Wierdness after the Tour

This entry was posted in Comments about Cycling on by .

Chris Froome is a strange guy to follow if you’re a fan of the sport.  His style is so awkward looking it becomes very unpleasant to watch if you’re knowledgeable about the sport.   His pedaling style and head dipping aren’t the prettiest.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t root for him.  He is continually getting hit with the doping questions and usually answers them nicely.  He seems like a real nice guy, from what I’ve heard and by watching his interviews.

He is getting hounded by skeptics who demand more information about his physiological abilities and such.  In response, Chris said –

“I am actually probably looking into doing a bit more testing with the team now in terms of looking into things like lung capacity, in terms of VO2 max for example. Maybe that is something we will look at doing in this next period.” 

“I think we can certainly learn from it. We haven’t done any of that kind of testing on any of the riders, from what I know. I am sure we could learn from it.”

That quote, if correct, got my antenna up.  He is saying that Team Sky, the best funded professional cycling team in the World doesn’t do physiological testing on any of its riders?  That has to be nearly impossible.  Chris himself spends weeks sitting up on top of a volcano in Tenerife, trying to get that extra bit of advantage, thru acclimation ,and he is saying that his team doesn’t do any Vo2 max testing to see if this has helped him?   Guess they just use his blood for that?

In an another interview with the Daily Mail, Chris Froome stated when asked about doping-

“It’s hard for me to give a response to that,’ says Froome. ‘Because the whole objective of all our training is to get the numbers as high as possible. And yet once we do that, we are accused of doping.”

“At some point, people have to realize that the sport is progressing. Our training techniques are getting better. Nutrition is getting better. Our equipment is getting better. The numbers should therefore be getting better.”

Numbers is the key word here.  Is his definition of numbers strictly power numbers?  Because he, and his team, obviously aren’t worried about physiological numbers such as VO2 max, the gold standard in endurance athletics.   It’s just weird.

And talking about power, when he has been hounded so long about incredible wattage climbing, especially since someone hacked Team Sky’s “numbers” stash, someone at Sky decided to address the situation.  Team Sky claims that when used in conjunction with osymetric chainrings, power meters over-report Chris’ power by approximately 6%. Tim Kerrison,  Sky’s head of athlete performance said this and two weeks too late for my liking.

It is so weird that they have a head of athlete performance and they don’t do testing of individual athletic performance , like lung capacity and VO2 testing.  I guess power is everything to them.  It is just all so strange.images

Next, Contador just calls in quits in July?  I guess he is feeling bad and decided that he’s had enough bike racing in 2015.  He says he’s concentrating on next year’s Tour de France and then the Olympic games in Rio.   

I guess it is two and out for him this year, since he did double up with the Giro and Tour.   I think he did this once before, winning the Tour and then disappearing for something like 9 months before starting the next spring and smearing everyone.  I guess it works for him, no matter how strange it seems racing only half a season.

surfing        I guess Alberto is looking for a little more beach time this year.                                                      (Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)


33 thoughts on “Wierdness after the Tour

  1. Jacque Meihauf

    Are you still trying to figure out if pro cyclists dope or not? Didn’t you get that straight back in the 1990’s?Froome is as clean as anyone out there. Or not.

    Deal with it by not worrying about it and your life will be calmer.

  2. Noel

    Noel- He did say they didn’t do any physiological testing. His quote was, “We haven’t done any of that kind of testing on any of the riders, from what I know.” This quote was in response to doing VO2 max and lung capacity tests.

    I’ve personally done dozens of VO2 max tests, as everyone I know that is at a certain level of the sport would have. It’s absurd thinking that Sky wouldn’t be doing this on a constant basis.

  3. Ted

    I knew my VO2MAX number back in 1979 when I was a Junior and went out for one of the camps in Colorado Springs. Lemond back then had a very high number and this is why he always doubted Lance Armstrong’s ability because his was average score – which makes me suspect that is the reason why Team SKY is not publishing the scores also.

    1. krakatoa

      Back when I was pretty dang fit, and racing as a young senior, I volunteered to be a subject for a PhD student’s research (hey, she was hot. I wasn’t gonna say no). Part of the testing determined VO2 Max. I had to come in several different times, ride the ergometer, air mask, etc. They even drew blood while I was riding. One week, I had a crazy week with the beginning of my college classes and a heavy work schedule. I did very little riding. And I came in the next Monday for my Vo2Max session and I completely choked. My score dropped significantly. She was a bit pissed at me, as I skewed a lot of difficult-to-acquire data (and seeing her mad was SO sexy). Anyhow, the takeaway was that Vo2 Max numbers can (and do) fluctuate with your fitness. I keep seeing people like Lemond talk about them as some magic indicator of one’s ability on a bike, and as if they are static scores. It’s not true.

      1. krakatoa

        And the PhD candidate asked me why I cared about my score so much (actually, why I cared at all). She thought it was funny, as it can (quite obviously) change with one’s relative aerobic fitness level.

  4. krakatoa

    Did any of you catch Froome’s Garmin data synched with that tough mountain stage? 400 sustained watts while doing 147-149 bpm? Crazy!

    Also, about position, in contrast, I remember remarking in 2012 that Wiggo had the best bike racing posture and pedaling efficiency combination that I’ve ever seen. Look at him riding the TTs in 2012. He was smooth like the ocean. Just fughettaboutit!

    1. Steve Tilford Post author

      krakatoa – Remember, according to Team Sky, you need to reduce those numbers by approximately 6% to get the actual number, which is still crazy high.

      1. krakatoa

        OK, so a HR of 155 while generating 400 watts for 45 minutes (and dropping the world’s greatest cyclists). I get that walking up a flight of stairs!

  5. euro

    The “numbers” Frome and SKY are wanting to keep as high as possible are his hematocrit levels…

    1. Steve Tilford Post author

      euro-Okay, I can go with that. But if they are so concerned with hematocrit, it would seem that they need a way to correlate those numbers with his usage of that extra oxygen that he is supposedly carrying around in his blood. Just because he has a high hematocrit wouldn’t necessarily mean that his body can use that extra oxygen. The only way to know for sure would be to do a VO2 test, which he says that Sky doesn’t do on their riders. You would have to do at least a couple tests to know the correlation between hematocrit and VO2, then relate that to sustained power output.

      1. krakatoa

        Sky is the most-measured bunch of riders to ever sign pro contracts. And by that, I mean by their teams (not the UCI or WADA).

    2. Jacque Meihauf

      Euro, I’d say you are correct.

      All these guys train at altitude to get their hematocrit numbers higher, which in turn should help their VO2Max. It’s no secret and it’s entirely legitimate and legal. Froome’s job is to win bike races and getting the hematocrit to the limit legally is expected by his bosses at SKY.

      Higher hematocrit = more oxygen carrying red blood cells relative to plasma volume
      Higher hematocrit = better VO2 (given your body is responding normally to training loads)
      More red blood cells = more endurance, stamina, power and energy
      More endurance, stamina, power and energy = two Tour de France wins

  6. Ted

    VO2 Max numbers are pretty steady for pro cyclists because they are training and racing all year – Froome to put out 400 watts would need a very high VO2 Max – I will call this sketchy until I see the readings.

  7. Larry T.

    I’m starting to think SKY has some cutting edge dope that is not currently banned…so even if 10 years down the road it’s discovered they can say “it wasn’t banned at the time so it’s perfectly legal, etc.” They seem to be willing (and able, with an almost 40 million budget) to do anything not specifically banned by the rules. But then they whine about Nibali attacking while Froome has a mechanical issue. It’s all about being “sporting” except when their budget allows riders to be one-to-a-room because they have a fleet of motorhomes in the hotel parking lot. I agree with Marc Madiot, they’re not a good image for the sport despite their success.

    1. channel_zero

      I’m thinking Sky’s got the same advanced doping Armstrong had, support from the UCI to never test positive.

  8. Ted

    Take lab quality carbon monoxide + determine VO2Max and body mass + then breathe in – the Carbon Monoxide attaches to your blood hemoglobin (that is how you die from it if you breathe too much of it)

    go out training and you training at altitude for the next 1 hour or so + your body then compensates by producing more blood cells as it does at altitude – NO DETECTION OR PEDS in your system.

    Did it 30 years ago with oversight of doctors and PhD students from Brown University.

    1. krakatoa

      Shh. You know many knuckleheads will read that and rush out to the garage to test this out?

    2. krakatoa

      Anyone wanna buy some “lab-quality” CO? I got it right here in this tank 😉

  9. spinner

    Nice post, Steve.

    VO2 max is NOT considered, NOW, as a predictor of elite performance among elites. All elite cyclists, at the performance level of Froome have a high VO2 (78-90ml/kg/min). There really is no point testing it. (Please see the stuff written about this subject at Steve Magnus’s Science of Running website). The more important numbers are related to power. Those are the numbers that really reflect how a rider will perform. Froome and Team Sky hint at what these numbers might be but so far have not voluntarily published them (remember the recent computer hack?).

    Keep training…..

  10. Joe

    The whole sky budget vs. others budget is kind of lame. Oleg has tons of money, so do some of the other teams. If sky is using some not yet banned drug, then so be it. IF it’s not banned, then by all means they should push the envelope of science and sport.

    I personally don’t find anything that is 100% red flag about froomes performance. He won early and really NQ rode better than him the 2nd half of the tour. Contador was tired from the Giro. Froomes numbers from 2013 (if that really is his data) and even his performance this year is not like 7/wkg good. 6w/kg is believable these days.

    The bigger red flag of this tour is Geraint Thomas. Since when did he become a climber? Don’t get me wrong. I love the dudes interviews and grit, but seriously he was climbing better than contador and TJ.

    1. Jason

      That is what is most suspicious to me. How is it that so many Sky riders were climbing so much better than all of the best riders on the other teams?

    2. Local Cager

      The track rider turned “classics” rider, “G”, crushing the field at this year’s E3 Harelbeke, then singlehandedly pulling back all of 55kg Nairo’s attacks while towing Froome, Nibali, Piti and Contador all the way to the line on that rainy mtn stage… that was it for me. Just too ridiculous.

      George Hincapie springs to mind… classics rider in the spring, Lance’s right hand man in July. But even big George was never this blatantly obvious…

    3. Larry T.

      SKY’s budget is vastly larger than the others while being a tiny fraction of what Murdoch’s media empire spends on advertising and promotion. They put the “Can’t beat ’em? Buy ’em!” mentality into play in ways not seen since the BigTex and The Belgian days. Not good for the future of the sport in my opinion.

  11. Big B

    You think maybe Froome Dog backed it down a little and did what he needed to win and get some of the heat off him? I certainly don’t think he pushed at the end.

  12. HANS

    I hear all you are saying. I am a septic also. But I also wonder if they don’t let you Really know the numbers…blurr the reality. Gain an edge.

  13. mike crum

    i remember reading years ago what world class dr’s said about the tour.. if the rides were clean, they be riding slower daily.. on the 20th day they shouldnt be going 30 mph after all those days of fast riding and all those days in the mountains.. on drugs you do this, off drugs you slowly slow down.. per the doctors..i believe them. when tons of $$$$$$$ is on the line, you better be cheating…. which they all are… who cares if eddy m was doping, kelly, lance, gilbert, froom.. etc.. who cares..

    1. Larry T.

      Who cares? All the guys who don’t want to risk their health by taking the dope. And the fans who want credibility in the sport, otherwise we’d be watching WWE.

  14. flicksta

    Here is Tim Kerrison’s explanation:

    Do you measure VO2 max? The short answer is that VO2 max testing is not something we find useful or have put any priority on.
    The long answer is a bit complicated in parts, but should explain why we don’t focus on VO2 max. Head of Athlete Performance, Tim Kerrison says: “VO2 max describes the maximal aerobic capacity of an athlete; the rate at which an athlete can consume oxygen in the production of energy. “This aerobic capacity is important in endurance sports and, whilst elite endurance athletes often have large VO2 max values, this is not necessarily always the case. There are many other factors that contribute to being a Tour de France champion.
    “For example, efficiency has been shown to vary widely in trained cyclists and the range is typically reported as being 20-25%. This means a very efficient rider with a relatively low VO2 max could out-perform a less efficient rider with a higher VO2 max. And the relative contributions from aerobic and anaerobic metabolism (which produces energy without consuming oxygen) can also vary between different athletes, and depend on other factors such as the state of fuelling of a rider.
    “The performances we see – on the road, in training and races, sometimes at altitude, in the heat, and at the end of long stages – are result of a complex interaction of many physiological, mechanical, psychological and environmental factors.
    “Separating out each of these factors and measuring them in isolation can be practically challenging, time consuming and impacts on training and recovery. So coaches and sport scientists need to constantly assess whether the benefit of having a piece of information outweighs the time and compromise to training and recovery required to get that information. “For us, the answer is often “no”. Ultimately it is appropriate training and recovery that leads to an improvement in performance, so we prefer to collect as much information as we can “in the field” to shape our performance decisions, without compromising training.
    “Other coaches or scientists may value information differently and some, we’re sure, would find the information obtained from a lab test as useful, perhaps even indispensible. But for us, knowing a rider’s VO2 max is not a priority.
    “From time-to-time we will try something and assess whether we think it is of value to continue to use, and we have had a few riders in the lab in the past, but in general the monitoring tools we put most value on are those that we can incorporate into our day-to-day training.”


Comments are closed.