Monday Feb 18 2008
Cycles of progress
By: Todd Mordhorst Journal Sports Editor
Auburn bicycle makerâ€™s creations to face biggest test in Tour of California
Jim Felt's vision to create the fastest bicycles on the planet will get the ultimate test this week. Team Slipstream Sports is riding Felt bikes this week in the Tour of California, looking to make a splash in the United States before Felt bikes make their Tour de France debut this summer on the sport's premier stage. Auburn's Felt began making time trial bikes in 1990. His company has grown rapidly over the last decade to the point where he's on the verge of realizing a goal that once seemed unimaginable. We won't know if we're officially invited to the Tour de France until April 1, but right now it's looking really good, Felt said. As a frame builder, that's quite an honor. This week, the focus is on the Tour of California, which has quickly become one of cycling's top events. Team Slipstream began as a junior development team, but signed several veteran riders to boost the team's credentials this season on the international scene. We started hiring some of the top guys for the team to help some of the younger guys along, Felt said, referring to David Zabriskie and Christian Vande Velde in particular. This team has really come together and that is huge for a road team. The Tour of California began with Sunday's prologue in Palo Alto. Today's first stage takes the riders from Sausalito to Santa Rosa. On Tuesday, the peloton will cover just over 115 miles from Santa Rosa to the state capitol in Sacramento. The seven-stage race will conclude in Pasadena next Sunday. Felt said the Tour organizers have done an excellent job promoting the race and attracting the top riders in the world. It's really caught on in a short period of time, he said. They've done a great job getting the excitement building over the last couple of years. Everyone thought they weren't going to get the big teams, but they've done it and the racing's been really good. There's a lot of hype for the athletes to come over here. They really want to come. Seventeen teams are entered in the Tour of California. Felt will travel with the team whose bikes carry his name, gathering feedback from the riders and, making sure they have the right tools for the job, he said. Felt is looking for Zabriskie and Vande Velde to have big weeks at the Tour of California along with Slipstream teammates David Miller and Danny Tate. If a guy from our team is going to win it, it will probably be Vande Velde, Felt said. He's a fantastic athlete. Felt's athletic background is mostly in triathlons, where he was a competitive amateur for many years until immersing himself in bicycle design. He does not attend every race with the Slipstream team, but he plans to join the team at the Olympics in Beijing this summer. The Auburnite is excited to be involved with a team that is not only competitive, but is interested in helping revamp cycling's battered image. The biggest message we want to send is we're huge advocates of anti-doping, Felt said. Everyone on the team takes weekly doping tests voluntarily. The last few years the sport has gotten a tarnished name and we want to change that.