Wout Van Aert’s win at Milano-Sanremo grabbed all the headlines, but on the other side of the mountains, Rally Cycling’s Gavin Mannion was quietly crushing the competition over in France. The 28-year-old American won two stages and finished fifth overall at the Tour de Savoie Mont Blanc, an uber-mountainous, four-day, five-stage race that is part of the UCI Europe Tour.
Mannion has been a mainstay at the top of American cycling for quite some time – GC win at the 2018 Colorado Classic, second overall in the 2017 Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah, plus second overall at both the 2018 Tour of the Gila and the 2017 Cascade Cycling Classic. This year was already shaping up nicely for Mannion when he placed 9th overall at the Vuelta a San Juan Internacional against the likes of Remco Evenepoel and Filippo Ganna, but then the coronavirus lockdown hit.
Fast forward six months, and Mannion and his Rally Cycling teammates jumped across the pond for a long-overdue European racing campaign. First on the list was the Tour de Savoie Mont Blanc where Rally Cycling would take on B&B Hotels–Vital Concept p/b KTM, Team Arkéa-Samsic, Androni Giocattoli–Sidermec, and development teams from Sunweb, Groupama–FDJ, and Lotto–Soudal.
In the end, it was an incredible week for Mannion, who took two stage wins and nearly a third, and just missed out on the GC podium after bonking on stage three. We took a look at the impressive power numbers from Mannion from start to finish at this year’s Tour de Savoie Mont Blanc.
A strong breakaway beat the GC contenders to the line on stage one, a short 109km jaunt from Annemasse to Praz-sur-Arly. The final climb of the Col des Combloux topped out with just 6.5 kilometers remaining, and it was here that Mannion would make his move. As the front group was blown to bits, Mannion attacked over the top of the climb with one other rider from Androni Giocattoli–Sidermec. The duo stayed away and Mannion won the sprint to take seventh on the day, one spot behind his teammate Maël Guégan who was distanced by his breakaway companions on the final climb.
Gavin Mannion’s stage one breakaway:
Average Power: 344w (5.9w/kg)
Max Power: 992w (17.2w/kg)
Col des Combloux
Average Power: 363w (6.2w/kg)
The beginning of stage two was just plain cruel – after just 2.4km of flat outside Moûtiers, riders went straight up the 24.8km-long Col de la Madeleine. As the peloton hit the early slopes, the fight for the breakaway began, and Mannion rode at nearly 6w/kg for the first twenty minutes just to stay in the front group.
After a short descent, the peloton calmed down for the second half of the climb as they approached the summit at over 1,800m (6,000ft.)
Col de la Madeleine
Average Power: 310w (5.3w/kg)
The final climb up to Valfrejus began with 9km to go, and Mannion did everything he could to win the stage, but he couldn’t quite catch the alliterative Viktor Verschaeve of Lotto–Soudal U23. Mannion’s efforts were strong enough to net him second place on the day and moved him up to the same place in GC heading into stage three.
Average Power: 338w (5.8w/kg)
Average Power: 620w (10.7w/kg)
Just a few hours later, riders lined up in Saint-Michel-de-Maurienne for the start of stage three, a 37.4km afternoon stage with two category one climbs: the Col de Beauplan, and Valmeinier. After riding well on the opening climb, Mannion suddenly bonked on the slopes of the Valmeinier, and he would eventually lose over five minutes in the GC. Even then, he wouldn’t have to wait long to find redemption.
Valmeinier (first half)
Average Power: 336w (5.8w/kg)
Valmeinier (second half)
Average Power: 234w (4w/kg)
Stage four would be the longest of the race at 143.3km, and feature yet another summit finish at Notre-Dame-du-Pré. Nearly four hours into the stage, the peloton was speeding towards the final climb when Mannion had to do a bike change, leaving his Garmin head unit on the roof of the car as he climbed towards the finish.
The final climb was the toughest thus far at 9km long with an average gradient of 8.1 percent. Only five riders were left as the lead group approached the line, including Mannion, and two-time Tour de France stage winner and race leader Pierre Rolland (B&B Hotels–Vital Concept p/b KTM). The American proved strongest in the final kick, taking his first stage win of the race and jumping up into 12th in GC as the rest of peloton was left scattered and pedaling squares on the final climb.
The final stage of the Tour de Savoie Mont Blanc was simple yet brutal – a 22.4km individual time trial up from Aix-les-Bains to the top of Le Revard. Almost 90 percent of the parcours was uphill, making it a climber’s time trial – fitting for a climber’s race that had already ascended over 8,000m (26,000ft) in three days.
Temperatures topped 34°C (94°F) when Mannion began his effort in the mid-afternoon, but that didn’t stop him from putting in an unbelievable performance on the switchbacks of southeast France. The time trial began with the steepest section of climbing, before a short descent preceding the climb up Le Revard. Mannion hit out hard, immediately putting time into his rivals on the lower slopes.
Stage five time trial – opening climb
Average Power: 379w (6.5w/kg)
Onto the meat of the course, and Mannion was flying, riding at over 6w/kg as he climbed up to over 1,500m (4,700ft.) Mannion kept his power steady, riding on the confidence of the previous day’s win. With one final kick at over 500w, Mannion crossed the line atop Le Revard and earned his second win in as many days – his time of 54:48 was over a minute faster than second-place Pierre Rolland, and put him into 5th in GC at the end of the four-day race.
Stage five time trial
Average Power: 359w (6.2w/kg)
After another week in the French Alps, Rally Cycling heads to Italy for a busy racing trip beginning with the Giro dell’Emilia on August 18th. Keep an eye on Gavin Mannion, especially when the road tilts uphill.