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  1. #1
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    Comparing to Motocross

    My brother is a big motocross fan and came across an article where Lance Armstrong's former chiropractor (Dr Jeff Spencer) said “I’ve spent 5 tours (Tour de France) with Lance Armstrong and Lance is no slouch. But Lances’ overall general fitness doesn’t even compare to the overall fitness of a motocross racer.” Help me out.

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    “Motocross by far requires the highest level of combined fitness of any sport on the face of the earth, bar none.” He continued, “I’ve spent 5 tours (Tour de France) with Lance Armstrong and Lance is no slouch. But Lances’ overall general fitness doesn’t even compare to the overall fitness of a motocross racer.”

    My thesis would take one of the following threads:
    1) This is a very aggressive statement. Is this a suitable source?
    -Dr Spencer was not technically Lance Armstrong's trainer. He was his chiropractor. Chris Carmichael was Lance Armstrong's trainer for 15 years. Now Chris's training company CTC has worked a little with Motocross (example: Timmy Ferry, second overall at 2002 Outdoor Nationals) so there is some crossover there as well but their main focus is adding aerobic training to their regimen. Dr Spencer has worked with many more motocross athletes (amongst others in other sports if you check his website) but he is also paid for those services. Is that a reliable source when he would be promoting himself at the same time to other motocross riders? He does have that crossover with other sports but would Lance's trainer have said the same thing? Would another trainer without any connection to either Lance or Motocross say the same thing?
    2) Is there research to back this up?
    -I can't find any on motocross specifically although one motocross article stated that one of the top riders had a VO2 Max in the 70s. Below is a chart from one study:
    VO2max Values For Elite Athletes

    Sport
    Female
    Male

    Cross country skiers
    65
    83

    Middle distance runners
    59
    80

    Swimmers
    56
    77

    Speed skaters
    54
    76

    Cyclists
    56
    75

    Rowers
    42
    61

    Soccer players
    No data
    62

    Fencers
    44
    No data

    Weight lifters
    No data
    54


    Motocross isn't even mentioned and that is one of the problems. The fitness sports like swimming or cycling are analyzed to death. VO2Max, Anaerobic Threshold, Lactic Acid Buffering. Like it or not, motocross is still primarily a skill sport. The training is what puts the person over the hump but it's not the entire reason for success. In other sports where you use your whole body and fitness is the primary reason for success, you will get fitter athletes. Good luck in finding the research to refute that.
    3) What's the general feedback on motocross compared to other sports?
    -ESPN did an article and motocross wasn't even ranked for the toughest sports to train for. Here is a response to some motocross fans:
    There was recently an article on ESPN debating which sport was the most difficult and they had a long list of sports activities along with their ranks of difficulty. Among this list included auto racing, table tennis, cheerleading (seriously), fishing, horse racing and baseball to name a few. Motocross did not even make the list! To view the entire list here is the link: http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/sportSkills . Then there was a follow-up article written by Jim Caple of ESPN which I found quite disturbing, as I found this atrocious quote coming from the Senior Editor: ? Oh, and a note to all those motocross fans who organized themselves to flood my email with comments about what an idiot I am for leaving your sport off the list: I did not choose the sports for the list. But even if I had, I would never, under any circumstances, have included motocross. You're relying on a motor, for God's sake.? - Taken from ESPN.com http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2...e=caple/040506

    Here was a funny response from a motocross person:

    No seriously, I?m not saying horse and auto racing shouldn?t be on that list because both necessitate some degree of skill and athleticism. But put those drivers on the seat of a motocross bike and see how long they last on the track before they pull off due to exhaustion or until their legs, back and arms go numb. And that?s riding at a beginner?s pace. Studies have shown that a motocross athlete?s physical stature is among the greatest of all sports figures. One way of comparing physical ability is through a VO2 Max test, which is a test that formulates the maximum amount of oxygen you can use in one minute per kilogram of body weight. So the fitter you are, the higher your VO2 max will be thus enabling you to exercise more intensely. A certain privateer we all know recently took this test at the University of New Mexico and he wielded the VO2 Max value of 70 ml/kg/min. What does that mean? If we compare those numbers to other highly touted sports, statistics reveal that cyclists and endurance runners hold the highest VO2 Max values with an average of 70-75 ml/kg/min. Mainstream ?stick-and-ball? sports such as baseball boast values averaging 45-50 ml/kg/min, while football and basketball players weighed in at 55-60 ml/kg/min. Okay, enough with the scientific formulas and ratios, let?s see some hard evidence. Realistically, the only way Jim Caple will ever understand how physically demanding the sport motocross really is would be for him to get on a bike himself and experience the hurt. If you think keyboard and pencil arm pump is bad, then you?re in for a shocker Mr. Caple! But this will never happen and I?ll tell you why. It is because Jim Caple is one of those homegrown good ole American boys who were raised on peanuts and baseball while rooting for the home team from the base of his buttocks on the comfy plaid couch. People like Caple are afraid to venture beyond the mainstream sports field and discover a whole new world of physicality. I personally find it hard to accept words coming from these sports journalists, as the only athletic ability they possess would be running their mouths. I know it sounds like a case of ?my dad can beat up your dad?, but by the looks of it, I am willing to bet a lot of money I can hit a baseball harder, throw a football longer, drive a golf ball farther, run a mile quicker, ride a bike faster, do more pushups and bowl a better game than Jim Caple. But he might have me beat on that Cheerleading stuff, I don?t know. TAS

    4) Can we compare motocross riders to cyclist by picking a sport halfway between the two?

    Yes we can. Mountain Bike Riding. Current AMA 250 Supercross and National 250 Motocross Champion Ricky Carmichael (Honda) and 2003 US Open of Motocross Champion Chad Reed (Yamaha) will exclusively ride & train aboard Specialized bicycles and equipment in 2004, the one brand they both agree on. Both racers have embraced cycling as a primary training method, and have selected Specialized road & mountain bikes as their cycling brand of choice for the competitive edge in the hyper-physical sport of professional motocross.
    Both Ricky and Chad are riding daily. Their S-Works E5 road bikes will play a pivotal role in their fitness training as they ramp up for the 2004 Supercross and Outdoor National season which kicked off January 3, 2004 in Anaheim, CA (which Chad won, by the way).

    But do we have any head to head results between motocross riders and cyclists on the mountain bike? I didn't see any but I did see that Lance races on the mountain bike very now and then. Would he beat Chad and Ricky?

    4) Last but not least, can we compare Lance Armstrong specifically to the motocross riders ?

    -Lance was a former nationally ranked triathlete and more people covered his training regimen than possibly any other athlete. There is no comparison without hard data from the motocross side but I would argue that Lance would have taken every measure.

  3. #3
    Member ih8_punkrock's Avatar
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    Dude, that was awesome.
    Punk rock? What is that, some kind of joke?

  4. #4
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    Dang. How about that. A topic I know a little about. I used to race motocross back, um, well let's say a few years ago. At that time the typical race consisted of two 45 minute motos. That's a heck of a long time at that output level. There's no drafting or sitting back in the peloton here. Studies I found at that time ranked motocross at 2nd in the world of professional sports, with professional soccer at 1. I think that motocross ranks higher than expected relative to cycling because it involves more muscle groups. A LOT more. Cycling doesn't really develop muscles above your waist. Motocross does. Watch those guys going over a section of "whoops" sometime. When I raced I was in the best physical condition of my life. I haven't kept up with motocross much over the years, other than an occassional Supercross, which wouldn't seem to me to be nearly as physically demanding since the heats are, I think, 10 minutes and the mains are 20 minutes. Bottom line is that motocross is tougher than most people think it is and the motor doesn't do ALL the work.

  5. #5
    Senior Member DannoXYZ's Avatar
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    I guess you have to first decide on the measurement metrics you're using to judge "overall fitness". I would make a list like:

    - VO2-max
    - resting HR
    - body-fat %
    - max-power output
    - power-output at various durations
    - average power-output for event
    - calories burnt during event
    - calories burnt per week/month/year in training
    - recovery-rate from MHR
    - etc.

    Then assign points-weighting to each factor. Tally up the totals for various events and see how they compare. Of course, just coming to an agreement on the list and point-values is gonna be tough to begin with.

    This sounds like the comparison between NASCAR vs. Indy/IRL/F1 drivers. Simple test was to swap drivers in their respective events. Indy/IRL drivers were slightly slower than NASCAR drivers when driving NASCARs while NASCAR drivers were much, much slower than Indy/IRL drivers in champ-cars.

    There'd be no doubt Lance could compete in a moto, but how competitive and how far back would he be? Compare that to the motocrosser in 3-weeks of 100-mile+ daily racing across the Alps. My bet is that motocrosser wouldn't even be able to finish the TDF.
    Last edited by DannoXYZ; 02-02-06 at 01:52 PM.

  6. #6
    Lost in the Black Hills mx_599's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dr Woodbox
    My brother is a big motocross fan and came across an article where Lance Armstrong's former chiropractor (Dr Jeff Spencer) said “I’ve spent 5 tours (Tour de France) with Lance Armstrong and Lance is no slouch. But Lances’ overall general fitness doesn’t even compare to the overall fitness of a motocross racer.” Help me out.
    i would disagree. are you sure this wasn't taken out of context?

  7. #7
    Lost in the Black Hills mx_599's Avatar
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    there are out of shape guys with lots of talent that can win motocross

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by mx_599
    there are out of shape guys with lots of talent that can win motocross
    Who?
    Me gusta la bicicleta!

  9. #9
    Lost in the Black Hills mx_599's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by fastequalsfun
    Who?
    robbie reynard, jojo keller, jeremy mcgrath

    then there are guys with not as much talent who try really, really hard...jeff stanton

  10. #10
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    Jeremy McGrath is not out of shape. Perhaps your standards for "in shape" are higher than mine, but there's more to being in shape than being the size of Lance Armstrong.
    Me gusta la bicicleta!

  11. #11
    Lost in the Black Hills mx_599's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by fastequalsfun
    Jeremy McGrath is not out of shape. Perhaps your standards for "in shape" are higher than mine, but there's more to being in shape than being the size of Lance Armstrong.
    jeremy mcgrath of the mid 90's was not in great shape by any means...as far as athletes go. he would say the same thing i am sure.

  12. #12
    Senior Member Joe1946's Avatar
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    I would say the top riders like James Stewart are in better shape than drivers/riders in other motorsports but not in the same class as the top bikers like Lance Armstrong IMHO.
    Last edited by Joe1946; 02-08-06 at 06:41 PM.

  13. #13
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    This is interesting. I'm a lurker from the 50+ forum, but have been interested in this subject for years. I am a former NCAA D-I soccer player, former motorcycle racer (pavement circuit races only) and have always stayed in reasonable shape. Am now doing oly distance tri's regularly in about 3 hours.

    About 20 years ago I read a detailed article about this subject. A group of exercise/health investigators put a varied group of athletes to the regular tests. Almost as an aside, they included at the last minute some of the top US motorcrossers. (I cannot recall their names now, but they were household names to those who read Cycle News) Anyway, the two motorcrossers were soon the darlings of the testors. Not only were they a little pudgy looking (a la McGrath) they were funny and competitive. To everyone's surprise, they tested better than everyone but the elite runners and the soccer players. (The professional jockeys were right there, also!)

    What the testors were especially suprised about was how mental toughness allowed the motorcross guys to push themselves way past all normal thresholds. When others were stopping, they just would hang on like grim death and keep pushing the treadmill, lactic acid threshold be damned. Everything was a game to these guys and they just would not yield until they had wrung every last ounce of energy from their bodies.

    BTW, I was in excellent shape when I raced motorcycles. I was disappointed to learn that my first race was to be an 8 lapper instead of a 15 lapper at Orange County Speedway (now departed and missed in So. Calif.). That first race lasted all of about 15 minutes. When I got off the bike I was totally spent. I was shocked at how much energy I had expended wrestling this small road race bike around at about 90 -110 mph. And this was just sitting on the seat, not at all like motorcross.

    Sorry for the LOOONG post.

    Tyson
    Cushing, Oklahoma

  14. #14
    Lost in the Black Hills mx_599's Avatar
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    don't get me wrong guys, i am all for motocross. i raced many years and went to Loretta Lynns too. i didn't have the natural talent to go any further so i decided to focus on school.

    i think the spectrum of fitness levels amongst motorcross riders is too great for any of us to win an argument. jeff stanton ----> unfit jeremy (he was still able to win championships before he got in shape!) all i am really saying is it is possible for a really talented, out of shape motorcycle rider to go incredibly fast and win...maybe not a championship, but enough to give the factory guys fits on any given sunday

    now i don't know that much about the Tour, but however you measure their talent, if you're not in shape you probably won't even be with the Peleton (sp?)

    another thing to consider, you don't need the aerobic capacity of the Tour for motocross anyway. i am sure james stewart could beat lance in arm wrestling different ways to measure fitness levels.

    in conclusion: raw talent can overcome fitness in motocross. i don't believe this to be true for other physically demanding sports.

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    mx_599, I agree and disagree. I don't really know the fitness level of Jeremy McGrath. I do know he won a lot of supercrosses which tend to be much shorter than outdoor events. I suspect his vast talent would serve him only for the first 1/3 to 1/2 of a 45 minute moto, at which point the fit guys would reel him in and pass.

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    Maybe he meant that motocross riders fitness levels have a better balance? eg. most elite cyclists have excellent endurance and lower body strength but their upper body strength can often be quite low. Youve also got to remember that fitness doesnt just mean VO2Max, a shot putter is 'fit' but in other fitness aspects, such as anaerobic fitness and pwer output.

  17. #17
    Lost in the Black Hills mx_599's Avatar
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    to be a champion at motocross, no doubt they're typically in phenominal shape (i keep refering to jeremy, but fact is he won stuff not in the best of shape) but at any single moto, an out of shape guy with great talent can win! this has happened many times....even if the factory guys get good starts too. so all i am trying to say is that if motocross had truly elite type athletes, then you wouldn't get these occurrences

  18. #18
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    Good points, everyone.

    I'd like to add that MX has an element of "fitness" that cycling (a la Lance) doesn't have: taking impact. Having a top-shelf VO2 max is of little help against jumps/whoops/ruts and impact with other riders, not to mention wrestling a XXX-lb bike. (What does Lance's bike weigh?) Taking impact is what makes sports like soccer, boxing, and horse racing (to reference a post above) so punishing, and it's one of the things (like talent and mental toughness) that repeated fitness studies can't really measure.
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