One Mississippi, Two Mississippi…

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Think about what two seconds means over a distance of 42 miles. It’s a tap of the brakes in one corner, a moment’s hesitation, one missed shift, or the difference between riding in the middle of the road and hugging the curb going around a bend. It’s nothing, and yet it’s everything.

The Discovery Channel Pro Cycling team achieved its first major objective of the 2005 Tour de France today by winning the team time trial stage for the third consecutive year. In the process, the team recorded the fastest-ever team time trial in Tour de France history, riding an average of 35.7 mph for more than 70 minutes, and put Lance Armstrong into his favorite jersey with a comfortable lead over his main rivals.

Everything is progressing according to plan.

Lance started the day just two seconds behind David Zabriskie in the General Classification. With six kilometers (3.7 miles) to go this afternoon, Dave still had his two seconds, but no more and no less. Through all the twists and turns of the final run into Blois, the CSC and Discovery Channel teams, though separated in real time by five minutes, matched each other pedal stroke for pedal stroke. No one really knows exactly what corner or straightaway made the difference over that short distance, but somewhere in the city streets, the Discovery Channel gained four seconds to overtake CSC and win the stage by just two.

We expected today’s team time trial course to be fast, and it’s no great surprise that the winning time today set a new speed record for the team time trial. What is surprising is that the record was absolutely crushed. The previous record was set by the Gewiss team, which rode 67 kilometers in 1:13:10 in 1995. Their average speed of 54.943 kph (34.3 mph) was eclipsed by more than mile an hour by the Discovery Channel today. What’s more, the team averaged 35.7 mph, which means at times they were hauling along at more than 40 mph on flat ground. They had to slow down to handle the twists, turns, and roundabouts in the last 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) of the event, but they all rode perfectly to storm across the line two seconds faster than CSC.

Unfortunately, by the time the CSC team reached the finish line, the two seconds were no longer an issue. Dave Zabriskie had crashed 1.5 kilometers (.9 miles) from the finish line and would finish more than a minute behind his team. They had pressed on because there was nothing they could do to help him, and they had their overall leader to think about. The team’s performance kept Ivan Basso in the hunt for the yellow jersey, and showed that CSC has the commitment and power to support him all the way to Paris.

With the team trial stage behind them, the Discovery Channel team must now decide whether they will try to defend the yellow jersey for the rest of the race. It’s a long way to Paris, and Lance will need his team at their full strength next week in the mountains. It’s likely that a carefully considered breakaway will go up the road tomorrow, and unless the sprinters’ teams chase it down, the break could get enough time to allow an opportunist to take the yellow jersey. Remember Thomas Voeckler’s ten days in yellow last summer? Don’t be surprised, or worried, if another non-threatening rider is wearing the yellow jersey in the next two days.

Chris Carmichael is Lance Armstrong’s personal coach and founder of Carmichael Training Systems, Inc. (CTS). His latest book, Chris Carmichael’s Fitness Cookbook, is now available and you can register for a chance to win a ride with the Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team at