These are the best classics riders in the world — the winners of Milano-Sanremo, Strade Bianche, and the Tour of Flanders. Stage 7 of this year’s Tour de France was 248km of rolling terrain, perfect for classics specialists. Van der Poel held the leader’s yellow jersey, while van Aert had the colors of the Belgian national champion on his back. Everyone was talking about two Slovenians: Tadej Pogačar and Primož Roglič. But they all forgot about a third, Matej Mohorič.
The breakaway averaged over 51kph for the first hour of stage 7. Even with a tailwind, even on a slight downhill (which it wasn’t), that speed is insane. You could hardly call it a breakaway, too, as a split of 29 riders had forced themselves off the front, and started working together so cohesively you would have thought they were all on the same team.
Mohorič – establishing the breakaway:
Average Power: 284w (4w/kg)
Normalized Power: 318w (4.5w/kg)
Average Speed: 50.9kph (31.6mph)
Peak 20-min normalized power: 350w (4.9w/kg) at 53.2kph
Among this large group, Mohorič (Bahrain-Victorious), van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix), and van Aert (Jumbo-Visma), there was Kasper Asgreen (Deceuninck-QuickStep), Jasper Stuyven and Vincenzo Nibali (Trek-Segafredo), Magnus Cort (EF Education – Nippo), Patrick Konrad (Bora-Hansgrohe), Brent van Moer (Lotto-Soudal), Simon Yates (Team BikeExchange), and a host of other riders. Attacks were flying off the front of the peloton from kilometer 0, and they hardly slowed down once their breakaway had been established.
The key to the breakaway’s success was that nearly every team was represented in the move, the notable absentees being UAE-Team Emirates and Team TotalEnergies. Last year’s Tour winner Pogačar (UAE-Team Emirates) sat on his teammate’s wheels as they pulled a bloc. You could see the strain on their faces from the TV motorcycles – it is really hard to close a gap at 55kph.
UAE-Team Emirates kept the breakaway in check for as long as they could, but the gap eventually grew to five, six, and then seven and a half minutes. Meanwhile, the breakaway continued to work cohesively as they approached the second half of the stage. It’s difficult to put into words just how long this stage was. During the middle portion, “nothing happened,” but when we look at the numbers, we can see how fast the breakaway was riding, and how much work Mohorič was doing to extend their gap.
Mohorič – Working in the Breakaway:
Average Speed: 46.6kph (29mph)
Average Power: 252w (3.5w/kg)
Normalized Power: 287w (4.1w/kg)
What’s most impressive about these numbers, and what will allow Mohorič to produce such high wattages later, is his ability to ride near 4w/kg at an incredibly low heart rate. We’ll see a maximum heart rate of 184bpm from Mohorič later in the stage, making 137bpm well within his zone 2 endurance range. In zones 1 and 2, athletes are primarily working aerobically, meaning that they are burning more fat that carbohydrates, and maintaining low lactate levels in their muscles. This is what normal people call, “saving energy.”
On Côte de Glux-en-Glenne, with 86km to go, Mohorič took off in search of the KOM points. At the start of the stage, the Slovenian was just a handful of points behind Ide Schelling (Bora-Hansgrohe), and with Schelling absent from the breakaway, Mohorič needed only a few points to take the polka dot jersey. This is one of Mohorič’s biggest efforts of the race, holding nearly 12w/kg for the 300 meters of the climb.
Mohorič – Côte de Glux-en-Glenne:
Average Power: 415w (5.8w/kg)
Normalized Power: 454w (6.4w/kg)
first 300m: 817w (11.5w/kg) for 36 seconds
Over the top of the climb, only Brent van Moer (Lotto-Soudal) was able to bridge across to Mohorič, and the pair quickly felt into a smooth rotation. Stuyven and Victor Campenaerts eventually bridged across, forming a leading quartet with around 48km to go. It seems as though every time the screen turned to the break, Mohorič was on the front. The lead breakaway came into the Côte de la Croix de la Libération with a 1:45 over the yellow-jersey’s chase group, and again it was Mohorič who led up the entire climb. His pace alone was enough to drop Campenaerts, and put Stuyven and van Moer into some difficulty.
Mohorič – Côte de la Croix de la Libération:
Average Power: 384w (5.4w/kg)
Normalized Power: 398w (5.6w/kg)
Second half: 424w (6w/kg) for 7:07
The climbs were coming thick and fast now, and it didn’t take much on the decisive penultimate climb for Mohorič to drop his break-mates. Over five hours into the seventh stage of the Tour de France, and having been in the breakaway basically since the stage start, Mohorič set an infernal pace up the Signal d’Uchon, going solo with 18km to go. The race was won on the second half of this climb, where Mohorič put out nearly 7w/kg for the five minutes.
Mohorič – Signal d’Uchon:
Average Power: 408w (5.7w/kg)
Normalized Power: 430w (6.1w/kg)
Steep final 1.5km at 11.4 percent: 465w (6.6w/kg) for 5:38
A narrow and winding descent followed, but if you know anything about Mohorič, it’s that downhills are his specialty. His season nearly ended with a freak, heels-over-head crash at the Giro, but his helmet did its job, and already he’s back in fine form. Having taken a number of descent-finishing stages in his career, Mohorič put more time into the chasers as he approached the final climb of the day, the Côte de la Gourloye. Judging from the numbers, Mohorič still had plenty left in the tank.
Mohorič – Côte de la Gourloye:
Average Power: 424w (6w/kg)
In the end, Mohorič finished one minute and 20 seconds ahead of Stuyven in 2nd, and 1:40 ahead of the chase group containing van der Poel, van Aert, and Asgreen. It’s hard to put into perspective just how impressive Mohorič’s performance was – to hold off this caliber of riders, and to do it in such style, is a thing of beauty. The Slovenian had such a huge buffer at the finish that he could’ve celebrated for the last 3km.
With tears running down his face, Mohorič approached the finish line after just under five and a half hours of racing to earn just his second win of the 2021 season, and complete his hat trick of stage wins in all three grand tours. And by the way, he’s still only 26. While Pogačar and Roglič soak up most of the spotlight, don’t forget about Matej Mohorič.
Mohorič – Tour de France stage 7 (excluding neutral zone)
Average Power: 284w (4w/kg)
Normalized Power: 330w (4.7w/kg)
Average Heart Rate: 148bpm
Max Heart Rate: 184bpm
Peak 1-min power: 685w (9.7w/kg)
Peak 5-min power: 472w (6.6w/kg)
Peak 20-min normalized power: 408w (5.8w/kg)
Riders: Matej Mohorič