By Lorne Wisely
During the height of his career Lance Armstrong was famous for taking every possible step to perfect his aerodynamic position on the bike because, during the Tour de France, "every second counts". Since his return to the sport, he has yet to dominate in the race against the clock. Insider sources have revealed to Cyclingnews that the American recently underwent a radical, secret surgery to alter his physique to help cheat the wind.
Following his crash in the Vuelta a Castilla y Leon, where Armstrong fractured his right collarbone, he flew back to his Austin, Texas home. Once back in Texas he had surgery – supposedly to repair the clavicle which, doctors insisted, was broken into four pieces.
Sources within the Armstrong camp explained that initial reports that the break was a single, clean fracture were true. But the seven-time Tour winner had been told he could shave seconds per kilometre off of his time trials if only his shoulders weren't so broad. The American decided that, since he faced several weeks of recovery from the broken bone anyhow, he might as well go through with a plan which would shorten both clavicles and narrow the width of his upper body.
Doctors cut out a section of the right clavicle before putting the bone back together with a plate and screws, then moved over to the previously intact left collarbone to duplicate the procedure. The surgery marks the first time an athlete has undergone such a radical surgery to gain a performance boost.
The extreme measure was taken with a view toward the Giro d'Italia's stage 12 time trial from Sestri Levante to Riomaggiore which, at 61.7km, is the longest individual test of Armstrong's career and could well be the decisive stage of the tour.
"We did everything we could in the wind tunnel to shave fractions of seconds off of Lance's times – Trek invented new technology to cheat the wind on the bike, Nike used space-age technology to create the world's most aerodynamic skinsuit... but there was no getting around the fact that Lance's frontal area was just bigger than other riders," a spokesman said.
"The surgeons took two centimetres off of both collarbones and then screwed the bones back together," he added. "With the titanium plates holding the bones in place, Lance is already cleared to get back on the trainer. He was so eager to find out how much more aerodynamic he is that we flew straight away to San Diego to do some tests in the wind tunnel. And boy, oh boy, all I can say is watch out!"