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  • Thu October 24 2002
  • Posted Oct 24, 2002
By Darren Tulett Paris, Oct. 23 (Bloomberg) -- Snow is falling in the French mountains and Lance Armstrong has started preparing for a record- tying fifth Tour de France triumph, nine months before cycling's biggest race celebrates its centenary. After racking up his fourth win in July, Armstrong closed his season early on Sept. 15. He turned 31 three days later, and on Oct. 2 marked the six-year anniversary of his cancer diagnosis with a barbecue and cold beer. There'll be fewer beers in coming months as Armstrong, who survived cancer to become the world's top cyclist, focuses on matching Miguel Indurain's five consecutive Tour victories. Trainer Chris Carmichael doesn't believe in an off-season. ``This is the time of year when Lance can actually concentrate on making significant strength and power gains,'' Carmichael said in an interview. ``Lance's hard work in the winter reaps great rewards in the summer.'' Since tearing around the streets of San Francisco last month to take sixth place in the San Fran Grand Prix, Armstrong has kept busy with a mix of social and charity functions that he can only fit in at this time of year. While the professional season in Europe, where Armstrong mostly races, runs from February through October, many riders wind down from September. For Armstrong, switching off isn't an option. ``Lance never really allows himself to disconnect,'' said Bill Stapleton, his manager. ``Even when the next race seems a long way off, Lance is thinking bike. And the bike often travels with him.'' Bush Reception From a White House reception on his birthday with fellow Texan and U.S. President George W. Bush to increase cancer awareness, to Monday's charity golf event to raise funds for the Lance Armstrong Foundation, the U.S. Postal Service team leader is often on the move. He's been running, playing some tennis and working out. Much of this month is spent in the gym. Carmichael has Armstrong using weight training in conjunction with on-the-bike resistance work to strengthen specific areas of muscle. Armstrong mimics the knee angles he uses during pedaling when on a leg-press machine. It's all about preparing for heavier workloads in the winter, Carmichael said. The USPS team usually gets together in December in Armstrong's hometown of Austin, Texas, and the serious work begins. Critical Time While rivals such as Jan Ullrich, Germany's 1997 Tour de France champion, have been criticized for gaining weight in the winter months, Armstrong doesn't want to let his fitness level drop. ``Fall and winter training is critical to Lance's success in July,'' Carmichael said. Next year, the biggest event on the cycling calendar will celebrate its 100th birthday by revisiting the towns featured in the first edition. On July 5, the riders will set out from the French capital and pass the site of the Reveil-Matin cafe, in the Paris suburb of Montgeron, where the 60 competitors gathered in 1903 before embarking on a 1,517-mile loop that took in Lyon, Marseille, Toulouse, Bordeaux and Nantes. The centenary race ends three weeks later in Paris. Organizers tomorrow will reveal the finer details of the route and the celebrations for the July 27 final day. Armstrong and Indurain, who retired in 1997, will be among former champions such as Bernard Hinault and Eddy Merckx, who both also won the Tour five times, at the presentation. "Lance wants to know what lies in store for 2003,'' Stapleton said. ``That way he can already start working out what he needs to do to make it five straight.''

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