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Coach Carmichael: Time for a showdown

The Tour de France is buzzing with excitement and anticipation for what may be the most crucial 47 kilometers of the entire race. Jan Ullrich and Lance Armstrong haven’t faced each other in a long time trial since 2001, but the German’s abilities against the clock are proven and formidable. The most exciting Tour de France in recent memory is about to get downright ferocious. There is a lot riding on the Stage 12 individual time trial. Lance’s lead in the Tour is smaller than usual and he wants to enter the Pyrénées with a more comfortable advantage over his rivals. Ullrich, on the other

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By Chris Carmichael, Carmichael Training Systems

The Tour de France is buzzing with excitement and anticipation for what may be the most crucial 47 kilometers of the entire race. Jan Ullrich and Lance Armstrong haven’t faced each other in a long time trial since 2001, but the German’s abilities against the clock are proven and formidable. The most exciting Tour de France in recent memory is about to get downright ferocious.

There is a lot riding on the Stage 12 individual time trial. Lance’s lead in the Tour is smaller than usual and he wants to enter the Pyrénées with a more comfortable advantage over his rivals. Ullrich, on the other hand, is hyper-motivated to take back as much of his 2:10 deficit as possible. With these two time trial giants going head-to head, the rest of the field is in danger of suffering a severe beating.

Climbers like Iban Mayo and Francisco Mancebo stand to suffer the most at the hands of Ullrich and Armstrong. These men are decent time trial riders, but they are better suited to the climbs. Under normal conditions, they could expect to lose 1:30 to 2:00 minutes to either man, but these are not normal circumstances. Ullrich and Armstrong will be riding at their absolute fastest, and the climbers could lose well over two minutes.

Tyler Hamilton may actually benefit from Ullrich and Armstrong’s battle. If the two men significantly distance themselves from the climbers, and Hamilton beats them as well, he is likely to move up into second or third place overall. Alexander Vinokorouv will most likely ride well and stay in the top five, but it’s doubtful he will withstand the onslaught from Ullrich, Armstrong and Hamilton.

Lance Armstrong spent a lot of time preparing for the Tour de France time trials. Once the route was revealed, it was evident the individual time trials would be extremely important for his chances to win the 2003 Tour.

Starting last fall and continuing through the winter and spring, Armstrong trained behind a motorbike on his time trial bike. This allowed him to train at and above race pace to develop the power and lactate tolerance necessary to perform at his best. As the Tour approached, I further increased the intensity of his workouts by prescribing six-kilometer repeats at well above his time trial power. He adapted well to the training, as he showed by winning the individual time trial in the Dauphine Libéré by over a minute. He’s stronger now than he was at the Dauphine, and that bodes well for Stage 12.

The results of tomorrow’s time trial will determine everyone’s racing strategy for the remainder of the Tour, especially for the Pyrénées. If everything goes as planned and Lance increases his lead over all of his rivals, he won’t be under as much pressure to attack in the next four mountain stages. In contrast, his rivals will be forced to attack relentlessly in the Pyrenees with the hope of cracking the U.S. Postal leader and building a significant lead before the Tour’s final time trial.

If the Stage 12 time trial shows that Ullrich’s time trial abilities are greater than his climbing strength this year, Lance will know he has to attack in the Pyrenees to establish a comfortable lead on the German before the final time trial.

Tonight, teams are making final preparations for the time trial, double and triple checking equipment and trying to ensure everything goes smoothly tomorrow. For the riders, their preparation work was done before the Tour started, and all that is left is to sleep and dream of the perfect ride.