It's hard to argue with success; it's even tougher to emulate it. But if you want to train like a Tour de France winner, you couldn't do much better than learning the tricks of the trade from two-time champion (1999 and 2000) Lance Armstrong.
In The Lance Armstrong Performance Program: Seven Weeks to the Perfect Ride, Armstrong teams up with his coach, Chris Carmichael (whom the U.S. Olympic Committee named 1999's Coach of the Year), to offer the ultimate insider's guide to becoming a better rider, based on the regimen Carmichael has been fine-tuning for Armstrong since the early 1990s. Noting that athletes of all levels focus best when aiming for specific goals at the end of short windows, the authors describe the performance program as consisting of "three specialized weekly training programs that build on your current fitness level" followed by a week of "recovery riding between each program." They provide an easy-to-administer fitness-level self-test in the form of a three-mile time trial (beginner, intermediate, or advanced), and they then define the key operative terms that make up the bulk of the actual training, including Tempo, HighSpin, PowerIntervals, Sprints, and Training Zone. A brief section of workbook-style pages provides readers with a user-friendly outline for the entire seven weeks.
Here is week 3 for an intermediate rider:
- Monday: day off.
- Tuesday: 1 hour in zone 2 with 20 minutes Tempo on flat terrain.
- Wednesday: 30 minutes in zone 1; recovery ride.
- Thursday: 1 hour in zone 2 with 15 minutes Tempo on flat terrain.
- Friday: 45 minutes in zone 2 with 10 minutes HighSpin on flat terrain.
- Saturday: 1 hour in zone 2 with 15 minutes Tempo on flat terrain.
- Sunday: 1.5 hours in zone 2 with 30 minutes on hilly terrain.
Though clearly the focus, the performance program itself makes up less than a third of the book. Other subjects covered include cycling equipment, essential maintenance and repair, riding in bad weather, road hazards, mental toughness, and the pros' eating habits both on and off the bike, to name just a few. What the book is not is the story of Lance Armstrong's remarkable recovery from testicular cancer (see his autobiography, It's Not About the Bike, for that). Rather, Armstrong and Carmichael have produced a detail-packed training manual, sprinkled with photographs and tales of the racing life, for those who spend a large percentage of their time on two wheels--or dream of it. --Patrick Jennings