By the numbers: What it takes to win Paris-Roubaix

by Stephen Gallagher


In the wake of Mat Hayman’s stirring victory at Paris-Roubaix, training software provider Training Peaks has released the Australian rider’s power file from the race. Today, Stephen Gallagher from Dig Deep Coaching dives into the data to discover what it took for Mat Hayman to win the 2016 Paris-Roubaix.


It was one of the best Classics races in recent memory, with Australian Mathew Hayman taking the biggest win of his career. And now, thanks to SRM, Training Peaks and Hayman himself, we have the rare opportunity to look at Paris-Roubaix-winner’s power data. We have taken the time to break down some of the key moments throughout the race, to see how it played out, and to see what efforts were required from Hayman throughout the day.

Hayman’s speed sensor dropped out after 177km — possibly on cobbled sector #16 — which made analysing the last 80km of the race challenging. Because distances weren’t recorded for the remainder of the race, we had to compare times in his SRM file to recorded footage of the race, to work out what efforts corresponded with what sections of the race.

When talking about these latter sections of the race we’ve included time references, as well as distance references, so you can zoom in on the file at the relevant spot and see the effort for yourself.

Glossary of terms

Before we dive into the analysis, it’s important to understand a couple of key concepts:

TSS: TSS (or Training Stress Score) is a measure of the intensity and duration of a ride. A rider can earn a TSS of 100 by putting in an all-out, 100%, hour-long effort. Given most rides aren’t completed at 100% intensity, most efforts will accumulate less than 100 TSS per hour. Click here to learn more about TSS.

Normalised power: A rider’s average power is simply that — the average amount of power (in Watts) they produced for a given effort. But this figure can be misleading as it doesn’t take into account how hard the hardest (and easiest) sections of the ride were.

A better measure of a ride’s intensity is normalised power. This is an estimate of the power the rider could have maintained for the same physiological “cost”, had their power output been constant. Click here to learn more about normalised power.

Mat Hayman's power file for the entirety of the 2016 Paris-Roubaix.  The grey area shows the elevation (scale on right), the yellow line is his cadence (scale also on right), the red line is his heartrate (scale on the left) and the pink line is his power (scale also on the left).
Mat Hayman’s power file for the entirety of the 2016 Paris-Roubaix. The grey area shows the elevation (scale on right), the yellow line is his cadence (scale also on right), the red line is his heartrate (scale on the left) and the pink line is his power (scale also on the left).

The ride

The first 1 hour and 38 minutes of Mat Hayman’s Paris-Roubaix were ridden in the bunch at 259W average (3.16W/kg, 311W normalised) with an average heartrate of 131bpm. But then the main break of the day started to form at 67km and Mat Hayman was in the thick of it.

It’s not normal for the winner of a major Classic to be in the early break — this job is normally left to the workhorses of each team along with the opportunists who rarely get the chance to finish off the job. To be able to actually get into the early break is something that requires an enormous amount of determination along with raw power.

Often this part of the race isn’t seen by the general public — as live TV coverage doesn’t normally start until later — but it can be one of the most important phases of any race, as it was at Paris-Roubaix.

It’s interesting to note that Hayman’s peak six-minute and 10-minute power readings came during the formation of this early breakaway, rather than in the aggressive final kilometres. During his peak six-minute effort — from 69km to 74km — Hayman averaged 411W (5W/kg; 455W normalised) and 44.1km/h. And for his 10-minute peak effort – from 67km to 74km – he averaged 389W (4.74W/kg; 430W normalized) and 44.3km/h.

Hayman's peak 10-minute effort came during the establishment of the early breakaway. Note the two power peaks of 1,100W+ in the first half of the effort.
Hayman’s peak 10-minute effort came during the establishment of the early breakaway. Note the two power peaks of 1,100W+ in the first half of the effort.

The hard pace continued in the first half hour after the break formed (from 1:58 to 2:28 on file) with Hayman riding at an average of 47.6km/h with a normalised power 387W. You can see why so many riders fail to be competitive at the end of a 260km Classic after being in the the early break — the effort required to get in the break and stay there leaves most riders on their knees by the end of the race.

One of the big ‘obstacles’ of the day was the infamous cobbled sector through the Arenberg forest. Breaking down the data you can see just how keen riders in the lead group were to be at the front, hitting the cobbles at roughly 60km/h. Hayman went over this 2.4km section in around 4:27 averaging 375W (4.57W/kg) and 33km/h. Thankfully, the unforgiving stones of the Arenberg were good to Matthew on this particular day.

Notice how Hayman's speed (green line) drops and his power (pink line) increases as he hits the Forest of Arenberg (the highlighted section).
Notice how Hayman’s speed (green line) drops and his power (pink line) increases as he hits the Forest of Arenberg (the highlighted section).

As the groups joined at the front in the final 65km of racing the final selection started to take place. Matthew found himself in an elite group of five including four-time winner Tom Boonen. At this point it was already an incredible ride to still be in the lead group with pre-race favourites having been part of the early break.

On the approach to the Carrefour de l’Arbre cobbled sector, with around 16km remaining, Hayman pulled a big turn at the front of the group, riding at 434W (5.29W/kg) for just over three minutes (from 5:53:28 to 5:56:50 in the file). Just as they came onto this decisive section of cobbles Ian Standard passed Hayman on the inside on the corner which in turn made Hayman stall and lose contact with the leaders.

This was a decisive moment and many thought Hayman wouldn’t be able to make it back to the front. The Aussie chased hard across the Carrefour de l’Arbre though, producing 410W (5W/kg) for three and a half minutes (5:58:25 to 6:01:45 on file). These two big efforts — his turn on the front and his chase back to the leaders — would have been enough to finish most riders off and leave them with no firepower in the final.

After being cut off on a corner by Ian Stannard, Mat Hayman (notice the drop in power in the first third of the image) Hayman increases his power and closes the gap to the leaders.
After being cut off on a corner by Ian Stannard (notice the drop in power in the first third of the image), Hayman increases his power and closes the gap to the leaders.

In the last 12 minutes of the race the five leaders constantly attacked one another, the group splintering and reforming as rider after rider attempted to get away for a solo win. During this final 12 minutes Matthew produced four efforts lasting between 25 and 50 seconds, all of them over 550W average (6.7W/kg). To cover the first attack he put out 1,198W (14.6W/kg) and the second required 1,294W (15.7W/kg) — his peak power for the entire day.

As you can see in the graph below, the next effort has two peaks — this shows Hayman covering Tom Boonen’s attack inside the final 3km (1,227W maximum; 15W/kg) before launching his own attack over the top, hitting 1,145W (14W/kg) and then holding roughly 540W (6.59W/kg) for 30 seconds.

Remember, this is all after 245km of racing. Impressive!

Final 12 minutes
Hayman had to put in several hard efforts in the closing kilometres to shut down late attacks. Note the double peak in the second half of the image – this shows Hayman closing the gap to Boonen before sprinting off the Belgian’s wheel to launch his own attack.

The final sprint on the famous Roubaix velodrome was going to require an all-out effort, close to any peak power he had done in the previous six hours of racing. In the final push to the line Hayman produced a 44-second effort averaging 641W (7.8W/kg) with an eye-watering maximum of 1,234W (15W/kg) as he made his final kick for the line, from the front of the lead group.

Breaking down this data even further we can see he did 935W (11.4kW/kg) for 20 seconds as he came off the final bend and into the finishing straight. And all of this after 255km in the hardest one-day race in the world.

In closing, here are some stats from Mat Hayman’s Paris-Roubaix-winning ride:

Race distance: 258km
Race duration: 5:52
Average speed: 44km/h
Average cadence: 88rpm
Average heartrate: 147bpm
Max heartrate: 177bpm
Average power: 313W (3.82W/kg)
Normalised power: 351W
Peak power: 1,294W (15.7W/kg)
Training Stress Score: 401 (equivalent of four, all-out, hour-long efforts)

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