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Lance Armstrong: top sprinter?

Armstrong’s new strategy: garner time bonuses and stage wins.

By Nigel Fotheringhamington

Built like a sprinter. Armstrong puts the hurt on some Astana teammates as he eyes a town-line sprint in California.

Built like a sprinter. Armstrong puts the hurt on some Astana teammates as he eyes a town-line sprint in California.

Photo: Graham Watson

Lance Armstrong’s coach says the seven-time Tour de France winner is paying extra attention to his sprint as he prepares for his return to top-level racing following his broken collarbone.

Armstrong is working on his top-end speed with weights in the gym and on the stationary trainer, coach Chris Carmichael told LanceNews.com, a new Competitor Group Web site launched Wednesday, April 1.

Short, intense sprint workouts on the trainer should pay dividends later in the season, he said.

“We all know that as we get older, the top-end speed is the first thing to go,” Carmichael said. “To be honest we haven’t seen much decline in Lance’s top-end wattage numbers, probably because of the significant amount of time he spent in the gym during his retirement.”

Nevertheless, Armstrong is determined to increase his top end in an effort to gain an edge on his young competitors. He also has noted that a wicked sprint can translate into GC wins at major stage races.

“Look at Ina Yoko Teutenberg,” Carmichael told LanceNews. “She won Redlands and the San Dimas stage race by winning field sprints and taking mid-race time bonus sprints. Clearly she is on to something there, and we think if Lance can increase his top end, he can snag time bonuses at the Giro and the Tour that can make the difference between first and second at the end.”

Armstrong is consulting with German cycling's strength coach to build legs like these in time for the Tour.

Armstrong is consulting with German cycling’s strength coach to build legs like these in time for the Tour.

Photo: Casey B. Gibson

“It’s simple bang for the buck,” Carmichael said. “We could train him for 38 hours a week to improve his climbing by 5 seconds, or we could train in the gym for five hours a week and win time bonuses worth 15 seconds.”

And, Carmichael mentioned, while there are only a handful of mountain top finishes in the Tour and Giro, time bonuses are on offer several times in every stage.

Carmichael revealed that Armstrong’s mysterious visit to a California velodrome in February was not preparation for a possible hour-record attempt, as many speculated.

“Actually, if Lance hadn’t broken his collarbone at Castilla, he was planning on going straight from Spain to the world track championships in Poland,” Carmichael said.

Armstrong had planned to enter the match sprint competition at worlds, he said.

“Lance is great sprinter; he kills us on the training rides all the time, it’s just been one of the strengths he hasn’t emphasized in his preparation or in competition. I think he could have medaled at worlds, and all that speed work on the track would have improved his road sprint at the grand tours. Look what it’s done for Cavendish,” Carmichael said, referring to Columbia’s Mark Cavendish.

Carmichael was questioned about Cavendish’s ability to make it over the hills of Milan-San Remo to compete in and win that race, while Armstrong was dropped on the Cipressa and finished more than 8 minutes down.

“Um,” Carmichael said. “We may, in fact, need to dial back the gym work just a tad. We’ll get the mix (of sprint and endurance training) right in time for July. We always do.”

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