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Tour de France bikes from Irvine

July 8, 2008 |  2:30 pm

Garmin-Chipotle rider Will Frischkorn on a Felt bike during Tour de France action.
Garmin-Chipotle, the 2-year-old Boulder, Colo.-based team that is making its Tour de France debut in a big way, is riding bikes from Felt Bicycles in Irvine.

The small (30 employees) company can't compete with Trek bikes -- yet. For example, the first full-page ad of this year's VeloNews Tour de France preview is of Trek's 2007 Tour-winning bike, the Madone model, a work of art in bright yellow.

Doug Martin, Felt's one-man marketing department, said his company met up with Garmin-Chipotle founder Jonathan Vaughters two years ago. "We wanted to get with a young, upcoming team," Martin said. "Jon's team fit that bill."

Will Frischkorn rode to a second-place finish in Monday's third stage on Felt's new AR model, which won't be available to the public until 2009. Felt makes up to five bikes for each athlete on the 25-man Garmin-Chipotle team -- including the nine on the Tour de France squad.

"That's an enormous undertaking for a company of this size," Martin said.

To make the AR, Martin said, Felt worked in a San Diego wind tunnel with a Felt bike that already had been measured as the fastest time-trial bike in the world. "We start with a base of products that are extremely high end," Martin said.

(This part is for cycling geeks only: Frischkorn's AR model has a "very flat down tube, a flatter head tube and the wheel well set in a tube," Martin said.)

The AR's retail price hasn't been set, but another bike that Garmin-Chipotle riders will use during the the Tour, the F1, retails for $7,000. "And the AR will be more than that," Martin said.

Felt also is providing bikes for several U.S. Olympic cyclists, including medal favorites Taylor Phinney and Sarah Hammer.

As Frischkorn lost Monday's stage in a photo finish, Vaughters entered the Versus television booth to give his breathless reaction. Mixed in with the excitement and disappointment generated by Frischkorn's almost-win was Vaughters glowing endorsement of the new Felt bike.

"I'll thank Jon for that," Martin said. "We really are the little guy in this business."

-- Diane Pucin

Photo: Garmin-Chipotle rider Will Frischkorn on a Felt bike in Tour de France action.

Credit: Graham Watson/Felt Bicycles