With a matter of days to go before the start of the Tour de France, seven time winner Lance Armstrong has given an indication that he is close to his best form. He did his traditional pre-Tour test on Monday and was satisfied with the outcome, indicating that it compared favourably with the best markers laid down in the past.
“Last hard ride before the TdF,” he said on Twitter. “Test on the Col de la Madone. Record time? No. Close to it? Yes. I'm ready.”
The Texan has long used the climb near Nice as a gauge of his condition. Several accounts detail that he would conduct tests on the climb with the doctor Michele Ferrari, trying to scale the mountain in the quickest possible time and then having lactic acid levels examined.
The calculations would then show how many watts per kilogram he could sustain. A ballpark figure of 6.7 w/kg was considered ideal for the rider. His comments today suggest that he is very close to that mark.
This plus his recent runner-up slot in the Tour de Suisse mean that Armstrong is pleased with his condition heading into what could be the most important Tour de France of his career. If he wins, he would further extend his record streak to eight victories, and also erase the pain of defeat of last year, when he was third.
His biggest rival Alberto Contador will also be conducting tests of his own form. It is uncertain as to how his condition compares to last year, particularly as he chose not to defend his Spanish time trial championships title because of a cold.
Other rivals such as Andy and Frank Schleck (Saxo Bank) have shown promising form of late, as has Robert Gesink (Rabobank). Ivan Basso (Liquigas) and Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) have not competed since finishing first and fifth overall in the Giro d’Italia, and neither has last year’s fourth-placed rider, Bradley Wiggins.
However, while Armstrong’s physical preparation may have gone to plan, there are growing rumours that more allegations against him will be printed this week. The Wall Street Journal previously catalogued the accusations of doping use made by former team-mate Floyd Landis, and is supposedly poised to print a large article on the Texan. If these reports are true, the piece will come sometime between tomorrow and the weekend.
If that is the case, it will ensure that the Texan and his RadioShack team have additional pressure that will make their Tour campaign a far more difficult and complicated one.