$1,875; (800) 245-3872 or www.cannondale.com

Connecticut-based Cannondale has long led the way in aluminum frame-building technology. Each and every one of the American-made frames is crafted in the company's Pennsylvania factory to some of the tightest tolerances in the industry. Such attention to detail shines through on the R900, which offers all the advantages of aluminum (namely, light weight with a fast, spirited road feel), with little of the harsh ride for which the material is famous. With a smart mix of Shimano's mid-level 105 and Ultegra components, the R900 is a sleek machine with a healthy appetite for pavement. Go-fast types will want the double chainring configuration, but Cannondale wisely offers a triple-crank option for the same price.

tour de france primer
in cycling-mad europe, hundreds of thousands of rabid fans line the race route, sipping wine as they wait for their favorite stars to flash by. the best tour de france coverage available stateside is on the outdoor life network (203-406-2500 or www.olntv.com, or contact your local cable provider). check www.cyclingnews.com for live updates during each stage, as well as insightful stage recaps.

the tour de france is a 21-day stage race. twenty-one teams of nine racers enter, though very few finish with all team members, due to illness and injury. the tour has been compared to running 21 consecutive marathons, and rick crawford, who has coached numerous tour riders (including armstrongís teammate chann mcrae), puts it bluntly: ìthere is nothing that can prepare one for the tour, other than the experience itself.î strong words, coming from a man whose job it is to prepare athletes for competition.