May 16, 2010
Santa Cruz Sentinel
By Karen Kefauver
Chris Carmichael knows Lance Armstrong.
In fact, few people know the seven-time Tour de France winner better. Carmichael coached Armstrong through his mind-bending comeback and breathtaking Tour victories.
What did Carmichael say to propel Armstrong to such greatness? How did Carmichael create his own successful career, vaulting from becoming an Olympian to being named the U.S. Olympic Committee Coach of the Year in 1999 to founding Carmichael Training Systems, which provides coaching, camps, and testing services for athletes? And how did he do it while remaining a competitive athlete and family man?
He might just tell you.
Tonight, Carmichael is in town to promote the screening of the endurance cycling movie “Race Across the Sky” about the Leadville 100, in which he competes. On Monday, Carmichael, who is based in Colorado Springs, Colo., will give a presentation at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. He plans to discuss the Tour of California, an eight-day professional men’s cycling race which will pass through Santa Cruz on Tuesday. He’ll talk about training methods for cyclists, on which the best-selling author has written four books. And, he says, he will discuss Armstrong.
First, though, Carmichael offered to talk about these issues with the Sentinel.
Q: Tell me about coaching Lance Armstrong.
A: My relationship with Lance first started in 1990 when he turned 18 years old. Over the last 20 years, there have been peaks and valleys in coaching him. Now, I coach only one athlete and that’s Lance.
Q: You formed Carmichael Training Systems [CTS] in 2000 and it’s grown into a coaching empire. Your goal was to make world-class coaching accessible to athletes of all ability levels, not just superstars like Lance. Say more about that.
A: We work at Carmichael Training Systems with many elite athletes, many top athletes, but we also work with everyday cyclists. We looked at how we were doing things and knew that a 43-year-old father of three needs a training model for someone who doesn’t have much time. We have training centers in Colorado Springs, Colo.; Tucson, Ariz.; and Asheville, N.C. — all great places to cycle.
Q: You’ll be talking Monday night about your new book, “The Time Crunched Cyclist: Fit, Fast, and Powerful in Six Hours a Week?” What is the book about?
A: The inspiration was cyclists who are not pro athletes who have to try to fit in everything in order to ride. They squeeze in training rides between work, family and everything else.
I am a former Olympian, I raced Tour de France, and now I am a father of three and have 50 employees in three locations. I know what it’s like to be time-crunched.
Q: How old are your kids? Does your wife cycle?
A: They are 4, 8 and 16. Yes, she likes to ride.
Q: With your demanding schedule, do you have time to train?
A: I love cycling and working out. I follow the program of working out six to eight hours a week. I still like to compete at the Leadville 100 and have my sights set on some bigger races in the future, like the Trans Alps and Cape Epic.
Q: You have an interesting history with the Leadville 100 mountain bike race — and that’s the subject of the movie at the Rio Theater tonight.
A: I haven’t seen the movie yet!
I raced it four times and we are a sponsor of the race. Leadville served as a catalyst for me to get in shape to compete in it in 2006. There was money riding on it that I could not finish under nine hours. The official cutoff is 12 hours, but if you finish under nine, you get a big, honkin’ rodeo-style belt buckle. I trained for a year, lost 25 pounds, and finished in 9 hours, 18 minutes. I lost a thousand bucks, but I got fit. I went back to Leadville in 2007 and raced in 9:05. In 2008, I raced in 8:45 and got the belt buckle! This race also served as a catalyst for Lance’s comeback in 2008. We trained together.
Q: What challenge do you have coming up?
A: I am taking 10 athletes with me and we are doing La Ruta in Costa Rica in November. I turn 50 this year and CTS is 10 years old. The timing is good for a big race. [La Ruta is internationally recognized as one of the hardest, multi-day mountain biking races in the world.] My first goal is to make sure I finish; my second goal is to be in the top ten.
Q: Tell me more about Lance since you have worked together so closely.
A: Lance is a very complex person — our relationship continues to evolve. I spent a week with him in Aspen at training camp recently. Spending a week with him now is different than when he was 18. He’s always active, meeting people and he’s the father of four, soon five.
I enjoy the time I spend with him, and enjoy the challenge of working with him. We can pick up instantaneously. That’s one of the unique aspects of working with Lance. The way the two of us are wired, we share a lot of similarities. Since we worked together 20 years, there’s no icebreaker.
Mostly, I get training info from him, data output from his workouts. He’s not the type of guy you just chitchat around. He’s pretty focused and driven. I also know he is really very sensitive to time he spends time with family; with this guy family always comes first.”
Q: We are happy to have you in Santa Cruz, Chris. What do you think of our city hosting the Tour of California Stage 3 finish?
A: It’s been a cycling hotbed for many years. There’s a lot of cycling industries there and I know Jim Gentes, the founder of Giro. I have been there a few times. It’s great for riding so it’s natural that TOC will come there.
Q: You stay busy spending time with family and your business, how do you make time for your training?
A: It’s important to stay in the game. I set goals that keep me out there, like La Ruta or ones that are just hard enough that it keeps you young, fit and eating right. I started at 9 years old in 1969 and have been an athlete my whole life. I’ve experienced the whole gamut from athlete to coach to entrepreneur. Stay out there and keep challenging yourself. I don’t feel like I have to win these things. You gotta stay in the game or you fade away. My motivation is I’d rather burn out than fade away.
If You Go
“Race Across the Sky”
What: A documentary with opening presentation by Chris Carmichael, Lance Armstrong’s coach
When: Today. Doors open at 6 p.m., screening at 7 p.m. (Pre-party at the Bicycle Trip, 1001 Soquel Ave. 4:30-6:30 p.m.)
Rio Theater, 1205 Soquel Ave.
Tickets: $20 at the door
Details: Set at 10,000+ feet, against the misty backdrop of a former mining town, Leadville, Colorado, hundreds of cyclists, will compete in the infamous Leadville Trail 100, a 100-mile mountain bike race. The race that started 25 years ago as a running race to drive tourism in Leadville has now grown to a lottery cap of 1000+ competitors, many of them the world’s most elite cyclists. The clock is set for 12 grueling hours and riders slug through 100 miles, over 14,000 vertical feet of climbing, through extreme climate changes. To the racers, the risks of injury, fatigue and mechanical failure pale next to the chance that they will fall behind the 12-hour cut off mark and be eliminated.
An Evening with Chris Carmichael
When: 7 p.m. Monday
Where: Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, Sun Room
Cost: $35 at the door
Details: Chris Carmichael, Lance Armstrong’s coach, will speak about the legendary cyclist and training methods for cyclists. He will sign his books and answer questions. The author of a number of fitness and cycling books, his most recent book is “The Time Crunched Cyclist: Fit, Fast and Powerful in Six Hours a Week.” His other titles include, “Chris Carmichael’s Food For Fitness: Eat Right to Train Right,” “The Ultimate Ride,” “The Lance Armstrong Performance Program.”