzo Nibali from team Astana grabbing the victory. His win was largely dominant -- he led for 18 of the 21 race days this year and took the first spot in four stages. It was an incredible ride, and if you're like some of us, you're now suffering from a little bit of TdF withdrawal. To help you relive the good times, here's our pick for the top five defining moments from this year's Tour.

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  • All-time Greats: The 5 Best Cyclists in History

    Eddy Merckx

    Eddy Merckx

    There is no doubt who sits at the top of any list of the greatest cyclists in history. Merckx, a road racer from Belgium who was born in 1945, holds more professional victories than any other cyclist. He won the Tour De France and the Giro d’Italia five times each, holds three world championships, and won the so-called "Monument" races (high-level, one-day cycling races) a record 19 times -- including each race at least twice, the only rider to ever do so.

    Merckx is one of only two cyclists to hold the so-called "Triple Crown" -- to win the Tour de France, the Giro d’Italia and the World Championship in the same year. In 1984, he set the hour record -- the distance for riding in one hour -- at high altitude in Mexico City.

    The record stood for twelve years before falling to Francesco Moser, who used a specially-designed bike for aerodynamics. In 2000, the Union Cycliste Internationale changed the rules for the mile record, requiring a traditional bike to be used, and in the same year Chris Boardman beat Merckx’s record by just 10 meters. However, his ride was conducted at sea level. The mile record was again beaten in 2005 by Ondrej Sosenka, who has faced doping allegations.

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  • Pro Chats: What do pro cyclists like about the Fuji Altamira and Fuji SST?

    Here is another video from our "Pro Chats" series. Chris Butler, Craig Lewis and Chad Beyer all ride for Champion System Pro Cycling Team. While they were in town for the Tour of Utah recently, we sat down with them and had them tell us what they like about the bikes they ride -- the Fuji Altamira and the Fuji SST. (Just so you're aware, Bikewagon is an authorized Fuji dealer, but we can't sell them online, so if you want to get one from us, give us a call or come stop by the shop!) Check it out, and if you ride the same bike, let us know what you think about it in the comments section below.

     

  • Pro Chats: A day in the life of a pro cyclist

    We recently had the opportunity to sit down and chat with a few riders from the Champion System Pro Cycling Team who were in town for the 2013 Tour of Utah (The team did well in 'American's toughest stage race,' taking 6th overall). We asked them some questions about their bikes, about what it's like to be a pro, and what it takes to get to that level. Over the next several days we'll be rolling out some clips from those conversations, as the first in our "Pro Chats" series of videos. Here's the initial installment for you. Enjoy!

     

  • 12 Reasons to Love Le Tour de France 2013

    The technology. Technology is something that we all love and is a topic to follow -- especially when it comes to professional cycling. In this year's Tour De France, we're going to see a breakthrough in Aerodynamics, from helmets to newly revised frame tubing to brake caliper integration to the newly developed hydraulic brake systems that will really set this year apart from any other. The 2012 Tour de France introduced 11-speed, and just one year later we're now seeing most of the professional peloton racing with a tighter and more efficient 11-speed stack.

    Drama at the Tour de FranceDrama drama drama. We've already covered one week of The Tour, and we've seen amazing performances across the peloton with one major crash taking down a number of riders and blocking many others. Outside of the far-too-common bike crashes, you'll be able to enjoy professional athletes taking swings at each other, overly defensive and reactive teams and even the typical swarm of overzealous spectators partaking in the temptations of public intoxication.

    The commentary. When we think sports commentary in professional cycling, we think of Phil Ligget, a colorful sports journalist from England who has been the popular voice of the Tour de France since 1967. Ligget is known for his very descriptive and powerful overtones and analogies that make you laugh, think and accept that he's the perfect man for the job. Ligget's words have carried so much weight in the sport that his fans have created the term "Liggettism" to exemplify Ligget's best quotes when describing the most intense moments of Le Tour de France:

    "To wear the yellow jersey is to mingle with the gods of cycling"

    "Are they on the road to stardom, or are they lambs to the slaughter?"

    "He's dancing on his pedals in a most immodest way!"

    "There's no reason to rush into hell."

    The yellow jersey. The Tour de France has many traditions, and the yellow leader jersey is certainly one of the most famous originals. The yellow leader's jersey was first awarded in 1903 to Maurice Garin of France and has built a reputation. The yellow jersey is awarded on a stage-to-stage basis around total race time and can be taken away as quickly as it was given. Some might say that the yellow jersey puts a target on your back and is not to be "worn lightly," while others might just add that "with great power comes great responsibility."

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    Drama drama drama. We've already covered one week of The Tour, and we've seen amazing performances across the peloton with one major crash taking down a number of riders and blocking many others. Outside of the far-too-common bike crashes, you">
  • Top 5 Ways to Prepare for your First Cycling Race

    My first race felt like my first day of school. My jersey was two sizes too big, I clicked in with SPD cleats, and my bike was half the price of my competitors'. Let’s just say I felt nervous and completely out of place.

    Since then I have made a few upgrades and learned a lot about racing. Now I would like to pass on some basic tips that would have helped me at my first race!

    1. Don't stress

    There is nothing to worry about. The course looks scary, and the cyclists are fast, but once you are out there "it's just like riding a bike." You have already prepared for the race, and adding extra stress will only drain your energy and slow you down. Do whatever it takes to relax. Do yoga, take deep breaths.... You get the idea.cycling race tips

    2. Ignore the egos

    Let's face it: Most cyclists are cocky and they will size you up. I have encountered gear heads, weight weenies and some other names I can't mention here. Don't let it get to you. Just take it to them on the course. There is nothing better than seeing these guys suffer at the finish line -- especially as you click out of your SPD cleats.

    3. Eat right

    Nothing slows you down faster than heartburn on race day. Skip greasy foods, load up on carbs, and do NOT try new foods. One morning I ate a different breakfast and was puking 30 minutes into a crit. Now I eat the same meal before each race and I have never been happier.

    4. Get lots of sleep

    I cannot say this enough. A good night's sleep is very important. Don't waste the night fine-tuning your bike. You will be much better off getting an extra hour of sleep.

    5. Ride the course before the start

    This tip should not be overlooked. By riding the course you will gain a slight advantage over your competitors. You will know about pot holes, learn where to take a turn, or even plan your attack.

    Kurt Simpsonby Kurt SimpsonGoogle+Kurt Simpson, AKA The Handsome Cyclist, is an avid road racer and Bikewagon's hipster-in-residence. He currently runs the retail location at the Wagon.

  • Oh, George Hincapie, what have you done?

    Gorge Hincapie George Hincapie

    It is being reported by Bicycling magazine that George Hincapie has admitted to doping during his pro cycling career and has worked with federal investigators in their case against the US Postal Service team.

    I recently read The Secret Race by Tyler Hamilton, and throughout the book I felt pretty convinced that everything he was saying was the truth. Yes, the book was much more of a Lance hate-fest than I had anticipated, but the level of detail outlined by Hamilton left little doubt in my mind about the doping going on in pro cycling. As a big baseball fan, I have a bit of a déjà vu feeling about all of this. I have been down this road before with athletes that I admire for their ability to play a game. I want to believe that pro cycling has done a good job at cleaning up the sport, but they need to be sure with all the big names that are still riding.

    Hincapie has been reported as saying, "Early in my professional career, it became clear to me that, given the widespread use of performance enhancing drugs by cyclists at the top of the profession, it was not possible to compete at the highest level without them. I deeply regret that choice and sincerely apologize to my family, teammates and fans."

    From what I read in The Secret Race, I tend to agree that at the time it was probably impossible to be competitive at the highest level of cycling without doping, which makes me wonder why it would be any different now. I can say that during my day spent at the Tour of Utah I saw no signs of doping from any of the teams (not that I was really in a position to, but hey, I was there right?).

    As time goes on I am certain that we will continue to see all the riders from that era confess to doping. Will Armstrong ever admit to it? I don't think so. Does it change the way I feel about him as a racer? I still don't know. But I do know that I still wear my yellow LIVESTRONG bracelet, not in support of Lance, but in the support of the fight against cancer that has touched so many lives, including my own.

  • A day in the passenger seat of a pro team car

    Paul in Champion System car Paul getting ready for the ride of his life.

    When I received word that I would be riding in the Champion System team car for stage one of the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah, the only instruction I was given by our Fuji Bikes rep was to bring a bottle to pee in because the cars wouldn’t stop. Slightly nervous about holding my bladder for the next six hours, I arrived at the team staging area for the race. I was greeted by the team's support staff and invited to look around and see the gear they had on hand. The Champion System team rides beautiful blue and Orange Fuji Altamiras. Each rider had their bike as well as a spare on top of one of the team cars.

    As the team got ready to head for the starting line, I was able to watch as team general manager, Ed Beamon, gathered his guys to go over the race strategy for the day. Let’s just say there is a lot more that goes into a professional bike race then, “Hey guys, let's ride really fast today!”

    The route for the day was set to cover 131 miles with almost 9,000 feet of climbing. With temperatures in the high 90’s, the guys really had to suffer through the ride. Throughout the day I was impressed with the teamwork that goes on amongst the groups as they send someone back to the car to collect water for the rest of the team (the number of water bottles these guys fit into a jersey is pretty crazy).

    After a few “feedings,” I asked Champion System assistant sport director, Burk Swindlehurst, who was driving the car, how they decide who comes back for the bottles. He told me that it is basically a stalemate until someone cracks. He said all the guys are thirsty, and whoever breaks will signal for “feeding.”

    Wheel change A quick wheel change

    Team mechanic Gerd Kodanik quickly jumped in and said with a smile, “You usually don’t see Contodor coming for the bottles.”

    Speaking of Gerd, the highlight of my day was watching him work on the bikes during the race. Whenever a rider would have a mechanical, they would ride next to the passenger side of the car and tell Gerd what was going on. The rider would then place his hand on the window sill of the front window while Gerd would hang out the back window and make the adjustment to the bike. I watched as he fixed everything from a rear derailleur to adjusting the height of a rider’s seatpost. Very impressive.

    As we started the final climb of the day I watched as the peloton split into bunches of solo riders. Suddenly there were cars and bikes weaving in and out of each other as the riders were simply suffering up this final climb. I thought that was going to be the craziest part of the day. Little did I know things were about to get even more interesting!

    The final climb The final climb

    As we dropped down out of the canyon on the final descent into the finish line the speeds got crazy. I peeked over at the speedometer and we were well over 50 mph and struggling to keep up with the riders. The turns in the canyon had a posted speed limit of 15 mph, and I was pretty sure I was going to die right there in Ogden canyon.  Luckily was made it safely through and finished the race.

    I would like to give a special thanks to Team Champion System and Fuji Bikes for allowing me the opportunity to ride along for a great day of bike racing!

    Oh yeah, I almost forgot to mention that I didn’t have to use the bottle I was instructed to bring.

  • Team Champion System Tour of Utah Report: Stage 5

    We're happy to have Assistant Director Burke Swindlehurst from UCI Pro Team Champion System as a guest blogger this week, reporting on his team's experiences in the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah.

    Park City to Snowbird: 101.1 miles/162.8km; 10,000 ft. of climbing -- View Stage 5 Route Map

    Generally considered the "Queen Stage" of the Tour of Utah (I have a feeling that status may change after tomorrow), today's penultimate 101-mile stage featured three sprints and four KOMs (King of Mountain) -- including the "hors" category and final ascent to the Snowbird Ski resort. With an accumulated 10,000 feet of elevation gain, the main objectives of Team Champion System for the day were two-fold: to put Aussie Cameron Wurf into the early break and to protect our designated mountain goat for the week, Chris Butler, so he could spread his wings on the final climb and hopefully have a crack at the stage podium.

    As with previous years the attacks came immediately, and with both a KOM and sprint line in the first 20 miles, all attempts by riders to break loose were squelched until after sprint number 1 in the Kamas Valley.
    The team's plan of getting Wurf into the early move abruptly ended when he was involved in a crash on a narrow farm road, and the resulting chaos saw a group of nearly 25 riders sneak off the front. With four Garmin riders represented in the move, teams RadioShack and BMC quickly organized and it was again "grouppo compacto" as the riders entered the city of Heber.

    A counter-attack of five riders would eventually move clear to establish a 4-minute lead, and the peloton settled in, seemingly content knowing that there was plenty of terrain ahead to sort things out.
    With most of the field in-tact over the the second KOM climb of the Alpine Loop, it looked likely that the fireworks would not begin until the final ascent of Little Cottonwood Canyon, and that turned out to be the case. Three Champion System riders remained in the main group, now consisting of only 50 or so riders. At the base of the final climb, Champion's Wurf and Craig Lewis put in a great effort to make sure Butler was well-positioned as the race made it's final right turn onto the Little Cottonwood road. All that remained was the final 6 miles of consistent 8-percent grades and the still-searing heat that has punctuated this week's racing.

    In the end, Chris fought his way to a very respectable 17th place finish on the stage amidst a who's-who of some of the world's top climbers.

    Tomorrow's final stage is a new edition to the Tour of Utah, ascending the newly-paved Empire Pass road which features sustained grades in excess of 20 percent and may very well be the most difficult climb contested on American soil seen to date. It should be another great opportunity for Champion System's Chris Butler to test himself against some of the best in the business.

    Till then,
    -Burke

  • Team Champion System Tour of Utah Report: Stage 4

    We're happy to have Assistant Director Burke Swindlehurst from UCI Pro Team Champion System as a guest blogger this week, reporting on his team's experiences in the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah.

    Lehi to Energy Solutions Arena: 134.3 miles/219.8km -- View Stage 4 Route Map

    Stage 4 of the 2012 Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah looked as if it were going to be another scorcher as the race headed into Utah's West Desert after it's departure from Xango headquarters in Lehi. The attacks came immediately, and a sextet comprised of some of the event's strongest teams (inlcuding Team Champion System's Craig Lewis) quickly established a tentative 30-second lead. After several failed attempts by solo riders to join the group (including Radio Shack's Jens Voigt), the breakaway finally pushed its lead to over a minute, and soon the defending Garmin/Barracuda team settled into a comfortable rhythm at the head of affairs. The six leaders would eventually push their advantage out to over 10 minutes as overcast skies and a few raindrops provided welcome relief to a peloton which has suffered through three days of relentless temperatures touching 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

    No stranger to long breakaways, Lewis would take the first XO Communications Sprint of the day at Kilometer 24, reinforcing the team's game plan to make an impact on the day's racing.

    Once the race reached it's midway point, several teams who missed the early move began to contribute to the efforts at the front, and the time gap slowly started to creep back down until it appeared as if the efforts of the six leaders would end well short of the finish line in Salt Lake City.

    Despite the strong chase behind, the the lead group forged on, and as they reached the Salt Lake City limits with only 10 kilometers remaining, they still held a 1-minute lead which would remain intact until the final three kilometers. With just one kilometer left, the leaders still clung to a 10-second lead, and it looked as if we just might see an opportunity for Craig to pull off a repeat of his victory at the Tour de Beauce in June. As the race made its final left turn toward Energy Solutions Arena, however, the riders were overtaken, and the sprint from the field saw Jake Keough of Team United Health Care cross the line first, followed by Marco Bennefato of Omega Pharma and Garmin's Tyler Farrar.

    Tomorrow's race from Park City to Snowbird promises to shake-up the general classification as the mountains return with a vengeance! We're looking forward to seeing how our mountain goats do both tomorrow and on Sunday's new stage which includes a climb up the newly-paved Empire Pass -- believed by many to be the toughest climb seen by the professional peloton on American soil.

    Stay tuned!

    Cheers,
    -Burke

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