The 2005 Tour de France bicycle race, comprised of 21 stages of about 100 miles each, continues until Sunday. Fans are following to see if American Lance Armstrong will bring home a seventh win from his final Tour.
Jeffrey Menzer, a cycling instructor at the Washington Sports Club, is doing more than watching: He's hosting a stationary Tour de Lance. Twice a week, Menzer designs his indoor cycling (also known as spinning) classes to correspond with Armstrong's ride. By looking at the Tour's elevation maps for the day (available on such Web sites as www.velonews.com/tour2005), Menzer presents his class with a simulated, 45-minute version of the terrain Armstrong and the other cyclists battle for hours.
Like the Tour, Menzer started his series with time trials. In France, it was an 11.8-mile race against the clock that concludes with a fast and furious sprint. Menzer's students faced a revised goal: to push the pedals at full speed for the duration of the class.
Stationary cyclists simulate terrain changes by adjusting resistance controls to Menzer's commands.
"Feel the heavy road," Menzer called out to a class last week. "Add resistance to start your ascent. Add more resistance. Slow to climb higher. In 10, 9, 8, 7 . . . . We're picking up the pace."
Last Tuesday's class corresponded with Stage 10, Grenoble to Courchevel. It was a steep ride in the Alps, and tough for the cycling class, too. The real stage was 119.30 miles. Armstrong tied for first with a time of four hours and 50 minutes.
Speedy Thomas, a Rock Creek Sports Club instructor, also has a Tour de Lance simulation. By looking at the distance traveled and elevation gained and lost for a particular stage, he said, anyone can program his own workout on a stationary bike. "If Armstrong climbs for 40 percent of his stage, then you can climb for 40 percent of yours," Thomas said.
For time trials, he said, think short and intense. Aim to ride for 30 minutes at 80 to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate. If this seems impossible, Thomas recommends starting with a minute going hard, recovering for 20 seconds at a slower pace, sprinting for two minutes, recovering again, and so on. (This is called interval training.) For hill climbs, vary heavy to medium resistance for an hour, Thomas said. Hover at 70 to 75 percent of your maximum heart rate and try to sustain a swift cadence even when resistance grows.
Forty minutes of vigorous stationary cycling can burn 400 to 600 calories, depending on your body weight (to estimate your burn, visit www.caloriesperhour.com). In a typical race day, Lance would burn 4,000 calories or more.
Of course, you could take it outside. Evelyn Egizi, member of the D.C.-area cycling team Artemis, said local clubs such as Potomac Pedalers (www.bikepptc.org) and Atlantic Cycling Club (www.atlanticcycling.com) hold weekend rides of 40 to 70 miles.
Or head to Greenbelt National Park on Wednesday nights, when beginner and elite races are offered. You won't find the Champs-Elysees at the end, but you may find a new love for racing -- or a new stage in your life.
-- Laurie Burkitt
Crew chief John Briley will return next week.