23 July, 2009

The Livestrong-Radio Shack Team Debuts in 2010

While I can't believe, like many, Radio Shack is still in business, they are and are using their ad budget to sponsor a team led by Lance Armstrong and Johan Bruyneel.

Here's the LA Times Story. Lance, ever ahead of the press, made an announcement via his vlog on his Livestrong site.

Not exactly a forward-thinking brand that has an "it" factor. But maybe that's why they're making the deal.

It's a given that the team will also have supplying sponsors Trek, Nike, SRAM, Oakley, Giro, Carmichael Training Systems. Lance will probably also have some deep-pocketed friends chipping in here and there.

The question for cycling fans, is what kind of team will it be? Are they going to build a complete team that competes at the classics, one-week stage races, and grand tours?

Or, since it's an american sponsor, they can do whatever at all Euro races, save the Tour. They're almost certainly going to drop Alberto Contador, Andreas Kloden, and all the Kazakh riders. Will Levi Leipheimer and Chris Horner come along knowing that they can have personal ambitions at most races, just not the Tour? Gotta wonder if that will be the carrot for whomever else they sign--you can do whatever for the rest of the year, but you have to be at 100% and be ready to give 110% of that for Lance at Tour time. No more of Lance having to compete with an equal.

There will probably also be a small American development component, led by phenom Taylor Phinney. Not sure what will become of that.

Some are already speculating if the team will be known as Liveshack? I'm wondering if it will be Lanceshack.

LeMond, Doping Scourge, Questions Contador's performance

Read the column in French. (if you can read french, translate it for us)

Here's the Sydney Morning Herald reporting on the dust-up the column caused.

A nugget from the story:

"LeMond, referring to the 8.5km climb at an average gradient of 7.5 per cent, wrote: 'Never has a rider in the Tour climbed so fast. How do you explain such a performance? According to the last information published by former Festina trainer and specialist in performance Antoine Vayer in [the French newspaper] Liberation, the Spanish rider would have needed a VO2 max (consummation of oxygen) of 99.5 ml/mn/kg to produce such an effort.

''To my knowledge this figure has never been achieved by any athlete in any sport. It is a bit like if you took a nice Mercedes out of the car showroom, lined it up on a Formula 1 circuit and won the race. There is something that is wrong. It would be interesting to know what is under the bonnet.'"

LeMond is fixated on VO2 max, possibly for good reason. He was alleged to ahve a VO2 max in the 90s, I think 94, when he was at the peak of his powers. And yet at the end of his career, he was getting dropped on climbs by much heavier riders. He has long postulated that for them to climb that fast, they would have needed a VO2 max in the 100s. (VO2 is based on weight, so if you lose weight, your lung capacity relative to weight goes up and thus a higher VO2)

I don't think VO2 max is everything, nor is hematocrit. It is an interesting question, though.

I think it's possible that Contador has a higher VO2 than Lemond, could it be 99? Even if it isn't, maybe Antoine Vayer figured things out wrong, maybe there was a tailwind, maybe the wheels roll better than the model predicts. I wonder if the biggest problem is rider weight. When teams publish weight data, I think it's often wishful thinking. The only way weight data can be reliable is if a neutral party is weighing all the riders. At the Tour, it might be possible, as there at least used to be a show physical before the race.

They should ask Allen Lim, the garmin-slipstream physiologist, about Contador's climbing skills. After Riccardo Ricco was busted at the 2008 Tour, Lim said that Ricco's w/kg was something nlike 6.5 for 20 minutes at the top of the last climb on the stage he soloed to victory, and that to do that, he either needed drugs or was a greyhound-human hybrid. (though the notorious Dr. Michele Ferrari seemed to think 6.7 w/kg was the magic number for climbing to victory in the tour)

It is also interesting to note that when Carlos Sastre rode to victory at L'Alpe d'Huez last year, he put in a time that was significantly lower than Pantani and Armstrong at their best. Lim speculated a much lower w/kg for Carlos than Pantani in 1998, and Contador's climb was faster, according to the various models, than Pantani in 1998.

If the expert Cyclingnews quoted, Dr. Andrew Coggan, is right about his speculation on Contador's power (450w) and weight (62kg) for that climb, then he managed 7.26 w/kg. He seems to estimate a far more earth-bound 80 VO2 max. I have a power profiling chart from Coggan. he puts the best 5m effort in the world at 7.6w/kg-- 471w for Contador. He puts the best hour effort in the world at 6.4 w/kg or 396.8w for Contador. From what I've read, it seems that for 20m, 7.26 w/kg is pretty much off the charts, in that a 60m effort should be minimally higher than a 20m effort.

Here's a story on Allen Lim discussing what kind of power Christian Vande Velde would need in order to win the Tour. "He has been riding with the GC contenders and that is great, about 5.5 to 5.9 w/kg on climbs longer than 10 minutes. That's right where he needs to be. If he can sustain that, I think he has a good chance (at winning the the tour)."

The le grimpeur blog has Sastre climbing the Alpe last year at 5.3 w/kg.

Of course, these numbers could be off. And they're really just elegant speculations turned into calculations. If we get the rider weight wrong by a kilogram or two, misjudged the length or pitch of the climb by a little, that could have a major impact. And maybe a tailwind on a climb could change things enough as well.

Don't think I'm ready to call someone a doper with so many unknowns or finicky numbers.

Behind the Scenes with the Cervelo Test Team

It's a photo essay from the Washington Post. My favorite is the Carlos Sastre Fan Club of Aalter, Belgium.

Lance Twitters into the Sunset?

So says Filip Bondy in the NY Daily News.

The reason for the title is this: "'St 17 (Stage 17) done. Tough day!' Armstrong tweeted on Twitter. 'Got caught out on some attacks on the Col de Romme but managed ok from behind. Had some cramps @ the end. No fun!!'"

But Bondy has much more on his mind.

"This has been a single-minded crusade for Armstrong, even as he has waged two battles at once. He has his race, Le Tour, the one he's owned for nearly a decade. And he has his ongoing public-relations crusade, trying to convince the world he has competed clean his entire career.

"In this second venture, he will forever find two very different audiences. There are the casual cycling fans in America who see only the hero, the cancer fighter and the impossibly vigorous athlete. This group probably doesn't know or care much about the past charges against Armstrong.

"Then there are the more cynical insiders, who have seen more than enough smoke to be certain there is a raging fire. They firmly believe Armstrong was a cheat, and may still be one in this race."

I'm sure there are plenty of fence sitters. Those who have been around long enough to be cynical, but are waiting for the smoking gun. These people don't make for good headlines, but there seem to be plenty.

brilliant bike handler but can't open a can of coke

Yesterday's stage 17 saw an amazing breakaway by the Green Jersey, Thor Hushovd. The big guy can go uphill pretty fast.

Two things stood out from his breakaway. One was his great save after he misjudged a blind left turn. Downhill and slick, not a great situation in most conditions, but crazy hard in a race. He turned, realized he couldn't turn harder, so he unclipped his left foot, locked up his rear wheel, and changed his line so he wasn't going directly at the crash barrier. He ended up sliding sideways off the road onto a narrow patch of grass, from where he was able to clip in and resume the descent. In what seemed to be a totally understated gesture, he took his left hand off the bars and waved it, as if to indicate it was no big deal.

The Tour produces their own highlight reel of each stage. The slide is about 1:35 in. Still looking for a video of just the slide.

On the other hand, he couldn't open a can of coke given to him from the team car. Seems like an inconsequential skill, but it should be old hat for a pro. They're used to getting these on the road. He first tried to open the tab with his teeth, when that didn't work, his fingers, and then he just tossed the can on the ground.