What made Armstrong so dominant?

I thought this was covered before but I couldn’t find anything with the SEARCH.
I also don’t think this may have a factual answer but it isn’t a red-hot debate either.

Why is/was Lance Armstrong so dominant in cycling?

Maybe I’m naive but it seems the two strongest skills a cyclist needs are muscle strength and endurance. If you have incredibly strong leg muscles and can make them work for super extended periods of time you should have an advantage, right?

So, besides the drug/steroid thing (which again I may be naive but I thought this was pretty well disproved), has anyone done any measurements or tests on Lance to see if he has any physical characteristics that would give him an advantage. Abnormaly large lung capacity? Abnormal leg size (bones/muscles)?
Abnormal respiratory/circulatory system?

I don’t want to hear about his “drive to be the best” or “he trains harder than the others” since that’s pretty much a kick in the face to all the other riders. I think they all train just as hard and all want to win just as much.

So, just what kind of “edge” did this guy have?

From memory, Lance has:

  • An abnormally large heart
  • Abnormally large lungs
  • Abnormally long femurs
  • muscles that produce much less lactic acid than normal, resulting in less “burn”

There may be more that I’m forgetting.

His team mates for the past 8 years have all said Lance comes from a different planet. Citing overwhelmingly his “Game face stare” when the time comes to perform. So I’d say this guy has an uncanny ability to focus on a goal, and not accept anything but #1.
That and an amazing set of lungs and crazy amounts of stamina, and the body of a cyclist. So Genes play a role too.

Plus he can stretch his arms and neck waaaay out and stuff and they just kind of go back to normal, like they had some kind of jelly-sand in them or something.

Oh wait, that’s Stretch Armstrong. My bad. :smack:

I was flipping channels and happened to catch a bit about the type of training he does. In addition to the physical type stuff that you’d expect, there are also a lot of wind tunnel tests where they measure the amount of drag difference from something as silly as moving your elbows in a quarter of an inch or ducking your head one inch lower. The show explained that incredibly small differences in drag make a huge difference in a race because of the extreme distances involved. There’s also a lot about team work and how various riders will rotate around to conserve strength, relying on the aerodynamics of the other riders in their team. Strategy plays a huge part as well. Exactly how you place your riders on the road, how you rotate them, and when you decide to let Lance pull ahead and give it his all determines whether he wins or loses. It’s not just Lance alone out there. The show gave a lot of credit to the team leader (whose name I forget).

I think it is safe to say that in addition to his natural ability, Lance has a really good team behind him that has figured out how to do things slightly better than the other teams.

[insert the usual disclaimers about stuff learned from a tv show here]

I think if Jan Ullrich trained as hard as Lance, he could have challenged his dominance. I think Lance has both incredible genes and an incredible work ethic.

I saw something recently that said he had a genetic advantage, that being an abnormally large heart maybe 1/4 bigger than normal and that through his workout regimen he’s increased that by 1/3 again.

Genetics, work and focus.

I’m not hugely knowledgeable on all things Lance, but the answer to the OP must be cancer, right? At least that’s what changed him from being an incredibly talented cyclist who was recording isolated successes into the terminator who crushed the TdF field seven times out of seven. The illness changed him physically and mentally, I’ve read him saying that it cured him of laziness, that it instilled the iron will that equates losing with dying. I have heard it said that the weight loss he suffered during his fight with cancer was also instrumental in giving him the leaner bodyshape that allowed him to dominate both the climbs and timetrialing aspects of the tour. This is just anecdotal though, I couldn’t give you a cite for it.

Bottom line is that Lance is an elite cyclist because he is a genetic freak with a God given talent at endurance bicycle racing. There are quite a few guys like that out there though; none of them have won the tour seven times in succession like Lance.

I follow the sport fairly closely and have a decent amount of personal racing experience.

In no particualar order.

  1. The dope.
    Hey, you wanted MHO. We can’t even regularly test for EPO which has been around for 15+ years let alone the dozens of more exotic dope products that have come along in the last decade and a half. Just look to riders such as Dario Frigo. Never a positive control in his life, no particular controversey, not particularly talented, several wins to be subjected to both after competition and off-season testing just like Lance Armstrong. Boom, middle of the Tour, his wife gets stopped at a checkpoint, car gets searched, and they find 10 doses of EPO. Yeah, he’s doped. But is it with better stuff than the rest of the peloton? Who knows. Given the preparation he puts into the rest of his campaign and his (continuing) close ties to people on the bleeding edge of doping like Dr. Michele Ferrari, it’s likely that he gets some above grade stuff.

  2. The cancer. Without the testicular cancer, Lance Armstrong never had a snowball’s chance in hell of ever winning the Tour, let alone seven. He had difficulty even finishing one. Not because he was a bad cyclist. He wasn’t, he was brilliantly talented, but in a World Champion/Classics type of manner, not in a Grand Tour manner. Look to someone like Tom Boonen right now to know what Armstrong was/would have been like without it.

  3. Preparation. He has brought a particularly rigid and scientific approach to preparation. An early adopted of power-meter training (now everyone has it), windtunnel testing (now most all GC riders have it), etc.

  4. A good amount of luck. Like it or not, he has gotten a number of lucky breaks. For instance, when Zulle lost six minutes in that high-tide crash in 1999. Zulle still came back and finished second in that Tour. In 2003, when his grip was the loosest, I sincerely doubt he would have won, or if so by more than 10 seconds, if Ullrich hadn’t crashed on the final TT. Also, his closest competitor at the time, Beloki, got a flat on a downhill and broke his femur. Ouch. This year, Ullrich put his head through a back window of a car the day before the Tour started. He cut his neck within 1 cm of his juular. That will hurt your performance, no doubt.

  5. A strong team organized around him and organized around the Tour.

  6. Work ethic. There’s no denying that he does have a strong work ethic. I’m not sure that it’s necessarily better than everyone else in the peloton, but it seems better than Ullrich’s.

Some other stuff. Anything in particular you wanted to hear more about?

Oh come on, threemae, regardless of what you personally think, there’s absolutely no proof that Lance dopes. There’s been bazillions of dollars and countless hours put into trying to prove he does, and nobody can. So don’t roll it out like it’s some sort of established fact.

Lance Armstrong is a robot. That’s the only thing that makes sense to me.

Weren’t there accusations last year that he was injecting hemoglobin or something for more efficient oxygen transport? Whatever happened with that? Moreover, what is the legality concerning that?

Word. :smiley:

His ability to absorb oxygen with every breath is superior to most pro tour riders, let alone average amateur athletes. That helps him feed his muscles with oxygen rich blood (strong heart) and reduce the effect of the burn due to lactate build up.

Surviving cancer helped him rebuild his body to be more lean in the upper half. He came from a triathlete background and had larger muscle mass in his chest, arms and shoulders.

He has tremendous work ethic and great discipline.

He does not wear himself out in the other premier cycling events (like Giro Italia) leading up to the TdF. This helps him train to peak in this event and not wear out his body earlier in other grueling races.

They cut out parts of his body - he weighs less so… :o

I don’t follow the sport, but I understand that this is a big part of it. Supposedly he raced in only a handful of events last year, so that he was spending much more of the year training for the Tour de France than others.

Especially when the only evidence presented is that some other cyclist was caught with dope.

What can I say. This is IMHO. I know more about the sport, I’ve actually done the sport, I’ve talked to people that have raced in Europe, and I’ve talked to his ex-teammates. There aren’t “bazillions” of dollars in the sport in the first place to spend on developing new dope controls, and he only has to answer to the requests of WADA officials, post-race win controls, and random selections from race organizers. People seem to be under the impression that he lives under perpetual surveillance, but the reality is that he likely faced around four out of competition dope controls a year. If you miss one of those, you have two or three chances to make them up at a later date if you suddenly become indisposed. The system as it exists right now clearly doesn’t stop doping, as in only the past two months two riders under similar control systems have been caught with dope while passing all of the dope controls.

Think whatever you want. It is what it is.

Bullcrap. Apparently, you know little to nothing about professional racing:

EPO Testing Makes Olympic Debut with IMMULITE Assay

The question of how pervasive drug use truly is among athletes competing
in sporting events around the world surfaced again with the Summer Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia. Withdrawals of athletes before the games, the insertion of a pledge in the Olympic oath to compete drug free, media coverage of drug testing, and disqualifications of medalists reminded the world of the unfortunate need to test competitors.

For some banned substances, no approved test is currently available. Such was true for erythropoietin (EPO)—until this year. With the developement and approval of a new test for synthetic EPO using DPC’s IMMULITE® EPO assay, at least this drug is now straightforward to detect. Hopefully, the test has rendered EPO abuse impractical to would-be abusers.

EPO, a peptide hormone secreted by the kidneys in response to a decrease in the partial pressure of blood oxygen, stimulates red blood cell production. An elevation in the number of red blood cells increases oxygen transport to muscle tissue, thus enhancing endurance. Athletes who could be tempted to resort to synthetic EPO administration include those involved in endurance events such as cycling, distance running and swimming.

Okay, so how do you explain people at the very top of the sport like Rumsas, Frigo, etc.? They have similar testing demands to Mr. Armstrong, don’t fail the dope controls, and yet their wives get stopped at borders with tons of EPO, for, let me guess, their ailing mothers in law (<-actual excuse used by Edita Rumsas!)?

Believe whatever you want about your little commerical website, reality seems to suggest otherwise.

It’s not my website, old bean. :wink: But if it is gravitas that you’re after, are the BBC and International Cycling Union credible enough?

Last December, at a press conference in Paris, the President of the International Cycling Union (UCI), Hein Verbruggen, announced that a new detection method for EPO would be introduced at the beginning of April 2001.