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Tour Tech Talk: Zabriskie’s mental prep; Landis’s physical prep; and why Armstrong unclipped

After David Zabriskie’s first day in the yellow jersey, I ran into Allen Lim, Floyd Landis’s personal coach, who described some of Zabriskie’s mental preparation leading up to the Tour. According to Lim, Landis repeatedly told Zabriskie that the yellow jersey was his for the taking. “Floyd lives with Zabriskie in Girona, and ever since the Giro, Floyd’s been telling David, ‘Dude, you’ve gotta aim for winning that prologue at the Tour.’ David was nervous about doing the Giro and the Tour back to back, but that helped ease his concerns. Floyd told him that if he won the prologue and got the

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By Lennard Zinn

Crunching the numbers

Crunching the numbers

Photo: Lennard Zinn

After David Zabriskie’s first day in the yellow jersey, I ran into Allen Lim, Floyd Landis’s personal coach, who described some of Zabriskie’s mental preparation leading up to the Tour.

According to Lim, Landis repeatedly told Zabriskie that the yellow jersey was his for the taking.

“Floyd lives with Zabriskie in Girona, and ever since the Giro, Floyd’s been telling David, ‘Dude, you’ve gotta aim for winning that prologue at the Tour.’ David was nervous about doing the Giro and the Tour back to back, but that helped ease his concerns. Floyd told him that if he won the prologue and got the yellow jersey, the rest of the Tour would be easy.”

Focusing on the first stage rather than the entire three weeks helped Zabriskie become less apprehensive and more psyched about the race.

As for training, Lim said Zabriskie did the same workouts as Ivan Basso at the post-Giro CSC training camp until the last two weeks, and then he trained very hard specifically for the time trial.

The lowdown on Landis
Lim grabbed Landis’s PowerTap computer head right after stage two and was very pleased to see that his average power output for the stage was 200 watts.

“Floyd can do six-hour training rides averaging 260 watts, so I’m really pleased to see him stay below that for the whole stage,” he said. “Our goal is to have Floyd do as little work as possible.”

Lim sat down with two separate computers immediately after the stage to analyze the data graphically and in table form. He found that Landis spent 16 percent of his time in the stage – some 40 minutes – not pedaling at all, just coasting! And with only 150 meters of elevation gain during the stage, it’s not as though there were a bunch of descents to freewheel down.

Landis told Lim that he guessed he had expended 2772 calories during the stage. Downloading the PowerTap showed that he actually expended 2885 calories, indicating that Landis had a good feel for how hard his body was working.

“We take a ratio of what he felt versus what the actual numbers show. On a perfect day, the ratio will be 1.0. Today was 0.97; yesterday was 1.13. It’s important to find out what happened but also what the rider felt. So on hard days, the rider will say it was a harder effort than it actually was (making the ratio greater than 1.0).

It’s a bad sign if the rider says it was hard when he actually did very little wrk, Lim added. “Then it is showing that perhaps he is getting sick or is overtrained. It is a very good sign when he feels that he is going just as hard as he actually is, as was the case today.”

Landis has Zipp 202, 303 and 404 rims laced to extralight PowerTap hubs, and all of his bikes are wired for the PowerTap. “The beauty of the new BMC road bike is that it is so light that, despite the additional 250 grams added for the PowerTap, we are still right on the UCI weight limit for the bike,” Lim said.

Before coming to the Tour, Lim built mathematical models of all the stages so he could determine what would be demanded of Landis.

“There are three basic principles of training,” he said. One, specificity; you have to train for the exact conditions you will be racing in. That’s why I make those models. Two, individuality; everybody is different, and the training has to be tailored to the individual. And three, progression; you want to ease into the energy demands as slowly as possible.

“Say he was fourth or fifth the year before, and we know exactly what his power demands were. Then we can predict what it would have taken to win. So if we know what the demands are going to be in July, then we work backward from there and can ease into it slowly to lift him to that level.”

For the past few months, Landis has been averaging 80-150 miles per day, with 7000-15,000 vertical feet of elevation gain per day. He and Lim rented an apartment in the Pyrenees so Landis could focus on his climbing and time trailing; he would ride his road bike on the ascents and switch to his time-trial bike in the valleys.

“Some people say you have to train hard, others say you have to train long. Floyd’s philosophy is to train hard and long,” Lim said.

As for the demands of being a team leader, Lim said that Landis feels less pressure than he did as a domestique on U.S. Postal, and is getting plenty of support from the team and BMC, his Swiss bike sponsor.

“The team and BMC support him so well,” Lim said. “He has four bikes here, and they supply him with a time-trial bike to train on. He asked for that from Postal as well, but they never gave him one.” Landis brings the time trial bike along on his mountain training days and rides it in the valleys between climbs.”

Lim feels that Landis has a real shot at winning the Tour and is not disappointed by yesterday’s prologue result. “He’s like a diesel engine, like (Jan) Ullrich, and he can’t start out that fast. But in the second half of the race, he lost nothing on those guys (Armstrong and Zabriskie) and had the same average pace.”

However Landis does in the Tour, it is clear that he is taking it seriously and preparing as well as he can. “He is so intense,” said Lim. “When he is at home with his wife and daughter, he is just with them and is not talking about bike racing. But when he is on the bike, he is nowhere else; he is just totally focused on riding.”

Other notes
I spoke with Discovery Team mechanic Alan Buttler about Armstrong’s brief bobble at the start during the opening time trial, and Buttler said simply, “There was nothing wrong – he just has too much power!”

As I wrote Saturday, the pedal appeared to be tightened down quite tightly, since it was with considerable difficulty that Armstrong clipped into the left pedal while being held atop the start ramp.

Buttler confirmed that the pedal was not adjusted too loosely, adding that Armstrong uses the Shimano fixed cleats, rather than floating cleats, so his shoe cannot “float” a few degrees before hitting the pedal release point. This gives the system less flexibility to retain the foot under hard, twisting motions.

When a rider is accelerating in a big gear, as Armstrong was in his first few pedal strokes off the starting ramp, the bike rocks back and forth more, the front wheel turns back and forth more, and the feet twist relative to the pedals more than they would when accelerating out of the saddle at higher speeds.

This could explain why Armstrong unclipped both here and in the Dauphiné, and could also explain what happened when he popped out of his right pedal chasing the lead group on Luz Ardiden two years ago after crashing when he hooked his handlebar on a spectator’s musette bag.

In that case, Iban Mayo crashed into him and broke his right chainstay (unbeknownst to anyone until after the end of the stage). As Armstrong was accelerating out of the saddle to catch back up, the bike was twisting laterally even more than usual under such a hard, low-speed effort due to the extra frame flex because of the cracked chainstay.