• Thu July 30 2009
  • Posted Jul 30, 2009
Another Tour de France is in the books, and it’s time to turn our attention to 2010. Well, almost. First, there’s another “big” goal on the horizon – the Leadville 100. Lance Armstrong will be the first rider in history to use the Tour de France as a tune-up race for the Leadville 100, and with a few weeks of rest and practice on the mountain bike, I think he has a pretty good chance of challenging six-time Leadville champion Dave Weins for the title. In reality, while the initial plans for the 2010 season are already in the works, it’s going to be a little while before Lance and I sit down and really pore through the data from 2009. I’ve learned over the years that it’s a good idea to get some distance from the event before going back and analyzing it. Right now, it’s too fresh in everyone’s mind, and you end up micro-analyzing every little detail if you start the process too early. So, it will probably be in about two weeks, or the week before the Leadville 100, when we really delve into the details of what went right and wrong with Lance’s training this year and what we can tweak heading into next year. One thing I know for sure is that the races Lance competed in – and the additional ones he will compete in – this year will have a big influence on his performance in 2010. I told him when we started this comeback journey that if he decided to race for two years, he would almost certainly be better in year two. With two Grand Tours in his legs, plus a bevy of shorter races, he will go into the fall and winter with a fitness level far greater than he had in the fall of 2008. Grand Tours have always been a major component of Lance’s Tour de France preparation. Even before his first Tour de France victory in 1999, the 1998 Tour of Spain was crucial for developing the fitness and power needed to raise his performance level headed into the 1999 season. Lance’s performance in the 2009 Tour de France was exceptional. While there are some who see his third-place finish as a failure based on the dominance he once displayed, I believe those people simply fail to grasp the magnitude of his achievement. Third place at the Tour de France this year wasn’t something we talked about as a realistic goal. At the end of the Giro d’Italia, I thought a top-10 finish at the Tour de France would be good. After seeing how well Lance adapted to the stress of the Giro and the bump in fitness that he achieved in the weeks following the race, I upgraded my expectations and thought that a top-5 finish at the Tour was within reach. I didn’t expect to see Lance standing on the podium in Paris, and the fact that he was there today bodes very well for what he may be able to accomplish in 2010. But today wasn’t really about Lance Armstrong. It was a celebration of Alberto Contador’s convincing victory at the 2009 Tour de France. The Spaniard has won the past four Grand Tours he’s entered and his performances have improved with each one. In the beginning he was a climbing specialist who could minimize his losses in time trials, and now he’s a complete rider who can take time from his rivals in both the mountains and the time trials. He may not have the same leadership style as Armstrong, but for the moment he has the strength to win anyway. If there’s an improvement for Contador to make, it’s in his ability to marshal the efforts of his teammates and create an environment within his team that breeds unity and loyalty. If he manages that, he’ll have the support he needs to continue winning even after his rivals develop the power to challenge him in a toe-to-toe battle. Today it’s also important to recognize the phenomenal performance of Mark Cavendish. Six stage wins within one Tour de France is almost unheard of, especially for a sprinter. The men who won more stages in a single Tour de France – Eddy Merckx and Freddy Maertens each won 8 – won time trials as well as road stages. It’s going to be tough for Cavendish to equal or exceed his stage tally in future Tours, but with speed and youth on his side, it’s certainly not out of the question. As we reach the end of another Tour de France, I want to congratulate Alberto Contador on his second yellow jersey, Andy Schleck for a fine performance and his second white jersey as Best Young Rider, and Franco Pellizotti on his victory in the King of the Mountains competition. And of course, congratulations to Lance Armstrong on a successful return to the Tour de France. I hope everyone enjoyed the 2009 Tour de France, and that like me, you’re looking forward to another great race in 2010. Chris Carmichael

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