I've started trying to exercise more regularly for the past couple weeks, going for a 12 mile, hilly bike ride 3 times a week. Today I did my ride with a decent average speed and finished it in the shortest time yet. The loop I ride has a couple 10% grades in it and I do about 250ft of climbing through it. I was walking around the house today feeling pretty cocky about my progress when I sat down to watch one of my current favorite shows, The Lance Chronicles.
On tonight's episode they followed Lance Armstrong through his european training. One of his regular rides was a 4 1/2 hour, 30 mile climb from the flats high into the mountains, going straight up. It turns out he climbs over 13,000ft in that single ride. When I was in marathon shape, I did a few hikes where I would gain about 6,000ft in a single day from basecamp to summit, and Lance is doing more than twice that. As a training ride.
I'm thinking he's a shoe-in for this year's Tour.