The key to winning this century-old French bicycle race is to be Lance
Armstrong. If you're not, then you'll need years of training, incredible
power and stamina, several bikes, a coach, a sponsored team and at
least eight months of course preparation. Don't forget a killer work
ethic, superhuman willpower and superb strategy: The Tour de France
is a test of human spirit as much as physical prowess.
Start pedaling: the Tour de France covers approximately 2,000 miles and 20 individual stages, with a different course every year. The lead changes hands several times during the three-week race, with time bonuses and penalties influencing overall time. When that last lap on the Champs-Elyse'es is completed, the rider with the lowest combined time (general classification) takes home the trophy--and the maillot jaune (yellow jersey).
Complete a single stage in the shortest time and you'll wear the coveted maillot jaune. The red-and-while polka-dot jersey goes to the King of the Mountains--the overall best climber. The most consistent finisher of all the stages (often a strong sprinter) wins the green jersey for most points, while the white jersey is awarded to the top finisher under the age of 25.
Begin your Tour de France training in November in order to get optimum results come July. For example, if you're shooting for the 2007 race, start your training program in November of '06.
Develop the ability to accelerate quickly to high speeds. Work on speed and endurance at least once a week. Set specific distances and track your times. Alternate all-out rides at top speed with slower rides in order to recover fully during training.
Develop explosive power and focus on your climbing stamina. While the rabbits might take some of the flatter stages, when the race moves into the brutal mountain passes, you'll be able to make your move. Ride all the mountain stages--which include jaunts through the Pyrenees and the Alps--relentlessly in the months leading up to the race. Study the course particularly as it approaches the finish line for each stage in order to take full advantage of strategy and tactics during the race itself.
Race the Individual Time Trials, where riders start at set intervals and cannot give or receive a draft. Then it's on to the Team Time Trials, where team members strive for the lowest cumulative time.
Work for your team's star rider in any way you can. Domestiques ride in front of him to reduce wind resistance or chase down breakaways to ensure that rivals don't escape and gain valuable minutes. Gain enough Tour experience and split off to form your own team and become the star.
Win the most difficult battle: the mental challenge. You must train your mind to keep pushing while your body is begging to stop.
Tips & Warnings
- You can benefit from the coaching principles that Lance Armstrong uses by contacting coach Chris Carmichael's staff at TrainRight.com.
- Be prepared to swerve to avoid high-speed crashes and to race through extreme weather conditions.
- Race organizers invite about 20 teams, each with nine cyclists.
- It's critical to eat and drink regularly on the bike because your body can store only 1,600 to 1,800 calories of carbohydrate energy in your muscles and liver. Consume 6,000 to 7,000 calories per race day, more on particularly long and hard days. Lance tries to get 70 percent of his daily calories from carbohydrates, 15 percent from fat, and 15 percent from protein.
- Total prize money is about 16 million francs (approximately U.S. $2.1 million).
- Beware of the broom wagon, a van that follows the race and picks up the riders who have fallen so far back that they're unable to finish within the time limit for the stage.
- Be sure to follow all the rules precisely to avoid being disqualified from the tour.
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