Based on years of data, Texan’s coach says he’s as good as ever

Carmichael in Colorado Springs this week. Photo: Ben Delaney

Chris Carmichael recently returned from Hawaii where Lance Armstrong had been training in the lead-in to the Tour Down Under. Armstrong’s current power output, according to his longtime coach, is where it used to be in April during the years he was winning the Tour de France.

Carmichael only hedged slightly, saying that Armstrong’s January 2010 fitness may not be quite as high as in January 2004 “when he was on a rampage,” but certainly is superior to that of January 2005, when he won his seventh Tour, and the same period in 2002 and 2003.

Armstrong on the Checker Hill climb during Tuesday's stage of the Tour Down UnderAFP PHOTO / Mark GUNTER

He declined to specify any wattage numbers. He did say, however, that Armstrong was able to max out the scooter Carmichael was using to motorpace him. “That’s not as objective a measurement, obviously,” Carmichael said, “but it was still telling.”

Carmichael attributed the accelerated fitness in part to the back-to-back grand tours Armstrong completed in 2009 with the Giro d’Italia and the Tour. Last year, Armstrong came into racing shape after three years in retirement. While the seven-time Tour winner stayed active in the years away from professional racing, he had no cause for training with the “white-hot intensity” of the explosive upper end of VO2 Max, Carmichael said.

Carmichael, a former Olympic and Tour de France cyclist himself, has known Armstrong for 20 years. In his office in Colorado Springs, Carmichael keeps old binders of handwritten training schedules he made for Armstrong two decades ago, including day-by-day plans from 1993 that Armstrong followed in the lead-up to the world championships, which he won.

Looking ahead to the 2010 Tour de France, Armstrong’s old coach is hopeful for another victory.