What does it take to win the Tour de France? Skill, sweat and a little help from the Internet.
The winner of the 1999 and 2000 Tour de France, 29-year-old American Lance Armstrong and his coaching staff used the Web to help improve his chances of bringing home victory again in 2001.
On Sunday, Armstrong crossed the finish line, claiming the yellow victor's jersey and his third victory in as many years.
While training for the 22-day event, Armstrong and the US Postal Service Team used an Internet-based coaching tool that allows coaches to create training schedules for athletes on a secure Web page.
At the end of each training day, an athlete can log into the Ridefast.com Web site and enter statistics for the training that was done. With this information, a coach could monitor the progress of the athlete and change training as needed.
"The Web-based coaching tool allows accessibility," said Jim Lehman, coaching manager for Carmichael Training Systems (CTS), a company founded by Armstrong's coach, Chris Charmichael.
"Whether you live across the street or across the world, this tool enables coaches to give athletes instant feedback," Lehman said. "It's much faster than the mail, the phone or meeting in person."
Armstrong spends much of his time training in Europe or his hometown, Austin, Texas, while Carmichael works in Colorado Springs, Colo. Most of their communication is done through email and the Web.
CTS also uses technology called the SRM Training System, a two-part device created by SRM (Schoberer Rad Messtechnik). A device attached to the bicycle measures information such as heart rate, speed, distance and power while an athlete is bicycling. A viewing unit is attached to a bike's handlebars so the athlete can monitor the data and a power meter is mounted on the crank of the bicycle.
After finishing a training session, an athlete can plug the device into a computer and download the data, which can then be emailed to a coach.
"A graph can be made from the data that allows the coach to look at all the factors at the same time," Lehman said. "The coach can then gauge the fitness level of the athlete to see if the athlete is on track or if the training schedule needs to be altered."
Colorado-based CTS has been using the Web-based coaching and SRM Training System to help various levels of athletes reach their full potential since 1999.