Just a few days ago, I wrote about Matej Mohorič and Mathieu van der Poel’s ridiculous power files from Paris-Roubaix. It had been the fastest-ever edition of the Queen of the Classics, and it was won by Dylan Van Baarle on a 19km solo attack.
What I didn’t expect was Van Baarle posting his power data a day later, after the dust had literally and figuratively settled.
Also read: Power Analysis – Paris-Roubaix 2022
In Van Baarle’s power file, we can see exactly how much stronger he was than his competitors. While others were barely cranking out 350w on the cobblestone sectors alone, Van Baarle was soloing to the finish, averaging 400w for the last 20 minutes of Paris-Roubaix.
This is how Dylan Van Baarle won Paris-Roubaix.
It all started when Ineos Grenadiers split the race in the crosswinds with over 200km to go. This was an odd won – unlike most crosswind-split situations, no one was too concerned about the major split in the peloton. Pre-race favorites Wout van Aert and Mathieu van der Poel – along with more than 60 other riders – missed the move that contained the entire Ineos Grenadiers squad and many other major players.
Van Baarle made the move, of course, but his power data shows us that he wasn’t really pushing the pace. In fact, this was still one of the easier sections of the race in terms of overall power output. Perhaps Van Baarle was leaning on his teammates to do the majority of the work, or he was saving his energy for the 58.5km of cobblestone sectors coming up? Probably both.
Van Baarle – Ineos split the race in crosswinds
Average Power: 335w (4.4w/kg)
Normalized Power: 366w (4.7w/kg)
Average Speed: 47.7kph (29.5mph)
Peak 10min Normalized Power: 345w (4.8w/kg) at 50kph
We can already see Van Baarle’s secret to success in the classics: the Dutchman can hold 350-400w for hours at a time. Van Baarle is a big rider by cycling’s standards – around 77-78kg – and so he doesn’t have the watts-per-kilo to compete with Roglič or Pogačar at the Tour de France. However, Van Baarle’s raw power output is among the very best in the world. On a flat road, where raw power and aerodynamics matter more than lightweight and w/kg, Van Baarle is almost unbeatable. Even on short climbs, such as in the Tour of Flanders, Van Baarle has the climbing prowess to make it over the short and steep cobblestone bergs, while also having the raw power to drive on the flats.
Van Baarle put his power on display when the peloton first hit the cobblestones after 100km of racing. With more than three hours to go, he was still pushing 400-500w on the cobbled sectors, and hitting 95 percent of his max heart rate.
Van Baarle – first cobblestone sectors
Average Power: 336w (4.4w/kg)
Normalized Power: 370w (4.8w/kg)
Pavé de Saint-Python: 451w (5.9w/kg) for 1:59
Pavé de Vertain à Saint-Martin-sur-Écaillon: 456w (5.9w/kg) for 3:02
The next major pinch point was the Arenberg Forest. Known for spectacular crashes, race-defining mechanicals, and general chaos, Trouée d’Arenberg is one of the most infamous stretches of road in all of pro cycling.
Van Baarle powered across these cobblestones at more than 500w, while also spiking his power over 700w ten times in just a five-minute span. This was Van Baarle’s biggest effort of the race – but only up to this point. The best was still yet to come.
Van Baarle – Arenberg Forest
Average Power: 413w (5.4w/kg)
Hardest section: 473w (6.1w/kg) for 1:30
Around 60km to go, Jumbo-Visma decided to split the race with Nathan Van Hooydonck followed by Van Aert. Van Baarle was glued to the wheel of the Belgian champion as they ripped across the pavé at nearly 600w. This was Van Baarle’s biggest effort of the race so far, pushing him up to 176bpm, his maximum heart rate for the entire race.
Van Baarle – following Team Jumbo Visma’s attack at 55km to go
Average Power: 470w (6.1w/kg)
At this point, there were fewer than 15 riders left including Van Baarle, Van Aert, and Van der Poel. When the others decided to look at each other, Van Baarle went clear on his own, opting for a solo effort rather than a disorganized chase. This was a great move for Van Baarle, not only because it put him ahead of the race and forced other riders to chase, but it also suited his power profile – pushing ~400w for extended periods of time, rather than the punchy-CX style of “600w or 200w” that Van Aert and Van der Poel seem to prefer.
Van Baarle – solo attack with 55km to go
Average Power: 397w (5.1w/kg)
The most dangerous move of the entire race came at 35km to go, when Stefan Küng attacked, followed by Mohorič, Van Aert, and Ben Turner. With his teammate, Turner, up the road, Van Baarle was never going to chase. But the foursome decided not to work together, with the move coming back only a kilometer later.
A series of counterattacks followed, first by Van Aert, then by Van Baarle. At 30km to go, Küng had just attacked, and Van Baarle was at the back of the chase group driven by Van Aert. Shortly after Mohorič and Yves Lampaert countered, Van Baarle swung up the right-hand side of the road to begin his solo bridge across to the leaders.
In his classic diesel-engine style, it took Van Baarle over 3km to close the gap, as he opted for a steady solo effort rather than a punchy one. In fact, this was Van Baarle’s peak 5-minute power for the entire race.
Van Baarle – solo bridge at 30km to go
Average Power: 455w (5.9w/kg)
Van Baarle was obviously feeling good because it was only a few kilometers later that he launched what looked like a solo counterattack. But, in reality, he simply dropped everyone off his wheel. The Dutchman led into the Camphin-en-Pévèle and didn’t look back. By the end of the Carrefour de l’Arbre, Van Baarle already had a 30-second gap, and that was it.
Here is what it takes to solo to victory at Paris-Roubaix:
Van Baarle – final 18km solo to win Paris-Roubaix
Average Power: 396w (5.1w/kg)
Normalized Power: 401w (5.2w/kg)
Paris-Roubaix is one of the most unique races on the cycling calendar, not only because of its jagged cobblestones but also how it is raced. It is rare that we see a six-hour bike race done at full speed. In the Tour de France, sprint stages can start out “easy” for 200km before the final dash to the line. In hilly or mountain stages, there is often a 100-150km “lull” in the peloton between the establishment of the breakaway and the final hour of racing. It can be a predictable script, although it is rarely boring.
In contrast, Paris-Roubaix is full gas the entire time. The longest easing of pace was somewhere around the 60km mark this year, when riders stretched their legs and enjoyed a short coast for the first time since the neutral zone. As soon as Ineos split the race in the crosswinds, it was on. And that fight continued all the way to Roubaix.
Dylan Van Baarle was the only rider who could hold 350-400w for more than five and a half hours at Paris-Roubaix – while also avoiding flat tires, crashes, and other mechanicals like Jumbo-Visma’s collapsing wheels.
Riders started dropping like flies in the final 50km, just as Van Baarle was starting to make his race-winning moves. There was Van Aert, Van der Poel, Pichon, Mohorič, Devriendt, Stuyven, and many more. All of them were on Van Baarle’s wheel at some point in the finale of Paris-Roubaix, but none of them could stay with the Flying Dutchman.
Van Baarle –Paris-Roubaix (excluding neutral zone)
Average Power: 316w (4.1w/kg)
Normalized Power: 355w (4.6w/kg)
Trouée d’Arenberg: 413w for 3:20
Tilloy à Sars-et-Rosières: 459w for 3:41
Auchy-lez-Orchies à Bersée: 430w for 3:54
Mons-en-Pévèle: 427w for 4:43
Camphin-en-Pévèle: 438w for 2:39
Carrefour de l’Arbre: 421w for 3:05
Riders: Dylan Van Baarle