1999 Tour de France Stage 9 Sestrières
Racing starts @17:05. Prior to that, there are some interviews with Lance and Kristin Armstrong (she was his wife at the time) about cancer. Maybe you hadn’t heard he had cancer?
Also of note in this video, Paul Sherwin drops the oft repeated, but never verified, line about how Armstrong was twenty pounds lighter post-cancer @21:50. The implication being his power output remained constant, and the weight loss is what made him a Tour contender. That implication is wrong.
You cast yourself back to 2005, and I’m very acutely aware of this, there was a wall that came up against me immediately as I was trying to interpret the background data on Armstrong. There virtually was none. Before the Ed Coyle paper no one really knew for sure anything about Armstrong. Not his VO2Max, not his power output, we didn’t even know how much he weighed. All you could rely on was very loose, for example in the article that was published after his first test session in Coyle’s lab when the photographs were taken, they report him as being 77, 78 kilos. You contrast that with the data in Coyle’s paper, and he shows that the lowest body weight was 75 kilos in ’93, but in November after his first Tour victory, it was 79 kilos.
. . . It all comes back to this mystery. It’s power to body weight that determines your performance, particularly in mountain stages. It’s all power to weight ratio. If people know how much you weigh, they can then extrapolate back from your times and your speed, and get a pretty good approximation of what your power output must be. And once you know the power output and the body weight, then you can get a pretty good guess at what the VO2′s were like. And when you start plugging some of those figures back in, you see that during some of his performances at the Tour, his VO2 must’ve been through the roof.
www.nyvelocity.com…michael-ashenden (links shortened hereinafter); accord www.sportsscientists.com/…coyle-and-armstrong-research-errors. The study referenced is Edward F. Coyle, Improved muscular efficiency displayed as Tour de France champion matures, Journal of Applied Physiology, March 2005, 98:2191-96, www.edb.utexas.edu/coyle…pdf.
Short version for those who can’t waste the time at work with a half hour video below. TL;DR – Armstrong lit the race on fire and absolutely stormed up the climb to Sestrière.
So, why is this important? Ask Tyler Hamilton. He was there. Ask him what he remembers about the 1999 Tour de France.
Everybody knew the key stages were 8 and 9: a 56-kilometer time trial in Metz, followed by a rest day, then the queen stage – a wicked triple-header of climbs of the Télégraphe, Galibier, and a mountaintop finish in the Italian ski village of Sestrière. As we rolled toward the showdown, the media used the week to whip up the plotlines, most of which revolved around a couple of questions: Was the peloton truly clean? Would Lance, who’d never been great on the long European climbs (his only Tour finish in four attempts was 36th), be able to climb with the rest of the contenders?
A couple of days before, we got prepared. We used the secret phone to calls Philippe, who zipped through the crowds and made his delivery. Since we wanted to keep the EPO out of our hotel, we usually did the shots in the camper. It worked like this: we’d finish a stage, and go straight into the camper for cleanup, get a drink, and change clothes. The syringes would be waiting for us, sometimes tucked inside out sneakers, in our race bags.
The sight of the syringes always made my heart jump. You’d want to inject it right away – get it in you and then get rid of the evidence. Sometimes del Moral would give the shot, sometimes we’d do it ourselves, whatever was fastest. And we were fast – it took thirty seconds at most. You didn’t have to be precise: arm, belly, anywhere would do. We got into the habit of putting out used syringes in an empty Coke can. The syringes fit neatly through the opening – plonk, plonk, plonk – you could hear the needles rattle. And we treated that Coke can with respect. It was the Radioactive Coke Can, the one that could end out Tour, ruin the team, and our careers, maybe land us in a French jail. Once the syringes were inside, we’d crush it, dent it, make it look like trash. Then del Moral would tuck the Coke can at the bottom of his backpack, put on aviator sunglasses, open that flimsy caper door, and walk into the crowd of fans, journalists, Tour officials, even police, who were packed around the bus. They were all watching for Lance. Nobody saw the anonymous guy with the backpack, who walked quietly through them, invisible.
In the stage 8 time trial Lance did well, winning over Zulle by nearly a minute (I didn’t do too badly, finishing fifth). But it was stage 9 that everybody was waiting for – the climb to Sestrière. The first big climb of the Tour is a coming-out party, the moment the race really begins. Everybody’s watching because this is when the Tour contenders finally show their cards.
The morning was cold and rainy. The early part of the race brought lots of attacks; everybody was trying to prove himself. Frankie did a magnificent job as road captain, watching the potential breakaways like a hawk, making sure we didn’t let any contenders get away. We protected Lance as long as we could, then fell back, leaving him with an elite group of contenders. A few long-shot guys broke away; then Escartín and Gotti, who were thought of as the best climbers, took off after them. The script of the race looked clear: Lance had done well, but now it was time for the real climbers to take over. Escartín or Gotti would most likely win.
Then, with about eight kilometers left, something unexpected happened: Lance attacked, rode down Escartín and Gotti, and soloed away to take the stage win. I knew Lance was going well; I could hear the roar ahead of me on the road, and I could hear Johan and Thom Weisel shouting jubilantly over the team radio. But it wasn’t until that night, when I saw the highlights on television, that I realized how strong Lance had been.
“Armstrong has just ridden across like they were standing still!” commentator Paul Sherwin shouted. Lance’s attack on Escartín and Gotti was even more impressive because of the way he did it – not standing, as most attackers do, but sitting down. His cadence barely changed. He just kept riding, churning that gear, and the other riders fell away. I knew how strong Lance was – we’d trained next to each other, day after day. But this got my attention, just like it got everyone else’s. This was a new Lance, one I hadn’t seen before. He was on a different level.
Tyler Hamilton & Daniel Coyle, The Secret Race 91-93 Bantam (2012).
Meet the new Lance – same as the old Lance.by