Saturday, May 16, 2009
The history of the fi’zi:k bum logo continues from a January blog entry.
Exact dates and the order of who did what first are mixed but such is to be expected given the numbers of bums that have served as a billboard for the fi’zi:k logo. When the idea of fi’zi:k bum logo was first created in our Italian offices, the suggestion was passed stateside. “Ask the teams,” Signor Fregonese encouraged, “the worst that can happen is that they say no.”
While fi’zi:k was no stranger to the pro peloton, having supporting the bums of the infamous GT-Lotto team, breaking in to the pack in both Europe and the US was no easy feat. Two of our main Italian competitors had long established themselves as the saddle brand of choice and fi’zi:k was the new kid on the block. When we first begin approaching US based pro road teams in 2001 for sponsorship talks, our product offerings were limited and established pro team-saddle relationships were likened to family. You don’t expunge the family. The most difficult part however, was convincing the team directors – most of them former pros who’d grown up on our competitor’s brands - to try something new. In the US at that time, it wasn’t so much about money, but it was about the product. “Why make my guys switch and what have you got to offer that’s better?" was the echoing sentiment.
The US first teams to ‘take a chance’ with fi’zi:k were Prime Alliance (2001- 2003), Navigators (2002-2006) and Shroeder Iron Pro (2002-2003). Each of these three teams hold a spot of significance in fi’zi:k history.
Prime Alliance was our first US pro road sponsorship and was the team that Jonathan Vaughters eventually joined in 2003 after leaving the European pro peloton. Vaughters was one of our forty secret Arione prototype testers long before the saddle went into production. Fi’zi:k’s relationship continues to this day with Vaughters and his Garmin-Slipstream team and in true full circle fashion, it was his rider, Dave Zabriskie, that was the first pro to test our new 2009 Ares team trial saddle. Prime Alliance along with Schroeder Iron Pro, was one of the first US teams to incorporate the fi’zi:k bum logo.
Navigators Insurance was our second US road sponsorship and was until recently, our longest running US sponsorship (Team Healthnet-Maxxis now Team OUCH currently ranks as fi’zi:k’s longest running professional US partnership).
Our partnership with Shroeder Iron Pro marked not only the first time our saddle sat under the bum of the US National Champion (Chann McCrae came over to Shroeder Iron Pro from US Postal after crossing the line as first American in 2002; fi’zi:k rider & Navigator;s Canadian Mark Walters won the US Pro Open that year) but also marked the first truly BIG US Pro bum logo!
These early sponsored teams were limited to the original Pave, the Poggio (a Gord Fraser favorite) and the Dolomite. Shroeder Iron Pro used the Dolomite almost exclusively. All three of these saddles, in their original form and design, are now out of production.
Monday, February 23, 2009
Come in she said I’ll give you shelter from the storm.”
Of the seventeen participating teams at the Tour of California, fifteen enjoyed the luxury of having a home on wheels to shelter them from rainy stage starts and to provide them with a heated haven following four to five hours of bone chillin’ downpours. While visiting European teams reap certain unstated benefits of being an ‘invited’ pro tour team, not all US based teams have the required budget to pony up for a 33-foot chariot. For that reason (plus that other tidbit about the 1.6 million viewers) Powered:By fi’zi:k was pleased and proud to be able to step up to help out our newest sponsoree, Fly V Australia presented by Successful Living on two week’s notice!
It wasn’t our only team out there (eight teams riding fi’zi:k saddles) but ironically, it was the team most decimated by a nasty traveling inter-peloton virus. One by one, day after day, illness struck – and one by one they left. In the end, the 8-team member capacity team bus held two lone riders – Ben Day and Curtis Gunn*- there to weather the storm and finish what they’d started. (*Curtis Gunn started but did not finish the final stage due to a knee injury).
Curtis Gunn and Ben Day
TWO WEEKS NOTICE
Two weeks notice, an idea hatched over a cup of coffee with 1984 Olympic Gold Medalist Steve Hegg, and a wrap design created by Crank Brother’s Art Director extraordinaire Tim Van Gilder in the span of two hours, and Powered:By fi’zi:k was born. So…how did we rate when stacked up against the others?
Team OUCH presented by Maxxis
Cervelo Test Team
Team Jelly Belly
Team Saxo Bank
Team Columbia - High Road
Team Type 1
How'd we do?
Sunday, February 22, 2009
ROAD Magazine inquired this morning, “So what’s the full day entail for you?”
As the 2009 ToC Team Bus supplier to the Fly V Australia pb Successful Living team, the Powered:By fi’zi:k crew has been fortunate (and grateful) to have hotel accommodations at the Team Hotel each evening. Here, a Depart Addendum indicating a ‘luggage out by’ time and the vehicle departure time, is distributed. It is the responsibility of Powered:By fi’zi:k to ascertain the petrol and water tanks are full when we’re ready to roll. And even when all appears to be dialed – the occasional monkey wrench is tossed into the mix.
A MONKEY WRENCH:
Part of the Fly V Australia pb Successful Living management crew, as well as fi’zi:k marketing, departed for the Stage 6 Solvang Time Trial at 6 am to join Road Bike Action for a 60-strong industry ride. In the meantime back in Paso Robles, the Powered:By fi’zi:k home-on-wheels was turning over a whole bunch of nothing - its battery life having been sucked dry. To the rescue was Fly V Austrlia’s veteran cyclist Curtis Gunn – no stranger to finding his way around a motor home. After a few failed attemps, moments of panic were tempered with a trusty pair of jumper cables and off went the Fly V Australia caravan consisting that morning of two team vehicles, a team bus (Powered:By fi’zi:k) and the two remaining Fly V Australia pb Successful Living pro cyclists: Ben Day and Curtis Gunn.
VIRUS’s – ANOTHER OCCASIONAL MONKEY WRENCH
Down to three riders before the start of Friday’s Time Trial - five having already succumbed to an evil energy sapping virus - Bernard Sulzberger was hit so hard that he fell asleep in the bathtub. That left Curtis Gunn and Ben Day to represent the team at the Time Trial. While other teams it appears, have also been hit by the virus, none have been it quite as hard as the Fly V Australia squad.
Fly V Australia Director Sportif Henk Vogels
“It’s really a shame,” commented Director Sportif Henk Vogels. “Our business managers Chris White and Brett Roland worked really hard for the invite and to be down to two guys…one might get the impression that we didn’t deserve the invite. But we do deserve to be here. There’s nothing that can be done about it - if you’re sick – you’re sick.”
Outside of managing the occasional monkey wrench, a typical day usually involves a morning transfer to the race start - ranging anywhere from about four to one hundred miles. The guys load into the Powered:By fi’zi:k team bus where they lounge, stretch, tune-out or integrate their preferred pre-race rituals. The Powered:By crew makes a quick exit off the bus upon arrival at the race start to give the guys their space, gather dotdotk.blogspot.com story ideas and images, check in with fi’zi:k sponsored teams and to stock up on Jelly Belly’s.
About ten minutes before the gun goes off, the team bus sides are retracted, the vehicle leveled, and the engine is purring. As soon as an exit path is cleared, the team busses roll out in their own organized assembly, following course deviation directions for the non-peloton sect. Required travel time from stage start to stage finish is generally an hour or two and thus the writing of a dotdotk.blogpost post begins.
In the finishing town the team busses jockey for position in the Team Parking areas. Orange cones are set out demarking parking spots for respective team cars and vans. Once settled, team bus sides extended and the vehicle tidied, it’s over to the Expo Festival to restock Mini BlackBook2 catalogs, straighten displays and check in with Scott USA’s Marketing Director Adrian Montgomery and Jim Pheil from Edge Sports who have been transporting and managing our displays.
If there’s one consistent comment from both Adrian and Jim it’s that orange is hot and fi’zi:k, if doubt were there, is truly a recognized saddle brand. Trivial though it may sound, it was not so long ago that 1. consumers were unable to correctly pronounce fi’zi:k 2. our sponsored pros were also often unable to correctly pronounce fi’zi:k and 3. the most common response was are these saddles comfortable?
Today’s most common response however is not ARE these saddles comfortable? but I have a fi’zi:k and it is sooo comfortable! Yes…we’ve come a long way baby.
*Many thanks to Scott USA’s Adrian Montgomery and his marketing team, and to Jim Pheil and his crew at the Fly V Australia expo booth featuring Edge Wheels, Parlee Bicycles, Sock Guy, and fi’zi:k.
Saturday, February 21, 2009
Inside Team Car OUCH
THE DAY’s OBJECTIVES: The object of the day could be to win the stage, move up on GC, or move closer to securing a particular jersey (KOM, Best Young Rider, Most Courageous).
The secondary but ongoing objective is to get a rider in the break. There’s always a break in a road race. Sometimes the riders are caught and sometimes they’re not. If the hosting team car (team OUCH in this case) gets a rider in the break, OUCH car #2 will, at some point, leap frog up to the break to talk to, feed and potentially, clothe the rider. That’s another action or photo opportunity. Team OUCH, however, was not in the day’s break. That left us further, to our own devices for entertainment.
Other traces of action might come in the form of others misfortune. There’s always a healthy of dose friendly jousting happening in the caravan. One’s misfortune is another man’s laughter. Most of the caravan was wondering where Jelly Belly Director Sportif, Danny Van Haute’s rear window had gone. Apparently something had lodged itself inbetween the trunk closure and when the mechanic slammed it shut during race action (likely changing a flat or assisting a downed rider), the rear window simply shattered. But that was only half of it. Jelly Belly’s Team Car #2 was missing a rear driver’s side window. What? Not a good day for the one of the most popular teams on the circuit (free Jelly Belly’s to anyone, just for the asking).
Then there’s the random rider spew after a crash or close call:
Doesn’t the ^*&(%!! guy know he’s supposed to put his *^&%(!! jacket in his team car, not in his *&($%!! spokes? (heard following the Sevilla, Landis, Kirchen crash – resulting in a broken collar bone for Kirchen).
Floyd Landis having a chat with Team OUCH car following a slam to the pavement
Thus, while one truly never hopes for flats, mechanicals or crashes (that’s just bad form),during a long day in the car – with the group mainly in tact – such misfortune can be the extent of the action from inside.
Thursday, February 19, 2009
Team OUCH - fi’zi:k’s longest running US pro sponsorship partner - invited fi’zi:k into the team car for Stage Four’s 115 mile tour from Merced to Clovis.
There are a couple of things to know before jumping into a team car:
1. If female, limit coffee intake prior to getting in a team car – stopping for a female-appropriate relief break is rare (we’ve got this one down).
2. Be ready to settle in for what could potentially be a long, sleepy day.
3. No hanging out of the Team Car to take photos (our good friend Adrian Montgomery at Scott USA learned this one a few years back at the Tour of Georgia).
4. If a semi-hang out attempt is made for the rare photo opp (ie. of Lance) you may get the stink eye (experienced several years back at the Tour of Georgia). Thus, get ego in check.
Riding in a team car looks glamorous from the outside and can in fact, be absurdly exciting. Other than being a pro in the bunch, it’s tough to get much closer to the action. For the most part, the best view point will always be from the living room couch. Days can be brutally long in the team car - there’s no getting out to stretch or to stop for coffee - and if the hosting team car is ranked anything below Team Car #4 or #5 (the cars are numbered from 1-17 based on the General Classification), you are all but removed from the action. So, while exciting at times, the view from the tube is a great vantage point to watch a pro cycling race.
[Of special note, should the opportunity arise to jump in a team car, sharing the same language with driver and mechanic is a must. Otherwise, there is literally no one with whom to speak for approximately four to six hours. Chatting on the phone is a bad behavior.]
HOW IT WORKS:
Each team car (two cars per team at the ToC), has a Technical Guide that outlines the details of the day’s stage: left and right turns, railroad crossings, King of the Mountain Sprints, and the Feed Zone. The race usually starts with a few ‘neutral laps’ in each hosting start town – to put on a show for the locals – and after a designated distance, the race is officially on.
After a designated amount of distance (usually 20 miles or so), the race is then ‘open to feeding’. At this point, the riders can drop back to their team cars to grab bottles, snacks, or to drop off or pick up clothing. There’s an organized system to ‘feeding’ that goes like this (we’ll refer to Team OUCH since they were the hosting car). Team OUCH rider drops back to the rear of the main pack and raises his hand (as if to ask a question). The race radio announcer in Commissaire Car #2 spies the rider’s hand, and then announces over the team race radio, “Team OUCH for feeding.” In the meantime, Team OUCH rider has already radio’d his Director (driving the car) that he’s coming back for bottles – and Team Director (Mike Tamayo) has thus already made his way up through the caravan (Team OUCH was car #11 during this stage) toward the back of the pack by the time Team OUCH car has been called up.
Tim Johnson grabbing bottles.
Cam Evans doing domestique duties.
Another potential action photo opportunity occurs during flat tires and crashes. We usually refrain from snapping during crashes. FIRST THE FLATS…
While flats are a fairly common occurrence during race action, requiring the team car to find their rider and swap out their front or rear wheel (a technique mastered by mechanics taking less than ten seconds) – they can make or break the cyclists overall GC standing. This can depend on the terrain and what’s happening in the race when the flat occurs.
When a rider flats, the rest of the group doesn’t just ‘wait up’. The amount of effort required to catch back on has been known to crack many a cyclist – causing them to throw in the proverbial towel on the entire race. For example, if a flat occurs just as the speed picks up (fast rollers or descents), that rider can be severely off the back in the mere seconds it takes for the team car to find the rider on the right side of the road (they always pull to the right), swap the wheel, give him a push and then attempt to pace him back to the main group.
It can take 30 miles to get your rider back to the main group, riding at a full effort.
Even George Hincapie needs to be paced.
Such was the luck of Karl ‘Ten Men’ Menzies and Bradley White (Most Courageous Rider, Stage 3) early on during the stage. They eventually caught up with the main group but it was after a heroic effort – one that Mike Tamayo labeled – the best catch back on I’ve ever seen. It was an effort that completely destroyed Team OUCH’s John Murphy who sacrificed himself for his teammates to help them re-join the main field and make the day’s time cut.
THE CRASHES: When a rider goes down in front or near the team car, the risks involved with this ‘job’ become real. We’ve seen a few ugly crushes over the years; it’s an odd - sickly spectacular - but uncomfortable site. Inside the team car, the desire is high to stop to help – but the peloton doesn’t stop and the team car screams on (unless, of course, the fallen rider is one of yours). The hard reality in bike racing is that you never really know how or where your day is going to end. For BMC’s Scott Nydam and Team Columbia Highroad’s Kim Kirchen, the day started in Merced under sunny skies and ended at the Fresno hospital.
POWERED:BY FI’ZI:K - FROM INSIDE
MORE TO COME.
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Cervelo Test Team's Carlos Sastre carrying bottles.
FROM THE BACK – INSIDE THE PACK
We often wonder if pro cyclists ‘notice’ the kits, logos, components and bike frames of other teams while they’re riding in the pack. There is no shortage of long slow stages with miles to cover and time to while away. As cyclists - pro, enthusiasts or recreational - we spend a significant amount of time staring at the backs of the rider in front of us.
One moment of false concentration can spell disaster if the rider in front of you makes a quick move or over-correction in effort to avoid unforeseen road hazards. While the fi'zi:k back can me mezmorizing and hypnotizing, the extended trance can also lead to unintentionally crossed wheels with little time to undue the damage (as was the case yesterday when Levi crossed wheels w/ Lance and in effort to avoid taking him down, took down nearly the entire Garmin-Slipstream squad).
So…do they notice, we wondered - the fi’zi:k logos on the back of other teams?
Curtis Gunn from the Fly V Australia pb Successful Living team said, “I definitely notice what’s on the backs of other riders because that’s how I pick out where my guys are or where other riders and teams are positioned. That’s how I can identify them quickly.” He continued, “I don’t notice that much when I’m out on a group ride but I definitely notice when I’m in the pack – in a race situation.”
“That’s quite a billboard you’ve got there on the Columbia - Highroad Team,” Team OUCH’s Tim Johnson remarked. “Much bigger than ours, eh?”
“Is there anyone out there not riding your saddles?” Team OUCH’s Mike Tamayo asked. (When you’re staring at the back of rider’s butts all day, five teams with fi’zi:k logos equals 40 cyclists….and that’s a whole lot of bum look at).
And from the peloton during Stage 4 when the Team OUCH car pulled up next to Team BMC Manager Gavin Chilcott’s team car for a chat, “You’ve got the biggest logo in the caravan!”
“What do you mean? The one on Team Columbia - High Road?” we asked?
“Uh…no,” he said, “That 20 foot fi’zi:k logo spread across your team bus!”
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
IT’S JUST GOES WITH THE TERRORITY….
When you’re in this deep…there are certain responsibilities that come with managing a team bus for a professional road team. For the last two days, Powered:By fi’zi:k personnel have been toying with and perhaps subconsciously procrastinating the inevitable: the purging of the septic tank.
Cruising the winding and twisty Highway 17 en route to the Santa Cruz stage finish, we spied the Rabobank Team Bus at highway pull out, with large black industrial sized hose extended in what could only be described as the DUMP position….as far as we could tell anyway. Hmmmm…what an odd place for a ‘dump’ we thought. Should we join them? Too late to slam on the brakes on the 33-foot beast, we motored on.
Upon arrival at the TEAM PARKING lot of the finishing stage, we digested the fact that it was better to deal with the Black Box (that’s RV lingo for septic tank) sooner rather than later. A full Black Box makes for an unpleasant morning transfer for the riders. And thus the VIRGIN DUMP process began.
The alleged story goes that if you telephone the organizing race porta-john company (United Porta Johns in this case), talk real nice, pool some team buses who could all use a dump (about $20 each), they (United) might come to you to collect your poo. The survey began. All told, we tallied five teams - Powered:By fi’zi:k, Team Type 1, Team Jelly Belly, Astana, and Team Liquigas - all in need of a good dump. Fast forward to three hours later when the organizing D.U.M.P. committee (Powered:By fi’zi:k) finally received a call-back from United Porta Johns. The cost? $200 per Team Bus! $200 to collect our professional poo? Who was he kidding? We could probably sell this stuff on EBay!
Stage 3 DUMP: Mission Aborted.
Stage 4 DUMP: Mission On.
Rolling along Interstate 280 this morning on the wheel of the Team OUCH Bus, our thoughts were completely preoccupied with the ensuing morning DUMP.
"Hey, uh, Dan (Team OUCH bus driver), have you got a good lead on a DUMP station around here?" we asked, phoning a couple hundred of feet in front of us.
"Yep, there’s one right off 99. There’s a gas station there as well. Follow me. I’ll take you there," he said.
"Wow, John, we’ve got ourselves a DUMP escort – follow him," fi’zi:k's Marketing Manager suggested.
In the parking lot, Dan escorted us around the sides of one of those 'corporate' trucker/RV stops - the type where you feel out of place if you're driving anything short of 18 wheels or Class A vehicles. In pursuit of his overzealousness to find the DUMP hole Dan, in the Team OUCH bus, dropped us.
"Dude, you dropped us," we phoned. "Where'd you go?" (Yes, the place was this big.)
"We’re back in the front; we found the hole. Come around. Look for something like looks like a garbage can. There’s a hole on the ground next to it; that’s the dumper," Dan said
"Oh…the thing that says RV DUMP, you mean?"
These exclusive Powered:By fi'zi:k images illustrate what happened next but suffice it to say that this was perhaps the smoothest virgin DUMP to ever occur in the pro peloton support caravan.
John readies with blue gloves, courtesy of Dan the Man
Never imagining it could be this much fun
Many thanks to Dan the Man, Team OUCH Bus Driver and to John Cordoba for this stellar display of teamwork and their ‘hand’ in the task.
Dan the Man shows us how its done. Hang on real tight he instructs.
**Blue gloves and Moto-Home Anti-Stink chemicals courtesy of Dan the Man – ToC expenses reduced by $12.99.
Black Box clear….for the next three days.