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Old 07-22-04, 09:37 PM   #1
CarlJStoneham
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Having doubts (not meant to start a flame war)

I'm sorry for this moment of weakness, but...

Today, as I watched Lance sprint to take that finish, I suddenly found myself wondering if maybe he IS on something (that hasn't yet been determined illegal). After some thinking, I just decided that he had probably done less work than the others and, since his muscles generate less lactic acid, he was fresher for the sprint. But after looking back on the past two days, I can't imagine how he could be so strong still. Now, this is NOT meant to say "what he did is impossible" or ignite a stupid flame war (though I'm sure it will). What I'm fishing for is a solid explanation/critique of Lance's performance over the past few days (and maybe some solid explanations of how doping would work, benefits, drawbacks, etc). I still believe he's doing this all on his own, but that sprint just seemed almost impossible. Would his genetically low lactic acid "generation" combined with his high VO2max lead to performance like that. Is he perhaps the most genetically gifted athelete ever to grace any sport? Or is there possibly something else there?

Again, none of this "He HAS to be doping to do this" or "He's a cancer survivor and he'd never put something foreign in his body." I'm hoping for a more "scientific" discussion of the two possibilities. I'm not looking for a definitive answer "Yes he does/No he doesn't". I'm looking for an informed discussion of the possibilities of his performance when we consider genetics, training and, possibly, other less "noble" factors...

Let's try to keep this civil...

(PS I am a HUGE Lance fan, so this is not an attack on "the Man" )
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Old 07-22-04, 10:09 PM   #2
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The stage was incredibly hard. Those with the superior body and fitness will be far fresher at the end.
Why do you pick out this stage, out of all of his performances? He outsprinted two burnt out riders. I mean, how was this stage in particular so 'impossible'?
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Old 07-22-04, 10:23 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by CarlJStoneham
I'm sorry for this moment of weakness, but...

Today, as I watched Lance sprint to take that finish, I suddenly found myself wondering if maybe he IS on something (that hasn't yet been determined illegal). After some thinking, I just decided that he had probably done less work than the others and, since his muscles generate less lactic acid, he was fresher for the sprint. But after looking back on the past two days, I can't imagine how he could be so strong still. Now, this is NOT meant to say "what he did is impossible" or ignite a stupid flame war (though I'm sure it will). What I'm fishing for is a solid explanation/critique of Lance's performance over the past few days (and maybe some solid explanations of how doping would work, benefits, drawbacks, etc). I still believe he's doing this all on his own, but that sprint just seemed almost impossible. Would his genetically low lactic acid "generation" combined with his high VO2max lead to performance like that. Is he perhaps the most genetically gifted athelete ever to grace any sport? Or is there possibly something else there?

Again, none of this "He HAS to be doping to do this" or "He's a cancer survivor and he'd never put something foreign in his body." I'm hoping for a more "scientific" discussion of the two possibilities. I'm not looking for a definitive answer "Yes he does/No he doesn't". I'm looking for an informed discussion of the possibilities of his performance when we consider genetics, training and, possibly, other less "noble" factors...

Let's try to keep this civil...

(PS I am a HUGE Lance fan, so this is not an attack on "the Man" )

I think there are several factors at work here.

#1. LA is a genetic freak of nature. He's one of those guys who comes along once a generation or so and is PERFECTLY put together for the sport he chooses to participate in. Remember, he's more than just a good cyclist, he was entering triathalons as a teenager and competing with adults. He has an ability to work the heck out of his muscles and not generate lactic acid (or he generates it at a normal rate and metabolizes it faster than normal... there's no way to know which). His VO2max is likely in the 99.99999999% of human beings. You can't train this part of his dominance, you're either born with it or you're not.

#2. He trains like a freak of nature. There has been extensive discussion here and elsewhere about Lance's training regimen. Climbing L'Alp over 10 times in May for example. He's detailed, smart and dedicated. No detail, no matter how small, is overlooked. He's also a master at the tactics of the race... knowing when to attack, when to lay low and conserve, etc. etc... Look at today, he didn't panic in the last 300 meters, held close and took the stage by a wheel. Kloden attacks too soon and bonks... Lance wins.

#3. He's got a competitive streak about as 2500 miles long. The first two points are irrelevant if you aren't mean and nasty out there. You have to WANT it. You have to self-motivate... and LA is the master at this. How much you want to bet as he's climbing, he's seeing the faces of those French "journalists" who wrote the book... he's grinding their faces in a record setting win with every cranck and loving it as he does so.


So to answer your question... "can a performance like to today be produced by genetically low acid production and high VO2man?"... simply put, in combination with training, good tactics, and attitude, YES!

Now for some science. EPO is a naturally occuring substance that is a chemical trigger used by the body to stimulate red blood cell production. If you inject extra EPO, you can increase your RBC count, and thus the amount of O2 carried to the muscles. This is less likely to give you any benefit in a sprint such as the one at the end because he has "gone anaerobic" at that stage. High hematocrit could raise the anaerobic threshold, but I doubt this effect would really kick in in a sprint... more likely to aid you over a long climb. Of course, EPO, RBC count and hematocrit can all easily be tested for and LA has never been out of range.

People sometimes talk of "steroid" use. Anabolic steroids are NOT useful for endurance athletes, and in fact can really hinder endurance performance. LA doesn't want BIG muscles, he wants EFFICIENT muscles. Also, you can just tell by looking at him that he isn't on anabolic steroids. Those hormones create a clinical picture that is not hard for a doctor (and others even) to spot.

Doping for the purposes of endurance events is extremely difficult. Your body has a natural ability to compensate for anything you do to it that throws it off balance. For example, if you tried to shift your O2 sat curve by artificially inducing metabolic acidosis (which would facilitate unloading of O2 from the hemoglobin in blood to the tissues), your body will try to compensate in various ways, such as adjusting your basal respiration rate, altering levels of natural hormones, etc. etc. Likewise, injecting EPO would cause your body to react by producing LESS of its own... you could likely gain a short term benefit, but long term... gosh, that would be tough. RBC's take up to 10 days to mature, so shooting up EPO before a stage would do nothing but give you a track mark on your arm. lol.

Anyhow, that's a combination of my medical school knowledge and opinion, so take it for what it's worth. Personally, I think he's clean. I think he's just better than everyone else out there right now...

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Old 07-22-04, 10:24 PM   #4
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OK. Fair critique Brent. Maybe I'm making too much out of it. I guess I was just so stunned by that fact that he closed a HUGE gap on Kloden with just an amazing burst of speed.

Smaug, all I can say is... Damn. That was EXACTLY what I was looking for. Thanks tons. As far as I'm concerned, thread closed, Lance clean and still "The Man" (or perhaps we need to start thinking of "a god"?)
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Old 07-22-04, 10:24 PM   #5
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His team is incredible. That has to help him have the best burst at the end. I am not a racer, but that makes sense to me. Add that to how good he is, his conditioning, and drive, then you have someone very hard to beat.
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Old 07-22-04, 10:32 PM   #6
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Good point Flat
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Old 07-22-04, 10:35 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by CarlJStoneham
OK. Fair critique Brent. Maybe I'm making too much out of it. I guess I was just so stunned by that fact that he closed a HUGE gap on Kloden with just an amazing burst of speed.

Fat, all I can say is... Damn. That was EXACTLY what I was looking for. Thanks tons. As far as I'm concerned, thread closed, Lance clean and still "The Man" (or perhaps we need to start thinking of "a god"?)

Dude, I was just as stunned as you... My jaw hit the floor when he turned that last corner and it looked like Kloden was STANDING STILL. Freaking AMAZING performance. But IMHO, Lance was able to win partly because Kloden went out too soon and BONKED. In the end, Kloden's legs just weren't there because he made his move too soon... that happens all the time in events like this.

Oh yeah, and I agree about the TEAM being another factor in the win. USPS is firing on all cylinders right now...
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Old 07-22-04, 10:42 PM   #8
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G'day carl,

as you know, I'm not necessarily a Lance fan, (not necessarily not either!). I follow the Aussies,(naturally)....but am generally in love with the sport of cycling. I love to see anyone win, particularly those who 'risk' the most in order to win....I absolutely loathe 'dopers'. I have been like the majority, I think, who sincerely hope that Lance isn't doping, but probably deep down, suspect he is......I mean he's gotta be, how can he be this much better than anyone else in the world...not just a little.....there's LA & daylight to the next guy. Yeah I know he trains hard, they all do...it's not training....yeah I know he fusses over every minute detail, these day's, they all do (they've all learn't a lot from UPS's professionalism)...so if its not any of these things...what can it be.....Solution: Lance has gotta be drugging!......Then it occurred to me, (fairly recently actually)....If Lance is drugging...& the solution to the problem of why he was so superior, is as simple as that, they'd all have their hands out saying,(like in 'something about Mary'?), "I'll have what Lance is having, please". Then everyone would be as good as Lance!....hasn't happened has it?.......I think the solution just lies in Lance being a "freak'. He's probably the first person to have all the attributes required to be good at this stuff (& I'm not discounting how good the team has been in all of this:

1/ Hugely mentally tough. You'd be hard pressed to find anyone 'harder' than Lance in this area.

2/ Genetically blessed. yeah, we can talk chemotherapy & stuff, but the fact remains that Lance was a superior triathlete & world champion, before he got sick.

3/ Totally single focus on TDF. Lance doesn't do anything that doesn't have a TDF win as its logical outcome...eating, drinking, sleeping, training, racing, team recruiting etc etc.

So, I don't think Lance is doping, I think he's just the 1st to make TDF his 'business', coupled with his genetic gifts.....Hope I'm not wrong,

cheers,

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Old 07-22-04, 10:52 PM   #9
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Good points Hitchy. I think the "Ill have what he's having" argument adds even more weight.

I think you're right about Kloden Smaug *although* it does appear that Lance completely caught him off guard and just kind of sneaked up on him...
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Old 07-23-04, 12:01 AM   #10
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#1. LA is a genetic freak of nature. He's one of those guys who comes along once a generation or so and is PERFECTLY put together for the sport he chooses to participate in. Remember, he's more than just a good cyclist, he was entering triathalons as a teenager and competing with adults. He has an ability to work the heck out of his muscles and not generate lactic acid (or he generates it at a normal rate and metabolizes it faster than normal... there's no way to know which). His VO2max is likely in the 99.99999999% of human beings. You can't train this part of his dominance, you're either born with it or you're not.
I was wondering the same thing as the OP. Looking at what these riders (and in particular Lance) do day-in and day-out for 3 weeks and over 2000 miles, I wonder how it’s even possible. I mean, just a single day of approximately 150 miles would seem to require a week of rest, at least!

Then I read a chapter in Bob Roll’s Tour de France Companion (‘Not So Easy Riders,’ pp 68-72) tonight that helped put things in perspective for me and quell my doubts. Bob discusses the genetic factors that TDF riders possess, and uses Lance as an example:

“[O]ne of the first gifts a champion cyclist has to have is the ability to take in a lot of oxygen. This is commonly referred to as lung capacity, and Lance Armstrong’s is prodigious. He can absorb more oxygen per breath than almost anyone on earth … almost twice as much as the average male. When [LA]’s lung capacity was measured by the Cooper Institute, a top study center for exercise physiology, it ranked highest of any athlete the researchers had ever studied. . . . Armstrong has a double strength [in terms of lactic acid]. His body creates less lactic acid, and gets rid of it faster, than most people do. This is ideal for bike racing , especially in the mountains and for the sustained effort required by time trials -- the two disciplines that most often determine who will win the TDF. . . . Armstrong has other genetic gifts. His heart is about 30 percent larger than the average person’s. His resting pulse is 32 beats per minute – less than half what a normal, fit adult might register. . . Even Armstrong’s bones are superior: his femurs, the driveshaft of pedaling, are freakishly long, relative to the rest of his leg. If all this sounds like the TDF champion is one in a billion … well, yes. That’s why hardly anyone can do it – and why a lot of folks just don’t understand what it takes.”

I think it’s natural to have such doubts and skepticism as relative laypeople, until we remind oursleves we are looking at the performance of literally the world’s most talented and best trained athletes. The handful of riders who crossed the line first today are less than 10 in number, on a planet populated by billions. Furthermore, unless the talent and capability is there, I doubt any amount of EPO could generate the performance. Would be like adding nitrous to a Yugo.

I am not a doctor.
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Old 07-23-04, 04:04 AM   #11
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I still have my doubts.
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Old 07-23-04, 04:28 AM   #12
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I find it sad that virtually every time someone is successful, some people say they are cheating or stealing.
Somebody starts a business because they have a better idea for a product, they work like crazy to develop the business, hire talented poeple, end up successful, make a lot of money..."Well, they got successful off the backs of the poor workers..." Instead of "they created something that provided jobs for hundreds of people".

How about if Armstrong just works harder than everyone else? That he was given a second chance at life that million of others have not gotten (like my two cousins, aged 38 and 47 who both died of cancer and left, between them, six children for their husbands to raise) and he is determined to take maximum advantage of it?
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Old 07-23-04, 04:29 AM   #13
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I still have my doubts.
That's too bad.
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Old 07-23-04, 04:43 AM   #14
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I'm not a great fan of Lance Armstrong but I do believe that unless he is caught cheating, there is no proff of it and hence any innuendo or spreading of doubt is really unnecessary and reflects badly on the person spreading it.

For any multiday satge race, recovery is the most important aspect of your fitnesss training. So ride hard everyday or every 2nd day an you improve yur recovery.

There are plenty of off the shelf protein and carbohydrate concoctions that can be used in conjunction with sports science to maximise an athletes recovery. Should we then say that people using these methods are also cheating??

Personally I find it ridiculous to continue spreading rumours on any athlete, that because they are outperforming their peers, they must be cheating.

I've had accessements done at the Sports Science Institute. Once the results are through they will help me draw up a training programme that will focus on maximising strength and recovery for a 8 day MTB stage race next year. There's no drugs involved, just understanding how my body works, and then getting to perform more efficiently through training and diet.
Many of my friends have gone down this route and the performance gains they've made is clear to see. They also seem more astute than before simply because their bodies are using oxygen efficiently.

So have your doubts but, really, I think it's more than just doubt. Subconceously I believe you've already made up your mind that Lance is guitly. But remember then that that modelwill remain in your mind. You will always believe that someone who is above their peers is a cheater and that is very very sad indeed.

I salute Armstrong on his achievements and hope that next year my boy Jan will show him the way.
But I do not beleive that LA is a cheater, unless he is proven to be one.
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Old 07-23-04, 06:24 AM   #15
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I may be off a bit here but does not the USPS Team train specifically for the TDF? Yes they race in other races but is not their main goal the TDF?

It seems as though other teams train for and put more work into more races throughout the year so it would be harder for them to come in to this race in peak shape. It comes down to timing and figuring out when they will peak. Some teams do it at the beginning of the race and others in the middle. USPS seems to peak closer to the end where it really counts.

As for his huge speed at the end, that I believe that was all mental. He blocked out any pain he might have been feeling and just wasted the other riders. My jaw hit the floor when I saw that.

As for people always thinking some one like Lance is doping, I kind of know how he feels. When I was in top lifting form (power lifting/football) I was as big as the guys juicing and stronger then a lot of them and I was always asked or accused of "USING" even though I was completely clean. It is sad that this happens but a lot of people can not comprehend the fact that some people have a natural gift.

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Old 07-23-04, 06:40 AM   #16
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by far the best team in the tour, with i believe to be the best director i dont think they can be beaten till someone finally takes a few pages out of their book.

trains as hard or harder than anyone, and trains very smart.

knows the hole race better than any other rider in the tour.

i believe there are several other riders that are just as genetically blessed.

Jan for one, but he just doesnt prepare properly and as good a team as T-mobile may be they just don't work towards geting someone to win like postal does. Basso is another one, i think this year he is on par physically with Armstrong, but he hasn't learned how to time trial yet, and again CSC just doesnt do it right. Basso is probably going to lose his podium spot in the long time trial. if CSC had helped drive up the pace yesterday they probably could have dropped the germans like postal did in the earlier stages and Basso could have picked up some needed time on them, and postal probably would have helped. instead they let postal do the work and Basso didnt pick up anything. i doubt armstrong could have been beaten this year but the race would have been a heck of a lot more interesting if CSC and Mobile adopted a stratagy similar to postals.

besides all that, innocent until proven guilty, and to even suspect someone is using drugs just because they are very good at something is silly. until someone says "i dope" or they come up hot in a test, then as far as i'm concerned they don't dope.
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Old 07-23-04, 07:12 AM   #17
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Frank Shorter said it about the marathon but I think it applies here as well. Lance Armstrong and the USPS team are not doing anything fundamentally different than other riders and teams are doing. USPS is simply doing a much better job of it.

Lance's training schedule is designed by experts and he trains with a singleminded-ness that others have a hard time understanding let alone matching.

The USPS team works together much better than others. If Team Bianchi had pulled together behind Ulrich a bit better, possibly he could have picked up 30 or so seconds on USPS and Armstrong last year. It looked to me like he was out there by himself most of the time.

All teams prepare for the race. USPS goes over every yard of the 2100+ miles in the course as many times as it takes to get it right.

Also it probably helps that Armstrong picked the right parents, but without the rest, that is useless.

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Old 07-23-04, 07:18 AM   #18
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I'm fanatical about the assumption of innocence so I won't go there (though some baseball players do test my faith sorely).

In this particular stage I too think Kloden went early. I posted elsewhere that I'm pretty sure Jan is not too happy with his teammate for messing that finish up. At the pace LA was riding when Kloden attacked (riding with Jan) Kloden could have waited 20-30 meters and then wouldn't have been caught.

However such things are hard to judge and as been pointed out mistakes like that happen alot. Even Zabel screwed up a sprint earlier this season and he has alot more experience with such things than Kloden.

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Old 07-23-04, 07:19 AM   #19
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Sheesh!

If there were brain-doping drugs, there would have been accusations about Albert Einsten!

Some people are JUST physiologically gifted.
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Old 07-23-04, 07:50 AM   #20
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OK. Fair critique Brent. Maybe I'm making too much out of it. I guess I was just so stunned by that fact that he closed a HUGE gap on Kloden with just an amazing burst of speed.
That happens often, with many 'lesser' cyclists. Kloden already attacked and gave everything. Armstrong was still riding in the draft until that moment.

Anyone remember that Vuelta stage in 2002 where a single rider caught another rider within 30 meters of the line? He was chasing for at least 5km and caught him right at the end. It was really cool.
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Old 07-23-04, 07:57 AM   #21
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Lance acceleration at the end was impressive, as was Kloden initial accleration when he attacked. Kloden just went a bit to soon.
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Old 07-23-04, 08:27 AM   #22
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Carl,

thanks for opening a level headed discussion of not just lance, but doping as well.
ExMachina, no one is accusing Lance of doping, just asking if he could (and he did)
show the explosive power like stage 17 without.

Is it me, or has Lance shown more explosive power this tour than ever before?
I knew he was explosive on climbs, but geeziepeezie where did this come from.
He pulled up to Kloden like he was standing still.

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Old 07-23-04, 08:34 AM   #23
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You DO know Lance is from Alpha Centuri 3, right?
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Old 07-23-04, 08:38 AM   #24
Smaug
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Originally Posted by MacMan
You DO know Lance is from Alpha Centuri 3, right?
LOL. Forget VO2max, hematocrit, lactic acid and all that other nonsence... this is EASILY the best explaination I've seen so far.

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Old 07-23-04, 10:24 AM   #25
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I also agree that innocent until prove guilty is the best policy. If it turns out he has been doping then he has to deal with the repercussions and the black mark it will leave on his cycling resume.
As for out sprinting Kloden yesterday, I think it was a combination of Landis burying himself for Lance, Kloden going a split second too early and assuming he had the stage in the bag. It looked like Kloden sat up 15 meters from the line. When he realized Lance was coming he could not react fast enough.
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