When I started training with a powermeter I gained some insight and a reference to gauge my level as a cyclist. I now realize that I’m far closer to being an NFL quarterback than I am to being a pro cyclist. Don’t think I’m kidding…
One thing I love about this TdF is that the athlete’s power information is so widely available. This lets us regular guys gain some perspective into how good these riders actually are.
At Trainingpeaks you can see rider’s power profiles from different stages at this years Tour. This year they’ve been monitoring Chris Anker Sorensen. A good example of the power summary of a rider of this caliber is below from stage 15 (the first mountain top finish in the Alps).
These numbers really start becoming meaningful when you break it down to “watts per kilo” – especially when you get into the hills. Chris Sorensen is 64kg and his mean 5 minute effort is 433watts. This equals 6.8 watts/kg. In comparison, I’m at the 5.8 watts/kg range (when fresh). Note that this was near the end of the race after Sorensen had nearly 200km in his legs at the bottom of the climb to Verbier. I’d have to loose 15kg (33lbs) or generate nearly 100 more watts to get to the same level (that’s not even considering that the 200km issue).
If you know what your power values for different amounts of time are you can look at this chart (created by Andrew Coggan). This is the most widely accepted and referenced benchmark for power output based on rider category.
These power levels don’t necessarily go across in a straight a line. You’ll be stronger at some things over others and most riders won’t be able to produce these wattages in all zones. For example, an 80kg rider would have to generate over 1900 watts to be a top sprinter according to this chart. Not likely. A guy like Cavendish is producing 22-23 watts/kg in all those sprints he’s been winning (he’s 70kg and laying down about 1500-1600watts) and that makes sense on this chart. However, he’s not in the 6’s in the other areas. Just remember that sprinting is just as much about tactics, timing, and strategy as it is about watts per kilo. A guy like Mark Cavendish has all the technical abilities perfectly aligned with a powerful sprint. A rare combination.
To win the Tour de France you need to be able to hold 5.9 to 6.0 watts per kg for 30 to 45 minutes at a time, 3 to 4 times over the course of a 5 to 6 hour day in the mountains. Incredible freaks of nature.
And Kenny, our Lanterne Rouge? He still kicks all our asses at 5 watts/kg range when he’s climbing and at the 22 watts/kg in the sprints. Don’t feel too sorry for him – if he were to take any of us on a ride he’d make us suffer like never before.