Slowly but surely, Lance Armstrong is building form for perhaps his final shot at the Tour de France. Traditionally this phase is about training volume, intensity and race days but this year the Texan is using a new metric: square miles.
“The last six weeks are about the size of the country. This makes the most sense for Lance’s progression,” said Radio Shack’s Johan Bruyneel. “Luxembourg is one square mile. Then we build to Switzerland which is 60 square miles, then we go to the final level, France at 260,000 square miles.”
It’s a radical approach to arriving at the Tour de France in the best possible physical condition. But one that long-time coach Chris Carmichael thinks will pay dividends. “It’s easy to over-think and over-train. After last year we really dug into the numbers and the atlas. Lance was the first to notice that a Luxembourg-Switzerland-France build was optimal,” said Carmichael.
In recent weeks Armstrong admitted that his training had several “speed bumps” and hiccups. “California was too big, too soon. And I think that led to the crash outside Visalia,” said Armstrong. “California has 160,000 square miles — way bigger than Switzerland. Geographic-wise that was probably out of sequence.”
In recent years, the square mileage philosophy has taken hold with many top riders building their form progressively with a “small to big” geographical approach. “Look at Mallorca, look at Qatar, those are tiny places. It just makes logical sense,” said Carmichael. “Mentally, you’re thinking, wow, France is a big country, how can I race that whole thing? A small country allows for better adaptation.”
Sources within the Radio Shack team have said it’s difficult to prevent the ultra-competitive Armstrong from chewing off more geography than he should. “Lance is from Texas. That is 270,000 square miles. Naturally he wants to start big,” said Bruyneel. “But at 38, he realizes Luxembourg is smaller and smarter.”