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Tour de France

Power Analysis: How Van Aert and Pogačar are dominating the Tour de France

In this column, we look at the power numbers of Wout Van Aert, Tadej Pogačar, Neilson Powless, and more at the Tour de France.

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How dominant have Wout Van Aert and Tadej Pogačar been at this year’s Tour de France? So far, they have been on the podium in eight of the nine stages and won four of the nine combined. Each rider has worn the yellow jersey and – without jinxing it – Pogačar may be wearing it for good.

Here, we’re going to look back at the second week of the Tour de France by the power numbers. In just a few short days, we saw Van Aert soloing away from the bunch at 60kph, Neilson Powless nearly taking the yellow jersey on the cobblestones, and Pogačar winning back-to-back stages including the race’s first mountaintop finish on La Super Planche des Belles Filles.

Related: Tour de France stage 7: Tadej Pogačar storms to second win on Super Planches des Belles Filles

The first action of the week was an expected one with Jumbo-Visma launching a massive team attack on the Côte du Cap Blanc-Nez in Stage 4. At 1km and an average of 7.2%, the climb wasn’t much to be scared of – unless Jumbo-Visma was at the front.

Nathan Van Hooydonck full-on sprinted onto the start of the climb, with Tiesj Benoot taking over not long after. By the final few hundred meters, Van Aert dropped everyone else and pushed on over the top. Though we don’t have his power data, we can make some estimations based on the riders around him.

Kevin Geniets was the rider closest to Van Aert on the climb who published their power, and the numbers are expectedly insane. Geniets had incredible two-minute power, but it is in the graph that we can get a glimpse of Van Aert’s strength. Like most of the peloton, Geniets was able to stay on the back of the Jumbo-Visma train for the first half of the climb – but after that, the wheels fell completely off.

Van Aert powered over the top of the climb and flew down to the stage win, eight seconds ahead of a mightily confused Jasper Philipsen.

Geniets – Cote du Cap Blanc-Nez

Geniets – Côte du Cap Blanc-Nez

Time: 1:53
Average Power: 661w (9.1w/kg)
First half of the climb: 713w (9.8w/kg) for 1:02

Wout Van Aert – Côte du Cap Blanc-Nez

Time: 1:45
Estimated Power: ~740-780w (9.5-10w/kg)

The following day was billed as one of the most critical stages of the Tour: the 157km stage from Lille to Wallers-Arenberg featuring 11 sectors of cobblestones. While Jumbo-Visma’s calamities were the main story of the day, at the head of the race, Neilson Powless had one of the best days of his career.

Powless made the break of the day in the opening 20km, making a huge effort to earn his place in the group. Here we can see just how hard it is to make it into a Tour de France breakaway. Most fans never even see this part of the race.

Powless making the breakaway

Powless – Making the breakaway in Stage 5

Time: 20:48
Average Power: 383w (5.8w/kg)
Normalized Power: 405w (6.1w/kg)
Huge initial effort: 468w (7.1w/kg) for 3:16

Powless continued working with his break mates for the next three hours while chaos erupted in the peloton. Multiple crashes, attacks, and mechanicals left several GC riders scrambling to regain contact with the peloton. In the meantime, Pogačar had jumped off the front with Jasper Stuyven and the duo began closing in on the breakaway.

However, the breakaway’s gap never dipped below 35 seconds, and with a few kilometers to go, it looked like Powless had a chance to take the yellow jersey. The American attacked just outside the final kilometer and many viewers (myself included) thought he had nailed it.

But Edvald Boasson Hagen had other ideas, and the Norwegian sacrificed his chances to close the gap to Powless, towing Taco van der Horn and Simon Clarke across to the EF Education-EasyPost rider. The television can be deceiving because you might have guessed that Powless blew up in the final few hundred meters. Indeed, he crossed the line four seconds behind the winner, Clarke, yet he was still pushing nearly 6w/kg the entire time.

Powless’ final km attack in stage 5

Powless – Final kilometer attack in Stage 5

Time: 1:31
Average Power: 493w (7.5w/kg)
Normalized Power: 405w (6.1w/kg)
Peak 1min Power: 556w (8.4w/kg)

In the end, Pogačar held onto the yellow jersey by 13 seconds with Powless slotting into second in the Tour de France General Classification.

Stage 6 was an odd one – after more than an hour of attacking, a small breakaway of three riders finally left the peloton including the yellow jersey of Wout Van Aert. Jakob Fuglsang and Quinn Simmons joined the Belgian, with those riders dropping one-by-one after three hours of what Simmons described as “moto pacing”.

Here’s what it takes to sit on Wout Van Aert’s wheel in a Tour de France breakaway.

Simmons’ breakaway behind Wout Van Aert

Simmons – Moto pacing behind Wout Van Aert on Stage 6

Time: 2:33:56
Average Power: 329w (4.6w/kg)
Normalized Power: 354w (4.9w/kg)
Average Speed: 48.7kph (30.3mph)
Peak 20min Power: 411w (5.7w/kg)
Normalized Power for the first 90min of the stage: 409w (5.7w/kg)

Despite Van Aert’s best efforts, Pogačar took the win on Stage 6, and with that came the yellow jersey. Next up was the first major summit finish of the Tour de France: La Super Planche des Belles Filles. The breakaway nearly stole the show, but in the final kilometers, it was UAE-Team Emirates pacing with Brandon McNulty and Rafał Majka. When Majka swung off with 900m to go, the peloton was still 10-15 riders deep including Sepp Kuss shepherding for Jumbo-Visma.

Pogačar kept the pace steady for a few hundred meters before an attack came from Jonas Vingegaard. Only Pogačar was able to respond, and the duo came into the final 50m neck-and-neck. Pogačar dug again, sat back down, and then kicked with everything he had, coming around Vingegaard with less than 20m to go.

Using Kuss’ power data, we can see that the majority of La Super Planche des Belles Filles was paced at 6.2w/kg until the big attacks in the final kilometer. Kuss maintained the 6.2w/kg pace, but still lost 41 seconds in just 900m. We’ll have to estimate Pogačar’s and Vingegaard’s power data, but it is somewhere in the range of 7.5-8.5w/kg for the final 900m of the climb.

Kuss – La Super Planche des Belles Filles

Kuss – La Super Planche des Belles Filles

Time: 20:14
Average Power: 378w (6.2w/kg)
First 5.9km of the climb: 375w (6.2w/kg) for 17:11
Final 900m of the climb: 386w (6.3w/kg) for 3:13

Pogačar and Vingegaard – La Super Planche des Belles Filles

Time: 19:33
Estimated Power: ~6.5w/kg
First 5.9km of the climb: ~6.2w/kg for 17:11
Final 900m of the climb: ~8w/kg for 2:32

While there were no big GC gaps on Stage 9, won by Bob Jungels, the Tour de France could blow to bits this week as the peloton tackles the Col de Granon, Ape d’Huez, and the Col du Galibier at over 2600m (8530 ft) in altitude.

***
Power Analysis data courtesy of Strava

Strava sauce extension

Riders:
Wout Van Aert
Kevin Geniets
Neilson Powless
Quinn Simmons
Sepp Kuss