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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Power outputs from the Tour de France

Power outputs from the Tour de France

It's been a while since we last posted - the pressures of family and work, and actually watching the Tour are to blame!  We've missed so much in the last few weeks - Caster Semenya is running again, though reading anything into her performances right now is guesswork at best.  Two possibilities remain, with no way to gauge them until later in the season.  Then in France, Christophe Lemaitre ran 9.98s for 100m to enter the history books.  Big deal, right?  These days, 9.98s doesn't even guarantee a medal at a major race (in fact, it's almost certain that you won't medal).  But the result is significant, because Lemaitre is white...the first Caucasian man to break 10 seconds for 100m.

This opens up the debate about genetics in sport.  It's a debate that either focuses on the endurance gene (what makes Kenyans and Ethiopians so dominant?) or on the speed gene (West Africans and Jamaica and the USA).  It's a debate that is heated, because it has anthropological, racial, cultural and social implications.  It's also a debate for another time, but worth just bringing to your attention, because Lemaitre's performance is significant, historically and scientifically.  Here's a good article that gives it some perspective

But, the point of today's post is the Tour de France, so let's change gears and look at some power data, as we enter the Tour's decisive next 3 days.

Power data from the Tour - two sources worth browsing

First, for more power data for the number-fiends among you, there are two sites worth browsing:
  1. Training Peaks - power output data from Saxo Bank riders (not Andy Schleck, unfortunately), with analysis
  2. SRM - similar data, but for different teams, including Saxo and Radioshack, and a different take on some of the numbers.
I've used the graphs from the SRM site below, only because they're easier to follow.  Both are great, and they explain the pattern of the race better than I possibly could.  So when you're done here, if you have time, it's worth visiting them!

The Pyrenees - considerably below 6W/kg

Chris Horner:  A top 15 rider (currently lying 14th), Horner has finished most of the mountain stages in a second or third batch of riders that include Ivan Basso, Andreas Kloden and within touch of Robert Gesink.  Always in the top 20, he gives a good indication of what is happening at the very front of the race.  Unfortunately, we don't get this kind of data for Contador, Schleck, Menchov or Sanchez, to really see what is happening during the attacks in the final kilometers, but nevertheless, Horner's data is interesting, as you will see.

On the short climb (3km) up to Mende in Stage 12, Horner finished 31 seconds behind Contador, having begun the climb with him. Horner's average power output for 10 minutes of climbing was 6.6 W/kg (422W). Nothing wrong with that, it's a really short effort at the end of what wasn't a super-grueling day like those that followed in the Pyrenees.

For context, consider Horner on Ax-3-Domaines during Stage 14.  This finishing  climb took him just under 24 minutes, and his power output was 5.8 W/kg (370W, 12% lower than for the 10-min climb). He conceded about 90 seconds to Schleck and Contador.

Then even longer was the climb of the Port de Pailheres, which he rode in 48:37 (as did all the main protagonists, give or take a second or two), and that was done at 5.4W/kg (344W, a further 7% lower). Of course, it's not a finishing climb, so the hammer isn't down, but it does reflect what the peloton is doing.

Also, Horner's data from the Port de Bales are interesting. He finished this day with Basso, conceding approx. 3 minutes to Contador's group by the finish (not 100% sure of the gap at the summit, but imagine it would be 3 min ± 20 seconds). This climb took 49:30, and was done at an average of 342W/kg (5.3W/kg - about the same as the Port de Pailheres of similar duration).

The power required to drop leading riders

And then finally, it's interesting to look at the data of Chris Anke Sorensen (apologies for all the graphs).  Sorensen has been the last Saxo man to peel off before Andy Schleck and the GC riders duke it out, and so his numbers are fascinating because they show you the effort that has produced a thinning out of the peloton.  For example, on the Port de Bales during Stage 15, Sorensen rode at the front of the peloton and was responsible for dropping all but 15 riders.

Then he went off, and the attacks began.  What I have to point out is that once he goes off, the overall pace actually slows DOWN, it doesn't get faster.  This is because the initial attacks are neutralized and then followed by a regrouping.  On the Port de Bales climb, it was Andy Schleck who attacked, and an elite group of 5 formed.  But soon, that group had swelled to about 15 again, with Lance Armstrong almost rejoining it.  So the point is, the power output by Sorensen, in my opinion, reflects the highest SUSTAINED power output on the climb - the attacks go higher, but it's more stochastic, with periods down below 5W/kg.

So let's look at Sorensen on the Port de Bales.  He rode at the front of the peloton for 21:34 and produced an average power output of 385 W, or 6.1W/kg.  As mentioned, this thinned the group to 15 riders.  The smaller Schleck, riding behind him, would produce less than this, and is sheltered from the wind (the speed here is around 18km/h, so it's not insignificant) - perhaps 5.7W to 6.0W/kg, and that's a good indication of the power produced by those top contenders.


So what does all this mean?  First, it's really interesting (I hope) to compare these numbers to what you may produce if you are a keen cyclist.  I wish that more data like this was made available, I think it would enhance the package of cycling.

But, to continue a debate we've been having recently, these numbers reflect, in my opinion, an overall lowering of the performance level in the Tour compared to the last 2 decades.  And this is a positive sign that doping control measures are having an effect.  Even yesterday on the Col du Tormalet, the climbing time was 56:30 for the Yellow Jersey, compared to that huge day in 2003, when Armstrong and Ullrich did it in 44:30.  And yes, the race situation was different, but 12 minutes?  That's too big to be accounted for by strategy alone, even weather conditions (yesterday may well have been more favourable anyway).

Tactics play a role, but are themselves a sign

Similarly, on Ax-3-Domaines, Contador and Schleck were racing in a tactical battle that saw them almost come to a standstill on the road for a short while.  It was fast-slow, stochastic riding, and they would surely have gone 30 to 60 seconds faster without this.  But those tactics may themselves be necessitated, because the days of riding at 95% for 25 minutes on the final climb of a tough day belong in the 1990s and 2000s. 37 minute efforts at 6.4W/kg, including attacks?  You may have to watch the reruns to see that...

I look at numbers like 5.4W/kg for the peloton on the penultimate climb, and around 6.0W/kg on the final climb as a good indication that something is different, and in a good way.  Hey, they may even reach the much-maligned 6.2W/kg for a climb like Ax-3-Domaines, but the contention (mine and Sassi's, and probably other's) that it's not physiological to ride at around 6.2W/kg or higher for 40 minutes seems, at least so far, unchallenged in the "real world".  Ax-3-Domaines was done at 5.8W/kg by a rider 90 seconds down.  It would be pretty easy to make the calculations for Contador and Schleck, using the SRM data to validate the accuracy of the assumptions you make.  Feel free to go for it!

I, on the other hand, had better get some student exam marking done!

Enjoy the showdown on the Tourmalet tomorrow!



Anonymous said...

Nice article guys, we've had some good piecies over the years. Nice to see some real data from riders.

Shame Contador and Schleck won't publish theirs. Wonder why?

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

Hi Anonymous

Thanks a lot. I have no idea. I guess it's part of the mindset of "secrecy = advantage". To me, that doesn't make sense. In track and field, for example, you know exactly what is required to match up to rivals, because as say an 800m runner, you know that the 200m split is 24.9s, the next 200 takes 25.8s, then 26s and then, well, then it's whoever slows down the least wins! So the sport is much more mapped out.

If I'm Schleck, and I know that Contador is going to climb Ax-3-Domaines at an average of 6W/kg, with at least 4 attacks touching 800W, one every 3 minutes, then does it change my preparation? Not really, you still have to train to your own limit.

So I don't fully get it, but I assume it's a "confidentiality" issue, which leaves us all having to infer and estimate (which is fun anyway!)


Anonymous said...

Christophe Lemaitre is not the first "non-African/of African descent man" to break 10 seconds. Australian Aboriginal sprinter Patrick Johnson broke 10 in 2003.

John the Monkey said...

I guess publication of data might change the way rivals race "Ok, Schleck is at his third interval of maximal effort, GO NOW!"

It's nice to still have some things done according to feel/reading the race ;-)

Thomas said...

My own calculations at this tour:
Stage 8, Morzine-Avoriaz:
A. Schleck, Sanchez:
1577 m/h 5,92 w/kg
Contador, Menchov, Broeck
1568 m/h 5,88 w/kg

Stage 9, Col de la Madeleine from La Thuille:
A. Schleck, Contador
1509 m/h 5,65 w/kg
1477 m/h 5,53 w/kg
Menchov, Broeck
1463 m/h 5,48 w/kg

Stage 12, Montée Jalabert
Contador, Rodriguez
2012,9 m/h 6,68 w/kg
A. Schleck, Broeck, Menchov
1920 m/h 6,37 w/kg

Stage 14, Ax-3 Domaines
Menchov, Sanchez
1745 m/h 6,19 w/kg
A. Schleck, Contador
1733 m/h 6,15 w/kg

Stage 15, Port de Balés
Contador, Sanchez, Menchov
1657 m/h 6,35 w/kg
A. Schleck, Broeck
1647 m/h 6,31 w/kg

Only Port de Balés seems to be climbed with a lot of power. The thing is though that Port de Balés is almost flat at the beginning which makes it a difficult climb to calculate VAM and relative power. Looking forward to see how they climb Tourmalet. I dont expect them to do a super time since Schleck is probably going to do multiple attacks.

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

To the second Anonymous poster;

You are quite right, I had completely forgotten about Johnson. i will edit the post and correct that. Thanks for the pickup!

To John:

True, though I'd say that in the race, it is by feel. Post-race analysis would be interesting. If I were the coach, I'd struggle to use the data to know what to change in the training. You still have to have the ability to sustain 6W/kg and attack at 9W/kg for 30 seconds, knowing it or not! But I can see the merit of "man on man", otherwise I guess it becomes like F1!

To Thomas:

Thanks for the calculations. The use of VAM has been criticized before - I used it last year and a a number of people were quite dismissive of its value. I believe it has some merit, if one acknowledges its limitations. I'd be really interested to see the VAM and estimated power on the Port de Pailheres, purely because that's the one where all the riders were together and we know from SRM what the power output was. So what would your calculations estimate for Horner on that climb?

And I hear you on the error, that's the problem. Also, my recollection of VAM is that it would overestimate power for more gradual climbs, so that 6.35W/kg might be a little high relative to actual. Though i stand corrected. And of course there's wind.

Nevertheless, very interesting data! Thanks!


Thomas said...

Hi Ross, by calculating VAM and Relative power on the Port de Pailhéres using the time of Chris Horner i get 1519 m/h or 5,445 w/kg. We dont know the weight of Horner on the climb but Wikipedia lists him as weighing 63,5 kg. Lets take that for granted and he produced 345,7 watts in general up the climb. Pretty close to the 344 watt published.

Port de Pailhéres is a really good climb to calculate VAM and relative power since its pretty constant all the way to the top.

Giovanni Ciriani said...

Why would the power output/kg on a flat be any different than the power output/kg on a climb?

Thomas said...


It is easier to calculate the power output on a climb because the wind is not as big a factor when going 20 km/h as it is when going 40 km/h.

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

Hi Thomas

Thanks for following up and doing that calculation. I guess the other interesting one then is if the SRM data are saying that Horner did Ax-3-Domaines at 370W, would be interesting to know what the VAM predicts there?


Thomas said...


1619 m/h
5,74 w/kg
364 watt

nooneline said...

I have a friend who was tuned in to Google's nerds as they were developing the HTC rider data tracking stuff. They withheld certain data from certain riders, because opponents can read a lot into another rider's power data. It's not that secrecy = advantage, but rather that you want to disguise weakness when it happens - and in a 3 week grand tour, it's bound to happen at some point. The question is, do you want your rivals to know, and to exploit it? No.

Bike racing isn't track and field. A race isn't determined solely by power output. It's a game of chess conducted AT that power output.

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

Hi Thomas

Thanks, so that's pretty accurate then - the VAM corresponds closely to the SRM, at least for these riders. Interesting...

To nooneline:

Point taken, but I need someone to explain to me the following:

How do you detect a weakness based on someone's power output values? If two riders are in contact, then cyclist B has a similar power output to cyclist A. Knowing that this power output is 380W is irrelevant.

Conversely, if cyclist A pulls away and gaps B by 30 seconds, then the "weakness" is obvious. The number doesn't tell you this, and it doesn't allow you detect a weakness. Therefore, you can't hide a weakness by keeping the number secret. You might be having a terrible day, feeling weak, but as long as you're in the group, then your power is the same as the other's power, and SRM data won't tell you who was weak. time gaps would, and there's no denying those.

So I'm still at a loss to know how anyone can disguise or detect weakness in another rider based on numbers. If he's on your wheel, he's OK, though he might feel like death. If he's not, then he's showing weakness.

And finally, marathon running and track and field are equally tactical, cycling doesn't have the monopoly on chess in real time! They're both great for this reason.


Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

OK, so just chatting to colleagues about it some more, we'll all still a bit stymied about how knowing a rider's power output allows you to diagnose weaknesses.

But what I did think of is that if you know a rider's peak capacity (say that his peak sustainable power output is 500 W) and his threshold power (say is 400 W for an hour), then knowing his power data per climb allows you to 'diagnose' whether he is at, below or above this limit, and in theory, to diagnose his relative level of 'strain' on a climb.

That makes sense. Problem is, you'd have to know all those facts. Simply knowing that Schleck is able to sustain 390W for 30 minutes is by itself meaningless. Unless I'm missing something?

I still think it would add great value, after the fact, to know. As it is, people estimate it anyway, and as Thomas has shown, those VAM figures can tell a pretty good story too.


Thomas said...

Ross, take a look at this.

From the page: http://www.flammerouge.je/content/3_factsheets/2006/climb.htm

"In 2000, Pantani attacked Armstrong on Stage 16 of the Tour to Morzine. What to do, what to do? Chase, burn energy by holding the gap, leave him out to fry or say goodbye to the stage? Urban myth has it that Johan Bruyneel phoned Ferrari from the team car.

Ferrari, (according to the myth) walking in the woods at the time, was passed all of the info by Bruyneel, a quick mental calculation and the instruction to "let him hang" came back. The "Postals" sat up, kept their powder dry and Pantani cracked and came back to them. On the figures they had, his VAM was unsustainable. That's what Armstrong insists he was paying for; insight, advice and training plans."

But I agree that when Contador and Schleck are on the last climb together and isolated it doesnt help much to know how many watts the other guy can produce.

Joe Garland said...

I'm a runner who doesn't understand the power output measurements. Is there a brief explanation somewhere?

Craig said...


Very intresting stuff, can someone please explain VAM ?

Thank you.

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

Hi Joe, Craig

I'll give it a try, though I know that some of the readers will have much value to add:

Power, in the definition of the word, is the rate of doing work. And on the bike, doing work means overcoming air resistance, rolling resistance between the ground and the tyre, and, when climbing, gravity. These are the same as running, incidentally, but it's much more difficult to calculate power in running, because of the mechanics of movement.

Back to the bike, and the equation for power output takes all of these factors into account. If you go this URL: http://forum.cyclingnews.com/showthread.php?t=8675&page=4

you'll see, about a third of the way down, an equation for the mathematics of cycling. It's a mouthful, but it has all of the factors in it.

There is air resistance, surface area of the cyclist, area of the wheel, the friction between tyre and road, the velocity of the cyclist, moments of inertia - the whole package.

But the simple version is that for a cyclist to get from point A to point B in X minutes, he must produce a power output that overcomes gravity (and which is dependent on the steepness of the climb), air resistance (which is why riding in a group is so much easier - other riders 'buffer' the wind) and the resistance of a tyre (squishy, fat tyres = bad idea!). The fact that he must overcome gravity explains why big cyclists are rarely successful in the mountains - they're all smaller men, 60 to 70kg, while the bigger, flat-road riders tend to struggle - it takes much more power to climb at the speed when you weigh 80kg!

Also, when we say that a rider like Horner has produced 380W, we're talking about the total useful work he has done. Literally, he has done an average of 380 Joules of work every second, in order to get from the bottom to top of the climb. Note that he actually does MORE than this, but he's not perfectly efficient. A good deal of energy is lost to heat, friction, the drive chain etc. An elite cyclist is about 23% efficient (this is contentious!).

Something of particular relevance is that there is not a one-to-one relationship between power and speed. That is, if you wish to double your speed, you don't just have to double your power output, because the relationship is exponential. Doubling speed requires an 8-fold increase in power, generally speaking (it's more complex than this, but that's the idea).

I hope that helps a little. It's something i must confess I've never really thought about from first principles.


Jordan said...

Hi Joe,

Wikipedia has a decent primer on what a power meter is and does:


Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

To Craig:

VAM is a concept that I understand to be 'created' by Dr Michele Ferrari, famous as an Italian cycling expert who was infamous for doping of athletes.

Basically, VAM is Vertical Ascent Meters, in meters per hour, and it's a proxy or indirect way of estimating the power output.

It assumes a bit, like air resistance, the surface area and size of a rider, wind direction and so forth, but the basic concept is that if a rider goes from Point A at an altitude of say 500m, to Point B at 1,500m in one hour, then his VAM is 1000m/hour.

This can be converted into a power output because all things being equal, the work required to lift a rider with that mass that height is definable. Ferrari developed conversion factors for this at different gradients:

The following may be helpful:


I must confess, I'm not sure if Thomas has used these factors?

However, by way of example, if you know that the climb is at 8%, and a rider is doing 1800m/hour (which is high, as Thomas' numbers have shown), then the rider is doing about 6.4W/kg.

The limitation in this method is that if there is a following wind, the VAM is much higher (because the cyclist is being "helped along"), and so you'd overestimate the power output. Conversely, if the wind is into the rider, you'll underestimate it. Also, the size of the rider and his frontal surface area, which affects the air resistance, can affect the accuracy of the calculation.

But that's the idea. I think that in the absence of direct measurements, it's not a bad way to quantify a climbing performance, though it isn't perfect, of course.


Oh, and thanks Jordan for that other link!

Joe said...

VAM is explained here, best explanation I have come across :


Thomas said...

Hi Craig.

VAM stands for Velocità Ascensionale Media, in English; Velocity Ascended, Metres per hour or Average Ascent Speed. It is basically how many meters you are ascending an hour.

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

Hi Joe

Thanks for the link.

That site, Cozy Beehive, run by Ron, is the best for the mechanical side of the sport. I should have thought to look there for the better explanation, so thanks for the link.


Thomas said...


Yes I use Ferraris formula to calculate watt/kg.

The formula is:
VAM/(gradient factor x 100)
Gradient factor = 2+(average gradient of climb/10)

Frans Rutten said...

The reason for not publishing power data seems to me quite obvious.

First of all: the history of the power device largely coincides with the onset of the EPO era. Those cyclists had no reason at all to publish power data. Power data nowadays are very objective markers. The data reveal at a specific place and time how strong or weak any given rider is. The rider get's marked for ever, so to speak. Every new power file can give exclusive evidence on how well a rider is performing at present, with regard of the past.

Suppose we had two power files of similar hard stages like yesterday of Lance Armstrong:
The file of 2003, where he a.o. climbs the Tourmalet with Jan Ullrich and of cause the file of yesterday, where he ends the stage like a tarnished champion, as one of our newspapers said.

Everybody is subjectively talking about a decline in performance (power) of Alberto Contador. It’s not based on comparing power figures. It’s apparent so to speak.

The calculated power figures for Contador at the Verbier climb last year, gave some scientists a reason to quote “Contador, sur la lune” or in plain English “on the moon”.Had we all the power files, wouldn’t we say: “ahh”. Is Contador the last of “the Mohicans”?

I once wrote to Chris Hoy: “What is his speed after 10 seconds from a standstill?”

Normally I wouldn’t dare to ask such a thing, but I had a pretext. A British newspaper suggested, that Chris Hoy could reach 44 mph in 10 seconds from a standstill. He meant of cause at maximum speed, but (I think at least) his lack of understanding track cycling didn’t prevent him of writing such a huge mistake.

I got a decent reply right away. “It belongs to the personal domain and could be of interest of his opponents.”

Dare to ask for Chris Hoy’s power figures in his best races?????

Anonymous said...

Just saw this on Velonews:
Confirmation for these Tour veterans’ comments came from the SRM data for Saxo Bank team rider Chris Anker Sørensen, analyzed by TrainingPeaks coach Dirk Friel, who wrote: “Hardest start to Tour stage ever! Gotta be a new record in terms of effort: 31 minutes at 6 watts/kilogram! That is unreal! … That start equals Chris’ hardest effort of the Tour so far.”

On the Peyresourde, Sørensen was with his team leader Andy Schleck in a small group that went over the summit a minute behind Armstrong’s breakaway; so the Texan had to have been working even harder, perhaps hitting 6.5 watts/kg, equivalent to averaging 450 watts for the half-hour climb. And that was just the start of a near-six-hour stage over four mountains.


Anonymous said...

Here is the link to the whole article:

And one more interesting quote/statistic:
With the extreme pace killing everyone — there’s never been a Tour stage through the high Pyrénées as fast as this one (see below) —
Fastest editions of this Pyrenean stage

2010 Luchon-Pau: 1. Pierrick Fédrigo (F), 199.5km in 5:31:43 (36.085 kph)
1998 Pau-Luchon: 1. Rodolfo Massi (I), 196.5km in 5:49:40 (33.717 kph)
1972 Pau-Luchon: 1. Eddy Merckx (B), 163.5km in 4:54:48 (33.277 kph)
1983 Pau-Luchon: 1. Robert Millar (GB), 201km in 6:23:27 (31.451 kph)
1967 Luchon-Pau: 1. Raymond Mastrotto (F), 250km in 8:00:27 (31.220 kph)
1964 Luchon-Pau: 1. Federico Bahamontes (Sp), 197km in 6:18:47 (31.205 kph)

Anonymous said...

Very interesting; thank you. Are you sure that the Tourmalet climb from earlier this week is the same as the climb from 2003? I'm not sure, but I know that tomorrow is a different route up the Tourmalet, and obviously you want to compare like to like as much as possible.

Joe Garland said...

Thanks for the power info.

This was mentioned in the NY Times blog post on the race, with some great stuff on Jens Voigt.

Thomas said...


According to SRM Chris Horner, who basically rode next to Armstrong all day, climbed Col de la Peyresourde with 5,9 w/kg and Col d´Aspin with 5,5 w/kg so nowhere near 6.5 w/kg.

Chris Anker Sorensen actually attacked on the first climb but was caught again and dropped from the peloton! He did not cross the top of Peyresourde with the peloton. The only Saxo Bank rider besides Schleck in the peloton on top of Peyresourde was Stuart O´Grady who was dropped on the start of Aspin. Fuglsang managed to come back to the peloton on the descent of Peuresourde.

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

Hi all

Thanks for the continued discussion. Very interesting..

First, to MikeGinAZ, posting as Anonymous:

Thomas has responded quite nicely re the power of that breakaway on the Tourmalet, with the figure from Horner of 5.9W/kg. I think you'll find the discrepancies are caused by what Thomas mentioned, that Sorensen was in the break, and also, the effort is not distributed equally. Even the gap of 1 minute may not have been created constantly on the climb, which has implications for the power output.

My recollection is that the break was held for a long time, and then only later grew. So it's not inconceivable that they were all going at roughly 6W/kg, until the peloton shut off somewhat and allowed the gap to grow.

The speed stats are very interesting, thanks for that.

Then to Anonymous at 8:53pm:

Not 100% sure who you're asking, but to answer - the Tourmalet yesterday was the same climb as in 2003, so they're comparable (from the St Marie de Campan side).

Tomorrow is a different direction, they come up the same way they descended. It's been done before, but not as a finishing climb in recent years, if at all. So one can't compare tomorrow to yesterday's race or 2003.

And finally, to Joe:

Glad it helped. Thanks for that link. What an amazing character. If you haven't read his initial blog posting about the accident, it's really humorous and can be read here:


Good night!


Frans Rutten said...


Comparing mountain stages in terms of average speed have not much value. The configuration of the stage: the set-up of the climbs and most of all,finish on the top or as yesterday a very long descent, are decisive factors.

As for comparing high-tech bikes with say a steel Pinarello bike of the 1980s: F. Grappe did once a test on a ca. 9 min. climb. The steel bike was ca. 18 seconds slower. For a 63 min. climb: 2 min.

Frans Rutten said...

From cyclismag. tonight.

Result Côte de la Croix Neuve; 3,1 km 10,26%; Rodriguez and Contador both 9:33.

Record though from 1995:
Pantani, Indurain and Riis in 8:40!
A difference of 0,55m/s=1,98km/h.

No wonder, that Andy doesn't like this climb.

Anonymous said...

Thomas said...

My own calculations at this tour:
Stage 8, Morzine-Avoriaz:
A. Schleck, Sanchez:
1577 m/h 5,92 w/kg
Contador, Menchov, Broeck
1568 m/h 5,88 w/kg

Stage 9, Col de la Madeleine from La Thuille:
A. Schleck, Contador
1509 m/h 5,65 w/kg
1477 m/h 5,53 w/kg
Menchov, Broeck
1463 m/h 5,48 w/kg

Stage 12, Montée Jalabert
Contador, Rodriguez
2012,9 m/h 6,68 w/kg
A. Schleck, Broeck, Menchov
1920 m/h 6,37 w/kg

Stage 14, Ax-3 Domaines
Menchov, Sanchez
1745 m/h 6,19 w/kg
A. Schleck, Contador
1733 m/h 6,15 w/kg

Stage 15, Port de Balés
Contador, Sanchez, Menchov
1657 m/h 6,35 w/kg
A. Schleck, Broeck
1647 m/h 6,31 w/kg

* * *

I'm using Velocity Ascended, Metres per hour ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Velocity_Ascended,_Metres_per_hour ):

Stage 8, Morzine-Avoriaz (Distance 13.6 Km, Grade 6.1 %, Elevation 831 m)

A. Schleck, S. Sanchez
Time 33:09, Speed 24.62 Kph, VAM 1504 m/h, 5.76 w/kg

Gesink, Kreuziger, Contador, Evans, Van den Broeck, Leipheimer, Basso, Menchov, Sastre
Time 33:19, Speed 24.49 Kph, VAM 1497 m/h, 5.73 w/kg

Stage 9, Col de la Madeleine, last 5 Km (Distance 5.0 km, Grade 7.62 %, Elevation 381 m)

Contador, A. Schleck
Time 14:39, Speed 20.48 Kph, VAM 1560 m/h, 5.65 w/kg

Stage 12, Col de la Croix Neuve (Distance 3.1 Km, Grade 10.1 %, Elevation 312 m)

Contador, Rodriguez
Time 9:32, Speed 19.51 Kph, VAM 1964 m/h, 6.33 w/kg

A. Schleck, Van den Broeck, S. Sanchez, Menchov
Time 9:44, Speed 19.11 Kph, VAM 1923 m/h, 6.20 w/kg

Stage 14, Ax 3 Domaines (Distance 9.1 Km, Grade 7.2 %, Elevation 652 m)

Menchov, S. Sanchez
Time 23:50, Speed 22.91 Kph, VAM 1639 m/h, 6.03 w/kg

A. Schleck, Rodriguez, Gesink, Contador, Van den Broeck

Time 24:04, Speed 22.67 Kph, VAM 1625 m/h, 5.98 w/kg

Stage 15, Port de Bales (Distance 19.3 Km, Grade 6.1 %, Elevation 1178 m)

Contador, S. Sanchez, Menchov
Time 47:37, Speed 24.32 Kph, VAM 1484 m/h, 5.69 w/kg

A. Schleck, van den Broeck, Vinokourov, Leipheimer, Gadret, Hesjedal
Time 47:54, Speed 24.18 Kph, VAM 1476 m/h, 5.65 w/kg

Stage 15, Port de Bales, last 5 Km (Distance 5.0 Km, Grade 8.9 %, Elevation 445 m)

Contador, S. Sanchez, Menchov
Time 16:42, Speed 17.96 Kph, VAM 1599 m/h, 5.53 w/kg

A. Schleck, van den Broeck, Vinokourov, Leipheimer, Gadret, Hesjedal
Time 16:59, Speed 17.66 Kph, VAM 1572 m/h, 5.44 w/kg

Stage 16, Col du Tourmalet (Distance 17.1 Km, Grade 7.4 %, Elevation 1268 m)

Time 56:16, Speed 18.24 Kph, VAM 1353 m/h, 4.93 w/kg

Thomas said...

Hi Anonymous. Interesting to compare our results. Do you measure the time by yourself as I do, and therefore is prone to error, or do you have it from an official source? Our results differ quite a bit and I can see why.

On the Morzine stage 8 I found the time, at cyclismag from 3 kilometers up the climb so the first flat part is not included in mine as it is in yours.

On Stage 12 up Montée Jalabert you seem too have made a calculation error. Even if your time is more correct than mine ( I had a lot assumptsions in mine) the w/kg is off. Using your VAMS I get 6.52 and 6.39.

On stage 14 to Ax-3 Domaines you have taken the time from the start of the climb to the finish line. The climb actually ended more than a kilometer from the finish line and was only 7.8km

On stage 15 up Port de Balés my timing was poor since you couldnt actually see the peloton start the climb so I had to look at how much the guys in the breakaway had to the peloton so I suppose your calculations are more accurate than mine.

Anonymous said...

Of course, there could be a more simple explanation as to why Schleck and Contador aren't publishing there power numbers on the mountain stages: they aren't using power meters on the mountain stages... They do have SRM heads but not cranks.

While generally I think that there's a lot of room for error with calculations, the power files from Horner and Sorensen should provide enough information to make some fairly educated calculations.


Jens Voigt laughs at you said...

Jens Voigt a hero? His career flourished only in his thirties under Bjarne Riis when his captain was the Fuentes-bound Ivan Basso. In 2006, after Jan Ullrich was dethroned as German cycling hero, Voigt first finished the Tour and then - miraculously - went on to win the Deutschland-Tour - where he not only won the hardest mountain stage but also the time trial. Not bad for a nobody.

In 2006, after Basso was suspended, Voigt wanted all dopers to be burnt on the funeral pile. Later, when Riis had confessed to doping during his tour win in 1996, Voigt wasn't able to articulate any opinion on his boss. 2008, when asked whether he had had contact with his former captain Basso in his role as international spokesman of all riders, he claimed that communication was not possible since he couldn't speak Italian. Leaves not only the question, how they communicated when riding in one team.

And now Voigts pretends to care about radiation! What a stultification of the people!

Jens Voigt is no hero. He is nothing more than a cycling hypocrite.

Gene said...

Useful post, Ross. Thanks.

Picking up on your first topic, I'm also wary of race-focused studies. However, did you see the one this month about center of gravity and sports choice by region of the world? http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/07/100712103349.htm.

Anonymous said...

Interesting article! Last year, a UofM professor/Medical doctor specializing in athletes and their physiology analyzed Lance Armstrong's physical capabilities bassed on the body he was born with. (She had been supplied with all his medical records.) She concluded that, like the race horse, Secretariat, Armstrong was basically born to be a champion pro cyclist who could win a 3-week race. Characteristic after characteristic was superior to the average person or even the average cyclist. Contador and Schleck have never released such medical data, but clearly these two men can accelerate in a way that I have never seen Armstrong do. Should we assume that these two cyclists, as well, were born with genetically superior bodies for becoming cyclists? There was only one Secretariat, but does it follow there is only one Lance Armstrong? Also, you mentioned that cyclists this year sped up the mountain slower than Armstrong and Ullrich did in their day--but I was wondering: 1) the weather this year has been hotter than the TdF has ever experienced--this must be draining the athletes, don't you think? and 2) according to the Prof/Doctor who snalyzed Armstrong's data, a long trip up a mountain, the way Armstrong does it, is exactly what Armstong's body was born to do.
Also, I was wondering, as the Prof/Doctor pointed out that Armstrong has the capability to "recover" faster than most mere mortals, how much would EPO even help him? Would it even help him at all? (Armstrong already boosts what he was born with, by living in the mountains--this past year, he spent most of his time living in Aspen. It seemed that for every drug a cyclist uses, Armstrong's natural body already had the advantage over everyone else. After reading her analysis, it made me wonder how anyone ever beat him. I'd appreciate any thoughts you have! Thanks!

Gene said...

The full article I mentioned can be found at http://www.constructal.org/.

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

Hi everyone

Thanks for the great posts overnight.

I'll try to respond one by one:

First, to Frans:

Thanks for the stats on that climb of Côte de la Croix Neuve. Almost a minute slower...a massive power output difference too. The VAM calculation by Thomas said that Contador was at around 6.6W/kg, so an 8:40 is equal to 7.2W/kg by my calculations...

Next, to Anonymous;

Thanks for taking the time to do the calculations and send them in. Thomas has already responded in part. The tricky thing about VAM is the gain in altitude and the distance. I did a little exercise last night where I used the SRM files from this post,where elevation and distance are given, as well as power output, and I get power outputs slightly lower than Thomas' as well. Most of this is probably down to where you choose to start and end the climb, like in your Ax-3-Domaines example.

Your Port de Bales numbers are, I think, a lot more likely, and not just because they're lower - as Thomas said, he did have to assume a start time.

But thanks for doing that, I must collate all that into a post at the end of the race!

To Thomas:

Thanks again for taking the time to respond and for your calcs - very interesting indeed!

More to come...

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

Right, continuing the responses:

To Jens Voigt laughs at you:

There's nothing you've said that I disagree with, and if I were here posting on Voigt's credibility as a cyclist and his stance on doping, then sure, maybe we'd have been saying the same thing.

However, my link to Voigt never, at any point, called him a hero. I said that his interview and writing made him an amazing character. Character, as in someone amusing, with a witty sense of humor and self-deprecating attitude. I think those two articles are very amusing.

So I'm not sure where Vogit became a hero. But, those crashes, and the stories that exist around them, are quite something, independent of doping. I don't know which drugs give a cyclist the ability to crack jokes when lying in hospital, or to reminisce about an accident like that with wise-cracks about the latest one. I think Voigt adds personality to the Tour. He may well be a cycling hypocrite, yes, but his attitude towards his injuries, his articulation and his humor is worthy of at least acknowledging.

If we condemn every person because of one fault, which negates any positive attributes they may have, then we'd all be very silent, and very condemned...

To Gene:

Yes, i saw that one! It's another one that I missed in the last few weeks! I'm hoping that once the Tour is over, the withdrawal will drive me to backtrack and cover it! I read it and it's interesting. I think it's way oversimplified in its explanation and I don't actually believe it to be true, but it's certainly worth discussing. Thanks!

More to follow...

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

To Anonymous at 5:03AM

That professor couldn't be further off the mark. I'm afraid she's victim to the marketing hype around the athlete. And we don't see this just with Armstrong, it happened with Indurain,it happens with Michael Phelps, with Usain Bolt, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal.

There's a tendency to oversimplify and explain an athlete's performance as freakish, when in fact the complexity of physiology makes this impossible to do.

To say that Armstrong's body was born to do long trips up the mountain is absolutely ridiculous. I can assure you, it’s possible to pull together the data from about 40 international level cyclists, and if I were to show them to this professor, she would be unable to tell which was a champion, which was a domestique and so forth. If I included Armstrong's data in that set, she'd have a poor chance of even guessing which physiology belonged to Armstrong.

ALL of the very top cyclists have superior physiology, they all have high VO2max values, large lungs, huge hearts, specific muscle fibre types, metabolic adaptations, low lactate levels at high work rates. There is no discernible difference between them. In fact, Armstrong's VO2 max is considerably lower than some of the other top cyclists. I have no indication of his lung volume, but that too will not be 5% bigger than everyone else's. equally, he'll have a normal sized heart for an elite athletes. There were Spanish riders, tested in the lab, who produced less lactate that Armstrong at similar power outputs.

Even Schleck and Contador - there is something there that physiology can't measure, probably related to muscle contractility if the studies on African athletes is any indication - but they are not physiologically discernible from cyclists finishing within 5% of them.

And as for recovery - we can't measure "recovery ability" with enough resolution to even make that statement that Armstrong recovers faster. I work with some elite athletes - canoeists and cyclists and rugby players - and our biggest dilemma is how to know if they are recovering after training. You simply cannot tell. So the notion that Armstrong recovers faster is again, nothing more than marketing hype and PR guys who've convinced that Professor (shame on her) that complex physiology is simple.

Everyone lives in the mountains too - Armstrong is not the only athlete in the world who trains at altitude. Everyone clears lactate, metabolizes it effectively and so on. The margins between first and 20th in the Tour are very small - 5% on the climbs, as we've now seen with Chris Horner's data compared to the likes of Contador and Schleck.

Physiology cannot pull that 5% apart, and so anyone who says that Armstrong is a genetic freak is buying into stories, not facts. Armstrong is a great athlete (even with doping), but he's not unique. He's one of maybe 100 men in the world with the physiology to succeed, 20 of whom also train correctly. The rest is a combination of physiology that we can't fully explain (what creates the ability to accelerate on a climb), and, depending on what you believe, the impact of doping on that physiology.

Continued in next post...

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

continued from above...

The point about weather is interesting. I know it's been hot, but on average, only a degree or so hotter than normal. This is France in mid-summer, and I was at the Tour in 2004, 2005 and 2006, and all three years were scorching hot - high 30s every day. So the heat this year may be greater, but it's by a small amount, not enough to account for a 5 and 10% slowing of performance, if the estimates from the 90s and 2000s are correct.

The bottom line is that no one stands apart because their body is born for anything. The very best have superior physiology, but the world is a big place, and there are plenty of guys in that peloton with comparable physiology. The hype says otherwise, just as it did for Phelps (who supposedly dominates the games because he has long arms and produces less lactate...), for Federer (who 'sees' the ball before it is hit) and for just about every other champion athlete.


David said...

Judging performances based on times or putting absolute limits on "drug-free" performances doesn't seem very scientific to me.

For example, "not physiological" is a stupid thing to call a performance that has actually been done. It's not like doping give these guys wings and a rocket engine with a motor attached to their bike, they still have to consume a certain amount of oxygen on the bike. If you think these performances are impossible it probably means your calculations are wrong. Because they've been done. For example, how much anaerobic work do they do? It certainly feels like it's a lot when I'm on my bike, even during a 40-minute climb at the end of a 4-hour ride!

The Tourmalet was so slow that Thor Hushovd, a sprinter, got ahead of the pack, and the commentators talked about how slow they were going the entire time. So how "scientific" does it sound when you write, "12 minutes? That's too big to be accounted for by strategy alone." Really? What would you suggest as the upper limit that strategy can cost the peloton on a climb?

Your discussion of the tactics also doesn't make sense. If times are slower, so are the speeds, so wind resistance is less important. This makes the 25-minute effort to the top of the mountain easier to establish, not harder! The cat-and-mouse games on steep climbs are only happening because the riders are so closely matched that they can't get away from their competitor without allowing them into their slipstream -- if the speeds were slower the tactics would be unnecessary.

The power data is interesting, and many cyclists may be doping, but you guys should stick to what you're good at. This isn't it.

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...


of course they're not physiological. You are mis-construing the word. It's obvious what I mean, so to label the use of the word as stupid is, well, stupid.

If you have any data that suggests that the current Tour can reach levels like 6.2W/kg and 6.3W/kg, I'm all ears. But you're dismissing an entire article, based on one climb and one cyclist's performance? That is poor too.

Just to add to that, the climb Montee Jalabert, where Rodriguez and Contador broke away, was done almost a full minute slower than in 1995, when Riis and Pantani did it. Their power output - approximately 7.2W/kg for 9 minutes. We're now 9% lower. Was that strategy too?

Is it strategy that the guys in the top 20 of the Tour are hardly doing a single climb at 6.0 W/kg, when 6.3W/kg were common only 5 years ago? When Horner is riding at 5.8W/kg, and Contador and Schleck are at 6.1W/kg for a climb that lasts only 23 minutes, does strategy explain how riders in the last decade have done 6.4W/kg for climbs almost twice as long.

If you have an explanation, then go for it, but don't just criticize and tell me to stick to what I'm good at. You're doing the same thing everyone does when they disagree - they suddenly criticize the quality of the writer. You disagree, fine. But you haven't made an argument. Only a criticism.


Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

Just to continue to David:

You wrote:

"they still have to consume a certain amount of oxygen on the bike"

You do realise that a guy riding at 6.4W/kg up a climb probably has to consume about 80 ml/kg/min of oxygen to do so?

Now, to do that for 40 minutes or more? That's not "physiological" to stick to my use of the word in an obvious meaning. riding at 5.9W/kg, incidentally, around 70ml/kg/min - maybe 14% lower.

Incidentally, the research on EPO showed that it improved submaximal cycling ability specifically because it allowed cyclists to ride for longer at a given percentage of VO2max - time to exhaustion was thus increased substantially. The corollary, of course, is that doping would allow a cyclist to reach a higher power ouptut/relative intensity for a given length of time (ie: a climb).

So the mechanism most certainly does exist. We're looking at small decrements - 5%, but that's what most people would reckon doping does.

No one ever said "wings and rocket engines". Slower yes, but it's not a gentle pedal around France...


David said...

True, it's easy and unfair of me to take potshots from the back seat when you guys are doing all the driving, so for that I apologize.

I don't have answers to your questions -- but I don't claim to know the answers either. Part of my point is that you can't compare riders in different races -- who knows if they had done the same amount of work in the hour leading up to the Jalabert -- this year there was a huge mountain before it.

Contador's Verbier climb last year was very fast, although he seems to be suited towards shorter climbs. He hasn't needed to do an effort like that since then because of his time-trialing ability. Andy Schleck can probably produce similarly high performances, but he hasn't been able to go for it the same way (although the last few minutes of climbing after his dropped chain were spectacular). The cat-and-mouse games have slowed everything down. Or are you suggesting that Contador has stopped doping in the last year?

Times get better and worse, doping isn't always the reason. I suspect that we will see a very fast performance from Andy in seven hours, but I don't think Contador will take any risks, so we probably won't see what he can really do.

Overall conclusion -- I don't think you can judge the amount of doping in the peloton by times or performances. Too much of it revolves around opinion.

David said...

Sorry, just a bit more and then I have to get to sleep.

I'm not arguing with you that there is probably less doping in the peloton today than there was 5, 10, 15 years ago -- I agree with you. But I don't think standing at the top of a climb with a stopwatch is a systematic way to judge.

How much power during a 40-minute climb at maximal effort is anaerobic?

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

Hi David

Thanks for the comeback! Fair points all, and I know this is an issue.

That's why, in the first series of posts, I was careful to emphasize that it's not a definitive way of determining the relative degree of doping. So to respond to your second mail, about the stopwatch, absolutely.

in this post, my attempt at 'prudence' was in the emphasis, repeatedly, that it was "my opinion", and "to me, this suggests" and so forth. So I am trying to walk on the right side of the line that says that if find X, then you must conclude Y. Because it's not as simple as this.

Another point that I've made before, and probably should have here, is that the best way to use the performances is to not limit it to the top riders only, and certainly not to base it on one single Tour. I think that over the course of the next decade, we'll start to see a clearer picture, and if we can, in 2020, compare the performances of the 1990s, to the 2000s, to the 2010s (the 'teenies'), then we'll be able more conclusively to say, "there is change".

Oh, and the other thing is that it would be better to compare the top 10 performances, the performances of maybe the 10 riders placed from 40th to 50th, and also maybe the average of the top 50. To give an idea of depth.

Because until that's done, you're right, there is no definitive answer from this method. But for now, I do believe it has slowed down (last year was also slower than previous years, and this year's Giro was considerably slower on the big climbs), and so for now, my opinion (call it a hypothesis!) is that there's a reduction.


Anonymous said...

Intresting read. Nice article.

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...


Quick update from today's stage - I will post on it once the SRM data are available, but I was timing the climb, so thought I'd throw thoughts out before.

The climb is supposedly 18.6km at 7.5% (I say supposedly because there was some fishy business with the distance markings, as I'll mention):

So I got the climbing time for Schleck and COntador at 49:08. This is from the banner saying 18.6km to go.

This translates into VAM of 1704 m/h, which gives an estimated power output of 6.2 W/kg.

I think there's a problem with the distances though.

I timed the section from 18.6km to 15km to go (ie, 3.6km), and it was covered in 5:50. This is an average speed of 37 km/hour, which I can't believe to be true. It was fast, but not that quick.

Also, the TV distances didn't match the markings on the road - when the leaders went under the 18.6km to go banner, the GPS on the TV graphic said 17.8km. Normally, I'd believe the road marking, but given the speed of that 3.6km section, I don't believe it.

I think more likely, the climb that I timed of 49:08 is over 17.8km. This means, of course, that the VAM is lower - it drops to 1630m/hour, and the power output comes down to 5.9 W/kg.

If anyone has different times, please let me know. I'll rewatch the stage and see if I missed something, but I think it's safe to say that the power output today was in the range between 5.9W/kg and 6.2W/kg.

Also, what is interesting is that Horner, whose SRM data we should see, lost "only" about 2 minutes on the climb, and that will give us a nice indication.

As soon as this is up, I'll get on it!


Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

Just to add to the previous post:

I made a typo - the pace over the first 3.6km was not 38, it was 28km/hour (typo error)

The sections that I timed, according to the distance flags and banners were:

18.6 to 15km to go = 5:58 (28.8/h)
15 to 10km to go = 14:01 (21.4km/h)
10 to 5km to go = 13:57 (21.5 km/h)
5km to finish = 15:10 (19.8 km/h)

The climb isn't uniform of course, but I'm still mighty suspicious of that first interval.

Anyway, SRM will be interesting.


Thomas said...

Col du Tourmalet:

Andy Schleck, Contador:
1720 m/h 6.26 w/kg

J. Rodriguez:
1676 m/h 6.09 w/kg

1671 m/h 6.08 w/kg

S. Sanchez:
1668 m/h 6.07 w/kg

Menchov, Gesink:
1664 m/h 6.05 w/kg

Chris Horner:
1661 m/h 6.04 w/kg

Great ride by Schleck and Contador. Interesting to see if the Horner data is correct.

Thomas said...

Hi Ross. I also noticed that the sign said 18.6 km like the climb normally is but on the tv screen it said 17.6 km. I do believe that 28 km/h is possible for the first section since it is about 5% and Ogrady set a very high pace.

My time up the climb was 49 minutes straight. One of the commentators, Rolf Sørensen, timed it 49min 15 sec so 49min and 8 sec might the right one ;)

Gene said...

Ross - Do you have a reference for that research on EPO's effect on submaximal cycling?

Anonymous said...

"Col du Tourmalet:

Andy Schleck, Contador:
1720 m/h 6.26 w/kg"

So isn't this proof that both Schleck and Contador must be doping?

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

OK, I'm going to blame temporary insanity and time pressures (I was rushing out for a presentation when I did my last post) for my mathematical incompetence:

The splits I got on the climb were as follows:

18.6 to 15 = 5:58 (Speed 36.2km/h)
15 to 10 = 14:02 (Speed 21.4km/h)
10 to 5 = 13:58 (Speed 21.5km/h)
5 to finish = 15:10 (Speed 19.8km/h)

So the total is 49:08, and climbing rate of 1704m/h, power output of 6.2 W/kg.

But you see the super fast first section, that's not right, and so that's why I doubt the accuracy of the length of the climb. I suspect that the 49:08 actually applies to a shorter climb, and so the climbing rate and resultant estimate for power is lower than the 6.2W/kg.

Sorry for my mathematical folly earlier!

Will respond shortly to other posts.


Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

To Thomas:

Thanks for the reply. Yeah, something between 49 and 49:15 seems about right.

I just reposted - the average on that first 3.6km was in fact 36.2 km/h, and not 28.

I agree, 28 would be possible, but that split, of 5:58 for 3.6km, is 36km/h (my original post was right - I was doing 1000 things at the time,sorry).

So I'm highly skeptical of the length of the climb.

As I say, I suspect it was shorter, and that the vertical ascent is lower, and so the estimated power will be down. We'll see with the SRM data!


Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

To Anonymous:

No it doesn't.

First, the 6.26W/kg is not necessarily accurate. Thomas based that on a time of 49:00.

I timed it at 49:08, and I get 6.19 W/kg, and Rolf Sorensen timed it at 49:15, which means 6.18W/kg.

All high, but not impossible, as I've tried to state many, many times.

In addition to this, there is an issue about the length of the climb, as you'll see if you read my posts above. I think the climb was measured out incorrectly, and the power output achieved is likely lower than 6.2W/kg. I would estimate it to be closer to 6W/kg. The SRM data will be interesting.

The 6.2W/kg is, as I've said, the start of a grey area that MAY indicate suspicion. I suspect this climb was 6.0 to 6.1 W/kg, under this.


Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

Hi Gene

You'll find the article I wrote on the original research here:


and here is the pubmed reference for it:



Frans Rutten said...

For me the most interesting fact of the climb is the breakaway km.

Average Wattage may have pretty much been in the range of 470W or (much) more, I reckon. Those powerfiles we will never see. We have to settle with a theoretical approach.

Comparisons with other climbing performances are always tricky.
But still: Verbier 2009. A 8.5km climb, 7,61%, done by AC in 20:55.

First 2,7km small groupe together;
Next 1,95km: AC distances AS 18s;
Next 2km: AC gains further 20s;
To the finish: AC gains another 5s.

Wattages AC: 550W (small pact), 535W (alone); 450W and 430W.

Today AS accelerated, when he had about 8.7 km to go. I timed 25:04 until the finish.

Note, say after some 6 minutes already, they both hardly rode faster than their pursuiters.

Of cause it was on the one hand strategy, but on the other hand not being able to extend the superhigh wattages needed to succeed a real breakaway like AC last year (Sur la Lune) could.

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

To Thomas:

Sorry for the drawn out discussion:

I'm just watching the stage again, and I have timed how long the peloton took to ride from 20km to the 18.6km to go banner.

In theory, this would be 1.4km, and so should take in the range of 3 minutes. But it took 4:42.

So that suggests that the banner at 18.6 to go was in the wrong place, by about 1:45 min. I'm more and more inclined to believe the 17.6km that the TV graphic displayed.

If one says that the error is 1:45 minutes large, then that first 3.6km stretch is actually only around 2.8 km long (at a speed of 27km/h). Which means the climb is in fact 17.8km long.

Average gradient? If still 7.5%, it would give a climb of 1335m.

So, VAM for AC and AS = 1630, and the estimated power is 5.9 W/kg.

For Horner, it's VAM = 1573m/h, and power of 5.7 W/kg.

Will be interesting to see the SRM tomorrow.

I suspect that for Horner, it'll lie between 5.7 and 5.9W/kg, but not the 6.04W/kg that we get if we use 18.6km @ 7.5%.


Thomas said...

Hi Ross. Great job and I agree with you that 36 km/h seems too high.

If we cut out the first kilometer of the climb it is actually 7,6 % and the elevation gain is 1352m.

With this in mind AC and AS climbed with 1652 m/h and 5.98 w/kg and Horner 1594 m/h and 5.78 w/kg

I am also really looking forward to see the data from Horner. I really hope these figures are near what his are showing as it would IMO be a big indication on allmost a non doping peloton.

Anonymous said...

The power output is akin to publishing a genetic profile which is being heralded as a new way to track drug cheats. If the top riders (aka the best pharmaceuticals) revealed outputs, they would be establishing comparative baselines for future readings.

Anonymous said...

Stage 17, Col du Tourmalet, last 10 km (Distance 10 km, Grade 7,99 %*,
Elevation 799 m*)

* Source = http://www.climbbybike.com/profile/Col-du-Tourmalet-Luz-St-Sauveur_profile.jpg

A. Schleck, Contador
Time 29:12, Speed 20.55 Kph, VAM 1642 m/h, 5,87 w/kg

Frans Rutten said...

Anonymous said

Contador/Schleck did 5,87W/kg for the last 10k Tourmalet climb.

To get a better comparison french scientists recalculate power according a cyclist, weighing 70kg and riding a bike and equipment of in all 8 kg, making 78kg.

But if you don't; you rather should give the real power per body weight only. Unless with a remark that's meant otherwise.

In terms of power calculations with the bike, there's a website with a all-time list of only 10 riders as of say 1-1-2000. Marco Pantani is the only one, that approaches or exceeds the ominous 6.2w/kg barrier.
Otherwise, you wouldn't believe, who exceeds that barrier.

The link: www.members.aon.at/o.n/ bergfahrer.html

Chistophe said...

@Frans : 5.87? Sounds a bit on the low side. Cozy Beehive got something like 6 W/kg. Their ride looked way faster for it to be 5.87.


Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

To Anonymous @ 11:20pm, Frans and Christophe.

THanks for the calculations.

I actually think both calculations are correct - you'll find that differences in these values come from very small differences in your starting assumptions, regarding the average gradient and distance of the climbs.

So Frans' value of 5.87W/kg is for the final 10km. Remember that what Ron has worked out on Cozybeehive is the average for the 8km stretch after taking the lead.

This is the power output once Schleck had attacked. Frans, on the other hand, has worked it out for the final 10km, which has a small section before the attack, and so the power may be lower.

So all told, it's possible that they averaged 5.87W/kg for 10km, and 6.03W/kg for the last 8km, and both are right.

Hope that makes sense?

My calculation, by the way, is that the whole climb was done at an average between 5.7W/kg and 6.0W/kg. I give this range because as you'll have seen int he posts, there is definitely something wrong with the distance markers on the climb.


Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

Sorry, edit to the last post.

The Schleck attack came at 10km to go, and so that 5.9W/kg of Frans does include the attack - my apologies (just watched the footage again).

Still 5.9W/kg v 6.0W/kg can easily be explained if you base the calculation on a grade of 7.5% or 7.6%, for example. So I don't think it's too much of a concern.

This is the problem with VAM incidentally - it is imprecise, and so a range of estimates is a better approach.

5.9W/kg to 6.1W/kg would be about the mark, I'd guess.


Frans Rutten said...

To Christophe and Ross:
I didn't make a calculation!

I only presumed that the 5,87w/kg mark given by anonymous only could be with the bike. Referring only to body weight it's then around 6,5w/kg.

That's why I referred to that website. Pantani did clearly above 7w/kg (ca. 7,2) without the bike.

Gabe said...

I apologize if this has already been asked - if so please direct me to the post. How do estimates of Contador's power/weight ratios in the 2007 and 2009 Tours stack up to the "Doping Era?". I seem to recall LeMond publicly questioning one of Contador's Tour ascents in 2009 as superhuman before changing his tone and seemingly praising Contador in 2010. Without knowing the data, one could make the argument that Contador's winning effort during the "doped" 2007 Tour is as suspicious as Armstrong's during earlier Tours.

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

Hi Gebe

We did look at this, last year, and I think I linked to it in a post or two in this series, not 100% sure. This was a brief look at the power outputs of the 90s:


I don't unfortunately have the values for the early 2000s, only the climbing times,which were as quick as anything done in the mid-90s. There was a drop around 2000 - that co-incides, incidentally, with the advent of the urine and blood tests for EPO around the time of the Sydney Olympic Games. Then it picked up again, as different second generation products became available (at least, that's one explanation for it).

Re last year and Contador, yes, Lemond questioned the performance on the Verbier. We did a post on that: http://www.sportsscientists.com/2009/07/tour-de-france-2009-contador-vo2max.html

The problem there, and this emerged, is that Contador had a following wind on the Verbier, and the climb is short - less than 20 minutes, which means you can't really compare it to the long climbs of 40 minutes in that list.

So for example, Hautacam, Alp d'Huez, Joux Plane are all 35 to 45 minutes in length, double that of the Verbier, and so it is not unexpected that it would be this high. One of the many considerations which makes looking at one specific climb fraught with risk.

Re the 2007 Tour, don't have data, unfortunately. That Tour was also a bit slower, if I recall, but I'd love to have some of the times of this battles between Contador and Rasmussen before Rasmussen was kicked off. They'd make for an interesting comparison. I think to answer your final question, every performance should be questioned, given the sport's history. But it seems, at least to me, to be headed in a better direction, where either less doping is happening, or doping is happening, but less!


Thomas said...


According to SRM Chris Horner, who basically rode next to Armstrong all day, climbed Col de la Peyresourde with 5,9 w/kg and Col d´Aspin with 5,5 w/kg so nowhere near 6.5 w/kg.

Chris Anker Sorensen actually attacked on the first climb but was caught again and dropped from the peloton! He did not cross the top of Peyresourde with the peloton. The only Saxo Bank rider besides Schleck in the peloton on top of Peyresourde was Stuart O´Grady who was dropped on the start of Aspin. Fuglsang managed to come back to the peloton on the descent of Peuresourde.

Anonymous said...

Of course, there could be a more simple explanation as to why Schleck and Contador aren't publishing there power numbers on the mountain stages: they aren't using power meters on the mountain stages... They do have SRM heads but not cranks.

While generally I think that there's a lot of room for error with calculations, the power files from Horner and Sorensen should provide enough information to make some fairly educated calculations.