Perfect time trial means building entire day around one hour
The final test in Lance Armstrong's quest to win a seventh Tour de France comes in today's stage 20 individual time trial.
heavily in his stomach. He'll also eat some whole grain bread, fruit, and maybe some salad.
There is a rule in cycling that the shorter an event, the longer the warmup. For long road stages, riders barely warm up at all. Lance warms up for about 50 minutes before long individual time trials, and he'll arrive at the race site about 90 minutes before his start time to get ready and start warming up.
While Lance changes clothes in the team bus, his time trial bike will be put on a stationary trainer outside. Some of his teammates will be there warming up for their own time trials, and the others will already be on the course. Lance's 50-minute warmup is not just a simple spin to loosen up. To win a time trial, you have to be ready to ride at maximum speed from the moment you leave the start house. You have to prepare your body, otherwise the shock of going from rest to maximum effort will significantly harm your performance.
Lance's warmup is designed to wake a sleeping giant. He has to gradually activate his aerobic engine, and then increase intensity to progressively activate the energy systems that power successively harder efforts. Lance goes hard in his warmup, and actually goes above the effort level he reaches during competition. He needs to kick-start the mechanisms that control the production of energy and metabolic byproducts when exercising at very high intensities.
About 10 minutes before his start time, Lance wraps up his warmup, eats a PowerGel and tucks another under the leg of his skinsuit. His bike is removed from the stationary trainer, checked over by the mechanic, and Lance heads for the start house.
Once Lance looks down the ramp to the road ahead, all of the hours since he woke up melt away. He sits still on his bike, both feet secured onto his pedals while someone holds him upright by the back of his seat. The starter finally begins the countdown. His fingers count down the final five seconds to Lance's start time, and then his hand flattens and extends out over the ramp. It's time to go.
For the next hour and change, Lance will ride as hard and fast as his body and physics will allow. Though he'll burn more than 1500 calories during the effort and sweat out about two liters of fluid, he'll only consume one 100-calorie PowerGel and one 500-millileter bottle of fluid. There's no time for more food and nowhere to carry more fluid.
Moreover, there's no room for error. There can be no stiff back from a poor night's sleep, nor an empty or upset stomach from a bad or incorrectly-scheduled meal, or mechanical problems with the bike or insufficient power from an inadequate warmup. Perfect rides come from perfect preparation, and there's no one who has mastered the art and science of preparation the way Lance Armstrong has.