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The coach’s perspective: A moment to reflect

The first rest day of the Tour de France is a good time to reflect on the first week of the race, and look ahead to the challenges ahead. Lance Armstrong emerged from the first week relatively unscathed. He was involved in one minor crash, his first since coming back to the Tour in 1999. The Stage 9 time trial didn’t go as well as planned, but everything is looking good as the race heads into the mountains later this week. Lance’s average heart rate during Stage 9 was not as high as it usually is for a long sustained effort of that type. He usually maintains an average of 186-188 bpm during

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By Chris Carmichael

The first rest day of the Tour de France is a good time to reflect on the first week of the race, and look ahead to the challenges ahead. Lance Armstrong emerged from the first week relatively unscathed. He was involved in one minor crash, his first since coming back to the Tour in 1999. The Stage 9 time trial didn’t go as well as planned, but everything is looking good as the race heads into the mountains later this week.

Lance’s average heart rate during Stage 9 was not as high as it usually is for a long sustained effort of that type. He usually maintains an average of 186-188 bpm during long time trial efforts and his average yesterday was only 182.

In Lance’s case, and with the amount of baseline data we have collected over the years, I am not overly concerned that his lower average heart rate is a sign of fatigue. When you take all the factors into consideration, my conclusion is that Lance was just slightly “off” yesterday. If he were actually suffering from fatigue or an infection, the consequences would have been much worse.

We did not do as much high-power training on flat ground prior to this year’s Tour, compared to the amount we did in previous years. The result of that shift in his training was evident during Stage 9. In place of some of that high-power work, we increased the amount of sustained climbing training in his Tour preparation. I believe we will again see the evidence of that shift when the race hits the mountains later this week.

The first day in the mountains is challenging, but not too extreme. The second mountain stage, though, finishes atop Mont Ventoux. The attacks will come from every direction and every team on Friday, and I am confident of Lance’s ability to handle himself well that day and from that day forward.

When Lance and I talked today, he was in good spirits. He is not tired and he his ride this afternoon went well. This race is going to be won or lost in the thin air atop the peaks in the Pyrenees and Alps. Lance knows the other teams will race aggressively all the way to Paris and his confidence in his ability to answer any and all challenges is very high.