Chris Carmichael

Tour de What?

2009-07-27 13:48
Chris Carmichael (File)
Chris Carmichael

For the first time in history, someone used a third-place finish at the Tour de France as a tune-up for the Leadville 100 (An ultra-marathon 100 mile MTB race in the US).

Last year's winner, David Wiens had better look out, because Lance Armstrong has his eyes firmly set on the win.

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. 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 Wiens 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 analysing it. Right now, it's too fresh in everyone's mind, and you end up micro-analysing 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 (which takes place on Saturday, August 13), 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 bodes very well for what he may be able to accomplish in 2010.

But this year's Tour de France wasn't really about Lance Armstrong. It was a celebration of Alberto Contador's convincing victory. The Spaniard has won the past four Grand Tours he's entered and his performances have improved with each one. In the beginning he was a climbing specialist who could minimise his losses in time trials, and now he's a complete rider who can take time from his rivals in both the mountains and the time trials. He may not have the same leadership style as Armstrong, but for the moment he has the strength to win anyway. If there's an improvement for Contador to make, it's in his ability to marshal the efforts of his team-mates and create an environment within his team that breeds unity and loyalty. If he manages that, he'll have the support he needs to continue winning even after his rivals develop the power to challenge him in a toe-to-toe battle.

It's also important to recognise the phenomenal performance of Mark Cavendish. Six stage wins within one Tour de France is almost unheard of, especially for a sprinter. The men who won more stages in a single Tour de France - Eddy Merckx and Freddy Maertens each won eight - won time trials as well as road stages. It's going to be tough for Cavendish to equal or exceed his stage tally in future Tours, but with speed and youth on his side, it's certainly not out of the question.

As we reach the end of another Tour de France, I want to congratulate Contador on his second yellow jersey, Andy Schleck for a fine performance and his second white jersey as best Young Rider, and Franco Pellizotti on his victory in the King of the Mountains competition. And of course, congratulations to Lance on a successful return to the Tour de France. I would also like to thank everyone at for their tremendous coverage of the Tour de France and for the honour of being able to contribute to that coverage. I hope everyone enjoyed the 2009 Tour de France, and that, like me, you're looking forward to another great race in 2010.

Chris Carmichael has been Lance Armstrong's coach for 20 years and is the founder of Carmichael Training Systems (CTS). Chris's newest book, "The Time Crunched Cyclist: Fit, Fast, and Powerful in 6 Hours a Week" has just been released and signed copies are available at There you can also get information on CTS' Create Your Own Comeback program, the free Do the Tour...Stay at Home(tm) training programme, and the free CTS Tour de France Newsletter. You should also follow Chris at


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