Catch of the Day - Armstrong beyond classification
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JimK - DCSki Columnist
July 13, 2005
Member since 01/14/2004 🔗
2,867 posts
Here's a past shot of a stretch of the steep "beyond classification" hill climb to be undertaken in the 11th stage of the Tour de France today. American Lance Armstrong is attempting to win an unprecedented 7th championship which will ultimately be decided on July 24, 2005 in Paris, France. Temperatures today near the Galibier finish line are around 45 degrees Fahrenheit.
Past shot from same photographer of Lance in action:
July 13, 2005
Member since 01/16/2004 🔗
303 posts
It is hard to believe how long and steep those climbs REALLY are. That shot begins to show it by looking down the mountain a few turns to the road going off in the distance. But, when you get on the climbs, it's clear that they picked a path and a grade (typically about 9-11%, and just cut it into the side of the slope. My wife and I rode several of the big climbs in conjunction with the tour in 2003, and it is one of the most memorable things we have ever done. Then, to see the speed and power that Lance and the other primier riders have is beyond comprehension. What they do at the front of the peloton on the big climbs is simply unexplainable and, as best I can tell, not humanly possible. And yet they do it.

The TDF is, by far, the most amazing sporting event on the planet. Go LANCE!

(In 03 we were in the Pyrenees, and the climbs go past many ski slopes and lifts. If look in the backfround on a lot of the high mtn stages, you can often see lifts going up the slopes even on the tv shots...)
JimK - DCSki Columnist
July 14, 2005
Member since 01/14/2004 🔗
2,867 posts
Many, many moons ago I was a not so fast, but earnest endurance athlete (long distance runner logging up to 90 miles a week), so I have the utmost respect for people who can exert themselves to the max for hours at a time. My heroes were guys like Jim Ryun, Kip Keino, Frank Shorter, etc. Since Lance's emergence as a premier cyclist I think he is the greatest endurance athlete currently in the world. I just pray he is clean or my disillusionment will be painful. The year when he fell during a steep climb (2003 TdF, 15th stage?), then got up to mount an epic and winning charge to a finish line high in the Alps was his greatest moment in my mind.

Here are Lance's thoughts on his greatest race moments:
July 14, 2005
Member since 01/16/2004 🔗
303 posts
Funny you should mention that stage (Luz Ardiden, 2003). We were at the finish line that day, perched on a cliff with a view of the finish line immediately to our left and, down below, the last 4 or so switch backs towards the finish. The actual finish was about 100 feet from the base of a chair lift at the ski station, and the road was the usual 10% grade up the last few kilometers. We watched the take down on the TV monitors and, along with the 1000's of others, could not believe what unfolded next. When Lance appeared out of the fog, it was a like nothing I have ever seen before or since. The ONLY word that applies is "possessed." We had ridden up the same road two hours earlier, and there is simply no way to account for the speed that he was able to summon.

I am realistic about the use of performance enhancing drugs, and clearly is an issue in virutally all sports. I don't think Lance is doing it, though, and would also be utterly disallusioned if it ever turns out that his performances were based on some magic potion. Evidence is pretty strong that he is completely clean, though. An interesting study was just published about him by the American Physiological Society as a result of a long term study that tracked his performance over the years and seems quite clear on the ped front. Here is a link to a release about the study:

On the other hand, after doing just a few of the climbs they do, any use of drugs is highly understandable, at least in my mind.
July 15, 2005
Member since 01/27/2004 🔗
786 posts
Hi -- this may help. I once had a conversation with a sports physiologists who was able to make some estimates about the difference between myself (an avg cyclist) to lance armstrong in terms of aerobic capacity based on some time trial times i had for a flat course I used to do.
he said lance's heart was probably about TWICE mine in size which translated directly to 50% increase in trained aerobic capacity for him vs me...
He has vastly larger arteries as well to accomodate larger blood flow... so his muscles get blood far more efficiently and thus more oxygen.
The other big kicker, which I have read and didn't come from the proceeding conversation, is that lance's muscles just don't get as tired as your's and mine when pushed hard... (he builds up lactate at a much lower rate than you and me)...

ANYWAY, the upshot is this -- the LIMITER in endurance sports seems to be oxygen delivery to the muscles.

In a pro endurance athelete they have just a A LOT MORE capacity to deliver oxygen rich blood to their muscles and other traits that allow them to perform at such high levels vs the rest of us. They are anomolies really, freaks in some sense.

It is also true then that certain performance enhancing drugs can change what is there naturally, mainly the ability to add more oxygen carrying red-blood cells seems to help immensely.

I have read (again) that a 10% increase in red-blood cell by volumn (say 45% to 50%) translates to a 7% POWER OUTPUT increase (so for example 300 watts to 321 watts...) There is a limit to this -- the blood becomes thicker and eventually the organ will sieze up ... so don't try this at home kiddies!
July 18, 2005
Member since 02/9/2005 🔗
136 posts
Pretty classy sport too! Is that the fall where a key competitor stopped, and waited for Lanct to get back on his bike (was it Ullrich?) only to have Lance return the favor in the following year?

The shot of "the look" is also a classic. There's something special about head-to-head competitive sports, with the tremendous mind games these guys play with each other.
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