Clearly, getting mad is not enough to always chalk up a W. What Lance needed to transform himself from that young runner-up into an unbeatable force was to learn to hold it in, to let the fire burn without torching everything else. "A bike racer is like a gas tank," he was told by former national champion Wayne Stetina. "And if you step on the gas too much, too soon, you end up on empty."
It was a lesson that hit home for Lance. When he quit triathlons to focus on cycling, at age 17, he found himself beating up on American junior cyclists almost immediately. But on the world stage, at the Junior World Championship in 1989, he steamed ahead in the early miles of the race and then ran out of power before the end.
"I had to learn to be smart," Lance says, "and I started to learn that under Carmichael." Indeed, Coach Carmichael, a former pro bike racer himself, helped Lance to channel his pent-up fury, to be patient, to wield his bullish instincts only when he most needed them. Lance learned to conserve energy by following his teammates' wheels for the first five hours of a six-hour race – and then striking like a Texas rattler. Heeding those lessons, Lance established himself as one of the top five single-day racers in the world over the following three years.
But he needed to learn a lot more if he wanted a shot at winning the 23-day Tour.