Friday, July 31, 2009

Low Carbohydrate Training

By Neal Henderson

For years, well intentioned coaches and exercise physiologists have given endurance athletes very strong recommendations to ensure high carbohydrate intake during training and racing to optimize performance. Some recent experimental evidence and the actual practice of some very successful athletes has many of us rethinking our previous advice especially in regard to training. As a coach, I sometimes encourage my athletes to purposefully deplete glycogen stores during training or to limit the intake of carbohydrate during certain endurance training sessions. One of the researchers who has studied this idea presented a keynote lecture at the American College of Sports Medicine conference in Denver a couple of years ago regarding this practice titled: “Train low, compete high”. At the time I was a little resistant, but the idea intrigued me – especially based on the scientific findings.

It’s long been understood that a limiting factor to endurance racing is the sparing of stored glycogen. Athletes cannot consume carbohydrates at the same rate they can burn carbohydrates. So when the exercise bout is long enough glycogen stores are depleted and exercise performance suffers. The theory is that depleting glycogen during specific exercise bouts allows the body to become more efficient at utilizing fat. It can take many weeks for the body to adapt to low glycogen levels. The downside is that with low glycogen levels it is difficult to conduct high intensity training sessions since these require glycogen (carbohydrates) almost exclusively. What the researchers propose is varying the intensity and the diet so high intensity exercise bouts are done with high glycogen content and long slow endurance training sessions are done with low glycogen content. This will help the body adapt to a more efficient substrate utilization that can correlate to a sparing glycogen and enhanced endurance. This ability to sustain endurance with a higher reliance on fat utilization through training adaptation can play a key role in reducing gastric distress associated with the need to consume high levels of carbohydrates for long endurance sessions like Ironman, Ultra running or Century rides.

In one of the studies that supports this idea, Bente Pederson of the University of Copenhagen in Denmark looked at the responses to endurance training using an interesting model. The subjects served as their own controls by having one leg train each day for 1 hour and while the other leg trained twice a day for an hour at each session every other day. All subjects ate a controlled diet with 70% carbohydrate, 15% fat, and 15% protein content throughout the 10-week study. The total amount of training undertaken was equal in both groups, and the increases in maximal workload during a progressive exercise test was equal in both as well. The biggest difference in performance was found in a time to exhaustion test while exercising at 90% of maximum power, which was increased nearly twice (190%) as long for the twice a day training group compared to the daily 1 hour training group. It is interesting to note that the resting muscle glycogen content in the leg when performing the 2nd training session in the two a day group was significantly lower at the start of each session. There were also significantly increased mitochondrial and other metabolic enzyme levels in the twice a day group leading the authors to conclude that training with low muscle glycogen content increased both the responses to endurance training and performance in a sub-maximal endurance task. (Pederson et al, 2005)

This practice seems to be supported by the records and anecdotal practice of many very successful endurance athletes including Miguel Indurain (five time winner of the Tour de France), some Kenyan distance runners, and from American professional cyclist Tom Danielson in a recent interview on Often, the goal of these training practices is to improve the ability to use fat as a fuel source and spare glycogen stores. There is also support for this idea in the training practices of elite athletes by looking at the distribution of their training intensity. Several studies show extremely large portions of training occurring at fairly low intensity, with just a small percentage of training actually occurring at a high intensity. The studies which have shown these practices include elite performers in cycling, running, and rowing. (Seiler and Kjerland, 2006; Lucia et al, 2007; Schumacher and Mueller, 2002; and Doust et al, 2006)

Another even more recent study using running as a training model replicated the findings of increase endurance enzyme activity after 6-weeks of training but did not find an associated improvement in endurance performance. (Drust et al, 2009) This study did not necessarily have their subjects train with low glycogen content, though, they simply did not have one group take in any carbohydrate beverage during training while the control group did. From what I see in the research, it is the training that is performed with low glycogen content in the muscles that is key to the positive signaling and adaptive responses. It is well known that reducing carbohydrate intake during training increases the body’s ability to oxidize fats. It is also well known that very high intensity training which relies almost exclusively on carbohydrate as fuel can only be performed with adequate glycogen stores. In order to maximize both performance during high intensity interval sessions and also maximize the body’s metabolic responses to endurance exercise it might be helpful to vary your training sessions relative to glycogen content.

My suggestion would be to undertake high intensity interval training with relatively high glycogen content…and ideally, to perform these training sessions in the morning. Meaning, you want to be well fueled (high glycogen content) prior to the start of your high intensity training sessions. For multisport athletes, you should vary which sports you do in these morning sessions to ensure that each sport has appropriate high intensity sessions in your workout plan. Some days the morning high intensity session is focused on swimming, some days running and some days cycling. In order to prepare for your lower glycogen content workout later in the day it is important NOT to fully replenish lost glycogen. I would recommend eating a diet containing a low to moderate carbohydrate content (around 40 to 50% of total calories) after these sessions. Then, later in the day a longer but significantly lower intensity session focused on building pure endurance should be performed later in the day with little to no carbohydrate intake during the session (0- 40 grams per hour.). After the longer session, a high glycemic recovery drink or a more typical moderately high to high carbohydrate meal should be eaten (60-70% carbohydrate content). Following this session the goal is to fully replenish lost glycogen so you are fully fueled and prepared for your high intensity training session. For athletes who only train once per day, you could modify this strategy to include a high intensity interval session on the first day and then eat the low to moderate carbohydrate meals following this session. The next day, your training session should be the low intensity longer duration workout with limited carbohydrate intake. After this session is completed, then a moderate high to high carbohydrate diet should be maintained.

*This change in training fueling strategy may take 6-8 weeks before a significant adaptation can occur.


High Intensity Training Session: Begin session well fueled with glycogen stores topped off. Finish session and do not consume a recovery drink. Instead consume a balanced meal with only 40%-50% of calories coming from carbohydrates.

Low Intensity long training session: Begin session low to moderately fueled, where glycogen stores do not need to be topped off. Consume about 20-40g carbohydrates per hour (about one serving of EFS drink) which should be less carbohydrates than you would normally consume. The goal is to exercise and finish the session with relatively low glycogen stores. Following this session immediately begin to replenish lost stores through the use of a well formulated recovery drink and/or high glycemic foods.

Racing: During your racing you should consume 50g+ of carbohydrates per hour. With proper substrate adaptation this should be sufficient to fuel you for long endurance races.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Horner to ride Elk Grove solo

By: Kirsten Robbins

Chris Horner (Astana) is back to race his fourth Tour of Elk Grove, a three-stage race set to begin today in Chicago, Illinois. The National Racing Calendar (NRC) event has attracted the top elite teams in the nation who are eyeing the $125,000 prize purse and the series’ points. According to Horner, it’s going to be tough to win without teammates but he’s will try regardless.

“I’ve been doing it since it started, it always comes after the Tour de France or when there isn’t a lot going on,” Horner said. “I get three days of great racing in and then head back over to Europe. They do a great job here and it has the biggest prize list in all the country.

“If I had the choice between doing a top quality race like this one or another local race, I’d fly to the top quality race every time,” said Horner. “Elk Grove Village mayor Craig Johnson puts this race on and he is so stocked to have the guys in.”

Horner’s team-mate Levi Leipheimer considered flying in to Chicago for the race before his untimely accident during the Tour de France where he broke his wrist. Racing alone means he will have to play his cards close to his chest against some heavy-hitting domestic sprinters and all-rounders over three day event.

“It’s going to be tough because I don’t have a sprinter and I’m certainly not a sprinter,” Horner laughed. “I’m going to try to win the time trial tomorrow. What ever happens after that, I will have to change the plans constantly according to what’s playing out each day.

“I can’t just drive it all day like I normally do,” he added. “That’s impossible at this level. I’ll have to pick the strongest team and go off their best GC guys. If there’s a sprinter in the top three after tomorrow - Then I think that’s who I’ll keep my eye on.”

Horner may be without team-mates but he is not without race support. Significant other and former cyclist Megan Elliot will try her hand at supporting hubby throughout the tour.

“She’s going to be my mechanic and soigneur and the go-to person,” said Horner, who noted that he will not be allowed to have a follow-vehicle during Saturday’s road race. “If this race is what it was like last year, I don’t think it’s possible to get back on if you have a mechanical. It’s flat out fast from the gun without a team car, to get back on? No way!”

Once back over in Europe Horner’s main focus will be on preparing for the Vuelta a Espana with his Astana team. He will not participate in the Tour of Missouri.

“I won’t be doing Missouri,” Horner confirmed. “I wouldn’t mind doing it but, I was having a fantastic Giro when I broke the leg and then I wasn’t selected to the Tour team. The Vuelta is my big Grand Tour goal this year.”

Ten reasons to love yoga!

If you think yoga is just for gentle relaxation, think again. Today more athletes are learning the many dimensions of performance that can be improved by adding yoga to their training.

Want to improve your running, cycling, swimming, baseball, golf, tennis of basketball game? Look to the 5,000-year-old secret that is giving professional athletes an edge over their competition. Whether you do the Iyengar, Ashtanga, Viniyoga or another style of Hatha yoga, it can help improve your overall state of well being as well as your athletic performance. Here are 10 benefits yoga practice can bring to your sport, no matter what it is.

1. Improves Flexibility. Increasing your flexibility with yoga leads to more ease of movement and fewer injuries. It enables you to move more freely with a greater range of motion. The more freedom your body has to move into the positions necessary for your sport(s), the more quickly you can do so, with less effort, strain of risk of injury.

2. Improves Balance. Many sports, because of their quickness and/or concentration, require your body to be able to move in any direction with ease within a split second. If your body is off balance and the upper half of the body feels disconnected from the lower half, your response time increases. Many yoga postures require you to find your center, that is your balance. Through the conscious practicing of balancing postures, your body learns where its center is and how to find it rapidly.

3. Increases Mental Focus. Many athletes will share that they play a mental game; either their mind was or wasn't "in the game." Yoga teaches the discipline of being present in the moment through the physical postures and breath work. In learning to hold postures, you automatically become more clear in your mind. You learn to focus on what is happening that moment in your body, breath and mind. This skill of learning to be in the moment will not only help improve your athletic game by allowing you to stay focused on the task at hand, but it will also help bring more joy into your life.

4. Increases Strength. Yoga uses your own body as the weight you lift or hold. Many yoga postures require many major and minor muscle groups to be used simultaneously. In some it feels like every muscle in your body is being used! This is much different than traditional weight training in which you isolate one or two muscle groups per exercise. The strengthening in yoga requires your entire body to be working as a unit so the strengthening of one muscle group is connected to that of another muscle group. This improves your overall sense of strength from a centered, connected place. You'll find it much easier to move quickly and effortlessly in sports when your whole body feels strong as a unit.

5. Improves Your Mind/Body Connection. In yoga you learn to listen to your body through your mind and learn to quit your mind through your body. The breath is the essential tool used to unite body and mind. The word "yoga" means to yoke, establish a relationship with each other that affects every area of your life. The more you tune into the mind/body connection, the more awareness you have of your movement and your state of being. With this tool, you can assess where your mind is when you are playing your sport and draw your mind and body back into union if they become separate. This helps you prepare to be present in whatever sport you are playing.

6. Reduces Stress. One of the quickest and most significant benefits of yoga is the effect it has on reducing stress. How does this affect athletic performance? When you are stressed out, your body holds onto that stress. It can be held in the neck, back, hamstrings, stomach, head - just about anywhere. Tense muscles decrease flexibility and energy and increase pain and risk of injury. Yoga helps release stress in your body and mind so the body has more freedom to perform at its best with the least amount of pain.

7. Improves Posture. Yoga strengthens the core muscles in your torso, specially those that support your spine. Unlike a typical fitness routine, practically every posture in yoga has a positive effect on the spine. Keeping the spine flexible and strong is one of the highest purposes of yoga. The stronger and more flexible your spine is the more your posture falls into proper alignment. The alignment becomes effortless rather than effortful and thus your posture improves. As yoga helps to improve posture, the body begins to move in proper alignment which is where the body is naturally supposed to be. This impacts every aspect of how you move, especially in sports where you are most challenged to be quick, strong and balanced.

8. Increases Kinesthetic Awareness. Through yoga you begin to discover and explore kinesthetic awareness, that is, where your body is in space. You learn to place your body in exact positions and know when it is in the correct place. This is at the core of leaning to balance and move your body as a unit aware of the space around you. It has a wonderful effect on your game because it also helps you be more aware of both your teammates and your opposition.

9. Improves Agility. Almost every one of the above mentioned aspects of yoga assists in improving your agility. The combination of total body strength, flexibility, posture, balance and kinesthetic awareness is aimed at improving your body's ability to move freely, quickly and without pain or stiffness. This, of course, is what is most important to athletes and most likely one of the main reasons to practice yoga for your athletic performance.

10. Improves Sportsmanship. Aside from the physical and mental aspects of yoga, there is also a spiritual element. Basically, yoga teaches you about connection with yourself and all living things. Through the discovery and realization of the connection that all living things have to each other, and element of camaraderie, non-violence and peace begins to shine through. So, no matter if you win or lose, you can be injury free, agile and live with a sense of appreciation for your competitors and a feeling of peace.

Voigt on the road to recovery after Tour crash

Jens Voigt has issued a video message to his fans thanking them for all of their support and good wishes after his crash on stage 16 of this year's Tour de France.

The video was recorded in the hospital where Jens is recovering from the injuries he sustained after losing control of his bike on the descent of Col du Petit Saint Bernard in the final week of the Tour. The extent of Voigt's injuries can be clearly seen in the clip.

"Hello, it's me," Voigt says in the video. "It's Jens, and I'm still alive... to the surprise of some people." "Thanks for the support you gave me, thanks for the millions of letters. I'm doing better than expected. And I will be back riding soon."

Millions of television viewers witnessed the crash on live television. The German Saxo Bank rider lay unconscious on the road after the incident and was taken to Grenoble hospital where it was discovered that he had fractured his cheekbone as well as suffering from severe cuts and concussion.

Voigt expressed his regrets at missing the Tour of Denmark (July 29-August 2), but hinted that if his recovery goes well he may ride in the Tour of Ireland on August 21-23, 2009.

Click on the title link to watch the video.

Lance Armstrong - Onward to Leadville!

By: Chris Carmichael

Another Tour de France is in the books, and it’s time to turn our attention to 2010. Well, almost. First, there’s another “big” goal on the horizon – the Leadville 100. Lance Armstrong will be the first rider in history to use the Tour de France as a tune-up race for the Leadville 100, and with a few weeks of rest and practice on the mountain bike, I think he has a pretty good chance of challenging six-time Leadville champion Dave Weins for the title.

In reality, while the initial plans for the 2010 season are already in the works, it’s going to be a little while before Lance and I sit down and really pore through the data from 2009. I’ve learned over the years that it’s a good idea to get some distance from the event before going back and analyzing it. Right now, it’s too fresh in everyone’s mind, and you end up micro-analyzing every little detail if you start the process too early. So, it will probably be in about two weeks, or the week before the Leadville 100, when we really delve into the details of what went right and wrong with Lance’s training this year and what we can tweak heading into next year.

One thing I know for sure is that the races Lance competed in – and the additional ones he will compete in – this year will have a big influence on his performance in 2010. I told him when we started this comeback journey that if he decided to race for two years, he would almost certainly be better in year two. With two Grand Tours in his legs, plus a bevy of shorter races, he will go into the fall and winter with a fitness level far greater than he had in the fall of 2008.

Grand Tours have always been a major component of Lance’s Tour de France preparation. Even before his first Tour de France victory in 1999, the 1998 Tour of Spain was crucial for developing the fitness and power needed to raise his performance level headed into the 1999 season.

Lance’s performance in the 2009 Tour de France was exceptional. While there are some who see his third-place finish as a failure based on the dominance he once displayed, I believe those people simply fail to grasp the magnitude of his achievement. Third place at the Tour de France this year wasn’t something we talked about as a realistic goal. At the end of the Giro d’Italia, I thought a top-10 finish at the Tour de France would be good. After seeing how well Lance adapted to the stress of the Giro and the bump in fitness that he achieved in the weeks following the race, I upgraded my expectations and thought that a top-5 finish at the Tour was within reach. I didn’t expect to see Lance standing on the podium in Paris, and the fact that he was there today bodes very well for what he may be able to accomplish in 2010.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Lululemon Walnut Creek hosts Tour de France Spin Challenge

Leave it to lululemon to continually come up with unique ideas to get the community involved in health and fitness! The month of July was dedicated to celebrating the Tour de France at the Walnut Creek store. Community members and staff were invited to log hours on the two spin bikes that live at the store.

Each day people would come in, get a great workout and compete against one another for great prizes. It created quite the buzz in the community and definitely created a great vibe in the store. The overall winner was a staff member named Diane Mateus who pre lululemon had never even been on a spin bike. She was inspired by everyone who was getting involved and ended up logging the most hours. Mateus now has her sights set on completing her first triathlon in September - a goal she set for herself since being employed at the Walnut Creek store.

They also have a August run series which meets every thursday night at 6:00 PM to run the upper ridge trail (Lafayette Reservoir) followed by a BBQ party.

Make sure to check them out at 1201 S. Main St. Ph. 925-274-1253

CrossVegas registration begins August 1

The 2009 edition of CrossVegas is scheduled for Wednesday, September 23 in Las Vegas following the first day of the Interbike trade show, with online registration beginning August 1 at

Heading into its third year, CrossVegas has become a fixture on the U.S. cyclocross calendar, attracting almost 10,000 spectators to the stadium setting of Desert Breeze Soccer Complex in Las Vegas. Lance Armstrong raced the 2008 event, attracting record crowds of spectators and media.

Registration is limited for each category to 100 racers and is expected to fill rapidly.

The event offers divisions for Men, Women, Media, Manufacturer, Retailer, Distributor and Advocacy. New this year will be Wheelers & Dealers number pickup at the CrossVegas booth at Interbike on Wednesday allowing racers a chance to avoid the rush at race time. Also, the Wheelers & Dealers start time has been bumped to 7 p.m. to give racers and fans more time to get to the event after the show ends.

In addition to competitor registration, will offer general admission ticket sales for the event of US$8 per person, to cover the expense of fencing mandated by park authorities.

“We’re victims of our own success,” explained CrossVegas co-promoter Brook Watts. “There have been serious traffic hazards created by fans parking in adjacent businesses and jaywalking major thoroughfares. As a result the fencing was required to mitigate the traffic issues as well as control fans hauling in prohibited beverages.”

Food and beverages sales, including beer, are available at CrossVegas beginning at 6 p.m. In addition, Interbike will again provide a free shuttle bus throughout the night from The Sands Convention Center.

“It’s the best bargain in Vegas,” Watts said. “What else can you do in Las Vegas for eight bucks? If you’ve been to CrossVegas you know what an incredible show it is. If you’ve never been, then you’ve got to come see the biggest race in the U.S.”

For more information, visit

Ivan Basso headlines strong Vuelta field

Last year’s winner Alberto Contador – still celebrating his Tour de France victory – has confirmed he will not defend his Vuelta title.

Runner-up Levi Leipheimer, recovering from his crash at the Tour, and third-place Carlos Sastre, exhausted after racing four consecutive grand tours, are both steering clear of the Spanish tour.

That leaves a huge vacuum that several top names will be jostling to fill.

Several major stars have already confirmed they will be at the start-line August 29 in Holland, assuring a heated battle for the GC and in the sprints for the 64th running of the Spanish tour.

Among the top GC contenders expected to race the Vuelta include Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank), Ivan Basso (Liquigas), Alejandro Valverde and Oscar Pereiro (Caisse d’Epargne), Samuel Sánchez and Igor Anton (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Chris Horner (Astana) Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto), Tom Danielson and Daniel Martin (Garmin-Slipstream) and Robert Gesink (Rabobank).

And, if rumors are true, Alexander Vinokourov (Astana), who could be back to grand tour racing after serving his two-year racing ban for blood transfusions during the 2007 Tour.

Sprinters and head-bangers heading to Spain include reigning world champion Alessandro Ballan and Damiano Cunego (Lampre), Svein Tuft (Garmin-Slipstream), Daniele Bennati (Liquigas), Tom Boonen (Quick Step), Oscar Freire (Rabobank), André Greipel (Columbia-HTC), Fabian Cancellara, JJ Haedo and Jacob Fugslang (Saxo Bank) and Robert Forster (Milram).

Start lists among the 21 starting teams will continue firm up in the coming weeks as sport directors take stock of who’s up for the task, especially among riders who’ve recently completed the Tour.

The Vuelta is often used as a high-speed training camp for riders looking ahead to success in the world championships and Giro di Lombardia. That’s certainly the case for riders like Boonen, Freire and Ballan.

Andy Schleck, runner-up and white jersey winner at the recent Tour, is among those who have also stated clearly they’re not going to the Vuelta to win.

“I will be at the Vuelta, but not with the intention of trying to win,” Schleck told La Gazzetta dello Sport. “I want to do well at the world championships and Lombardia, and the Vuelta is ideal preparation for that.”

That doesn’t mean that this year’s battle for the GC shouldn’t prove interesting, especially if the unpredictable Vinokourov is back in the mix, because several big names will start with the clear intention of winning.

Among those setting high goals for the Vuelta are: Basso, fifth in his grand tour comeback at the Giro d’Italia in May following his Puerto ban; Gesink, who crashed out of the Tour; Sánchez, who skipped the Tour to focus on trying to win the Vuelta; and Valverde, whose Puerto ban in Italy kept him out of the Tour.

It will also be interesting to see how certain riders step up to the challenge of having a leadership option at the Vuelta. Leipheimer kick-started his career when he rode as a relative unknown to third in the 2001 Vuelta in what was his grand tour debut.

Riders such as Garmin’s Martin, Michael Albasini (Columbia-HTC), Saxo Bank’s Fugslang and FDJeux’s Rémy Di Gregorio could take the ball and run with it, all the way to Madrid, where the Vuelta ends Sept. 20.

The 64th Vuelta starts in Assen, Holland on August 29 with a total of four stages in Holland and Belgium before the entire peloton flies to Tarragona along the Mediterranean Coast to hit Spanish roads.

The route hugs the Med, tackling such decisive climbs as Alto de Aitana (Stage 8), Alto de Velefique (Stage 12), Sierra Nevada (Stage 13) and La Pandera (Stage 14) before pushing north toward Madrid.

Two individual time trials, 30km in Valencia in Stage 7, and 26km in Toledo in Stage 20, should help settle the GC in what’s being hailed as a climber’s Vuelta.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Where will Alberto Contador land?

By Andrew Hood

Alberto Contador is still celebrating his dominant Tour de France victory, but speculation about where he will race in 2010 will be fueling the rumor mill for weeks to come.

While he’s been linked to moves to Garmin-Slipstream or Caisse d’Epargne, what is clear is that he will not join Lance Armstrong and Johan Bruyneel on the new RadioShack team for 2010.

“What’s sure, it will be on a different team than Lance,” Contador said. “We’ll see what we can do, whether it’s a new team or find a team that is 100 percent behind me to confront this race to win it again.”

Whether he likes to admit it or not, Contador will be missing the Armstrong-Bruyneel tandem in 2010.

The Belgian director is bringing many of the team’s top riders as well as most of the infrastructure, mechanics, sport directors and other support staff – much of it left over from the U.S. Postal Service and Discovery Channel days -- with him to RadioShack.

Riders expected to follow Armstrong and Bruyneel are Levi Leipheimer, Yaroslav Popovych, Andreas Kloden, Chris Horner, Haimar Zubeldia and others such as Janez Brajkovic and Tomas Vaitkus.

Those names alone create a strong base for a grand tour squad, especially if there’s another team time trial in next year’s Tour.

Gone, too, will be Bruyneel’s collective acumen on what it takes to win a grand tour.

Contador might be the most successful grand tour rider in a generation, but right now, he’s a champion without a team.

Still tied to Astana
Contador still has one year left on his contract with Astana, but with the team’s future anything but certain, the Spanish climber is going to be weighing all his options in the coming weeks.

The departure of all the horsepower as part of the Bruyneel-Armstrong exodus leaves behind a shell of team at Astana.

All that remains is the Contador’s clan (Sergio Paulinho, Benjamin Noval, Jesus Hernandez and Dani Navarro) on one side speaking Spanish and a bunch of Kazakhs on the other, without a strong sport director like the polyglot Bruyneel to keep them all pedaling in the same direction.

If Contador stays, he won’t have Armstrong to butt heads with, but could run headlong into the returning Alexander Vinokourov.

Astana always was and always will be the team built for Kazakh national hero Vinokourov, who is coming off a two-year doping suspension and fully expects to return to Astana as the team’s star and focus.

Co-habitation with Vinokourov could prove troublesome for Contador simply because Vinokourov’s presence on the team could risk another veto by Tour organizers in 2010, which is the last thing Contador wants to risk after being unable to defend his title in 2008.

Unless Astana comes to the table with a huge offer and guarantees that he can keep his loyal riders with him, expect Contador to try to break his remaining year with the Kazakhs.

The Kazakhs, however, might not be so keen to let him go. The French sports daily L’Equipe reported Tuesday that Contador will have a lucrative offer to stay with the team for three to four more years.

Formula 1 option in fast lane?
The ideal for Contador would be a new Spanish-backed team built entirely around his skinny legs.

The presence of Spanish Formula 1 star Fernando Alonso at Monaco for the start of the Tour fueled speculation in the Spanish media that he is working on a project to back a new Spanish team centered on Contador.

The Spanish sports daily MARCA said the deal is ready to move forward, with Spanish bank Santander and Renault lined up as title sponsors.

Alonso is a keen cycling fan and indicated he would like to build a Spanish team in the future, but said in a recent interview that he’s too busy racing cars to jump into it this season.

Even if the project is moving forward, building a new team would be a daunting task so late in the season.

With new teams Sky and RadioShack also recruiting riders to fill out their rosters, constructing a Tour-caliber team from scratch wouldn’t be easy, even with big bucks.

To an existing team
As Contador suggested, joining an existing team interested in cherry picking the best grand tour rider in a generation is likely his best option.

Contador might be in for a shock, however, because there are not many teams with the budget or expectations to take on the Spanish climber.

Teams such as Columbia-Highroad, Cervélo TestTeam or Rabobank already have their anointed team captains or simply are not interested in incorporating Contador and his retinue into their existing programs.

A lack of Spanish-backed teams is a major problem south of the Pyrénées. Fuji-Servetto is now a shell without the kind of money to afford Contador’s price-tag and Euskaltel-Euskadi is a team apart, based in Spain’s Basque Country and built around Basque riders, which the pistol-toting Contador is not.

Other teams simply don’t have the budget to shell out Contador’s asking price of 1.5 million to 2 million Euros per year, plus the salaries of the other riders and support staff he would want to bring with him.

One option is Garmin-Slipstream, which was taking a serious look at Contador in the weeks ahead of this year’s Tour when turmoil within the Astana team might have opened the door for Contador’s early exit.

An addition of a co-sponsor at Garmin would open up the necessary money to sign a big name like Contador, but team boss Jonathan Vaughters would not elaborate to journalists’ inquiries last week about a possible deal with Contador.

“Alberto Contador is an incredible rider and would be a fantastic rider to have on any team,” Vaughters told AFP. “But negotiations with riders are not something we would discuss.”

Another likely destination would be Contador’s move to the French-backed, Spanish-based team of Caisse d’Epargne.

Team manager Eusebio Unzue is a veteran mover and shaker within the cycling community and knows a thing or two about winning the Tour, having won five straight titles with Miguel Indurain and one with Pedro Delgado.

The uncertain future of Alejandro Valverde – who is facing the possibility that his two-year ban in Italy for alleged links to the Puerto doping scandal becomes worldwide – and the prospect of getting their hands on the best Spanish grand tour rider since Indurain could prove too tempting for Unzue.

Like Garmin, finding a new co-sponsor that can pony 2 million to 3 million Euros is critical for Unzue to have any chance of getting his hands on the man who has been anointed as Indurain’s heir.

In search of a home
Contador will be need to be very careful about where he goes.

It’s one thing to have the legs to win the Tour, but a strong team organization to protect a captain’s flanks on all fronts is that essential 10th man.

Racing history is full of big names who haven’t won Tours because they’ve been on the wrong team – Cadel Evans is the most recent example of this – and Contador could see his winning ways grind to a halt if he chooses badly.

Contador has been an “orphan” ever since his mentor and advisor Manolo Saíz went down in flames as part of the Operación Puerto scandal.

Bruyneel happily picked up Contador in 2007, but the pair never gelled the same way the Belgian did with Armstrong.

Despite winning the last four grand tours he’s started, Contador is still looking for that confidante and advisor that is so key to long-term success.

Whether he finds it in the coming weeks and months will have huge implications for his future.

Paul Martin - Love Thy Competition

Sunday morning at 7AM I sat on the 95th Street pier jutting out in to the Hudson River, thinking I knew how the NYC Triathlon/ParaTriathlon National Championship was about to unfold. The only one-legged man to ever beat me in a triathlon was sitting 15 feet to my right, five years older than he was when we last raced. That’s only meaningful because that makes him 50, presumably a bit slower that he used to be. However, his comment just minutes before we entered the water, strategically placed perhaps, that he just won the 50-54 age-group (able-bodied) at Brazil’s National Championships left me thinking he hasn’t lost too much.

Historically, he’s always buried in the swim and it’s a flip who’d beat who on the bike and run. This year I figured swimming with the current would deflate his lead some and perhaps I could better him on both the bike and run and we’d have an exciting sprint to the finish.

My 16:34 swim was solid and I came out not too far behind him, in stride with Jeff Glasbrenner and just a few seconds in front of J.P. Theberge, who’s been creeping closer and closer to my finish times over the past several years. For the first time in our many matchups, I was in transition along side Rivaldo, who took longer than I would expect to get out on the bike.

As I’m leaving T1, my aero bottle was all but falling out of its holder, which required me to stop and waste about 30 extremely frustrating seconds trying to fix it. I knew if I didn’t I might potentially suffer far worse losses from dehydration. In the meantime Rivaldo pulled away and both J.P. and Jeff joined me simultaneously in the chase. This was shaping up to be an exciting race. Never before have the first two, never mind the first four BKs, been so close to each other in any world-class triathlon, ever.

In the 12 miles that took us out to Yonkers, I relinquished about five seconds to Rivaldo. After the turnaround I didn’t see J.P. coming the other way, but presumed I had been opening up the gap as he has yet to match me on the bike. No sooner do I wonder just how far back he is, when he passes me! I was sincerely impressed and sincerely appreciate the competition. Rivaldo remained in our sites as the two of us exchanged leads over the next few miles.

Read on the title link.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Lance Armstrong Hits Back At Contador

Biting back ... Lance Armstrong, right, has returned fire to Alberto Contador via Twitter.

Cycling legend Lance Armstrong has hit back at teammate and Tour de France winner Alberto Contador after the Spaniard said their relationship was "non-existent".

Just hours after Contador told a news conference he "never had admiration for [Armstrong] and I never will" the 37-year-old returned fire on his Twitter account.

"Seeing these comments from AC. If I were him I'd drop this drivel and start thanking his team. w/o them, he doesn’t win," Armstrong wrote in the first of a series of Twitter messages aimed at Contador.

"hey pistolero, there is no "i" in "team". what did i say in March? Lots to learn. Restated."

Armstrong also re-posted a message from Belgian former cycling champion Axel Merckx, who wrote: "A champion is also measured on how much he respect[s] his teammates and opponents. You can win a race on your own, not a grand tour."

Contador earlier said his interactions with Armstrong, who came out of retirement to place third in the 2009 event, were strained.

"It was a delicate situation, tense, the two riders who had most weight on the team did not have an easy relationship and that puts the rest of the technical staff and the riders in an uncomfortable position," said the 26-year-old, who also won the Tour in 2007.

But "we knew that if kept cool heads, there would be no big problem".

American obesity rates skyrocket

Obesity rates in the United States rose 37 percent between 1998 and 2006, driving an 89 percent increase in spending on treatments for obesity-related diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and arthritis, according to a recent study published in Health Affairs.

Obesity now accounts for 9.1 percent of all medical spending in the United States, up from 6.5 percent in 1998.

"What we found was the total cost of obesity increased from US$74 billion to maybe as high as US$147 billion today, so roughly double over that time period," said Eric Finkelstein of the non-profit RTI International, who, along with researchers at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), analysed medical cost data with the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

According to a recent Reuters report, an obese Medicare beneficiary spends US$600 more a year on drug costs than a Medicare patient of healthy weight.

The CDC's new obesity prevention strategies aim to address issues such as a lack of access to healthy food in poor neighbourhoods and sedentary lifestyles that contribute to America's obesity epidemic.

"It is critical that we take effective steps to contain and reduce the enormous burden of obesity on our nation," Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told a news conference at a CDC obesity meeting where the study was presented. "Reversing obesity is not going to be done successfully with individual effort. It will be done successfully as a society."

Frieden said soda and sugar-sweetened beverages "play a particular role in the obesity epidemic," noting that Americans consume an extra 150 calories more per day in sugar-sweetened beverages than two to three decades ago.

He said adding a tax to soft drinks might curb consumption, but that was not a position held by the Obama administration.

Obesity-related diseases account for nearly 10 percent of all medical spending in the United States or an estimated US$147 billion a year, U.S. researchers said Monday.

They said obese people spend 40 percent more -- or US$1,429 more per year -- in healthcare costs than people of normal weight.

The CDC outlined 24 new recommendations on how communities can combat obesity in their neighborhoods and schools by encouraging healthier eating and more exercise.

More than 26 percent of Americans are obese, which means they have a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher. BMI is equal to weight in kilograms divided by height in meters squared. A person 5 feet 5 inches tall becomes obese at 180 pounds (82 kg).

For more information, visit

Chris Horner dodges crashes and wishes for tougher conditions

By Luke Seemann

With Sunday's Chicago Criterium dishing out $2,800 in primes, Brad Huff (Jelly Belly) said it felt like a field sprint on every lap, but the Midwestern sprinter saved himself for when it counted, successfully launching a flier from more than a kilometer out to take victory and a $5,000 pay day.

Fan favorite Chris Horner (Astana), excluded from the day's celebration in Paris, skipped the Cascade Cycling Classic to support sponsor SRAM in its hometown. Horner finished midpack, narrowly avoiding a last-lap pileup that took out 2008 winner Adam Bergman (Texas Roadhouse). "I didn't crash. It's all good."

Riding alone and seemingly with a turqoise-and-yellow target on his back, Horner said he had been counting on heat or wind to take a toll on the 185-strong field. He got neither.

"You couldn't ask for a better day to go out and ride your bike, but it's a bad day to race your bike if you're a climber. Give me some heat, some wind — give me something!"

Contador Lashes Out At Armstrong Post Tour

Spanish Tour champion says relationship with Armstrong is 'zero'

Tour de France winner Alberto Contador spoke out against teammate Lance Armstrong, the Tour's third place finisher, in a Madrid press conference on Monday. "My relationship with Lance Armstrong is zero," the 26-year-old Spaniard said, according to AFP. "He is a great rider and has completed a great race but it is another thing on a personal level, where I have never had great admiration for him and I never will."

The 2009 Tour winner described the tension behind the scenes within the Astana team. "On this Tour, the days in the hotel were harder than those on the road. The situation was tense and delicate because the relationship between myself and Lance extended to the rest of the staff. The two riders who had the most weight on the team did not have an easy relationship and that puts the rest of the technical staff and the riders in an uncomfortable position."

While Armstrong acknowledged Contador's undeniable sporting abilities, stating "Alberto was far superior to anyone else in the race this year," his actions on Saturday evening belied a lack of respect for his teammate's impending Tour de France victory. While the Astana team had a party to celebrate the victory Contador would confirm in Paris less than 24 hours away, Armstrong chose to have dinner with people from RadioShack, the title sponsor of Armstrong's new American team for 2010.

In addition to the internal strife endured by Contador throughout the three-week Tour de France, Contador was the victim of a public gaffe during the podium ceremony in Paris on Sunday in which the Danish national anthem was played instead of Spain's. Contador called the incident a "huge blunder" but added that the race organisers had "rectified matters, albeit belatedly."

While Lance Armstrong and Johan Bruyneel have declared their intentions to leave Astana in 2010 for the new American team sponsored by RadioShack, Contador has not publicly revealed his choice of teams for 2010. Contador has one more year in his contract with Astana, but he may seek exit from it in order to join another team. "We'll have to see what happens," said Contador. "I don't know where I will go, but it will clearly be with a team that is 100 percent behind me."

Definition of VO2 max:

VO2 is a term that describes our body's ability to deliver and utilize oxygen. It is a term that is thrown around amongst athletes and doctors alike. To doctors, VO2 can serve as a predictor of mortality in cystic fibrosis or in patients with heart failure. To an athlete, the maximum VO2 uptake is important as a predictor of performance and a measure of the efficacy and progression of training.

Elements of VO2:

Our VO2 at any given time is dependent on three elements controlled by our body: heart rate, stroke volume per beat, and extraction of oxygen from the blood. Our body has the amazing capacity to increase our VO2 from 3 ml/kg/min at rest to over 80 ml/kg/min in athletes at peak exercise.

Mechanisms of Increase:

Our body used both central (heart) and peripheral (muscle, blood) mechanisms to increase our VO2 on demand. Here is how:
Heart Rate:

Our heart has the amazing capacity to beat on its own without any outside input from our heard that right. If our heart were left to beat at its own rate with no input, it would typically beat much faster than it does at rest, but our body slows it down. Thus, the first step in increasing heart rate is removal of the input that slows the heart, and the heart rate increases. This is especially important early in exercise and is almost instantaneous.

The second component to increasing heart rate is epinephrine (adrenaline) released by our adrenal gland as our muscles' oxygen demand continues to increase with higher intensity exercise. This typically takes a little bit longer, and is important in the completion of all-out efforts.

Our body also extracts more oxygen from the blood during exercise. At rest we extract 25% of this oxygen content in our blood, but during exercise this can increase to 85%.

This happens because our red blood cells release more oxygen as the temperature increases and as lactic acid builds up. Also, our blood vessels dilate and more blood is delivered to the area of work under the influence of metabolites produced in the muscle.

Stroke Volume:
This is probably the element most influenced by training over time. Our heart becomes more efficient as it becomes trained, and it can pump more blood with each beat. This is also the explanation for the decreased heart rates you see in athletes. If our heart pumps more with each beat, it doesn't have to pump as many times to meet our demands.

This decreased heart rate in a trained athlete continues into the first stages of exercise, and it stays below that of an untrained person at most exercise intensities. Only near maximum effort does the heart rate finally rise to levels that would meet that of an untrained person, and when it does, that athlete's cardiac output is much higher (equal rates with more volume per beat = higher cardiac output).

This is the protein in our red blood cells that actually caries oxygen. It is also highly affected by training and takes time to change. With increased hemoglobin, our blood can carry more oxygen.

Considering that the usual limitation in reaching VO2 max is oxygen delivery, not oxygen utilization by our muscles, one can see the importance of increasing our blood's capacity to deliver, all in addition to our heart's ability to increase delivery.

Associations with VO2 Max:
Here are some markers that correlate well, either positively or negatively, with one's VO2 max:

HDL cholesterol - this is our "good" cholesterol, and it has a positive association with VO2 max. That is, as HDL cholesterol goes up, VO2 max goes up.

LDL cholesterol, Body Mass Index (BMI), Smoking, and long-term Blood Glucose Levels - quite a long list, no doubt, and all of these factors, from "bad" cholesterol to BMI have a negative impact on VO2 max. As they go up, VO2 max goes down.

A beneficial off season activity is to go to your doctor and have all of those markers checked. As the season goes on and you get them checked again, you have a virtual window into how your VO2 max is coming progressing.

Obviously, these markers are players in much more important things than VO2 max, so it is a good idea to get them checked anyway. This way, you can use them to monitor your training to boot.

How to Measure:
Measuring VO2 is a rather difficult process that requires a great deal of sophisticated instrumentation, in addition to time and effort. This is just another reason why utilizing the aforementioned markers may be a more realistic practice.

In a laboratory, the test can be performed while running, cycling, or rowing; the more muscle mass utilized, the better. The athlete breathes through a machine that senses the difference in oxygen between inspired and expired air, and it measures the volume of expired air. This information, plus a little math, and voila, you've got your calculation.

The test is carried out with increasing intensity over 6 to 12 minutes. This time frame is necessary to let the cardiac response reach a maximum (remember that adrenaline takes some time). The athlete stops the test when at maximum exertion, or it is stopped when VO2 levels out with increasing intensity, and you've got your number.

Another predictor that requires no equipment is the Cooper test. In this test you run 12 minutes all out, and you take the distance you ran (in meters) and subtract 505, then divide that number by 45, and you have a predicted value in ml/kg/min. Again, this is a gross estimation and not as personal as even tracking the progress of your markers.

Get those marker numbers now from your doctor and watch them improve throughout the year.

Twelsiek, Macel Dominate In Victories At Ironman Lake Placid

By Liz Hichens

With only four opportunities remaining to qualify for the Ironman World Championships, Ironman Lake Placid welcomed an International field aching to vie for an opportunity to compete in Kona. While both the men’s and women’s field featured deep talent, Twelsiek and Macel made strong statements on the bike and were uncatchable on the run to earn victories, and slots to Kona.

While it was Macel who beat everyone out of the water, American Matt Lieto was the first man to reach T1 at 51:50. He was followed closely by fellow American Paul Fritzsche and Twelsiek. Twelsiek won the race out of transition and found himself first on the wet roads. From there, Twelsiek made an early statement that he would be looking to win the race. The German never faltered on the bike and continually grew the gap between him and the second place cyclist, Lieto. Lieto also worked hard in the second leg of the race, creating his own gap with the chase pack. Once on the run, Twelsiek’s lead only grew as Lieto faded. The strongest runners in the group, Germany’s Christian Brader and Australia’s Jason Shortis, could not do more than keep pace with Twelsiek, giving the German a win in 8:36:37. Once past Lieto, Brader held position and finished second at 8:56:35. While Shortis looked to be completely out of the race on the bike, coming into T2 in tenth position, he turned in the strongest marathon of the field to earn third at 8:58:09.

In the women’s race, Macel made an early statement by easily beating all of the men and the women, including collegiate All-American swimmer Hillary Biscay, out of the water at 50:48. Biscay was second, followed by last year’s Lake Placid winner Caitlin Snow of the United States and Canadian Samantha McGlone. Macel quickly rode away from her quickest chasers. Canadian Tara Norton looked to be the most capable of catching Macel, but the gap was too large and she came into T2 in second position nearly 22 minutes behind Macel. In the meantime, Snow struggled on the bike and had fallen off the leader board, riding her way into T2 in seventh position. Macel enjoyed a comfortable lead throughout the entire marathon, posting an overall time of 9:29:36 for the victory. Snow posted a marathon time of 2:57:04, by far the best of the women’s field, to run her way to second at 9:41:21. McGlone posted the second fastest marathon, holding position and earning third in a time of 9:44:24.

Ironman Lake Placid
Lake Placid, New York – July 26, 2009
2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, 26.2-run

1. Maik Twelsiek (GER) 8:36:37
2. Christian Brader (GER) 8:56:35
3. Jason Shortis (AUS) 8:58:09
4. Mike Caiazzo (USA) 8:59:57
5. Matt Lieto (USA) 9:02:31

1. Tereza Macel (CZE) 9:29:36
2. Caitlin Snow (USA) 9:41:21
3. Samantha McGlone (CAN) 9:44:24
4. Tamara Kozulina (UKR) 9:56:24
5. Paolina Allan (CAN) 10:05:59

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Sevilla wraps up overall at Cascade Classic

Oscar Sevilla (Rock Racing) captured the overall title but not before helping his teammate Francisco Mancebo move into second place ahead of Jeff Louder (BMC) in third place. "I am very happy to win here in Cascade," said Sevilla, who hopes for another strong performance at the Tour of Utah next month. "I could not have done this without the help from all my teammates. This is an important win for our team Rock Racing, especially because it is a great race in America. It's also important for me - I'm very pleased to win this jersey."


By: Bobke

Riding into Paris after three hard weeks of bike racing is like no other feeling. It's indescribable and the best feeling that any bike racer can feel. When you see the Eiffel Tower and the Arc, the hair stands up on the back of your neck. And the thing that makes it great is that there is no pride to be found in the pack – it's all about giving thanks. Pride detests competition, humility and empathy and those are the things that the Tour de France really rewards. No other sporting event in the world can approach this measure.

The crazy part is that as soon as the peloton enters Paris, the real race is on and those last few laps are ridden at mach ten speeds. It's like a procession of survivors who are forced to withstand one more mighty hammer thrown down upon them.

As For George: I did four Grand Tours and it just about killed me. Here's George finishing his 15th Tour - incredible. I'm amazed at how strong George has remained and just as lance as often said, he is one of the most gifted bike riders in the world. His lead-out today was juicy and you saw it coming - George's payback on Garmin was beautiful. I guess this could be his last Tour de France, we'll have to wait and see...of course there's also the prospect of George riding for Lance one more time.

Biggest Surprise: How strong Lance was. It was outrageous. To wish for such a good race was one thing. To expect it was another. To make it happen is crazy! Whenever he was in trouble he found a way out - Lance has proven to be so proficient at this race it's amazing. The prospect of watching him lead his own team in 2010 already has me licking my chops.

Best Moment: For me personally it was seeing a re-run of the Dave Chappelle show on MTV when I was in my hotel room in Colmar. I needed that dose of humor after a hard day at it. As for the bike race, it would have to be the day Luis Leon Sanchez won Stage 8. It was a masterpiece of intelligence and strength and the way he dispatched his competitors was brilliant. It was probably the most beautifully tactical stage win I've ever commented on.

Worst Moment: Without a doubt that would be watching Jen Voigt's crash on Stage 16. Just horrible. It kicks you in the gut. Imagine jumping out of a car face first in your underwear at 50 mph and you have an idea of what he endured. Lucky for all of us, Jensy is a tough as nails bike racer and he'll be back. It's people like Jens that separate hardcore cyclists from the rest of mankind.

Defining Moment: When Lance fought back on Petit St. Bernard. It makes you think about Lance fighting back for his life against cancer and then you can extrapolate that forward and it really is a life lesson for all of us. We can use that example in way to get through all types of difficult situations. I mean, if he can get through this race, I can certainly get through just talking about it! It's been said a lot, in a lot of different ways, but Lance truly is a two-wheeled hope machine.

As for me, I'm still wearing them high and tight – from a work standpoint it's the only way to survive. This has been a great Tour, but like always, I'm ready to move to Tahiti. Tonight I plan to go commando style. I plan to go ape shizzle through Paris before I hit the hay with my boots on and then make my plane in the morning.

Contador admits Tour difficult with Armstrong

By: Gregor Brown

Spaniard Alberto Contador admitted on Sunday that it was tough to win his second Tour de France riding in the same team as Lance Armstrong.

"It was tough to cope with because we both wanted to win the race and that just does not work within the same team," said Contador. "I had prepared for a difficult Tour and it paid off."

Contador won the Tour de France today, as the final stage concluded in Paris. He finished 4:11 ahead of Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank) and 5:24 in front of his Astana teammate Armstrong.

Armstrong had nearly taken the race lead from Fabian Cancellara when Astana won the team time trial on stage four in Montpellier. At that stage the American was 22-hundredths of a second shy of the race leader's yellow jersey.

The two shared the leadership role until the end of the first week. Contador rode clear of his rivals, and Armstrong, on the Arcalís mountaintop finish in Andorra. He gained 21 seconds on the classification favourites, but Armstrong and Astana's director Johan Bruyneel said he disobeyed orders.

Tension built within the team. "Without a doubt, the day after Andorra was the toughest," Contador said.

One week later, on the next mountaintop finish, he established himself as the team's sole leader. Contador attacked with 5.6 kilometres remaining on the Tour's stage to Verbier, Switzerland, to gain 43 seconds and the leader's yellow jersey.

The rivalry between the two former Tour winners started last September when Armstrong announced his comeback to cycling, within the same team as Contador. Armstrong won his seven Tours under the direction of Bruyneel, but after he retired in 2005, Contador came to the team and won the 2007 Tour.

"The preparation for this win was rather tricky, I had elements working against me, but I kept focused," said Contador. "Do I think Bruyneel wanted Armstrong to win the Tour? That is a very good question."

Bruyneel will part ways with Contador and head a new team with Armstrong for 2010. Armstrong announced on Thursday that American company, RadioShack, would sponsor the team for two years.

"One thing is certain. I will be on a different team than Lance Armstrong. I have some different options, maybe there will be a team built around me.

"I had not known Armstrong would come back to cycling. When he came back, I already had a contract in place. It's a pity to part ways now, but maybe in the future we will meet again."

Contador has one more year in his contract with the Kazakh companies that sponsor Astana, but he may seek exit from it in order to join another team. He and Armstrong will likely meet again in next year's Tour de France, but as rivals.

"He will certainly be a dangerous rival," said Contador. "He already showed this year that he is a clear candidate and he will again be a clear candidate next year."

Armstrong skips party honoring Contador

Lance Armstrong admitted on Sunday that he did not join his teammates in celebrating Alberto Contador's Tour de France triumph on Saturday night, preferring instead to go for drinks with the backers of his future outfit, Team RadioShack.

"To be honest, I went out for dinner with the RadioShack guys and I had a few extra glasses of wine than I would have normally done," said Armstrong.

The 37-year-old Armstrong finished third overall after Sunday's 21st and final stage, nearly five and a half minutes behind Contador, who took the yellow jersey on stage 15 to Verbiers and kept it all the way to Paris.

Armstrong had been in contention to wear the yellow jersey early on, having been in the general classification's top five since the third stage, but was made to work for his third place in the final days after late challenges from Garmin's Bradley Wiggins and Saxo Bank's Fränk Schleck.

Contador and runner-up Andy Schleck proved strongest in the mountains, and Armstrong said he had no complaints.

"I came here to do my best and I came across some guys who were clearly better than me," he said. "I don't have any regrets. I got put out a couple of times, but considering my age and recent racing, it's not a bad performance overall."

Next year he hopes to return to the Tour with his new team. But for now, Armstrong said, he’s ready for a break.

"I am ready to go home. It's been a long three weeks as usual," he said. "It's stressful and there are a lot of commitments outside of riding the bike race.

"I am ready to go on vacation for sure."

Putting Contador's yellow in context

By: Shane Stokes

The 2009 Tour de France will be Alberto Contador's fourth consecutive Grand Tour victory and, if you consider each of them, it's also his most important to date.

Each triumph has had been marked by its own distinctive characteristic. In 2007 he won his first Tour de France as the only rider capable of taking the fight to a rampant Michael Rasmussen, who was later ejected from the race. In 2008 he went to the Giro d'Italia with very little notice, gradually riding himself into form and taking a narrow victory that owed huge amounts to stubbornness and determination. Later that year, he started the Vuelta a España as the clear favourite, coping well with that pressure and the call of history. In Spain he had, and took, the chance to beat Bernhard Hinault's record as quickest ever to take all three Grand Tours.

Yet the 2009 Tour will be the best yet, for a number of reasons. Firstly, in winning this year's Tour he will extend his unbeaten streak to four consecutive Grand Tours, and all in the space of two years. Secondly, this victory will come as part of dominant season where he won the Volta ao Algarve in February, took two stages and fourth overall in Paris-Nice in March, and won the Vuelta a Pais Vasco in April. Then, following a break from competition, he came back and finished third in the Dauphiné in June. Nobody can accuse him of focussing only on the Tour de France.

Another distinctive aspect of this Tour has been Contador's ability to overcome the pressure he faced this year, both as race favourite and the tension caused by the close relationship between Lance Armstrong and team manager Johan Bruyneel. Contrary to what the team said, there were subtle signs before and during the Tour that all was not equal; think back to Paris-Nice, and the comments from both after he lost the race lead there, or the sniping and faulting of him during this year's Tour.

Perhaps the most revealing factor of Contador's triumph this year is the manner of his win. From his performances against the clock in Monaco and Annecy to his dominance in the mountains at Andorra Arcalis and Verbier, he gave the impression that if he had to, if he really had to, he could have taken far more time out of his rivals. Contador may look at times like a shy kid, appearing a little lost at the back of the Astana train, but there's a considerable strength of character within the 26-year-old. Otherwise, he simply couldn't have taken on a psychologically-dominating seven-time Tour winner from within his own team and come out on top.

"In 2007, it was very tight until the last time trial," he told the media on Sunday, when asked to compare his two Tour wins. "That was a physical victory. This year, it was necessary to have the legs in the race, but also to be tough mentally. 2007 was physically hard, 2009 was very difficult both physically and mentally.

"Since the beginning of the season, I focussed on every detail. I arrived as the favourite this time and I couldn't count on the element of surprise."

All change at Astana

To understand the situation Contador was in this year, it's necessary to think back 30 months or so. In 2007 the Discovery Channel team was starting the season a little unsure of its prospects. Armstrong had retired in 2005 and while the team head headed to the 2006 Tour determined to do well, the campaign was nothing like previous ones. George Hincapie was spoken of as a possible contender but that didn't work out. In fact, at the end of the three weeks, José Azevedo's distant 19th was the best overall placing.

Enter Contador. He was signed to the team for the start of the 2007 season and immediately started to exceed expectations. Despite being just 24 years of age, he won Paris-Nice, then seized the Tour de France title four months later.

The young Spaniard moved with Johan Bruyneel to the Astana squad, missing the 2008 Tour due to the Kazakh team's exclusion. Absent during July he won both the Giro in May and the Vuelta in September; it made him indisputably cycling's best young talent.

Hence the dissatisfaction when Armstrong said he was going to return to racing with Astana. Contador saw that as a threat to his status as leader and briefly spoke about leaving. He received guarantees that all would be fine, but as things progressed it was clear that tension had started to build.

"When Lance Armstrong announced his return, I still had a contract [until the end of 2010]. I had no other possibilities, and my current team was the strongest for the Grand Tours," he said, explaining why leaving wasn't really an option.

"Circumstances built up against me but rather than worry about them, I used them as an additional stimulus. Lance wanted to do well in the general classification, but competition does not tolerate two winners. I prepared well for the race. I knew I was in good shape. I did not know his state of form, but the true decider is out on the course."

Contador got the upper hand early on when he beat Armstrong by 22 seconds in the prologue, but then he lost 41 seconds to the Texan when he missed an important move in the crosswinds of day three to La Grande Motte. He remained 19 seconds behind until the stage to Andorra Arcalis, where he bolted clear and ended the day two seconds ahead.

Although that move strengthened Astana's hand by moving him closer to the overall lead, it clearly began to pull on the ratchet of tensions within his team. That mountain had shown Armstrong that he had a real fight on his hands; we don't know what the mood was like around the dinner table and in the team bus, but Contador does nominate the following day as being his most difficult psychological moment of the race. "The most complicated time was the day after Andorra," he said, without giving further details.

The next time gain was eight stages later, on the race to the second summit finish of the Tour. Verbier was the location, and 1:35 was the gap back to Armstrong. That increased again by 2:18 on the Le Grand Bornand stage, then Contador took another one minute 29 seconds in the Annecy time trial. The performances dispelled any doubts that he deserved to be the team leader.

"It was a hard Tour," he stated in Saturday's press conference. "Before leaving, I knew I had to be ready both physically and mentally. At the end of each stage, I said 'one day less'. There were tensions, but the situation has normalized. And I am very happy with the result."

In the end, it was not Armstrong but the Schleck brothers who proved to be his biggest rivals. Fränk eventually ended up fifth but he fired some big attacks at the Spaniard in the mountains. His younger brother did this to an even greater extent, marking himself out as one of the top two climbers in the race. Contador was the other.

"Andy really made me suffer a lot," admitted the Spaniard. "He didn't make any mistakes - I made the difference in the time trials, and also in the short time trial in Monaco. He really rode intelligently. I don't think I made any errors and I was very attentive throughout the race. But the Schlecks raced in a matter that was very smart and very brave."

In the end, Contador got the better of both of them, as well as the other general classification contenders in the race. But, given all that took place, given Bruyneel's long history with Armstrong, and given the announcement that he would be working on a new project with the Texan, one question begs asking: did he have the impression that Bruyneel would have preferred Armstrong to win?

"It is a good question," he said, smiling. "In the end, I had what I wanted, and he won with one of his riders. It is necessary to ask him that question."

Looking ahead

It's clear that the two riders, who between them have won eleven Grand Tours, are heading in different directions. Otherwise, Alpha-Male-Armageddon would result. Armstrong is bound for the new RadioShack team, while Contador is yet to disclose his plans. One option would be to stay with the Astana setup, which is set to continue next year with the returning Alexandre Vinokourov. Another would be to head to a completely different team.

There has been speculation that he would be welcome at Caisse d'Epargne – who would certainly be looking for a new leader if Alejandro Valverde's CONI ban is extended - while Spanish Formula One driver Fernando Alonso is reportedly interested in establishing a new team around him. Garmin-Slipstream has also been mentioned as a possibility.

Right now, Contador's priority is to get to Paris, then start thinking about what colours he will be wearing next season. "I have to wait until the end of the Tour [before thinking about that]," he said. "One thing is for sure is that I will be on a different project than Lance Armstrong. I have different options, perhaps there will be a team built around me. We will see what's most practical."

Whatever he opts for, it's almost certain that the Contador-Armstrong duel will be re-ignited again in 2010. Armstrong will be approaching 39 years of age then, but the Spaniard seems to think that he will be a big factor in next year's race.

"I think he will certainly be a dangerous rival. He already showed this year that he was a clear candidate, and he will again be a clear candidate for overall victory next year," he stated. "Especially after what he showed in this edition, he could play an important role."

Armstrong won his first Tour at 27 years of age. Contador is a year younger than that and has already clocked up two editions, as well as a Giro and Vuelta victory. Does he think about matching or exceeding the seven-Tour run set by Armstrong?

"I am not really concerned by records," he answered. "I just want to enjoy every year I do as a cyclist and maybe I will focus on other races too. Perhaps I will do the Giro, Classics, the Vuelta. For sure my main goal will remain the Tour de France, without forgetting some other races."

Still, even if he says he does not obsess about winning multiple Tours, he takes some pride in beating a seven-time champion. "When you win a race, it's always better to beat the great riders, the great names," he said. "The photo of the podium in Paris will be historical."

Mark Cavendish took win number six in the Tour on the Champs Elysees

Britain's Mark Cavendish, of the Columbia-HTC team, won the final stage at the Champs Elysées to claim a record-equalling sixth victory in the race. He beat his teammate and leadout man Mark Renshaw, with American Tyler Farrar taking third.

Contador, 26, finished the 96th edition of the world's toughest bike race with a lead of 4min 11sec on Luxembourg's Andy Schleck of Saxo Bank. Seven-time champion Lance Armstrong, Contador's teammate at Astana, was third overall at 5:24.

Schleck, 24, won the race's white jersey for the best placed rider aged 25 and under for the second year in a row.

Armstrong claimed a commendable place on the podium having decided to end a three-and-a-half year retirement when he returned to professional racing in January.

Norwegian Thor Hushovd did enough at the finish to keep the sprinters' green jersey for the points competition while Italian Franco Pellizotti of Liquigas won the polka dot jersey for the race's best climber.

1 Mark Cavendish (GBr|Team Columbia - HTC)
2 Mark Renshaw (Aus|Team Columbia - HTC )
3 Tyler Farrar (USA|Garmin - Slipstream )
4 Gerald Ciolek (Ger|Team Milram )
5 Yauheni Hutarovich (Blr|Française des Jeux )
Final general classification
1 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa|Astana )
2 Andy Schleck (Lux|Team Saxo Bank )
3 Lance Armstrong (USA|Astana )
4 Bradley Wiggins (GBr|Garmin - Slipstream )
5 Fränk Schleck (Lux|Team Saxo Bank)

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Tour Coach: Climbing, Climbing, Climbing

By Chris Carmichael -

The known contenders for the yellow jersey in 2009 also helped to shift the focus of Lance’s Tour preparation more towards climbing. With Carlos Sastre as the defending champion, Alberto Contador in the race, and Andy Schleck as the undisputed leader of his team (he had been a support rider for Sastre in 2008), it was pretty clear that the racing would be fast and aggressive through the mountains.

Welcome to Aspen
From the beginning of his comeback, I knew that altitude exposures needed to be an integral component of Lance’s training. And the reason that I wanted multiple altitude exposures was so that Lance could acclimate to living and training at elevation, and achieve the altitude-related increase in the body’s ability to deliver oxygen to working muscles. But most important, I wanted him to be able to go back to sea level and take advantage of those physiological adaptations. Within the limited time available between the summer of 2008 and the summer of 2009, I considered multiple exposures to altitude as the best way to accelerate Lance’s progress.

Each time Lance came down from altitude, we were able to increase the intensity of his interval training at sea level. This allowed Lance to train at higher workloads than he would have been able to if he were only training at sea level. But the physiological impact of altitude exposure wears off as your body adapts to being at sea level again, so it was necessary to come down, train hard for 4-6 weeks, and then go back to altitude for 3-5 weeks again.

Fortunately for Lance, he found a high-altitude environment he really loves: Aspen, Colorado. Located at about 9,000 feet above sea level, the elevation is just right for an endurance athlete. It’s high enough that the body clearly recognizes the need to acclimate and increase red blood cell count, but it’s not so high that athletes can’t recover from workouts. Towns that are at higher elevations (there aren’t many, but Leadville, Colorado sits at 10,200 feet) can be problematic because athletes have trouble sleeping and become more difficult to recover from hard training. It also has an airport, which made it convenient for Lance to get back and forth to Austin, Texas and all the other places on his packed travel schedule.

Climbing Workouts
But regaining the climbing strength necessary to ride at the front of the pack in the Pyrenees and Alps during the Tour de France required more than trips back and forth to Aspen. Lance spent a ton of time exploring paved and dirt roads all around Aspen to regain his climbing legs.

His climbing training included good old standards like climbing repeats at or just below his lactate threshold power output, but as he got closer to races like the Tour of California and the Giro d’Italia, it was important to make his training climbs more race-specific. One way we did that was with unpredictable interval times. Since Colorado Springs is only a few hours from Aspen, I was able to spend more time than usual with Lance in early 2009, and on some of those days I’d yell cadences, power outputs, and/or commands to start and stop max-efforts from a follow vehicle. It was as close as we could get to replicating the unpredictable and ever-changing demands of climbing in a real race. When I yelled for Lance to accelerate to his maximum, he didn’t know how long the effort would be or how much recovery he would get after it was over.

Lance continued with this kind of unpredictable interval work during his first European training camp, before Milan-San Remo. He rode well there, and I was impressed with how he performed on the climbs in that race. His crash at the Castilla y Leon race shortly after Milan-San Remo led to some significant changes in his program, but he recovered from his broken collarbone while training again at altitude, and started the Giro d’Italia with decent form.

There was one last altitude exposure following the Tour of Italy, including a modified lactate threshold test. We had Lance and Levi Leipheimer climb a set distance on a climb outside Aspen multiple times, and each run they were to increase their power output by 25 watts. At the stopping point, Lance’s old US Postal Service teammate, Kevin Livingstone used a mobile lactate analyzer to measure the level of lactate in their blood, and I recorded the time for the run, the average cadence, average power, and heart rate at the end of the run. The data showed that Lance had improved his power at lactate threshold 3-4% between the start of the Giro d’Italia and early June. That was the bump in fitness I was looking for out of the Tour of Italy, and Lance stayed at altitude until a week or so before the Tour de France began.

But, you say, Lance wasn’t leading the charge up the mountains, and sometimes he wasn’t even in the group with Contador and Schleck; so the training and the altitude exposures must not have worked. I see it very differently. At the end of the Giro d’Italia, my realistic assessment of Lance’s probably performance at the Tour de France was that he could finish top 10. After we did the lactate testing in Aspen and I saw the progress he was making in the middle of June, I thought that with some luck and good legs in some key places, a top-5 finish at the Tour de France was within reach. And that would have been great, and I would have called it a successful comeback after three years out of the sport.

Well, today was the day that mattered, the day that would really reveal to me whether the hard work Lance did through the winter and spring had adequately prepared him for the Tour de France. He had made it through 19 days of racing, two individual time trials, one team time trial, and two mountain ranges, but the Mont Ventoux would be the final test. I was happy with what I saw today on the Giant of Provence. Lance rode intelligently, and he had both the endurance to handle the length and gradient of the climb, and the snap to respond quickly to accelerations from Andy Schleck. Tomorrow, barring incident or illness, Lance will stand on the podium in Paris.

Lance on the podium at the Tour de France, at nearly 38 years old, and just 12 months after he started training, was beyond my expectations. Then again, it’s not the first time – and surely won’t be the last - that Lance has exceeded expectations.

Emma Moffatt Dominates in Hamburg

Australia’s Emma Moffatt took her third successive win in the Dextro Energy Triathlon – ITU World Championship Series as she put together a stunning race to cross the line in 1:56:12 in the German city of Hamburg. Moffatt’s win reinforces her lead at the top of the Dextro Energy Triathlon – ITU World Championship Rankings and she will go to the Grand Final on Australia’s Gold Coast as series leader, even if she does not contest the next two races in London and Yokohama. The full race from Hamburg is available to watch on demand at

The Beijing Olympic bronze medallist continued her golden year in style as she placed highly in the swim to exit with the chasers behind Hayley Peirsol from the USA. Peirsol, a former swimming world championship medallist dominated the first discipline, carving out a minute lead over the 1500m course in Hamburg’s Alster.

Peirsol tried to make the most of her advantage by riding away from the opposition, but as a storm rolled into the city she crashed on the wet road and found herself back with the chasers. Sweden’s Lisa Norden, a renowned cycle specialist, tried to take full advantage of the anxiety in the lead pack and broke away on the second lap. She was quickly joined by Daniela Ryf from Switzerland and Moffatt, who also seized the initiative as conditions worsened.

By the end of the 40km cycle the leading trio had pulled out a one minute advantage which would prove to be unassailable. Once onto the 10km run Moffatt stormed away from Norden and Ryf, who could not respond to the electric pace, and eventually built a 54 second winning margin. Sweden’s Norden ran strongly to take second place, her second silver medal of the Dextro Energy Triathlon – ITU World Championship Series with reigning under 23 triathlon world champion Ryf a further 33 seconds back in third.

Lauren Groves from Canada was the best of the rest, clocking the second fastest run split to take fourth ahead of the young and aspiring Barbara Riveros Diaz from Chile; a new success story from the ITU Sport Development Programme which offers support and guidance to athletes from smaller federations, of which Lisa Norden was a former beneficiary.

“The weather was a bit dodgy, but I felt good in the swim and although it was cold on the bike all the hard effort of working with Daniela [Ryf] and Lisa [Norden] warmed me up a bit,” said Moffatt. “We got a good break which meant that I could relax on the run and it set the race up nicely. Racing is never easy, especially in the wet, and it can get a bit dangerous, so I’m pleased to come through unscathed. I’m not sure on my racing plans ahead of the Dextro Energy Triathlon – ITU World Championship Grand Final on the Gold Coast, but I intend to get a good block of training done and might consider racing in one of the next races in the series in either London or Yokohama.”

“Daniela and I train together under the same coach and so we planned to breakaway on the bike as we’re both really strong cyclists. But today we were the Schleck brothers and Emma was Contador!” admitted Norden, making reference to the Tour de France. “We were quite surprised to see Emma bridge up to us once we made the break, but it’s testament to her completeness as a great triathlete. I take it as a complement that she felt she couldn’t afford to let us breakaway.”

Elite Women - Official Results
Gold – Emma Moffatt (AUS) 1:56:12
Silver – Lisa Norden (SWE) 1:57:06 +0:54
Bronze – Daniela Ryf (SUI) 1:57:39 +1:27
4th – Lauren Groves (CAN) 1:57:58 +1:46
5th – Barbara Riveros Diaz (CHI) 1:58:03 +1:51
6th – Sarah Haskins (USA) 1:58:07 +1:55
7th – Anja Dittmer (GER) 1:58:12 +2:00
8th – Melanie Annaheim (SUI) 1:58:13 +2:01
9th – Irina Abysova (RUS) 1:58:16 +2:04
10th – Kathy Tremblay (CAN) 1:58:20 +2:08