Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Terenzo Bozzone - One brilliant season... so far


Article from firstoffthebike.com

Your year this year has been phenomenal – we’ve written thousands of words extolling the virtues of Terenzo Bozzone and how wonderful your season’s been. Highlighted by numerous victories and numerous second places. How tough has it been for you physically to maintain that type of level?

Firstly Phil thanks for all the kind words, I see you when you tweet that you’ve got a new article and I start reading it and I just crack up. I kind of bow my head in a little bit of shame because it’s a little bit embarrassing, so thanks a lot for the kind words.

This year, it’s been interesting. I like to do things a bit differently so the amount of racing I did over April, May and June was a little bit extreme but I really enjoyed it. I felt my recovery between the races was good and I felt I managed to look after my body enough and get the right types of training in to make sure I didn’t lose too much form.

Are you beat up? Do you feel beat up in your body? Has it taken so much time to recover? Are you doing much training or is it just recovery?

Yeah well I’ve actually got to probably six races, the seventh race I started to feel a little bit beat up, so the seventh race in Buffalo Springs I came second behind Lieto and then the eighth race was in Rhode Island. By just going into the race I was a little unsure. I missed my plane leaving LA and I was wondering if that was a sign to just give it a miss and not fly across the country to race, but I’m glad I did and I managed to have a strong race. You definitely feel your body gets depleted from all the good nutrients and you’re just always on that red line. Your body is depleted, your immune system is really low and you’re kind of almost ready for it to stop.

Training-wise between the races when I was racing every weekend there was not much in terms of training, it was pretty much taper week race, taper week race and then when I had more like two or three weeks between the races, I made sure I got a little bit of mileage in, a little bit of hard stuff to keep the body going.

Does one race blur into another? Or is it every time you get to a race you get excited again and you start feeling a little bit of the nervous energy before you start?

Yeah I do, I do get somewhat excited and a little bit nervous. One of the toughest races was Galveston 70.3 in Texas. That was doubled up as the US National Champs as well. So this was the second race. I raced in New Orleans the week before and got second to Andy Potts and had a bit of a tough week and didn’t really feel the greatest all week and woke up on race morning about 4 o’clock and I just couldn’t get out of bed. I was just really tired, I just wanted to stay in bed I didn’t want to go outside. I had to almost drag myself out the door to get my warm up going and it wasn’t until about halfway through the warm up that I started to come around and was really going. I think that ended up being one of my better races, I felt good and managed to push it from start to finish.



How soon into a race do you know that you’re on form? When you start? as soon as the gun goes off and you start swimming do you feel that you’re going to have a good one or does it take a little while for your race to evolve?

Yeah for me I don’t really know what’s going to happen until I’m on the run, probably even halfway through the run and it will often change through the day. I mean I’ve had races where I start the swim and I feel a million bucks and once I get on the bike I’m out the back door struggling or vice versa, I’m swimming and feel like sh+t and get on the bike and you feel, I mean your legs – you can’t blow yourself up.

So that’s the thing with triathlon, you’ve got three disciplines and anything can happen. But to put yourself in the best possible position you train hard, you’re smart about your nutrition, about all your habits and you just put yourself in the best position to give yourself a chance at achieving your goals.

Are you friendly with the other athletes, are you someone who likes to chat around the transition area or is it stick my iPod in and get the eye of the tiger working?

A Well that’s the good thing about triathlon is all of us are pretty good friends. I mean I hang out with Macca, I hang out with Craig from time to time, I mean all those guys, Richie Cunningham and Tyler Butterfield. We turn up at a race and every day before the race you train together, you have coffee together, you have breakfast together, dinner and so you’re best of friends one day, you wake up the next morning and transition, your still civil, you probably keep a bit more to yourself, but when that gun goes off you want to kill that guy. You want to make him suffer. And then once you’ve crossed the finish line you’re the best of friends and then you cross the line, shake the guy’s hand and then give him a hug and go off for lunch.

Is there any smack-talking on the bike? Is there anything like that going on or is it more you think Triathlon is more of an individualised or internal type of activity?

From time to time there is a bit of smack, the bike, of course it is going to be easier sitting five bike lengths back, but generally there’s a bit of etiquette out there between the athletes. I mean no-one wants to get on the run after sitting at the back behind someone for the whole bike and run away to win the race. That’s – you almost have to cross the finish line with your head below your hands just so you save a bit of face. I mean yeah, so everyone tries to get out there, do their fair share of work and try and keep it as fair and as even a race as possible. Of course people are going to have bad days where they can’t bike and they get off and they do feel a bit on the run, but most of the time everyone tries to show good sportsmanship out there.

click on the title link to read on.......

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Floyd Landis rides prologue in baggy t-shirt and number flapping


Crowds lined the streets in the Old Mill District to catch a glimpse of Floyd Landis at the Cascade Classic. Race organizers added the controversial cyclist, who is racing without a team, to the registration one day prior to the event’s start date.

He was the brunt of laughter during the short time trial for wearing a novice looking outfit. Rather than wear a blank racing skin suit, he chose to sport a grey baggy T-shirt and nondescript black cycling shorts with his numbers sloppily pinned on the back, loose enough to catch wind and create a small sail.

“The chief official said that it is a USCF rule that if you are going to wear a jersey that has the name of a business or a sponsor there has to be a licensed team,” said Executive Director Chuck Kenlan. “Essentially he had to wear something plain with no sponsor on it and he just found a grey t-shirt and that was what he wore.”

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Jens Voigt - Tough As Nails!


On stage 16 Tuesday, Voigt was hurtling down the descent of the Col de Peyresourde, the first of four mountain passes, when he suffered a puncture and crashed at top speed.

The German managed to avoid a repeat of the horrific injuries he suffered during last year’s race when he landed on his face while rocketing along on a descent.

After waving away the help of race assistants in the broom wagon, Voigt battled on to finish the stage with the gruppetto, the group of sprinters and non-climbers who club together in a bid to beat the time cut-off.

“I’m doing 70 kilometers an hour on the first descent when my front tire explodes,” explained Voigt. “Before I hit the asphalt I actually manage to think that this is going to hurt. Both knees, elbows, hands, shoulders and the entire left side of my body were severely hurt.

“My ribs are hurting but hey, broken ribs are overrated anyway. Fortunately, I didn’t land on my face this time and I’m still alive".

“I was offered a ride on the truck that picks up abandoned riders but I’m not going to quit another Tour de France. Now there’s a rest day and Paris is not that far away.”

Schleck is eight seconds behind race leader and defending champion Alberto Contador of Astana, and the Luxembourger will be glad of Voigt’s assistance pacing him early on the climbs when the race resumes with stage 17 on Thursday

Ivan Basso Finishes In The Gruppetto


Basso was not in the front group that finished 6:45 behind Pierrick Fédrigo (Bbox Bouygues Telecom) and included most of the overall contenders. He was not even in the first gruppetto, with teammates Daniel Oss and Francesco Bellotti, that finished 23:42 down.

Basso eventually finished the 199.5km stage in 111th place, 34:48 behind Fédrigo. The huge loss of time means that Basso is now 24th overall, 37:18 behind Alberto Contador.

The Giro d'Italia winner had been suffering with bronchitis since Monday afternoon and was weakened by the antibiotics the Liquigas-Doimo team doctor had given him to cure the problem and reduce a temperature. He had been targeting a Giro d'Italia-Tour de France double but now he just hopes to finish the Tour in Paris on Sunday.

When Basso crossed the line he did not stop when the soigneur held out a drink and did not want to talk to the Italian media that were also waiting for him. He rode past them all, with dried saliva on his lips and a blank, fatigued emptiness in his eyes.

He eventually spoke after recovering from over six difficult hours in the saddle. Like every other rider who had ridden the Giro d'Italia, his hopes of success at the Tour de France had faded during the third week of the Tour de France. Winning the now much tougher Giro and then an intense and constantly demanding Tour de France seems too much of a test for anyone.

"I'm really tired and worn out, it was an incredibly tough day,' Basso said. "I started the stage to honour the race because even my directeur sportif told me not to start. But I've never liked retiring and so I tried to hang on and stay in the Tour.

"This has been a tough Tour for me that always seemed to be uphill. Right from the start in Rotterdam it was more difficult that I think we all expected. This illness has made it almost impossible.

"Now I just want to think about the rest day and cancel this bad day from mind. I'm not used to being in the gruppetto when the big-name riders are racing hard up front. I can promise you it's not much fun."

Basso now just hopes to survive in the last mountain stage on Thursday and then reach Paris. Suddenly even just making to the Champs-Élysées will be a huge achievement for the Giro d'Italia winner.

Choosing Chicken: A Primal Purchasing Guide


By Mark Sisson

Poultry: a Primal staple that complements any kind of fare any time of day (nothing like chicken hash for breakfast!). There’s more to poultry than chicken of course (more on that another time), but make no mistake: chickens these days aren’t created equal. Breeding, feeding and other poultry farming standards result in animals that scarcely resemble each other, let alone taste the same. To the Primal point, however: when it comes to judging a chicken’s nutritional profile, a little info can go a long way. Today’s item of business: choosing the best Primal chicken for the money.

Keep reading click on the title link....

Chris Lieto and Carfrae Dominate at Vineman Ironman 70.3


Former Ironman 70.3 world champion Mirinda Carfrae ran her way to a new women’s course record and new women’s run course record at the Vineman Ironman 70.3 presented by Avia on Sunday. Meanwhile, the USA’s Chris Lieto opened a gap on New Zealand’s Kieran Doe during the second half of the bike course, one that he would never relinquish to eventually go on and win the men’s race. Professionals were racing for $25,000 at the 20th Anniversary of the Vineman Ironman 70.3, one of the sports legendary races.

As anticipated the women’s field didn’t disappoint today when Canadian Melanie McQuaid led into the bike to run transition with a 1 minute, 15 second lead over a tightly arranged group of Leanda Cave, Tyler Stewart, Angela Naeth, Mirinda Carfrae and Dede Greisbauer. The finish order shuffled only slightly as Carfrae ran herself into first place, winning by nearly seven minutes, leaving the group to battle for the of the remainder of the prize money.

Lieto, in the midst of tight battle with Doe at the halfway point of the 56 mile bike leg, decided he needed to stamp his authority on one of his favorite races to try and secure the win. Doe entered the bike to run transition almost four minutes down to Lieto, and while not able to cut into Lieto’s lead during the run he managed to run well enough to take the second spot on the podium. The final three podium spots were tightly contested by James Cotter, Jamie Whyte, and Tim Marr.

Highlighting the amateur race were age group wins by Vineman veterans Cherie Gruenfeld (65-69), Harriet Anderson (75-79), and Sister Madonna Buder (80-84).

The 20th Anniversary Vineman Ironman 70.3 presented by Avia saw more than 2000 athletes enter the Russian River under the typical Sonoma County marine layer to start the day. The cool temperatures gave way to bright sunshine and warm conditions later in the day as athletes finished the race in Windsor, Ca.

Landis to start Cascade Cycling Classic


ABC's Nightline to shadow the controversial cyclist

Organizers of the Bend Memorial Clinic Cascade Cycling Classic confirmed Floyd Landis will participate in the six-stage race set to take place from July 20-25 in Bend, Oregon. The American television network ABC's program Nightline agreed to highlight the controversial cyclist, bringing the event nation-wide publicity.

"I got word yesterday that he was interested in coming and that he was trying to put together a little composite team," said the race's Executive Director Chuck Kenlan.. "That fell through because he couldn't come up with enough money to get the other guys up here so he will be flying solo. I'm not sure what jersey he is going to wear. When I spoke with him today he didn't say anything about that."

It will be a rare public appearance from Landis who in May admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs throughout most of his professional cycling career, including his 2006 Tour de France victory. He was stripped of that title after testing positive for synthetic testosterone and vehemently denied doping for the last four years.

Aside from his own confession, Landis also implicated his previous teams and teammates of doping, including his former US Postal teammate Lance Armstrong and manager Johan Bruyneel.

Because that team was supported by a government agency, Landis' revelations have sparked a criminal investigation headed by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) special agent Jeff Novitzky. According to Kenlan, it is not clear how ABC News Nightline will use its coverage of Landis' participation at the 30th annual Cascade Cycling Classic.

"Part of the deal was ABC News coming to do a Nightline program because they wanted to do a story on Floyd," Kenlan said. "I don't think they will be here all week but I'm not sure. I got a call from ABC News today and they were really vague on what the angle of their story was going to be, but you can only guess."

"It could be a double edged sword depending on how they spin their coverage," he added. "But, to have them cover a race in the city of Bend and the history of this race is so strong that hopefully that will come out in what ever they are going to do."

When asked if he was surprised to receive a phone call from Landis requesting a starting spot, Kenlan said, "With him, it is hard to be surprised. I've made it clear that he needs to be accessible to our local media which he wasn't last year. He needs to be available and be a player."

Landis registered for the Tour de Nez, held in Nevada in June and the Fitchburg Longsjo Classic held in Massachusetts in July, but did not start either event.

"As far as I'm concerned, the guy has a license and he has raced pretty well this year at a couple of races," Kenlan said. "My hope is that if he is going to be here that he is here to race his bike, put in a good effort, try to do something, and not try to make a circus out of our event. I'd like to see him racing and putting on a good show."

Landis started the season racing under with the Bahati Foundation Professional Cycling Team. Following Landis' doping admission, the team announced that they severed ties with Landis and financial backer Ouch Medical Center.

For Stacy - Livestrong


By Lance Armstrong

Every Tour de France since 1999, I’ve carried the same good luck charm with me. It reminds me of a friend who helped me beat cancer and start my true mission in life, the fight against this disease.

In January of 1997, Stacy Pounds helped me launch LIVESTRONG, a foundation that serves people and families affected by cancer, just as I was completing my own cancer treatment. That same month, Stacy, a chain smoker, was diagnosed with incurable lung cancer.

All of us who knew her were devastated. My mother gave me two crucifixes. I wore one and gave the other to Stacy. I said, “This is going to be our bond. You wear it when you’re being treated or whenever you want. And I’ll wear mine forever.” We wore them as symbols of our cancer kinship.

Stacy deteriorated quickly. The doctor told us she only had a matter of weeks to live.

Stacy’s son, Paul, was a sailor serving with the US Navy at sea. We called Charles Boyd, the only four-star general I knew, for help in getting Stacy’s son home to see his mother. “Lance,” he said, “I lost my wife two years ago to cancer. I’ll see what I can do.” The next day, Paul was on his way home. That’s what the term “cancer community” means.

At the same time, Stacy went into a nursing home. “I’m in pain and the nurses don’t bring me my pain medicine,” she said. We took her home and hired a full-time Hospice nurse to take care of her.

Her son arrived and Stacy spent her remaining days at home with him. On October 2, 1997, I celebrated the one-year anniversary of my cancer diagnosis. On October 3, 1997, Stacy died. She was buried with her cross.

Despite the standings, I know that good luck rides with me every day. I am riding for Stacy and the 28 million people around the world living with cancer today.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Contador Makes Apology To Andy Schleck



Alberto Contador has posted a YouTube apology to former Tour de France leader Andy Schleck for the timing of an attack that sees the Spaniard now lead the race. The Astana rider admitted he wasn’t happy with how he’s taken the Tour’s yellow jersey, and hopes it doesn’t impact his relationship with the Luxembourg rider.

“Today I managed to get on the podium, which makes me happy. The problem with that was the circumstances,” said Contador in the video, filmed in his hotel room. “Right when I attacked Andy had a mechanical on the last climb. The race was in full gear and, well, maybe I made a mistake, I'm sorry.

“At a time like that all you think about is riding as fast as you can,” he continued. “I'm not happy, in the sense that, to me, fair play is very important. Just like I did in the Spa stage, when both Andy and Fränk were behind the pack, I didn't hesitate to stop the bunch so that they could catch up.

“Many people criticized me for doing that, especially after the stage on the cobbles, when the crash happened and the whole bunch split as a result, and it allowed Andy to take time on me, but I always settle it by saying I'd do it again,” said Contador. “The kind of thing that happened today is not something I like, it's not my style and I hope my relationship with Andy will remain as good as before.”

Saxo Bank team owner Bjarne Riis wasn’t judging Contador after the stage. “I would have hoped he would have waited, and I think I would have waited... I think he did wait at the beginning but then it was a while before Andy was on the bike again.

“I don’t know. Was it possible for Contador to wait in that situation, with [Samuel] Sanchez [Euskaltel] and [Denis] Menchov [Rabobank] attacking? He has to follow those guys, for sure. He might not need to pull [with them] or attack, but he has to follow those guys."

Cervelo co-founder Gerard Vroomen was amongst those Tweeting on the topic, initially saying: “Contador just gained a great chance to win, but he lost the chance to win greatly.” But after considering Contador’s response, Vroomen added: “Alberto has a tiny point: Schleck didn't wait for him after the cobblestone crash so complaints about fair play ring hollow.”

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Armstrong Does Not Want Any Gifts In Final Tour


Despite his string of crashes and losing time on every major climb, despite all the accusations and long-distance polemics with fellow US tour de France winner Greg Lemond, Lance Armstrong insists he is still trying to enjoy his last ever Tour de France.

Armstrong finished 70th on the stage to Ax-3 Domaines, 15:14 behind winner Christophe Riblon (AG2R-La Mondiale).

The seven-time Tour de France winner would love to win a stage as a final swan song but said he did not want any gifts, just as he always refused to gift any stage victories to his rivals during his seven-year reign at the Tour de France.

"It's as unique experience for me to ride up the Pailheres with no pressure at all and be able to look at the people and listen to people. I'm not going to win the Tour. There's not going to be an eighth Tour. That's not a news flash. But I'm going out having a good time," he said.

"I'd still like to get a stage victory but it's hard. They might not let me go early on, so you've got to have your climbing legs and obviously nobody is going to give it away."

"Back in our heyday, we didn’t give anything away, so I don’t want anybody to say 'Hey, let's let the old man have one,' That's not what this event is about. It's a hard sporting event and the strongest are supposed to win, on a daily basis and on a three-week basis."

"I've got 25 of them, I don't need someone handing me one. I'll do my best but as everyone knows, we're running out of chances."

When asked by French television if he will retire, Armstrong responded: "In Paris, yes. I came to the Tour to try and get a good result but I've never been a quitter and I won’t quit now."

On the fifteenth anniversary of the tragic death of Fabio Casartelli on the descent of the Col de Portet d'Aspet, Armstrong said the loss of his then Motorola teammate was one of the moments that will stay with him after his final Tour de France. He also admitted he is now looking forward to reaching Paris.

"I'd rather be somewhere else but we've only got a week to go. I'm doing my best and I'll be surrounded by my family in Paris.

"After that I'll do what I did for four years ago: fight against cancer. There are lots of people who will carry this team on as pro riders."

Despite his differences with Alberto Contador last year when he rode together at Astana, Armstrong said the Spaniard was the favourite to win this year's race.

"I'm definitely an outside observer," he said. "Andy and Alberto are at the same level at the moment but Alberto has the advantage of the time trial. He will probably gain two and half minutes and that will difficult for Andy to get that. If I had a crystal ball, I'd say Alberto."

Friday, July 16, 2010

The 4 Key Areas of TAPERING for a Race


By Dave Scott

Physical

Rule One:
Allowing your body to rest and rebuild over the final four weeks provides the heightened sharpening to your race. Rest does not mean easy training. Maintaining the same percentage of hyper intensity training during the final four weeks is paramount for a fast race day. You cannot just "cruise" through all of your sessions. The nervous system needs to be stimulated. So what does intensity really mean? The total percentage of faster paced efforts should be around 8-20 percent of your total workout time per week for each discipline - swim, bike, run. (For example, you may ride three times per week for a total of six hours. Within this six hour timeframe, there should be up to 20 percent at a higher intensity. 8-20 percent of 360 minutes equals 29-72 minutes). Breaking this into three days includes repeats or a steady tempo session in equal to your optimal race pace. An example of this is interval segment on one ride day would be: 7 x 4 (8%) or 8 x 9 (20%). Again, each repeat is comparable or equal to your previous training higher intensity sessions. Do not try to exceed your "normal" intensity sessions during your final three weeks. Elevating the percentage or speed of intensity will only cause fatigue on race day.

Maintaining the suggested percentages of intensity on 1-3 days per discipline per week is vital for your race.

Rule Two:
Drop your total time per session at this rate (percentage drop from normal training volume each week. I.E.: 360 minutes less 10% equals 324 minutes):

week 4: 10%
week 3: 15%
week 2: 30%
week 1: 60%

The taper should drop off dramatically over the final two weeks.

Rule Three:
Maintain 15-25 minutes of aerobic intensity two to three times per week per discipline. The aerobic heart rate allows the morphine-like compound (endorphins) to purge your system. This "feel good" emphasis is vital during the taper. Stimulating your muscles and breathing rate to a broken conversation pace alleviates anxiety and the sessions will remind your mind and body that you did a light workout. These aerobic sessions can be mixed in with the higher intensity sessions or inserted on another training day. For example, if you have a higher intensity block on the bike designated for your Tuesday session, you would warm up for 15-20 minutes; insert the higher intensity block, followed by the aerobic work. A cool down for 5-10 minutes and that's it. This workout may be a bit long for some of you, so my advice is to insert the aerobic block on a non-intensity day.

Let's take a look at Week Four for an athlete that is preparing for an Olympic distance race. Training time per week would look like this:

Run: 4 hours or 240 minutes
Bike: 6 hours or 360 minutes
Swim: 2 hours or 120 minutes

(HI) Higher intensity (8-20%) would look like this:

Run: 20 to 48 minutes
Bike: 29 to 72 minutes
Swim: 5 to 12 minutes

Days of training per week include: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday


Psychological and Emotional

Rule One:
Write down 4-10 key words that describe you when you've felt fantastic in a training session. These words should describe each sport. Think of your best training day and write down the "feeling" that allowed you to flow during the workout. For example, a swim workout description might include the following: "fluid, powerful catch, hips floating to the surface". Write these down on a piece of paper and recite them with your eyes closed. See yourself in the race the same "feelings". Practice this mental imagery when you have a calm moment during the day. It only takes 5-10 minutes, so do it!

Rule Two:
Decide what you can control in your race and determine how you're going to do it. This requires you to have a mental map of the race course. Learn the course, either by viewing it online or discussing it with previous racers. Ultimately, you should view the course first-hand during the final days leading up to the race.

Rule Three:
Controlling your emotions will alleviate your anxiety about the race. Recognize what you do well and decide how these skills will guide you during the race. Also, minimize the stressors in your daily routine and take comfort in the routines that allow a psychological and emotional lift to your race preparation.

While I was preparing for the Ironman Kona in 1994, I was advised by a sport psychologist to select only items that I was willing to control in my life and release everything else. This allowed me to focus on tangible tasks and not to wrestle with the mundane psychological turmoil that ultimately hampered my final sharpening for the race.

Rule Four:
Select three levels of goals to your race and write these down.

Level 1 is a solid race. The race may unfold with a few hurdles, but you will overcome these diversions.
Level 2 is the race that mimics your preparation. Your potential is projected by the race outcome. This race is extremely gratifying.
Level 3 is the race that supersedes your expectations. You have visualized a day where you will unleash a race that is 10 to 20 percent above your expectations. This is not a dream, but an achievable goal!


Nutrition

Rule One:
Maintain your weight within one percent of your race weight over the final four weeks. Ideally, you are still trying to shed a few pounds during the taper. Plan on a loss of .8% of your body weight in pounds per week.

Rule Two:
Practice eating your pre-race meal one time per week on your higher intensity workouts.

Rule Three:
Plan out your race nutrition. Total fluid intake and total calories for every 10 to 15 minutes of racing.

Rule Four:
Increase your intake of antioxidant foods and glutamine to combat any potential illness over the final four weeks. Try to select four to six servings per day of antioxidant fruits and/or vegetables.

Glutamine is primarily stored in the lungs and skeletal muscle. Athletes that are prone to infections, allergies and slower recovery, quite often have low plasma glutamine levels. If this is you, consider taking a glutamine supplement of 10-20 grams four times per week during the taper.


Race Awareness

Being prepared for your ultimate race requires preparation over the final four weeks. During the taper, there are several items that I have included in your check list (see below). These are reminders about your race. Take a look at the following list and make sure that you are organized and ready before the event.

• Practice using your race equipment: shoes, aero-bars, fuel belt, swim/bike/run apparel

• Get to bed early

• Go over the course and have a mental map of the course and terrain

• Lay out your race plan: pace in each discipline, fueling intervals and "strong" sections of the race

• Three days before the event, finish dinner at an hour that allows a ten hour spread between dinner and breakfast. (If your race starts at 7am: breakfast is consumed 2-2 ½ hours before the start, then dinner the night before should be consumed by 6:30pm). This allows sufficient transit time between meals and allows your breakfast meal to partially digest before competition. Begin to shift the dinner hour three days prior to the race.

• Warm-up before your event. The ideal warm-up will allow you bring up your aerobic zone for 8-12 minutes and should include 4-6 efforts near race pace. Plan on allowing a warm-up of 15-30 minutes

• Think about your breathing (deep inhales) at the start of the race

• Stand up on the bike during the first 5-10 miles. Stretching your back and calves, while allowing for a subtle change in muscle recruitment, will enhance your overall ride.

• Lastly, do what you can do at the moment. Simply concentrate on the short term. Use the skills that allowed you to peak for the event. Confidence, tenacity and perseverance will prevail...just let it happen.

Article courtesy of DaveScottInc.com.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Lance Armstrong Says He’ll Start At The Half-Ironman Distance In 2011


Seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong has made it clear that this will be his last year competing in the cycling event, and now that he’s no longer in the running for the yellow jersey he has started addressing the next step of his career. While Armstrong has acknowledged on several occasions that he will start competing in triathlons, he is only now discussing the details of his triathlon comeback.

In an article featured on Telegraph.co.uk, Armstrong says that he will start out at the half-Ironman distance:

“The first thing I have to do is to compete in a half Ironman to test myself,” said Armstrong.

“Because of my age and I would rather not compete in Olympic distance. Those triathletes who dispute this distance achieve speeds that I cannot get close to.

“What is clear is that if I want to be competitive, I have to focus on the longer distances as they often have tougher cycling sections and that would benefit me.”

Doping Probe About To Heat Up For Armstrong


Lance Armstrong conceded days ago that his chances for victory in this year's Tour de France are finished. But it appears an even more difficult battle could just be starting for America's greatest cyclist.

The New York Times reports it has learned that federal authorities have issued grand jury subpoenas in an investigation aimed at discovering whether Armstrong and others engaged in doping.

The investigation is being led by Jeff Novitzky, the top federal agent in the BALCO probe that netted several prominent dopers in sports. The current probe was instigated by allegations from admitted cycling doper Floyd Landis, who contends Armstrong and other members of the now-defunct U.S. Postal Service team used banned drugs.

What makes this case particularly dicey for any suspects is the potential charge of using government funding to cheat. The Times says several riders competing at the Tour have been contacted by investigators. Armstrong, who has denied ever doping, said today he will cooperate with a "fair investigation" but not a "witch hunt."

Armstrong also stressed today he has never had a business interest in Tailwind Sports, despite numerous reports he was the owner of the company that helped finance the U.S. Postal Service team. That could be an important distinction, if there are allegations that federal funding was diverted for drug use.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Basso Counts On Experience Against Young Guns


Ivan Basso speaks to the press on the Tour's rest day in Morzine-Avoriaz.

Ivan Basso (Liquigas-Doimo), 13th overall and 2:41 behind Cadel Evans (BMC Racing Team) on general classification at the first rest day, is looking for better results in the upcoming two thirds of the Tour de France. The 32-year-old Italian doesn't blame anyone but himself for the time lost on the cobblestones and predicts Lance Armstrong (RadioShack) will still be an important rider in this race.

"I think the first part of the Tour de France hasn't been very good for me because I came out of the cobblestones stage with more of a deficit than I should," the winner of the 2010 Giro d'Italia told reporters during the first rest day in Morzine. "It's partly due to bad luck and partly my fault. A rider like me should have been in the first positions but my problem in my profession is my lack of agility that penalizes me and costs me too much energy. But this is the Tour. It's so competitive, it's not simple to do just what you want."

The captain of Liquigas-Doimo felt reassured after the first mountain stage. "It takes me back to the same ambitions I had before the Tour started," Basso said. "Yesterday I was at the front at my ease. But this stage has said very little about the hierarchy of the Tour. All the favorites are still up there. The only thing that happened was Armstrong's bad luck. His crash has jeopardized everything.

"You know the respect I have for him and the friendship I have with him. He arrived super-determined but now the yellow jersey is unworkable. This morning I've seen him on his bike, it means he wants to do something in this Tour before the end.

"We've done only one third of the Tour," Basso said. "There is the second third coming and the third third! I don't remember in my whole career having experienced such high temperatures. Yesterday again it showed 40 and 41°C on my SRM, that was with other riders surrounding me. Therefore, we don't know what's going to happen next in this race. Maybe those like me and [current race leader Cadel] Evans who have done the Giro will benefit from the foundations we have, or we'll be killed and put on a cross by those who will be fresher because of not having raced much."

Basso hopes for "regularity and consistency" to be the key factors for him to ride for the final podium. He also counts on his association with Roman Kreuziger at Liquigas-Doimo. "Our strength is to be together when the front group will be only about ten riders," Basso said. "I'm very confident in my teammates. A climber like Sylvester Szmyd will be seen more when the race will be less aggressive. I'm convinced that my team will be well present at the hottest moments of the race.

"In yesterday's front group, about 50 percent of the athletes were young ones," said Basso, who has returned to the Tour de France five years after his last participation and encounters new adversaries. "They are more explosive than me. To beat them, I'll use my experience. Yesterday, Andy [Schleck], Contador and Kreuziger were the most brilliant. I haven't mentioned Cadel [Evans] yet but he's an athlete with expertise. He's got tenacity and resistance."

Friday, July 9, 2010

The "Real" Tour de France Starts Tomorrow


After a week of racing over flat and rolling terrain, including cobblestones, the Tour de France peloton will head into the mountains on Saturday. Stage 7 is somewhat unique, however, in that it’s falls into the category of a “medium mountain stage”. This means that there are significant climbs on the route (six categorized ascents), but that none of them is so hard that the whole peloton sits up and says, “Oh, that’s going to hurt.”

Still, on a medium mountain stage, the climbs are hard enough to split the peloton into groups. The sprinters who have dominated the past few stages are not likely to be in the front group on the final ascent of the day – the summit of which is only 4 kilometers from the finish line. Rather, the sprinters and many of the team workers will be left behind by the team leaders, who will make sure that a few of their teammates stay in the front group for pacing, nutrition, and mechanical support if necessary.

The yellow jersey contenders typically wait until the major mountain stages – days like Sunday and Tuesday coming up – to launch their big attacks. That’s because the mountains in those stages are steeper, longer, and much harder. It’s on this extreme terrain that the best of the pack can really challenge each other and take advantage of their abilities to go uphill fast. On more gradual climbs like the ones in Stage 7, the grades are not that steep, so bigger riders like Fabian Cancellara – the current wearer of the yellow jersey – still have a chance to keep up. Once the race reaches the big mountains, the grades are steep enough that the advantage really shifts to the lightweight, very powerful riders who are either climbing specialists or yellow jersey contenders.

That said, there are yellow jersey contenders in the race who are very motivated to attack and either gain time over rivals or make up time lost already in the first week. Lance Armstrong is looking to make up time he lost on the cobblestones of Stage 3, and if he sees an opportunity to make a move in Stage 7, he’s likely to go for it. Similarly, Alberto Contador – the defending champion – may look to Stage 7 as a great place to attack, not because it’s a good stage for building a Tour-winning lead, but just to stamp his authority on the race and deliver a psychological blow to rivals hoping to challenge him in the bigger mountains to come.

With Stage 7 acting as somewhat of a prelude to the major climbing battles coming in Stages 8 and 9, don’t be surprised if tomorrow’s stage winner is a lesser-known rider, or a well-known rider who doesn’t have a realistic chance of winning the Tour de France this year. Stage 7 is a great day for an opportunist because it’s hard enough that a breakaway containing strong climbers could make it to the finish before the yellow-jersey contenders. It’s also hard enough that the sprinters and their teams won’t be pushing the pace to reel in the breakaway to set up their speedsters. Another likely scenario is that the main peloton could reach the 10- or 5-kilometers to go banner all together, and an opportunistic attack from a rider who is no threat to Contador, Andy Schleck, Cadel Evans, or Lance Armstrong goes off the front. If the pre-race favorites sit back and watch each other, the man who dared to make the attack could ride away with a stage win at the Tour de France!

Livestrong - Just Do It!

Triathlon Cycling Interval Workouts


By: Chris Carmichael

You've been racing for months now, but it's likely that your big race is fast approaching. Whether that race is a local sprint-distance race or an Ironman event, you should be looking for one last jump in fitness to get you peaked for your best race of the season.

What areas can you improve upon in order to finish the season strong? The following four workouts will help you light up the bike course and have energy left over for the run.

Improve your maximum sustainable power. This intensity level is key for triathletes of all distances. Your lactate threshold (LT) is the intensity level at which lactic acid accumulation in your blood exceeds your body’s ability to remove it. Studies have shown that trained athletes can race at their LT for about an hour. By training at or just below your LT, you are training your body to work hard and to remove the lactic acid from your blood, effectively increasing your LT. After training at this intensity level, you will be able to produce more power, and therefore speed, at any given intensity below your LT.

1. SteadyState intervals are the ideal workout for triathletes who are trying to increase their lactate threshold. These intervals should be done at a perceived exertion of about 8 out of 10, and will be difficult, but not maximal, efforts. Pedal cadence should be roughly the same as your racing cadence, optimally in the 85-95 RPM range. Ideally, you will work up to a total of about 60 minutes of these threshold intervals by the time of your goal race. They can be divided into 6 x 10, 4 x 15, or 3 x 20 minute intervals and recovery should be nearly equivalent to the length of the interval. Short-course racers should focus on the shorter length intervals, while long-course racers should strive to complete the 60 minutes in 1 to 2 intervals.

Increase your VO2max. While training at or below your LT is great for increasing the amount of time you can race at that intensity, if you can raise your maximal power production and aerobic capacity, it will allow your LT room to improve as well.

2. PowerIntervals are short, maximal efforts that are designed to improve your maximal aerobic capacity or VO2 max. The goal is to increase your top end speed and power. Pedal cadence should be higher than you would normally maintain in a race; above 110 RPM is ideal. Typically, the total amount of time spent performing PowerIntervals will amount to about 20-30 minutes by the time you begin tapering for your goal event. These intervals can be divided into 8 x 2, 6 x 3, 5 x 4, or 4 x 5 minute intervals and recovery should be equivalent to the length of the interval. As interval duration increases, the intensity must decrease in order to complete each interval. Racers of all distances should start their intervals at 1 to 2 minutes in length and strive to complete intervals 4 to 5 minutes in length in the month leading up to their goal race.

Build power above lactate threshold. The weeks leading up to your goal event is the perfect time to focus on increasing power at intensities that are just above LT. These workouts will be crucial for short-course racers, as well as long-course racers whose goal events have many turns, short hills, or turn-arounds. These intervals are also useful for improving lactate buffering ability, or lactate tolerance, which allows you to surge above your LT, accumulate large quantities of lactic acid, and recover faster.

3. DescendingIntervals are again, short, maximal efforts. This workout is performed much like a swimming or running ladder, with recovery intervals equal to the length of the previous interval. DescendingIntervals are usually best performed on an indoor trainer or flat section of road to allow for high cadences (110 rpm or greater) and therefore high heart rates. Descending refers to the fact that a set of DescendingIntervals begins with a 2 to 3 minute max effort and each subsequent interval is 10 to 30 seconds shorter. For example, one set of DescendingIntervals may consist of:

2:00 max effort, 2:00 recovery spin
1:30 max effort, 1:30 recovery spin
1:00 max effort, 1:00 recovery spin
:30 max effort, :30 recovery spin

Within a few weeks of beginning this workout you should be able to complete 2 to 3 sets of intervals with 5 to 10 minutes of recovery between each.

4. OverUnder Intervals are another workout that will train your body to recover from high levels of accumulated lactic acid and increase power just above LT. Over and under refers to the zones just above and below your lactate threshold. You will spend an amount of time just below your LT at the SteadyState level, and then immediately increase the intensity to the level just above LT for a brief amount of time before returning to the SteadyState level. This pattern of under and over (one under and one over is considered one interval) is repeated for 1 to 4 intervals. The under portions of the interval should be 2 to 10 minutes in length and the over portions should be 1 to 3 minutes in duration. One set will consist of 1 to 4 intervals, and you should strive to accomplish 3 to 4 sets by the arrival of your goal race.

Recover, recover, recover. During this time of slightly less volume and increased intensity, rest between workouts is very important. While you’re performing intervals at and above your lactate threshold, it’s possible to wear yourself out easily without proper rest and recovery. Be sure to allow 24 to 36 hours of recovery between lactate threshold interval sessions and 24 to 48 hours of recovery between sessions above lactate threshold. This will allow your body to replenish its carbohydrate stores, eliminate lactic acid and other metabolites from the blood and muscles and your mind to get mentally prepared for another session.

Chris Carmichael is Lance Armstrong’s personal coach and founder of Carmichael Training Systems, the Official Coaching Partner of Ironman and Ironman 70.3. Jim Rutberg is a Pro Coach for Carmichael Training Systems, Inc. and co-author of seven books with Chris Carmichael, including the NYT bestseller, Chris Carmichael’s Food for Fitness: Eat Right to Train Right and The Time-Crunched Triathlete (November 2010). For information on coaching, training camps, bike fits, and performance testing from CTS, visit www.trainright.com or call 866-355-0645.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Mark Cavendish: Silencing the Mob


Cavendish let go some pretty raw emotion at his first win of this Tour.

- By Chris Carmichael -

This year I’ve been thinking more about the mental side of high-performance cycling than I have during previous Tours, and the scrutiny with which the media had been hounding Cavendish since the start of the Tour de France got me thinking about the ways riders deal with pressure.

The Tour de France is the most important race in cycling. And that’s not to take anything away from the Tour of Flanders or Paris-Roubaix, the World Championships or the Olympics. It’s just that more people know about and watch the Tour de France than any other cycling event. There’s more media attention thrown at this event than any other, and that means more exposure for sponsors and more money to keep teams going. That’s a lot of pressure to put on the skinny shoulders of a couple hundred bike racers, and that pressure is not spread around evenly. The stars of the sport – like the sprinters and yellow-jersey contenders – are under incredible pressure to perform, and that can either elevate their performances or destroy them.

Having been around professional cycling as an athlete and coach for the past few decades, I believe there’s an optimal balance between accepting the pressure from fans, sponsors, race organizers, and team managers; and tuning it out. The top athletes I’ve known and worked with use the pressure of big races for motivation – both in training before the race as well as during the event – but they also know when to stop listening to critics, sponsors, and journalists.

Not to speak way out of my league, but we’re raised to want to please the people around us. You wanted to please your parents and your teachers. You want to make your boss happy with your work and you want to make your significant other happy because, well, you’d like to continue to have a significant other. Athletes are the same as everyone else. It’s nice to be liked by the fans, your job depends on making your team managers and sponsors happy, and life’s certainly easier when journalists aren’t writing that you stink every day. But when athletes get too caught up in what the fans and journalists and sponsors are saying, the pressure to live up to everyone’s expectations - or to answer their complaints with immediate results - becomes overwhelming.

Top athletes learn to be aware of what this mob of people is saying, but remain slightly detached from it. Keeping the mob at arm’s length gives you the space to see the big picture, and allows you to focus on the things you can control. Knowing that there’s a group of people out there who think you’ve lost your sprinting speed can be good for your motivation, but dwelling on it makes you impatient and easily frustrated. Instead of being patient and racing the way you know how to, you force the situation and continue to fail. The longer it goes on, the more the pressure builds, which is why you have to stop listening to everyone else and get back to listening to yourself and a handful of people you trust.

I don’t know the specifics of how Mark Cavendish deals with pressure, but on the way to becoming a successful champion, all top athletes develop a method that works best for them. Some simply don’t read the papers and stay away from the internet. Others decided how much of that information they want to see – and from what sources – and then tune out the rest. There are others who read everything and talk to everyone because they feed off it and channel it into incredible performances. How important is it to develop an ironclad method for dealing with pressure? There may be nothing that’s more important. I would say that the ability to cope with or thrive under the pressure that comes with success is one of the limiting factors that determines whether an athlete who is physiologically capable of being a champion, actually becomes one.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

What Good Luck, What Bad Luck


- By Chris Carmichael -

I know some people expect me to spin the situation and say it’s no big deal, but let’s be frank: losing time to Andy Schleck, Alberto Contador, Cadel Evans, and Bradley Wiggins is not good. Time lost at the Tour de France is not easily regained, and the men now in front of Lance in the race for yellow will certainly do what they can to not only keep him where he is, but gain more time as well. Thankfully, we’re only 4 days into the Tour de France, not four days from the end.

The team that played their cards to absolute perfection today was Saxo Bank. They knew today could potentially be a big day for them, especially with two Paris-Roubaix winners (Fabian Cancellara and Stuart O’Grady) on the team. Andy Schleck has said all along that he’s a pretty good rider on the cobblestones, and he proved it today. Having Cancellara to follow is a definite benefit, but Andy showed tremendous skill of his own to be able to stay right with him. The team kept the pace incredibly high and splintered the peloton over the cobblestones. Cadel Evans had a great ride in the front group and now sits as the top-placed yellow-jersey contender. Bradley Wiggins, too, had a great ride to erase much of the deficit he suffered during the prologue a few days ago. And Alberto Contador, the man who had never before raced over the cobblestones of Northern France, rode impressively through terrain and conditions that are not ideal for him.

As the peloton recovers and recuperates tonight from four days of hard and stressful racing, the big question is what happens next? Looking at the standings, what’s most telling to me is that the pre-race favorites are separated by significant, but not dramatic, time gaps. Lance is 1:51 behind Evans, but less than a minute behind Schleck, Contador, and Wiggins. It’s also important to realize that the gaps between Schleck and Contador, and between Evans, Schleck, and Contador, are between 20-40 seconds. Normally at this point in the Tour de France, especially a Tour that begins with a relatively short prologue, the favorites are bunched very close together in terms of time. When gaps are very small in the first week, riders tend to be conservative. When only one rider has lost time, it can be difficult to get any cooperation from other riders and teams. But with more of a spread, there may be a lot of riders and teams motivated to close those gaps – or open them, in some cases – even before the mountains begin. I have a feeling the peloton will take the opportunity to have a slight break tomorrow (the stage is very well suited for a long breakaway that gets reeled in before the finish to set up a bunch sprint), but after that the racing may become quite aggressive again.

There were two performances today that might unfortunately get overlooked due to the attention being paid to the stage’s impact on the pre-race favorites. Ryder Hesjedal and Tyler Farrar, although they finished at opposite ends of the pack, had very impressive rides in Stage 3. Garmin-Transitions suffered some demoralizing blows yesterday with the loss of Christian Vande Velde to broken ribs and the fractured wrist to Farrar. But rather than lament on their misfortune, the team rallied and nearly won the stage.

Hesjedal was absolutely flying over the cobblestones [leading for most of the stage, and scoring 4th in the final sprint – ed.]! Far behind him, Farrar showed a lot of grit and determination to complete the stage at all. Even a hairline fracture in the hand or wrist is extremely painful for a cyclist, because the vibration from the road – even smooth roads – causes constant pain. Racing over cobblestones with a broken wrist had to have been excruciating, and I greatly admire Tyler’s courage. I only hope that his wrist recovers enough in the coming days that he’ll be able to grip the bars with enough strength to challenge for a stage win later in the Tour.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Tyler Hamilton - Race Day Calories


By: Tyler Hamilton

Last month, I watched the Giro d’Italia with THT’s program director, KK. She was asking me a MILLION questions about the race. While answering her questions, I mentioned to her that I had ridden the race in 2002 and had placed 2nd overall behind Italian Paolo Savodelli. “Why didn’t you win?” she asked. So I explained…

I started stage #17, the last mountain stage of the 2002 Giro d’Italia in 3rd place overall. I was 18 seconds behind race leader, Cadel Evans, and 30 seconds ahead of Paolo Savodelli. This was a tough 222km stage that ended with a 20km finishing climb up the Passo Folgaria. We had been in the saddle for over 7 hours and with 6km to go, I realized that Evans was suffering real bad. At that point, I was feeling great and since many of the favorites, including Dario Frigo (who was in 2nd place overall) had been dropped, I knew that this was my opportunity to win the Giro. I accelerated and immediately dropped the race leader. From there, all I had to do was maintain my rhythm and I would ride myself into the lead by the finish line. However, within one or two kilometers, I went from feeling super to feeling like I had no ‘gas left in the tank’. Basically, I had run out of sugar and ‘hit the wall’ from not eating enough throughout the day. Unfortunately, Paolo Savodelli came flying by me like a freight train and there was nothing I could do except watch him ride away and into the Giro’s pink leader’s jersey. I lost 2 minutes to Savoldelli in those final 5 kilometers and lost the Giro d’Italia. I was devastated.

Here’s what I learned…

Remember that fueling your body is a pivotal part of your race strategy. I was so focused and excited on that final climb that I forgot to continue with fueling my body. No matter how good you feel or whatever the situation, you need to be disciplined enough to continuously give your body the calories it needs. From that day on, I have always made it a priority to be aware of the amount of calories that I need to consume. Make sure you stay acutely aware of your calorie intake and to stay ABOVE that threshold.

Maintaining your blood sugar by an adequate caloric intake is an important tool in your race day arsenal. Make sure that you don’t forget!

Happy 4th of July! I hope everyone enjoys the holiday weekend.

Take care,

-Ty

Ivan Basso: Ready and Relaxed


It has been five years since Ivan Basso was last at the Tour de France, and one could sense that it was a special moment for the Liquigas rider as he prepared for the first big show of the event in Rotterdam, the official team presentation held on Thursday afternoon.

"I'm very happy to be here," smiled the winner of the 2010 Giro d'Italia as he sat down with us waiting for his team's call to ride over the Erasmus bridge and onto the podium, surrounded by a substantial crowd. "It's a fantastic moment to be back after five years. We haven't started the race yet, but I am very eager to do my best."

After being excluded from the race one day before the start of the 2006 Tour, and having completed a suspension for his involvement in Operacion Puerto, the Italian raced three Grand Tours before coming back to the French event this year. But what has been a slow come-back for him may also play to his advantage, as his build-up back to the highest level was made steadily.

"After my Giro victory I'm very motivated to do well at the Tour again," he continued. "I hope to have three really good weeks. My form is good, but not super yet. But I know it will rise during the next weeks. I am confident."

Liquigas' plan is for Basso to score another podium placing at this Tour, after finishing third in 2004 and second one year later. "I'm ready - but I also think everybody is ready! There are the world's best riders at the start, so it will be difficult to achieve [a podium placing]. But this is our objective," he confirmed.

The 2010 Tour de France is thus a very open one, despite public attention focusing mostly on defending champion Alberto Contador (Astana) and Lance Armstrong (RadioShack), going for what would be a more than legendary eighth Tour de France victory. Basso noted that there were many other contenders for a top GC placing this year, including the Schleck brothers (Saxo Bank), World champion Cadel Evans (BMC) and Olympic champion Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel), to mention but a few and in no particular order.

"Alberto is the great favourite, of course," Basso commented. "But there are many riders this year that are ready to fight for the podium. What Alberto has done in the last years is impressive - still, we all need to believe that we can beat him."

The Italian was not fazed by the prospect of Northern Europe sidewinds or cobblestones, which could have a serious impact on General Classification in the first week of racing. "I had a lot of training on these grounds - last year at the Vuelta, this year at the Giro. I'm ready," he assured.

Bu the most important thing to him, insisted the Italian, was to enjoy being back at the Tour de France and to compete in the event without pressure, as he has already one Grand Tour win in his pocket this year. "I think I can do a great Tour de France," he said. "I'll definitely go for a stage win, and I hope for the podium. Whether I can win? Maybe not. But I don't want to think too much about this right now. Honestly, I have no pressure, and I don't want to limit myself to this or that objective right now. I just want to ride."

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Lance Armstrong and Ivan Basso test Tour de France cobbles


Lance Armstrong is convinced that the sections of cobbles during next Tuesday's third stage of the Tour de France could play a more for critical outcome in this year's race than has so far been predicted.

Armstrong and number of the other major contenders for Tour de France stopped to sample the cobbles on their way to the start in Rotterdam. A pedal may not yet have been turned in anger, but the psychological warfare began in earnest, when Lance Armstrong decreed via Twitter that stage three is “Going. To. Be. Carnage.”

Armstrong tested the seven sections of cobbles that punctuate the last 65km of the stage to Arenberg accompanied by his RadioShack teammates.

Speaking to La Gazzetta dello Sport after the ride, the Texan was enthusiastic about the stage. “It’s going to be a critical day. I predict that there’ll be twenty or thirty riders left in front. There’s no comparison with the stage to Wasquehal in 2004: there are more sectors of pavé, they’re harder and they’re closer to the finish.”

If past form is anything to go by, Armstrong and RadioShack can be expected to attack on the road to Arenberg in a bid to distance some of his rivals, with Alberto Contador the top of the list. In 2004 Tour, Armstrong used the cobbles to end Iban Mayo’s challenge in the opening daysof the race. He made similar gains on the Passage du Gois in 1999 and in the crosswinds en route to La Grande-Motte last year.

Armstrong denied suggestions that he is a man under pressure, given that it is his last Tour and his last chance to add a final chapter to his legacy.

“Pressure? The opposite. Less pressure”, he told La Gazzetta. “I feel excited, I feel ready, and it’s going to be great to try and win the Tour for the eighth time. These are three weeks in which I want to enjoy myself”.

Armstong went on to refer obliquely to the recent Landis allegations. “The most important thing is to be authentic. Nowadays in sport, nobody believes in anything anymore, even if you ride strong and are tested a hundred times a year. People doubt it when Bolt breaks the 100m record or Federer wins so many Grand Slams. It’s hard to fight against scepticism. No show, what you see is what’s there."

Astana, Team Sky, Saxo Bank and the Cervelo TestTeam also rode on the cobbles before heading to Rotterdam, studying the key sections and deciding wheel, tyres and tyre pressure.

Basso rode alongside teammate Roman Kreuziger. Basso will be riding his first Tour since being excluded before the 2006 race for his part in Operacion Puerto.

He was initially surprised by the severity of the cobbled sector of Sars-et-Rosieres. “It was a shock”, he said. “I thought to myself ‘if this is the easy section, that’s a good start! I became more confident between the first and last parts. But it’s one thing to ride it as a pair, quite another when you’re in the middle of the peloton.”

Other teams testing themselves on the cobbles yesterday included HTC-Columbia, Sky, Cervelo and Saxo Bank. Sky’s Simon Gerrans said afterwards, “I have even more respect for the guys who ride Paris-Roubaix every year”, while Andreas Kloden (RadioShack) described the last 30km as “incredible”.

Meanwhile, Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank), still suffering the effects of last week’s training accident, had an uncomfortable time on the cobbles. He tweeted that the ride was “not easy at all special [sic] with my wounds on my hands! Ouch!”

And Tour favourite Alberto Contador? He was shadow-boxing on the cobbles as long ago as April, with 2003 Paris-Roubaix winner Peter Van Petegem as a sparring partner. In the anxious game of inches that is the Tour’s first week it seems that every little advantage helps.