As Lance Armstrong crossed the finish line on the Champs Elysees last Sunday, not only did he celebrate an unprecedented sixth Tour de France victory, he also joined the elite of the elites: the genetic freaks. Other members of this select and rare group include such greats as Pele, Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky and Mark Spitz. The most important element of these freaks of nature is the sum of all their talents. It's not enough to have a large lung capacity or superior thigh muscles or mental determination; you must have it all and it all must fit a specific sport. Put simply, Lance Armstrong isn't your normal athlete. His heart, thighs, lungs and brain are all wired for cycling. Even his famous bout with testicular cancer seems to have worked in his favour by destroying 9kg of muscle built up from his triathlon days and allowed him to rebuild his body more for cycling - powerful legs, smaller in the chest and arms. It's this slim, lean body that has allowed him to sail up the mountains, second overall to Richard Virenque of France. According to a recent article in Men's Journal, Armstrong has exceptionally long thigh bones, giving him incredible pedal power. This extraordinary anthropometric measurement allows him to rotate his pedals at 95 to 115 times a minute, even up hills, whereas most other professional cyclists pedal between 75 and 95 revolutions a minute, and the average cyclist between 40 and 60 times a minute. The director of the Human Performance Lab at the University of Texas, Dr Ed Coyle, who has studied Armstrong's physiology extensively, recorded Armstrong's leg power at between 400 and 500 watts per hour. To compare, professional ice hockey players produce about 300 watts an hour and the average male produces about 200 watts. Then there are his lungs. When Armstrong was 16 and training for triathlons, a clinic in Dallas, Texas, recorded his VO2 Max (the maximum volume of oxygen the body consumes every minute during exercise) as the highest the clinic had ever recorded, and twice that of a regular man. Even after the aggressive chemotherapy treatment he underwent, his cardiovascular system seems unaffected, with his VO2 Max recorded as 85ml/kg/min. Armstrong also has heart and loads of it. According to Coyle, his heart is about 50 per cent larger than the average person's and capable of beating 200 times per minute. 'His heart could fill 34 one-litre bottles with blood in just 60 seconds,' says Coyle. It's this kind of blood volume that ensures his powerful muscles are getting enough oxygen so they don't produce as much lactic acid as other athletes' bodies do. Coyle says that Armstrong produces about one-third of a normal person's lactic acid. Lactic acid produced faster than expelled makes the muscles burn, contract and fail. With less lactic acid, Armstrong's body recovers quicker. Coyle says the explanation for this amazing phenomenon is half genetic and half the way Armstrong's body has adapted to the rigours of training. Finally, there's his mental capacity that enables him to channel his anger and frustrations into the motivation and discipline he needs to train and race at this level. Fuelled by his competitive spirit and lust for winning, he has the ability to withstand all the mental and physical pain. 'No one ability is super-human,' Coyle says. It's the sum of these physical factors that allows Armstrong to join the ranks of the genetic freaks.