Tour De Force

Hi there people, I recently got a great email from a long time friend, professional colleague and super keen cyclist. He'd been reading the book “Tour de Force” centring on Lance Armstrong and his team's preparation for the 2004 Tour de France. It's a great book if you haven't read it. I thought I'd post his email and my response as a small insight to how we see performance in cycling at the highest level. The other reference made in my email is to the movie “Hell on Wheels”. Also a great film. Just to be chronologically clear, Gavin's initial email is below my response, just as in any email exchange.



From: Scott Barrow [] Sent: Friday, 11 February 2011 3:36 PM To: Gavin; Darren; Matt Subject: RE: Tour de Force

Hey Gav,

thanks for the outstandingly stimulating email. Indeed to all you've said. I hope by my comments here I don't take the steam out of others' contributions. A great group conversation to be had in the flesh sometime.

Yeah I really enjoyed the book as well. Loved the Floyd Landis stories. Gives context to his current accusations of Armstrong eh? "If I'm going down, you're going down with me ya prick!"

I saw a cycling doco on SBS about a year ago, and now this book, as well as the Hell on Wheels doco/movie. The impression I get of these athletes/people is that they're like race horses. Flighty, twitchy, insecure and certainly very human (not the race horses of course). Also absolute warriors. In particular, Eric Zabel expressing his thoughts and feelings in Hell on Wheels is amazing for his honesty, openess but also destructive self talk and apparent lack of grounding. All this comes out, but guess what? The very next day he's back out there competing to win. Inspirational. Ordinary people doing extraordinary things. Human.

Loved the concept of the 6.7 watts/kg and loved your further analysis, Thanks. What I also loved was Dr. Ferrari's expertise in physiology etc. but also his willingness to defer this expertise to bigger possible factors like the influence on Lance of having Sheryl Crow around at training camp.

Yeah the razors edge. Performance and health being inversely proportional as you get to the higher levels. The human system refining (as reflected in their bodies etc.) leaving no space for much else in their existence.

Enough from me.

Sincere thanks Gav,


Subject: Tour de Force Date: 11 Feb. 2011 14:40:56 +1100 From: Gavin Re: Tour de Force

In my impatience in waiting for Scotty to finish reading Tour de Force, I had to go out and purchase my own copy.

Must say that it is certainly captivating reading to say the least and have thoroughly enjoyed every moment – this is certainly the best insight that I have read into the practical application of physiology and psychology of tour level riders.  Interesting the level of neurosis and insecurity in all of these riders – pushing the buttons in elevators with their elbow to avoid germs, avoiding testing sessions for fear of failure, not walking anywhere for fear of fatiguing their legs, Tyler Hamilton’s magic salt and magic water etc.

What is really exposing is the fact that the book is self-incriminating for positive confirmation of doping in all of the riders mentioned in the book.  Ferrari’s relative benchmark of 6.7 watts/kg has since been shown to be highly indicative of doping.  With doping slowly on the wane in the pellet (unless you are Rico)  Ferrari’s magical number has been reset to 5.7 w/kg – 6.2 w/kg.  Now, any riders putting out > 6.2w/kg on the longer climbs is surely suggestive of doping.  The fastest climbers of today are approx. 2 mins. slower than those 3 years ago, so, extrapolate that out further to the speed that the guys in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s were climbing. Nuts!

How was Armstrong’s capacity to buffer lactate?  Threshold for Armstrong was at 6.0 mol? OK, whatever.

Absolutely hilarious how they sum up the form of their rivals through visual appearance. That guy has got no gluteal mass, he’s on the rivet, on razors edge – this guy’s going to blow it up.