June 14, 2005
Armstrong 18 percent better than before cancer diagnosis
Lance Armstrong's hometown paper is starting its runup to the Tour, with a look at Armstrong physiology, and why he has owned the Tour since before the turn of the millennium.
The article concentrates on power, suggesting that Armstrong pumps out more wattage than Miguel Indurain, and in the range of Eddy Merckx. The article doesn't look at the more important ratio of power to weight, where Armstrong must have a significant advantage over Big Mig by virtue of riding 13-15 pounds lighter than Indurain.
I'm working on the new Armstrong biography, Lance Armstrong's War, and Daniel Coyle, the author, points out a key physical factor for Armstrong: He produces much less lactic acid than the typical Europro. Coyle says Michele Ferrari himself said he could often test riders, and get lactic acid readings in the teens or even 20s, but that he had never seen a reading higher than 6 from Armstrong. That would translate to Armstrong hurting less on those kneebreaking alpine climbs.
By the way, the book so far is a treat: It's nice to have a (non-auto-) biography of Armstrong available.
The New York Times take on the story notes that Armstrong has a preponderance of slow-twitch muscle fibers, which he's increased to about 80 percent of his muscle mass.