Power Analysis: Sutherland’s 1,049-watt attack

The data bears out that Rory Sutherland rode a grand tour-winning attack to the Flagstaff Amphitheater on Saturday

Editor’s Note: Hunter Allen, one of the sport’s foremost experts in training with power, is the author of ”Training and Racing with a Power Meter”, the co-founder of TrainingPeaks WKO+ software and the founder of Peaks Coaching Group. Allen will join us throughout the USA Pro Challenge to look at the power numbers the sport’s top riders are laying down in Colorado.

Stage 6 Golden — Boulder 103.3 miles

View this stage in the full TrainingPeaks activity viewer for Rory Sutherland, Joseph Dombrowski and Lucas Euser.

Stage Results
1. Rory Sutherland, UnitedHealthcare in 4:06:12
2. Fabio Aru, Astana at 0:00:20
3. Jens Voigt, RadioShack-Nissan at 0:00:26
7. Joseph Dombrowski, Bontrager-Livestrong at 0:01:02
13. Janez Brajkovic, Astana at 0:01:22
25. Lucas Euser, Spidertech-C10 at 0:01:56

It was all about Flagstaff Mountain today! The ever-popular climb in Boulder, Colorado, that so many of us have ridden over the years was the scene of an incredible win by hometown boy Rory Sutherland (UnitedHealthcare). Sutherland attacked the breakaway at just the right time to solo away and take the win in front of family and friends.

Sutherland was in the breakaway from the start on Saturday, and this made the stage even harder for him as he didn’t have the chance to draft in the peloton like so many of the GC favorites. One of the longstanding determining factors of being able to win a stage in the Tour De France has been what Dr. Allen Lim has dubbed “the Flagstaff challenge.” Dr. Lim has always stated that in order to simulate winning a stage in the Tour De France, a rider had to go out and do a hard training ride of over 3,000 kilojoules and then climb the full Flagstaff climb (often referred to as “Super Flagstaff”) in under 30 minutes.

The riders didn’t do the “full” climb on Saturday but they did complete half of it. You could estimate a grand tour-level time then as being 15 minutes up the section they rode today. Sutherland did even better! When Sutherland reached the base of Flagstaff, he had already racked up 4,292 kilojoules. Then he climbed Flagstaff in 14 minutes — a time definitely worthy of a grand tour victor!

This was not an easy stage by any means. Sutherland’s threshold power is right about 400W at this elevation, and he rode for an hour while climbing up to Nederland at 372W. He was really under pressure on that climb early on, just to stay in the breakaway. Once over the climb to Nederland, he had to survive the Left Hand Canyon/Lee Hill climb. Near the top of Lee Hill, Rory put out 472W just to stay with the front riders. Many in the breakaway were dropped at this point.

With Jens Voigt (RadioShack-Nissan) going on attack near the base of Flagstaff on a solo move to win the day, Sutherland knew he had to wait until the very base of the climb to make his move. Sutherland attacked hard, sprinting away at 1,049W and then averaging 533W for three minutes in order to create a race-winning separation from the remnants of the break. His effort was also aimed at catching George Bennett (RadioShack-Nissan) and Fabio Aru (Astana), who were still off the front. He caught them easily, then powered to the finish, averaging 461W (6.2 w/kg) for 14 minutes, to a beautiful and well-deserved victory salute.

That final climb was tough for everyone, including Lucas Euser (Spidertech-C10). He rode up in 14:48, losing 54 seconds to “Sheriff” Joe Dombrowski (Bontrager-Livestrong). Nonetheless, Euser still averaged 301W (5.3 w/kg). For the entire stage he averaged 245W and scored 301 TSS points, along with burning over 3,200 kilocalories.
Euser averaged a cadence of 90 rpm climbing up Flagstaff, which is particularly impressive because the climb averages 6 percent and it’s done at altitude, which means Euser definitely had the right gearing for the climb and was able to keep the cadence high.

Dombrowski rode a tremendous race as well, finishing in seventh place, only 17 seconds down on Levi Leipheimer (Omega Pharma-Quick Step). This moved him up to fourth place overall. Dombrowski led the charge on Flagstaff and finished with some big guns, as he chased down attacks by Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) and was only forced to rest his six-shooter for a reload when Leipheimer counter-attacked. Unfortunately, Dombrowski’s power meter wasn’t calibrated properly in Saturday’s stage, and it shows that he only averaged 4.9 w/kg up the final climb. However, this clearly can’t be true as he was in front of Euser by 54 seconds at the finish line. I would guess that he rode more like 5.7 to 5.8 w/kg up the Flagstaff climb.

What makes Dombrowski so good is his ability to climb with the best in the world and his strategic positioning in the peloton. This week, he’s managed to be there at the front when matters, and that’s not always easy. Kudos to Dombrowski for another fine performance, proving that he is one of America’s best riders.

Ultimately, Saturday was Sutherland’s day. He out-rode everyone in the peloton, and his power meter proves it. His numbers just flat out crush everyone else’s, and he had an incredible win and an incredible day of racing. To know exactly what has to be done in order to win a stage of this magnitude is really something special for data geeks like myself. Thanks to Rory Sutherland and his UnitedHealthcare team for allowing us to post and analyze this incredible winning file!

Editor’s Note: For more USA Pro Challenge race files and analysis visit