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Power Analysis: How Tobias Foss turned the tables for a time trial world championship title

We look at the power numbers that took Tobias Foss to a surprise rainbow jersey in a 50.8kph ride around Wollongong.

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In one of the biggest upsets in cycling history, Tobias Foss claimed the title of time trial world champion in Wollongong, Australia.

The Norwegian beat the likes of Stefan Küng, Remco Evenepoel, Filippo Ganna, and Tadej Pogačar on the 34.2-kilometer course, shocking the world with an incredible time trial ride. Here, we’re going to take a look at elite-level time trailing, and the power it takes to sustain over 51 kph (31.7 mph) on a time trial bike.

It is extremely rare that we get to analyze a power file from one of the world’s best time trialists.

Of all the names above, Foss is the only rider who sometimes posts their power data to the public. Clearly, Foss was happy with his numbers from Sunday’s ride which launched him to the biggest win of his career.

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Up until the UCI Road World Championships, Foss had few results to speak of from the 2022 season. The 25-year-old had some big targets, including a GC run at the Giro d’Italia, but few played out as he would’ve hoped.

Foss finished 4th in the Volta ao Algarve time trial, but that was all the way back in February, and he was more than a minute slower than Evenepoel, Küng, and Ethan Hayter who rounded out the podium. Foss then finished 6th and 8th in the Giro d’Italia time trials this year, but neither result indicated the shock that was to come.

If there’s anything that we’ve learned from the past half-decade in professional cycling, it’s that Jumbo-Visma knows how to prepare their riders for a time trial. The team includes the likes of Wout van Aert, Primoz Roglic, Rohan Dennis, and Jonas Vingegaard. You could even say that Foss was the fifth- or sixth-best time trial rider on his own team. Key word: was.

The 2022 UCI Road World Championships are being held in Wollongong, Australia, and the time trial course was s surprisingly technical one. In the men’s elite time trial, riders completed two laps of a 17.1km circuit that included 28 corners per lap. There were few climbs to speak of – in fact, most cyclists wouldn’t even call these 700-meter ramps climbs.

Let’s take a closer look at Foss’ worlds-winning time trial.

Foss – World Championships Time Trial

  • Time: 40:02
  • Average Power: 415w (5.6w/kg)
  • Average Speed: 50.8 kph (31.7 mph)

There are more than a few interesting takeaways when you look deeper into Foss’ power file. For one, Foss uses an unusually high cadence for time trialing. He was routinely pedaling at 105–110 rpm on every straight section of the course and finished the entire TT with an average cadence of 106 rpm.

Foss – High cadence in the final kilometers

  • Average Cadence: 105 rpm
  • Peak 5-minute Cadence: 107 rpm

Secondly, Foss dug deep on the 700-meter climb of Dumfries Ave, pushing up to nearly 600w on the steep gradients. While this practice is “Time Trial Pacing 101” – go harder on the climbs and easier on the descents – Foss showed his incredible recovery abilities by pushing so hard on the climb and almost immediately settling back into his ~440w TT pace.

Foss – Strategically over-pacing on the climb

  • Average Power: 412w
  • Average Power on Dumfries Ave: 534w for 1:00

Finally, Foss perfectly executed his pacing strategy on the 34.2km Wollongong course. Most riders in the elite men’s race – even those who finished in the top-10 – went out too hard and gradually faded. Foss, on the other hand, went faster and faster.

By the end, the Norwegian was pushing 450+ watts and flying at over 53 kph (32.9 mph).

Foss – Lap 1

  • Time: 19:57
  • Average Power: 413w (5.6w/kg)
  • Average Speed: 50.7 kph (31.5 mph)

Foss – Lap 2

  • Time: 19:34
  • Average Power: 418w (5.7w/kg)
  • Average Speed: 51 kph (31.7 mph)
  • Final 5km: 439w at an average of 53 kph (32.9 mph)

Foss’ world championships win revealed the power it takes to become the fastest time trialist in professional cycling.

While many applaud Jumbo-Visma for having some of the best time trial equipment in professional cycling, it still takes a lot of legs to get around a time trial at more than 51kph. Foss showed us that Evenepoel, Pogačar, and Ganna are beatable. And on the right day, on the right course, with the perfect peak, anything is possible.

Power Analysis data courtesy of Strava

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Riders: Tobias Foss