Sunday, December 28, 2008

Cortisol And Weight

By: Scott Macdonald

Does stress affect eating, weight, and where fat is distributed on the body? This is a question that has begged an answer from experts for many years. The body makes cortisol to help us handle stress. When stress goes up, cortisol levels go up. And it's often repeated that obese people have higher cortisol levels than lean people.

Cortisol is a hormone in a group of steroids commonly referred to as glucocorticoids. Cortisol is a hormone produced by the adrenal gland as a part of your daily hormonal cycle. However, it is also a key hormone involved in the body’s response to stress, both physical and emotional. Cortisol increases blood sugar levels, increases blood pressure, and suppresses the immune system, which is part of the body’s fight-or-flight response that is essential for survival. Your hypothalamus, via the pituitary gland, directs the adrenal glands to secrete both cortisol and adrenaline.

Adrenaline production increases your alertness and energy level, also increasing your metabolism by helping fat cells to release energy. Cortisol has widespread actions which help restore homeostasis after stress, including increasing production of glucose from protein to quickly increase the body’s energy during stressful times.

However, cortisol has a two-fold effect on fat. When the stress first occurs, fat is broken down to supply the body with a rapid source of energy. When we experience something stressful, our brains release a substance known as corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH), which puts the body on alert and sends it into "fight or flight" mode. As the body gears up for battle, the pupils dilate, thinking improves, and the lungs take in more oxygen. But something else happens as well: Our appetite is suppressed, and the digestive system shuts off temporarily. CRH also triggers the release of the hormones adrenaline and cortisol, which help mobilize carbohydrate and fat for quick energy. When the immediate stress is over, the adrenaline dissipates, but the cortisol lingers to help bring the body back into balance. And one of the ways it gets things back to normal is to increase our appetites so we can replace the carbohydrate and fat we should have burned while fleeing or fighting.

"But when was the last time you responded to stress with such physicality?" asks Dr. Pamela Peeke asks, author of Fight Fat AfterForty and an assistant clinical professor of medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. Your body assumes you have just physically exerted yourself, for example running from a lion, and need to restock your reserves by eating a lot of carbohydrates or fatty food that can easily be stored as fat. In reality, you are probably still sitting in your car or at your desk, still fuming and stressed out. Dr. Peek notes that, “In today's modern world, this elegant survival mechanism may be an anachronism that causes the body to refuel when it doesn't need to. Sustained stress keeps up cortisol, that cursed hunger promoter, elevated and that keeps appetite up, too.”

This is where the potential second effect of cortisol comes into play. Experts now believe that the problem for many of us is being in a constant state of stress. Exposure to cortisol over the long term can lead to weight gain, as your appetite and insulin levels are continuously increased. If stress and cortisol levels stay high, so will insulin levels, says Robert M. Sapolsky, Ph.D., a professor of biological sciences and neuroscience at Stanford University. Continual stress leads to a constant state of excess cortisol production, which stimulates glucose production. This excess glucose then typically is converted into fat, ending up as stored fat. According to Dr. Sapolsky, "The net effect of this will be increased fat deposition in a certain part of the body." Furthermore, according to the authors of the book The Cortisol Connection, stress and the resulting chronic overload of cortisol, make you feel tired and listless. So you overeat to renew your energy and comfort yourself, with the end result of accumulated extra inches around the middle.

It is generally suggested that stress-induced cortisol weight is usually gained around the waistline, because fat cells in that area are more sensitive to cortisol. The fat cells in your abdomen are richer in stress hormone receptors, are particularly sensitive to high insulin, and are very effective at storing energy – more so than fat cells you would find in other areas of the body. This is the most dangerous place to gain weight, as it can lead to metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and heart disease.

A recent study conducted by researchers at Yale University compared women who stored fat primarily in their abdomens with women who stored it mostly in their hips. They found that the women with belly fat reported feeling more threatened by stressful tasks and having more stressful lives. They also produced higher levels of cortisol than the women with fat on their hips. And that, the authors reasoned, suggests that cortisol causes fat to be stored in the center of the body.

However, some researchers believe that cortisol’s connection to obesity may be more unsubstantiated than first thought and that cortisol levels may not be the sole, major factor involved in obesity and fat distribution. There are questions as to whether cortisol may rise prior to weight gain or if its increase is an impact of the weight itself.

One area of research involves mutations in a gene called the proopiomelanocortin (POMC) gene, which may cause obesity but simultaneously decreases glucocorticoid levels. This research shows that cortisol alone may not be major culprit in weight gain, and suggests that glucocorticoids are merely part of a chain of hormonal and neuronal signals associated with obesity.

"The message has gotten across that glucocorticoids are involved in all obesity. And there is a lot of common talk about the role of stress in increasing glucocorticoids," says Malcolm Low, M.D., Ph.D., a senior scientist and associate director in the OHSU Center for the Study of Weight Regulation and Associated Disorders. "It seems to make sense: There is a lot of stress today, and obesity is up. But when you look at the facts, it is not as clear." Low notes, “There are multiple controls in our body that regulate body weight and appetite. Glucocorticoids are clearly involved in control of body weight. But it is not the only hormone involved. There are multiple systems involved in the brain and outside the brain that regulate how much fat we are going to have and how much appetite. There is no simple answer to treating obesity."

Marci Gluck, Ph.D., of the New York Obesity Research Center at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital and Columbia University, studies the complicated relationship between cortisol, stress, and weight gain. "Most scientists agree that it is not a simple one-to-one relationship between cortisol and weight gain," she says. "There are so many different peptides and hormones involved. Cortisol might not be the primary one."

Based on a review of literature addressing obesity and cortisol status, the two most integral lab parameters to assess systemic cortisol status and its relationship to obesity is measurement of daily cortisol production rate (CPR) and measurement of 24-hour mean plasma cortisol concentrations. Thus far, few studies have utilized these parameters for measurement of cortisol concentration in obesity, and of the studies that have been done using these parameters, none of these publications has reported elevated plasma cortisol concentrations in obese individuals.

However, recent reports have suggested that a state of elevated cortisol levels in fat tissue cells without elevated cortisol levels in the blood may exist in obesity. Yet, these findings are inconsistent. It is possible that high levels of cortisol within the cells, such as in fat cells, may play a causative role in obesity, but this possibility requires further investigation.

If we do accept that chronic stress and elevated cortisol may be factors in weight problems, what can you do if you want to reduce cortisol? First, focus on becoming stress resistant. One of the best things to reduce stress and improve insulin sensitivity, for example, is getting regular exercise, even a daily brisk walk. Exercise not only helps promote weight loss by burning calories, but is also beneficial because it helps neutralize stress and its effects, which in turn helps you keep weight off. Just a daily brisk walk can help to distract yourself from what is causing stress in your life, allowing your body time to move and awaken.

Second, practice stress reduction techniques such as meditation, yoga, and breathing exercises. Improving time management can also be essential to reducing stress in one’s hectic lifestyle. These activities or similar techniques, as well as getting adequate sleep, can help reduce your body’s physiological response to daily stressors.

Third, how a person perceives stressful situations is also important. One individual may feel major stress from a particular situation, whereas another person will handle it better by using the event as an opportunity to learn. Hence, stress makes life difficult, but our reaction to it is important as well.

Tom Danielson - Winter Training Maui

Friday, December 26, 2008

Ride with “Fast Freddie” Rodriguez

Ride with “Fast Freddie” Rodriguez - Fundraiser for the Fast Freddie Foundation

Learn technique and get insight into what it is like to ride in the Tour de France and Giro de Italia. Hear Freddie comment on the 2009 Tour of California.

Date: Saturday, Jan 10, 2009
Time: 10AM
Location: 14109 Winchester Blvd., Los Gatos, CA 95032
Route: 30 mile loop with varied terrain

Cost: $250 contribution to Fast Freddie Foundation includes lunch, cycling jersey, & presentation

Three time US Pro Cycling Champion and a member of the Rock Racing Cycling Team, “Fast Freddie” Rodriguez, will be riding in the South Bay to benefit his Fast Freddie Foundation. The Foundation supports youth cycling and education. Attendees will be able to interact with Freddie throughout the day. After a great lunch at Aldo’s Ristorante, Freddie will revel with you about stories from multiple races, teams, other great riders, and commentary on the Tour de France, Giro de Italia, and the Tour of California.

Number of riders is limited. Act soon to reserve your space.

For further details contact:
Ted Moorhead - (408) 554-7923
Adoree Dinh - (408) 554-7902
Franz Vaiarello - (408) 554-7935

Human Power! Lance Armstrong and ESPN

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Normann Stadler Retul's His Bike Position

Armstrong To Be Father For Fourth Time

2009 will be a memorable year for seven-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong, not only for his return to professional cycling, including an anticipated start in the Giro d'Italia and the Tour de France, but also for the birth of a child with girlfriend Anna Hansen. "Anna and I are thrilled to confirm that we are expecting in June and our families are ecstatic and grateful," said Armstrong. "We are very much looking forward to what 2009 brings on many fronts. We appreciate respecting our privacy, as we are both eager to celebrate the holidays as a family."

Armstrong and Hansen met at a charity event and have been a couple since July.

Armstrong has three children with his ex-wife Kristin, a son Luke and twins Isabelle Rose and Grace Elizabeth.

Anna did the 2008 Leadville 100 mile mtb bike race in 11 hrs and 50 amazing time for such a hard race. Congrats to both Lance and Anna.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Give To A Great Cause - Cycles of Change

Cycles of Change is a bicycle education program founded in July 1998 as part of the Roosevelt Village Center, a community-based partnership aimed at reversing the root causes of youth violence. In introducing a dual-component program of mechanics workshops and bicycle-based adventures, there mission was to promote cycling as a primary means of safe, enjoyable, accessible, inexpensive, healthy, and sustainable transportation for as many area residents as possible. Operating out of a large middle school in East Oakland’s San Antonio district, the program was quickly successful in engaging neighborhood youth with its exciting program of adventure rides and hands-on mechanics. Cycles has grown steadily to become a well-known presence in our local area, providing beginners’ ride safety training, advanced bicycle adventures, bicycle restoration workshops, and environmental science programs for hundreds of East Bay youth.

In 2003, Cycles began a two-year partnership with the Alameda County Transportation Improvement Authority with the goal of furthering the development of bicycle education programs countywide. In Oakland, there strategy was to work through existing partnerships with schools to integrate bicycle education into secondary education curriculums; as a result, three high schools and a middle school have bicycle riding as a part of their PE or science programs. In Berkeley and Union City, Cycles collaborated with schools and community-based bicycle organizations to establish four new after school bicycle education programs based on the Cycles model.

Cycles of Change Wins Best of award in the 2008 SF Bay Guardian

Ever-lurking danger in the streets means that many city kids barely leave their own block, let alone experience the pleasure of long bike rides. But thanks to Cycles of Change, East Bay youth are learning how to venture through the urban jungle and beyond safely on two wheels. The 10-year-old collective, headed by Maya Carson and Grey Kolevzon, draws inspiration from the famed Bikes Not Bombs project and other like-minded organizations. Run in the basements of approximately 13 Alameda County schools, COC takes kids on training rides and shows them how to obey the rules of the road and navigate safe routes from home to school. Serious bike club members pedal up into the hills on longer rides and also learn marketable skills like bicycle repair and how to run their own after-school programs. The organization, soon to be a nonprofit, would love you to donate any unwanted nonrusty, functional bikes to its bike shop in Alameda.

To donate or to learn more about this great program click on the title link.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Ivan Basso - The 2009 Giro


I'm writing this from our latest team training camp in Benicàsim, Spain. We are here for our first official full-on camp and we're all enjoying it. For me it's a strange experience though, as it has been two years since my last camp. We had the one at Bibione at the beginning of this month, but it was more of a meet and greet with little to no training. In Benicàsim we are riding, having massages, starting on our special diets – it is all pretty hard core and in many ways it feels like the season has already started.

Giro d'Italia presentation and reaction

It all got underway on Friday, in Milan, with the presentation of the 2009 jersey. The race's director, Angelo Zomegnan, is working really hard for this Giro and is pulling out all the stops for the centenary anniversary. When two famous stylists, like Dolce and Gabbana, do something for cycling it is important because it helps to broaden the cycling audience. People who were previously not interested in the sport will now be talking about the new jersey. That has to be a good move.

"When you think about the Giro you can't decide which the most difficult stage is. They are all battles within a great war."

- Basso on racing the Giro

Anyway, I arrived in Venice on the Saturday. It is a very, very beautiful city that has the sights to take your breath away. To be honest though, I didn't really have a chance to appreciate it. My mind was focussed on one thing, and one thing only, the 2009 route.

I saw the course unveiled at the Teatro Fenice that evening. It will be a very interesting race next year. When you only have two or three mountains above 2000 metres it becomes a very difficult race. You have to win day after day, searching to gain time stage after stage.

Those first mountain stages, in the Dolomites [four and five], prove that you have to arrive at the Giro with excellent condition. You cannot lose ground in these days, and try to gain time if possible. They are 'light' Dolomite stages and are not the big ones we usually see.

After those stages, there are a lot mountain and medium-mountain stages still to come. Everyday there is difficulty.

The Coppi stage [stage 10] is perhaps the most difficult when you look at the overall profile. There are some famous climbs to cover in that stage – Maddalena, Vars, Maddalena, Vars, Monginevro and Sestrière, Monginevro and Sestriere. The finish is on a descent, 40 kilometres, and that changes things significantly. If the arrival was at Sestrière, on the mountaintop, it would be different. It is a day to lose the Giro, but not win it.

I am not only a time trialist and not only a climber, I have a good balance. I can go well in both terrains. Whoever wins this Giro will be the rider who is attentive and up front every day. That long time trial [stage 12] is very, very difficult with the two climbs and the tight roads though Cinque Terre.

There are only two stages in this whole Giro where you can bank on a sprint finish, where the classification men can remain calm. The other 19 stages can all present difficulties. There is always the chance of wind, bad weather or a crash. When you think of the Giro you can't think which is the most difficult stage, they are all battles within a great war.

The finale is in Rome, a beautiful city like Venice. Unfortunately, we will not be able to take in the sites because it is a time trial that could decide the Giro. However, Zomegnan really created a special 100-year anniversary Giro, which includes the finish through the historic city of Rome.


Some of you may have seen me on Twitter. The guys at Cannondale told me about Twitter when I was visiting them at Salk Lake City earlier in the year. Not to sound like an advert but you can easily and quickly make updates via cell phone. Cannondale's Rory Mason really pushed and convinced me to sign up.

I know that Lance Armstrong is on it and he has lots of readers. In Italy we don't really use as people Stateside but I want to miss out. By the beginning of the year I will start to update it more, the last few entries have just been tests.

I am not always connected to the internet and it is difficult for an athlete to find a connection when he is travelling. I think, with this, it will be simple to make an update right after a race, maybe why I am in the team car on the way to the hotel.

Bye, Ivan

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Primal Energy Bars in 10 Easy Steps

By: Mark Sisson

You know the drill. You slept late, your son misplaced his lunchbox, the cat threw up in the flowers. You’re already 10 minutes late for work and there’s nary a minute to scarf down a breakfast, let alone one that a caveman would approve of!

Enter the protein bar – it’s individually packaged, it’s relatively affordable, and you can easily eat it in the car while you’re doing your hair in the rear view mirror and practicing your presentation for later this afternoon – in essence, it’s the ultimate grab-and-go food.

However, there is a downside. In many cases, these protein bars contain ingredients and chemicals that very few people – bar the odd organic chemist or real nutrition expert – can pronounce and still fewer would actually want to ingest.

The solution? It’s time to put your chef hat on, because the only way you’re going to find an energy bar that is Primal and palatable is if you do a little D.I.Y… (and trust us, it’s really not that hard!).


1/2 cup slivered almonds
1/2 cup pecans
1/4 cup almond or sesame seed meal
1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/4 cup almond butter
1/4 cup coconut oil (check your local health food store)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp of raw honey
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup dried cranberries or blueberries


On a cookie sheet, toast nuts and shredded coconut until golden brown (you may need to shake the tray once or twice to make sure they cook evenly).
Once toasted, pour mixture into a food processor and pulse until nuts are chopped and the mixture becomes coarsely ground.
In a mixing bowl, melt coconut oil and almond butter (about 20 seconds). Remove from microwave and stir until smooth.
Add vanilla extract, honey and sea salt. Mix thoroughly.
Fold in nut mixture and almond (or sesame seed) meal until mixed thoroughly.
Fold in blueberries/cranberries.
Press mixture into an 8 by 4 loaf pan.
Refrigerate for 20 minutes or until firm.
Cut “loaf” width wise. Should make 6 good-sized bars.
Enjoy! (or, if you don’t plan to eat immediately, you can store the bars in the refrigerator, covered loosely with a paper towel and plastic wrap.

Ivan Basso - Testing

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Miracle of Green Tea

Is any other food or drink reported to have as many health benefits as green tea? The Chinese have known about the medicinal benefits of green tea since ancient times, using it to treat everything from headaches to depression. In her book Green Tea: The Natural Secret for a Healthier Life, Nadine Taylor states that green tea has been used as a medicine in China for at least 4,000 years.

Today, scientific research in both Asia and the west is providing hard evidence for the health benefits long associated with drinking green tea. For example, in 1994 the Journal of the National Cancer Institute published the results of an epidemiological study indicating that drinking green tea reduced the risk of esophageal cancer in Chinese men and women by nearly sixty percent. University of Purdue researchers recently concluded that a compound in green tea inhibits the growth of cancer cells. There is also research indicating that drinking green tea lowers total cholesterol levels, as well as improving the ratio of good (HDL) cholesterol to bad (LDL) cholesterol.

To sum up, here are just a few medical conditions in which drinking green tea is reputed to be helpful:

rheumatoid arthritis
high cholesterol levels
cariovascular disease
impaired immune function

What makes green tea so special?

The secret of green tea lies in the fact it is rich in catechin polyphenols, particularly epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). EGCG is a powerful anti-oxidant: besides inhibiting the growth of cancer cells, it kills cancer cells without harming healthy tissue. It has also been effective in lowering LDL cholesterol levels, and inhibiting the abnormal formation of blood clots. The latter takes on added importance when you consider that thrombosis (the formation of abnormal blood clots) is the leading cause of heart attacks and stroke.

Links are being made between the effects of drinking green tea and the "French Paradox." For years, researchers were puzzled by the fact that, despite consuming a diet rich in fat, the French have a lower incidence of heart disease than Americans. The answer was found to lie in red wine, which contains resveratrol, a polyphenol that limits the negative effects of smoking and a fatty diet. In a 1997 study, researchers from the University of Kansas determined that EGCG is twice as powerful as resveratrol, which may explain why the rate of heart disease among Japanese men is quite low, even though approximately seventy-five percent are smokers.

Why don't other Chinese teas have similar health-giving properties? Green, oolong, and black teas all come from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant. What sets green tea apart is the way it is processed. Green tea leaves are steamed, which prevents the EGCG compound from being oxidized. By contrast, black and oolong tea leaves are made from fermented leaves, which results in the EGCG being converted into other compounds that are not nearly as effective in preventing and fighting various diseases.

Other Benefits

New evidence is emerging that green tea can even help dieters. In November, 1999, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published the results of a study at the University of Geneva in Switzerland. Researchers found that men who were given a combination of caffeine and green tea extract burned more calories than those given only caffeine or a placebo.

Green tea can even help prevent tooth decay! Just as its bacteria-destroying abilities can help prevent food poisoning, it can also kill the bacteria that causes dental plaque. Meanwhile, skin preparations containing green tea - from deodorants to creams - are starting to appear on the market.

Harmful Effects?

To date, the only negative side effect reported from drinking green tea is insomnia due to the fact that it contains caffeine. However, green tea contains less caffeine than coffee: there are approximately thirty to sixty mg. of caffeine in six - eight ounces of tea, compared to over one-hundred mg. in eight ounces of coffee.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Giro d'Italia celebrates 100 years

The 2009 Giro d'Italia, presented today in Venice's Teatro Fenice, celebrates 100 years since its birth with a route as bella as the host country. The Italian stage race, May 9 to 31, will start on the Lido of Venice and finish three weeks later amongst the historic sites of Rome.

Organisers RCS Sport revealed a route that will start in the north – briefly touching countries Austria, Switzerland and France – and finish in the south. It is the first time the Giro d'Italia has not finished outside of Milan since Laurent Fignon won in 1989.

"To create this Giro we used our hearts and passion... We are looking to the globalisation and future of the Giro," said race director Angelo Zomegnan. "It is a special Giro. We hope this is the continuation of another 100 years."

The 21-stage, 3395.5-kilometre race will have six mountain top finishes, the first on stage four, and three time trials. It starts with a 20.5-kilometre team time trial on the waterfront of Venice and ends with a 15.3-kilometre time trial in Rome. Midway, stage 12, riders face a long 61.7-kilometre time trial in Cinque Terre that appears tailor fit for the race's star participant, Lance Armstrong.

The seven-time Tour de France winner joins one of the Giro's most prestigious start lists in recent years. Armstrong, who will compete in his first Grand Tour after almost four years, will fight Ivan Basso, Carlos Sastre, Gilberto Simoni, Danilo Di Luca, Marzio Bruseghin, Denis Menchov and others for the right to wear the overall leader's maglia rosa.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Lance Armstrong reveals his killer workouts in comeback attempt

Bicycling legend Lance Armstrong during workout in his home gym as he prepares to resume career.

The buff cycling superstar is offering fans a sneak peek at his training regimen in the new issue of Men's Health magazine as he prepares for a dramatic comeback in next year's Tour de France. Armstrong, 37, who retired from cycling under a cloud three years ago, says working out has gone totally high-tech since he first started pounding the pedals.

“Back in the day, people trained on just their feelings,” Armstrong, who plans to compete in an Australian race next month, told the magazine. “Now you have heart rate, altitude, lactic acid all measured on one unit.”

Armstrong, a cancer survivor, has won the tour a record seven times. He retired in 2005 after being accused of evading anti-doping rules. The cycling legend said his workout results made him certain that he would finish on top.
“I knew I was ready to win the tour,” he said. “If I stepped on the scale in the morning and it said a certain weight and the power output was where it was supposed to be when I tested at the end of the day, it was over. Nobody close.”

Armstrong plans to compete on the team of longtime colleague Johan Bruyneel, even though he might not be the clear-cut favorite on his powerful squad. “I'm so loyal to Johan, there's no way I'd cross him or race against him,” Armstrong said.

He has pledged to be open with the media, a big change for an athlete who went to extraordinary lengths to protect his image, including snooping on journalists.

Armstrong also vowed to submit to a program of rigorous blood testing to try to disprove stubborn but unproven allegations he has used performance-enhancing drugs.

Dolce & Gabbana Design New Giro Jersey

talian designers Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana have unveiled their new Giro d'Italia leader's jersey for 2009.

Organisers of the Italian stage race wanted to give the famous Maglia Rosa a touch of Italian style to celebrate the race's centenary.

The main addition for next year is the inclusion of the Italian tricolore stripe on the collar and sides.

Let's be frank here. It actually looks like they started with a plain pink jersey and left it there. Minimalism at its finest. At least there's plenty of room for team sponsors to put their logo in prime position as and when their rider is privileged to wear it during the race in May.

On hand to reveal the jersey design with Messrs Dolce and Gabbana were Italian riders and previous Giro winners Ivan Basso, Danilo Di Luca and Gilberto Simoni.

Dave Zabriskie's DZ Nuts

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Lance Armstrong - Back In Austin

A guy asked Lance to sign this book. He asked if his dog chewed it. Answer: "no, that's from shrapnel when I got blown up in Iraq." Wow.

Signing autographs at bikes for kids.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008


What it is:

l-Theanine is often overshadowed by its more famous cousins, but it packs a powerful punch. An amino acid found in green tea, l-theanine is well-documented for its calming, yet non-sedative, effects. The l-Theanine used in Recovox is a patent-protected version called Suntheanine®. Suntheanine is the only 100 percent l-theanineproduct on the market.

The stress effect:

l-Theanine works in the brain to fight stress by increasing alpha wave activity. There are all kinds of different waves in the brain. Beta waves are the stress-producing waves, delta waves cause you to be sleepy, and alpha waves are the most powerful, responsible for your levels of alertness, concentration and relaxation. Stress literally attacks your ability to remain alert, feel at ease, and tackle difficulties. (Creative people are actually proven to have more alpha waves than other folks.) Stress diminishes these alpha waves, which is why when you're stressed, you have a hard time focusing. This is where l-theanine comes in.

The studies show:

l-Theanine increases alpha waves, helping your brain handle stress. But that's not all. l-Theanine has been proven, in over a dozen studies, to promote more refreshing sleep, to help support normal blood pressure ranges, and to increase concentration and focus. l-Theanine has also been shown to help support immune function.

The side effects:

No side effects have ever been documented. A daily dose of 100-200 mg is usually what's recommended. Recovox contains 100 mg per two-capsule dose (and 200 mg if you double the daily dosage)

Click on title link for more information.

Ivan Basso - Starting the season right

Lately, I've been on vacation with my family and attended the first of many team camps. Our week-long holiday in Zanzibar was beautiful, the first vacation I've taken with a clear head, as previous holidays have all been about getting away from my problems. This one was for the family though, and a chance for us to relax. I dedicated all my time to my wife and children and forgot about any work stuff because this would be the last chance to spend a lot of time with them, as the season will soon be off and running.

Team camp: Bibione to San Pellegrino

The camp has gone well and I am very happy with my teammates - we were able to find a good rhythm. Like many off-season camps, we did a lot of off-the-bike work; plenty of cross-country skiing, hiking and mountain biking in the snow. It was very different from what we will do at the next camp, which will be focused on the bike. This time together allowed us to gather and enjoy time with work, something that helps us get to know each other better this way. Check out the photos, and you can see we had a lot of fun.

Liquigas is a big team and one of the strongest in the world, and we have a budget to do these camps. It's a far cry from how things used to be. When I made my debut with Riso Scotti [1999] there was only one day set aside in December to hand out the team materials - bikes, racing and casual clothing. We would do a proper camp in January and start racing in February. Now, we have 10 days in Bibione and San Pellegrino, we will do a ten-day camp in Spain, and those who go to Argentina for the Tour de San Luis will do another 10 days of camp before the race.

You’ll be interested to read that we had a UCI representative, Mario Zorzoli, who came and talked about the biological passports and whereabouts programme [they are visiting most of the ProTour teams - ed.]. He focused on how to enter the data online, et cetera. For me it was covering old ground, because for the last year I have been doing this. I am already in the whereabouts system and subject to random testing.

Looking ahead

- Basso on his return

I have read with interest some of the reactions to my diary. Some people who are still against my return to the sport have to think and take into account the events of Operación Puerto and what happened from June 30 [2006] onwards. They have to consider what happened to me and what happened throughout the investigation. Not only that, but also what happened in the last two years, unrelated to Puerto.

I believe that the people who are following me now appreciate the hard work that it takes to return and to race with complete transparency.

I want the chance to show that what I am doing now – with transparency – will allow me to return back to the top. I don't want a medal for what I am doing, or compliments, but only the possibility to do my work and have a chance. I have to try and show people that I am strong and not racing in the shadows of the past.

I think American fans will be curious to see the new me, and that chance will come with the Tour of California. I like travelling to the USA. I have been to California more than any other place there, and so it makes me happy to be able to return. It is also good for our sponsor [Cannondale bikes, Garmin computers and Speedplay pedals] and it is important for them.

I have raced the Tour of California twice before; it's a great race that rivals anything Europe has to offer.


I'm looking forward to seeing Lance Armstrong in California. I have read that he thinks I'll be the favourite but I believe that he will be the strongest! Lance knows me as a person and as a rival, so, more than anyone, and he knows what I am capable of. However I consider all of my rivals to be equally dangerous and therefore I am aiming to have the best legs possible for the Giro.

He has a personal significance for me because of what he did for me in 2005 when my mother had cancer. His foundation tried to find the right doctors to solve her problems. In Italy there were no longer any possibilities other than waiting for her to die. He helped to prolong her life for a few months. It was very, very special for me. I know what he did for my family, so I can confirm his true desire to fight cancer.

Helping at home

Like Armstrong, I do what I can to raise funds for charities. Right now I am working for the Bianca Garavaglia Association. It is doing research on cancerous tumours in babies, from birth to eight years old. I chose to help Bianca Garavaglia because it is in my home area and a schoolmate of my daughter received help and became better thanks to the association's work.

Definitely being a father of two children made me think about the significance of their work, and certainly if I can give a little, I will. The first thing I did for them was help set up an auction for a Garmin computer that I used in Japan, and the money that I make from that will go for their research. Garmin helped me all throughout last year and this was a special computer they gave me to use in Japan, so I hope it raises a lot of money. [It raised 1,310 euro - ed.]

Last Sunday I rode the Pedalata con i Campioni to help raise further money. Every participant paid to ride along with the professional riders and their money went towards charities. I decided to have my share go to Bianca Garavaglia.

A presto,

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Armstrong climbs Teide, Contador debuts in Italy

Team Astana completed its last full day of training camp on the Spanish island of Tenerife with a ride up the Teide volcano. Saturday, Lance Armstrong led a group up the climb that tops out at 2325 meters. Triple Grand Tour winner Alberto Contador, still recovering from operation on his nose, celebrated his 26th birthday with a shorter ride and plans for a season debut at the Giro di Sicilia.

Armstrong, seven-time winner of the Tour de France, climbed to the cable car station which takes visitors to the top of Spain's highest mountain, 3718 meters. His group of seven -- including Levi Leipheimer, Yaroslav Popovych and Jesús Hernández -- rode over four hours, according to La Gazzetta dello Sport. Hernández, one of Contador's main training partners, attacked the group near the summit.

Contador chose a lighter training ride of around three hours. The training camp is his first time on the bike since the end of his season which was marked by non-serious crash in Madrid's ACP Criterium and a planned deviated septum operation last week.

The Spaniard is considering staring his 2009 season with the Giro di Sicilia, January 30 to February 1, with the cancellation of the Vuelta a Valenciana, February 24 to 28, possible. His schedule will begin slower than Armstrong's as his main objective is in July, a repeat of his 2007 win in the Tour de France. Confirmed race dates include the Paris-Nice, March 8 to 15, and the Dauphine Libéré, June 7 to 14. The duo will not race together until the Tour de France.

The camp ended Sunday, one week after it convened. It was highlighted by the team's press conference with Armstrong. He travels to the USA to participate in a cancer related meeting in Atlanta, Georgia. Contador joins Leipheimer, Popovych, Andreas Klöden and Team Manager Johan Bruyneel to visit the team's sponsors in Astana, Kazakhstan. Contador and Armstrong will meet again with the rest of their teammates at a camp in Santa Rosa, California, February 1 to 10.

Saturday, December 6, 2008


Mr. Twitter - Lance Armstrong

If you are a fan of cycling you will want to check out Lance's Twitter account. Click on the title link to see what its all about.

Friday, December 5, 2008


What it is:

Beta-sitosterol is a (good) cholesterol-like compound found in many foods, such as nuts, fruits, vegetables and seeds. It’s best absorbed in consistent, supplementary form, such as with a pill or vitamin. There are hundreds of “sterols” in the food supply, but beta-sitosterol has specific properties that fight the affects of stress.

The stress effect:

Beta-sitosterol has long been known for its properties that help support healthy cholesterol levels and a healthy immune system, but beta-sitosterol also is excellent for helping muscles to recover from stress, such as after a competition or an injury. It’s best when taken after physical exertion or injury, or during times of stress.

The studies show:

Doctors commonly recommend echinacea for its immune-boosting properties, but studies show beta-sitosterol is actually more effective at supporting immunity when the patient is suffering from stress. Studies also point to significant benefits of beta sitosterol as an essential nutrient for those suffering from stress as it affects the muscles and immunity.

The side effects:

Beta-sitosterol isn’t dangerous, but to get enough in your diet can be a rather high-caloric undertaking (several handfuls of nuts or nut butters, or constant servings of vegetables throughout the day). It’s one of the best immune-supporting nutrients you can take when your body is undergoing stress – whether physical, mental or emotional.

Click on the title link to learn more.

Chris Lieto - Winter Triathlon Workout #1

America's Competitive Cycling On The Rise

The sport of competitive cycling in the United States continues to grow according to the latest figures released today by USA Cycling.

For the sixth consecutive year, the number of licensed competitive cyclists has risen compared to the previous year, while the number of registered clubs and event sanctions also increased. Collectively, these categories represent the popularity of bike racing in America from a participation standpoint.

At the close of the 2008 license sales season on November 30, USA Cycling listed 63,280 licensees, a 2.9 percent increase over last year. In similar fashion, the number of sanctioned clubs rose 1.8 percent as USA Cycling listed 2,155 teams among its constituents. USA Cycling also sanctioned 2,551 events, a 3.1 percent jump from a year ago.

The growth in membership continues a six-year trend which has seen the number of licensed racers in America increase by 48 percent since 2002. Over that same period of time, the number of events sanctioned by USA Cycling has risen by 50 percent, while affiliated clubs have grown by 30 percent.

Many of the sport’s insiders point to the success and popularity of American athletes in cycling’s most notable events, such as the Tour de France and the Olympic Games, as a primary factor in the sport’s recent boom. The most significant growth occurred throughout Lance Armstrong’s dominant seven-year winning streak at the Tour de France between 1999 and 2005, while success by several other Americans on the sport’s biggest stage since then has encouraged continued interest.

If history is any indication, cycling is poised for similar growth in 2009 following a five-medal performance in Beijing – the most successful ever for a U.S. Cycling Team at a non-boycotted Olympic Games – as well as a return to competitive cycling and the Tour de France by Armstrong. Factor in the 13 major internationally-sanctioned professional men’s and women’s races set to take place in the US next year, as well as Armstrong’s commitment to race in February’s Tour of California, and the popularity of the sport on US soil next season is sure to reach new heights.

“Once again, we’re excited to witness continued growth in the sport of cycling,” said Steve Johnson, CEO of USA Cycling. “The market for amateur sport in the United States is a competitive one with so many choices and opportunities available to athletes these days. That said, to experience another year of increased participation is very rewarding. Looking ahead, with the continued expansion of professional cycling opportunities both domestically and abroad, we hope and expect this growth trend to continue throughout 2009 and beyond.”

Broken down by specific disciplines and types of licenses, road, track and cyclo-cross grew by 3.2 percent, while mountain bike increased 1.2 percent. The number of professional riders in the U.S. rose 6.3 percent and the amount of student-athletes competing for collegiate clubs jumped 2.5 percent. Of all of its licensees, USA Cycling’s largest increase was in the number of licensed bike race officials, a figure that rose 17.6 percent.

Images From Today's Astana Camp

Fast Wheels And A Surprisingly Strong Texan

By: Gerard Cromwell
Levi Leipheimer says his prototype Bontrager wheelset (on his bike here) and Lance Armstrong are each going pretty well.

In addition to taking surfing lessons, attending team meetings and logging some miles, the Astana team has been busy testing new equipment during this week’s training camp in Tenerife.

One of the many items under test was a spanking new set of as-yet-unnamed Bontrager wheels that Lance Armstrong has called “insanely fast.” According to Trek spokesman Ben Coates, the wheels are a prototype, and the only pair around at the moment.

“The wheels the team have been riding, we have produced one wheel before. Chris Lieto, a triathlete of ours, rode one in an Ironman a few years ago. At that point they weren’t really a viable option. The market didn’t really want them, the team didn’t really want them, so we kind of shelved them for a while.

photo: Jay Prasuhn
“Since then, wheels have gone deeper and deeper, and Johan (Bruyneel) had spoken about them a little bit here and there and Lance wanted to try a pair as well. So, we worked with Steve Hed, had a deeper-section wheel made up and the first pair the team has ever used are the wheels they have been riding this week.

“So far, there is a ton of excitement around them. They are just crazy fast. The aerodynamic advantage is so good that the bulge on the aero section of the wheels is quite a bit bigger and it’s longer and it will hold the wind better. They should be a very fast weapon for the team to use on flat roads, or mildly rolling stages, or of course in a time trial. ”

The blustery conditions of Tenerife have proven a tough testing ground. After an undulating two and a half hour training spin on the third day of camp, Levi Leipheimer said they were fast, but strictly for calm weather.

“I almost ended up in the bushes,” he said, laughing. “The first day was fine, but I used them yesterday in the crosswinds and it took everything I had to stay on the road. Thomas (Vaitkus) had them today. I haven’t spoken to him yet, but they are fast.”

Armstrong’s presence on the team has also given Leipheimer a boost.

“It’s nice to have Lance here. I mean, he’s an example for everyone. He’s probably everyone’s hero here in the camp. You know, he motivates everyone, definitely. There’s a lot more attention on the team, so that’s good. There’s more chaos.”

And Armstrong’s strength after the long layoff has proven something of a surprise.

You know, it’s December and it doesn’t really matter, but Lance is definitely going well,” said Leipheimer. “He’s probably in the best shape for December that he’s ever been in. He says that. I mean, I haven’t been with him every December, but I’m pretty surprised at how strong he is.”

With all the focus on Alberto Contador and Armstrong for next year’s Tour, Leipheimer could very well be in a position similar to that of Carlos Sastre this year, when his main competitors found themselves in a Catch-22 situation with the Schleck brothers on L’Alpe d’Huez.

“Who knows what will happen?” says Leipheimer. “We’re gonna have to carry the race a lot, because everyone is looking at us now. We have such a strong team on paper that they’ll look to us to do all the work. You’re right, we have Lance, Alberto, (Andreas) Klöden, myself, Haimar Zubeldia, (Yaroslav) Popovych. These are guys who have all been top five in grand tours, so it means the other teams will have to watch out for sure.”

Can Armstrong really win eight Tours? “Yeah!” said Leipheimer. “It’s definitely possible. He won seven, so why not?”

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Armstrong: Contador Is The Best

It's undisputable that the second return of Lance Armstrong has attracted the imagination of both media and fans world wide. No aspect of the story so far has been examined closer than the supposed rivalry between the revered veteran and his teammate Alberto Contador. The former is a seven-time Tour de France winner while the Spaniard a three-time Grand Tour champion over the course of the past two seasons.

And while there has been speculation over the role of each rider in the team, both riders yesterday appeared in public together for the first time. A press conference in the hotel Las Madrigueras on the island of Tenerife, where the Astana team is having its camp, was the setting for the 'unveiling' of the team's dynamic duo.

When Lance Armstrong announced his comeback, he made it clear he would try for an eighth Tour title, but then backed down to a point where it wasn't clear if he would actually race the July event. He emphatically stated his intentions to compete in the Tour earlier this week, qualifying the announcement by saying that he was committed to racing "for the strongest guy".

Today, Armstrong dispelled any notion of there being internal strife within the team by unequivocally supporting his young Spanish teammate, Alberto Contador. "I think Alberto has obviously a tremendous amount of natural talent, and can read a race," Armstrong said. "I have a lot of respect for this man. I can't say it any simpler. This guy is the best cyclist in the world."

"There are certain unwritten laws in cycling; the others ride to support the strongest rider. Whether it means supporting Alberto [Contador] or Levi [Leipheimer] or Andreas [Klöden], I'll do that."

Armstrong explained that the reason he and Contador rode in separate groups in training was not because of animosity, but for logistical reasons. "It is better to keep an open attitude, we are in different phases in our training. One guy was in hospital last week [Contador had surgery on his nose], I am racing in a month, it is totally logical that we don't train together. That shouldn't lead to any conclusions or polemics."

Johan Bruyneel, the Astana team manager and long-time collaborator with Armstrong, agreed with the American's assessment. "If Lance is not the best, he will become the best teammate Alberto could ever have dreamed of," he said.

The return of Armstrong was a shock for Contador, and led him to think about changing teams. But the Spaniard, who turns 26 on Saturday, told Reuters that he has changed his point of view since then. "You analyse the situation and once the shock has passed you see the different possibilities Astana is offering you," he said. Aside from the fact that Bruyneel gave Contador no option to get out of his two-year contract, Contador has come to accept his situation.

"The Astana people have faith in me. Today I'm sure I'm starting the season having made the correct decision."

Chrissie Wellington on Trans World Sport

Lance Armstrong Press Conference

The view from the receiving end - Photo by Lance Armstrong

A room full of journalists literally from around the world gathered to pepper Lance Armstrong with questions ranging from where he would spend Christmas to what he thought his chances really were to win an unprecedented 8th Tour de France.

Lance was first asked – actually a bit challenged – if he could be believed that he would in fact ride for another teammate at the Tour de France. He replied that he wasn’t unrealistic or unfair and that he didn’t know if he was in the same physical condition as in 2005, but that questions about his physical condition were certainly logical. He came to the team with no demand to be the leader – that would not be fair, either to the team or to Joahn Bruyneel (his director). Lance noted that there’s an unwritten “law” in professional cycling that a team supports the strongest rider and that he would follow that law to the fullest. He said at the end of the day he might be the 2nd, or even 3rd strongest rider and that he respects Johan and his orders. Without question he would have no problem supporting riders like Alberto Contador, Levi Leipheimer, and Andreas Klöden.

In terms of bringing educational and financial assistance in the cancer fight to places around the world, Lance said that the LAF is already in negotiation with over 20 countries as they prepare for the Global Cancer Summit. Cancer is a complicated issue and requires action by both governments as well as their people, especially in terms of lifestyle and habits. Governments also have to take interest in Public Health issues, treating them as an investment and not just an expense. A reporter from Ireland asked if Lance intended to come to his country, and Lance said that racing at the Tour of Ireland in August was a possibility, in fact he last raced there in 1992! He commended Ireland for their smoking ban, noting its importance to public health, but that in places like Mexico and Asia that issue is a very difficult battle indeed.

And what about the recent elections in America, and his own chances for political office? Lance said that in any political race he doesn’t take a position, as he represents, “…a disease that affects both sides. If I take a side I have alienated half of the population. I voted as a voter should, and while I won’t tell how, I’m excited about President Obama. He has a good staff, is committed to healthcare, and has a personal connection to the cancer cause.” As for running for office, “…never say never” was his reaction. Lance said that while 2010 was not very realistic, he also needed the motivation, too. He said you have to want to be effective – you can’t do it for ego or on a dare – and that you have to believe you can do it better than the other person, and be truly passionate about it.

While the global aspect is taken from a very positive aspect, one country in particular always comes up – France. Does he think that will be a problem? Lance said France is not a “problem”, it’s a relationship, and like all relationships sometimes it’s good and sometimes it’s bad. He said, “If you believed everything you read in the press, I’d stay away.” But then he noted that when he was in Nice the week prior, when he left a restaurant after dinner the entire group of diners stood up and applauded and cheered him on for Tour #8. “France is not a country of haters, but there will always be detractors. But that won’t stop me, or my team, or the Lance Armstrong Foundation, or Alberto Contador.” He laughed and did ask that when he comes they please don’t block the roads, but then noted that the week prior to camp he could have spent it anywhere in Europe he wanted, but he chose Nice, and that at the end of the day he hoped to get to a point of mutual understanding.

While the Tour de France is certainly the zenith of the sport, this edition will be special. It will pass through Girona, Spain where Lance lived for four years, and starts in Monaco, just east of Nice, his home for five years. Lance commended the people of Spain for their support of the sport of cycling, and noted that Barcelona was a “true gem of Europe.” How strong is Lance, compared to the rest of Team Astana? Johan Bruyneel said he was in the Top 3. Lance paused and said, “I feel OK – for an old guy!” But then the more he thought about it, he smiled and said to Johan, “I’m better than Top 3! Maybe we should have a race?” – Johan just shook his head, smiled back, and said, “You’re Top 3…”

Armstrong comfortable supporting Contador at Tour

Lance Armstrong played down any rumours of internal strife in his new cycling team Astana, during a press conference on the Canary Island of Tenerife Thursday afternoon.

On his comeback from retirement, Armstrong joined the Astana team of Spaniard Alberto Contador, who recently became the fifth cyclist in history to secure victories in all three major Tours winning the 2007 Tour de France and the Giro d'Italia and Tour of Spain in 2008.

Despite rumours of internal competition and strife - it was recently reported that Contador was unhappy at his possible status being upset - the American was keen to show, at least, that Astana is one big happy family.

The 37-year-old suggested he would be happy to race as the team's second or third-in command if circumstances demanded it.

"I've been around longer been racing professionally since 1992, when Alberto was, what, ten," Armstrong said in a teleconference from Tenerife in Spain where he is training with Astana. "I think Alberto has obviously a tremendous amount of natural talent, and can read a race.

"I came into this completely open, loyal to Alberto, the team and the unwritten laws of cycling," he added. "I have a lot of respect for this man. I can't say it any simpler. This guy is the best cyclist in the world. I came here (Astana) as a volunteer. I'm racing and training every day for free. If my global initiative is successful and I finish second, eighth or ninth on the Tour, then that's fine by me."

Armstrong also hit back at allegations of doping, which appeared to reach a high after his seventh consecutive victory in 2005 when a newspaper report said urine samples attributed to him from the 1999 Tour had tested positive, retroactively, for the banned blood booster EPO.

An International Cycling Union (UCI) hearing headed by a Dutch lawyer later cleared the American of any wrong-doing.

"I've heard every conspiracy theory known to man," said Armstrong. "I maintain I've never doped in my life. I fully co-operated with the (UCI) investigation which cleared me. There's not much else I can do."

Armstrong also praised his ex-wife for backing his comeback.

"In 2005 I was tired mentally and ready to stop," he said. "I didn't imagine I'd come back. I have three young children and this job takes me away from home - myself, my ex-wife and my three kids. If she would have said no I wouldn't have done it. Thank God for her and that decision and that support. I'll spend most of my time in the US.

"I've been training in gym twice a week, now I'm almost 100 percent on the bike, continue to do core work but everything with the gym is basically done and now it's 100 percent cycling," he added.

Longer, higher and stronger for 2009 Tour of California

While the general layout of the of the fourth edition of the Tour of California has been known for some time, the specific routes were announced early Thursday morning, with the most significant changes from the original announcement already reported confirmed by the organizers, AEG. Those changes include a prologue time trial in Sacramento on Saturday, February 14 and the reduction of the women's racing from a proposed three-day NRC stage race of three criteriums to a single criterium.

"We have a much more even race than in the past," the race technical director Chuck Hodge told us. "In other words, a lot of these days are all going to be decisive. Certainly the time trial is always going to be decisive. It's the same course as before. But the biggest change will not having a parade stage in the finale."

The finish is certainly not a parade like the first two years. Last year the stage also had a finale that featured a climb, but Hodge explained that this will be much more significant. "That climb into Pasadena isn't really that hard; it's a long gradual 20 mile climb. Palomar is a real climb. I'm not sure how we are going to rate it but it will be at least a category 1 or an HC! It's close to a Mt. Hamilton – the descent is not as technical but it is long and fast, and there is still another climb after it before the finish.

While fans and racers have asked for a summit finish in recent year, finding one that works with all of the hundreds of other logistical and political considerations has been a challenge. Hodge said this stage should satisfy a lot of people's thirst for exciting racing. "It's hard to find a summit finish but we came up with this stage and it will be exciting while also getting down to San Diego."

The first three years of this race all began with a prologue, with the first two featuring a short but challenging climb up to Coit Tower in San Francisco. That will not be the case in Sacramento where the course profile for the 3.9 km prologue shows an elevation gain measured in feet.

The first stage is a new one, starting in the city of Davis for the first time and heading west towards Santa Rosa, which has hosted the first stage's finish every year. Whereas before the route began on the seaside in Sausalito and immediately turned upwards through Marin County, the first stage will have a more gradual start to the climbing with 35 km of flat to rolling roads before the first King of the Mountain (KOM) of the race up to the Monticello Dam. The stage finish in Santa Rosa is well-known, both because it is the hometown of two-time race winner Levi Leipheimer, and with the finish circuit as site of the 'Levi rule' controversy in 2007.

Stage two will begin where stage one used to depart, but going in the opposite direction for what will likely be the poster photograph of the race. Organizers are running the race over the iconic Golden Gate Bridge over the San Francisco Bay and into the city – though it will be part of the usual neutral section before the actual racing. This will also be the 'coastal' stage of the tour along Highway 1, replacing the now infamous stage from Monterey to San Luis Obispo. The 186 km course has two climbs on Tunitas Creek Road and Bonny Doon Road, with the second coming very close to the stage finish, resulting in a fast descent into the finish similar to the finishes in San Jose.

Fans of those San Jose finishes will not be left out, as their city will turn around and become a start city, with the route going up the much-loved Sierra Road climb in the first 15 km of the 187.7 km stage as it winds its way to where last year's third stage began in Modesto. Though a different route than last year, the course profile is almost a mirror opposite, with the last 70 km pancake flat. Field sprint, anyone?

Stage four brings a lot of new into the tour – two new host cities in Merced and Clovis, and a new mountain range with the Sierras. Four KOM climbs and two sprints in between will make this an important day for those classifications, with the GC leader needing to be on his game to not lose the race before the time trial.

Though stage five is the longest stage (216.1 km) it is 80 km of relatively flat racing. But if the winds pick up on the open terrain, it will feel like climbing. The finish of the stage will feature rolling hills and two sprints, winding up for a likely field sprint while the GC contenders all spin their legs in preparation for the following day's time trial.

The time trial of the tour is once again in Solvang with the now well-known out-and-back course through the Santa Ynez Valley. Though short by many standards at just 24 km, the steep climb up Ballard Canyon combined with a technical descent separate the times.

In 2008, the final stage from Santa Clarita to Pasadena was an exciting and dramatic stage, with foul weather in the Angeles National Forest making an already long and difficult 15 mile descent into the outskirts of Los Angeles even more challenging. The climb to Mill Creek Summit could be a battle site if the GC or KOM competition are still close; and the finishing circuits around the Rose Bowl were high drama last year with George Hincapie winning out of a breakaway chased by the peloton.

Completing the "new" for this fourth Tour of California will be the final stage, going farther south than any before from Rancho Bernardo to Escondido. With four climbs over 155.8 km, including the high point of the race Palomar Mountain (5,123 feet), the race could still be up in the air, unlike in the three previous editions. The Palomar Mountain climbs is 11.7 miles with a seven percent average grade and 4,200 feet of climbing over 21 switchbacks at almost the half-way point of the stage. As well, the finale will be a single run-in and not a finish circuit, making it a true finish.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Armstrong and Contador ride separate paths towards Tour

Team Astana's Lance Armstrong and Alberto Contador are on separate paths towards the 2009 Tour de France, starting with the team's training camp on the Spanish island of Tenerife. The duo, both Tour de France winners, rode in separate groups during yesterday's training ride.

"It was hard training. Here, there are long and demanding climbs. With [Levi] Leipheimer and [Jesús] Hernández I was often going all out," said Armstrong to La Gazzetta dello Sport.

The seven-time Tour champion, returning from retirement, completed four hours of riding yesterday that took in the 12-kilometre climb of Erjos. His group contained other top riders, including Andreas Klöden, and was followed by Team Manager Johan Bruyneel and Directeur Sportif Dirk Demol. Alberto Contador, winner of all three Grand Tours, rode two and a half hours with a separate group guided by Directeur Sportif Alain Gallopin. It was his first training ride since an operation last week on his nose.

Both riders have July's Tour de France on their mind. Armstrong will ride the Giro d'Italia for the first time in May and Contador, winner of this year's Giro, will follow a separate programme to focus on repeating his 2007 Tour victory.

"It is not a complicated relationship. At Astana we are professionals and we will race for the strongest," said Armstrong. "In 2008, he was the best in the world, while it is not said that I will be the same as 2004 and 2005 [He retired after winning the 2005 Tour - ed.]. Therefore, if Alberto is still the strongest I will support him."

Armstrong's words surprised Contador, who was uncomfortable talking about the team for the Tour." Yeah, he said that? It is good that there is this attitude in the team. Armstrong is a person like everyone else, with him I have the same relationship that I have with any other teammate."

Tomorrow is the official team presentation of the 2009 team. Tour Director Christian Prudhomme will be part of the guests in attendance and it will be the second encounter recently for the two. They met last week while Armstrong stopped at Paris' Charles de Gaulle airport.

Cops stop "topless" Horner

Most cyclists in Spain are legally required to wear helmets, so when a Spanish policeman saw a group out for a ride and one rider not wearing a helmet, he pulled that rider over. Fortunately, Team Astana's Chris Horner knew that professional riders are not covered by the law.

Astana is holding its training camp on Tenerife, in the Canary Islands, and a group of riders including Horner and Lance Armstrong went out for a ride, when the group was stopped by the Spanish police.

"Horner found it funny because he knew the rules – he lived for some time in Spain – and knew there is an exception for professional riders," Astana spokesman Philippe Maertens told Cyclingnews. "He had to explain the rules to the policeman." After showing his identification to prove that he was, indeed, a pro rider, he was able to go on his way.

The 37-year-old actually had his rider's license with him as proof. "He always has it with him as he knows the Spanish rules," Maertens said. "Probably he was the only one who had it with him."

The Spanish law requiring helmets took effect in January of 2004. The exceptions are: when riding in cities or towns, during "periods of extreme heat", when riding up steep hills, for medical reasons and professional cyclists. Any riders during a competition are not required to wear a helmet, either. Violators are subject to a fine of up to 90 euro.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

What Happens to Your Body When… You Haven’t Properly Trained for Your Marathon?

By: Mark Sisson

The marathon. An epic struggle of the individual against his/her own body. A kind of “Mt. Everest” for athletic practice, it exacts a sizable toll on anyone who dares attempt it. (The first marathon man died after all.)

The seasoned athlete knows and respects the physical claim of a marathon, and it is substantial even for the best trained. But marathons are becoming increasingly popular in the last few years. Once limited to the athletic elites and diehards, marathons are now the stuff of social events and charity drives. We’re all for the social element of sport, and we’re suckers for a good cause like anyone. But this recent popularity has changed the face (and emergency support requirements) of marathons. While we believe that everyone’s got to start somewhere, we definitely believe this ain’t the place.

So what is the deal with weekend warriors, otherwise fit people who haven’t trained specifically for a marathon, or at least haven’t trained enough, jumping head first into this taxing and demanding physical feat? Even Lance Armstrong after completing the New York City marathon in 2006 in just under three hours said, “that was without a doubt the hardest physical thing I have ever done.” And this is Lance Armstrong people. You know the guy. He’s the 7 time Tour de France winner and arguably one of the greatest athletes in recent history. If Lance thinks it’s tough, the weekend warrior will undoubtedly be sobbing like a baby at the finish line (assuming he or she makes it to the finish line and is hydrated enough to even produce tears).

Our faithful people know we’re not lauding the merits of this kind of hyper-endurance exercise at all – for anyone. But we thought we’d consider the weekend warrior in this scenario. What are the physiological consequences of attempting to pull off an extraordinary physical feat without proper training? Hint: it’s not pretty.

The gun has gone off, and everyone is now moving. Our weekend warrior is in the hind portion of the herd, to be certain, but he’s finding some space as the crowd spreads ever so slightly. He looks to settle into a pace. He’s feeling good.

It’s the first several miles, and the sweat is pouring off of him. This part is normal, of course. His heart rate has risen – how much is in part determined by his pace and his fitness level. For a seasoned marathoner, this is an easy stretch. For weekend warrior, he’s perhaps feeling a little uncomfortable.

Over the course of the next several miles, his heart rate will likely not drop slightly as it does during the “comfort zone” for seasoned runners. The weekend warrior, without a long and consistent training schedule, may not have perfected his pace. Though he’s keeping up, the pace may increasingly feel strained, ungrounded. He visits the water points. He’s feeling thirsty, of course. He knows the dangers of dehydration at least from a bit of reading he did in the marathon packet he received. It’s possible he makes the rookie mistake of loading up on too much water and now is beginning to notice a bloated sensation which makes him feel a bit sluggish or even nauseated.

Our weekend warrior has passed the halfway point now as well as his store of glycogen. It’s possible (especially if he’s not especially fit) that he may have run out of glycogen fuel a while ago. This is a critical turn. The body must now burn fat to continue. Well-trained, seasoned long-distance runners tend to be more efficient fat burners than poorly-trained individuals like our weekend warrior. He’s likely feeling a little hazy and jangled. He’s beginning to feel the force of the progressive pounding on his joints. Fatigue is also beginning to set in for our good man. As a result, his stride has become less efficient, which only worsens the joint impact and jarred sensation. His muscles are feeling the pain as well. Lactic acid is building up quickly. As for any runner, his body is trying desperately to repair the incessant damage, resulting in inflammation and contributing to some excruciating muscle cramping that is now challenging his pace. His respiration is going downhill, and his muscles aren’t getting the oxygen they need.

As he passes mile twenty, our warrior’s blood sugar is bottomed out, his breathing is increasingly strained, and he’s beginning to feel disoriented. After the bloated feeling he got from drinking too much earlier, our warrior passed up water too often and now finds himself dehydrated. (Solid, consistent training teaches you where that fine line is.) His body is going into protein catabolism. That carbohydrate drink isn’t enough now. In fact, it only helps induce a nasty bout of vomiting. He’s entering a mental as well as physical exhaustion, and his pace has entirely fallen apart. In fact, he’s not even running in a straight line but wavering from the exhaustion and disorientation. His heart rate is too high, his oxygen intake inadequate. His knees buckle, and he blacks out on the pavement. He’s hit the wall and then some. He’s lucky in that he’s treated for arrhythmia, dehydration, heat stroke and exhaustion but not for cardiac arrest or renal failure resulting from rhabdomyolysis.

Had our weekend warrior properly trained and logged many miles before the big race he would have learned a few important lessons about nipple/thigh chaffing, cramps, blisters, hydration, plantar fasciitis, ITBS, his pace, shoes, stomach and mental strength. Instead he had to learn them all at once and will be paying the piper for his hubris.

He won’t be moving around much for the next week, and he’ll be more sensitive to heat stroke in the future. And though he won’t have the ability to say he finished, he’ll have a dramatic story (and hopefully a lesson learned).

If you’re a fit guy or gal and are thinking about running a marathon for the sake of having completed a marathon, unless you are willing to stick to a proper training regimen (and even if you are) you might want to rethink the whole thing altogether.