Rigoberto Urán wins the maillot yawn

How much do Tour de France riders sleep? This much.

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Watching cycling on television is an interesting spectacle in the UK, and maybe it’s similar elsewhere around the world.

During the Tour de France coverage on ITV, viewers are inundated with adverts pleading you to give money to sanctuaries housing very sad looking donkeys placed amongst commercials for various end-of-life products and services that remind you in a four-minute break for every 20km of racing that one day you too will slip off your mortal coil and not be able to watch the Tour de France anymore.

On Eurosport this season, we’ve been taken inside the lives of EF Education EasyPost’s riders as they promote Whoop’s wearable technology, the likes of Esteban Chaves, Hugh Carthy and Alex Howes telling us how it helps them recover from injury or balance pro life with having kids. Moreover, data on riders’ heart rates during the race have been broadcast on screen while the stages are ongoing. Newsflash – they’re often quite high.

While also measuring things such as the strain of physical exertion the riders go through in races, as well as calories burned, there is one aspect that is easiest for non-pro muggles to relate to WorldTour riders and that’s sleep.

Whoop informs you of the quality of your sleep, how much you need, and also tracking things like how many times you wake up per night, which will be more than you expect and also make you wonder if you have some sort of sleepwalking problem you don’t know about.

Try and think of something that would make it as hard as possible to get a good night’s sleep. Having a baby? Yep. Having two babies? Sure. What about racing the Tour de France?

You’re riding fast for 150km+ a day, having to travel in a big, slow bus between each day’s starts and finishes, staying in varying qualities of regional French hotel to rest your weary head and legs.

Finally, thanks to the EF Education EasyPost riders wearing Whoops during the Tour Hommes and Femmes, we can find out how they sleep – which after reading that sentence back makes this whole thing sound much creepier than it was ever intended to.

But first, before the sleep stats, let’s find out just what the riders were putting their bodies through when they were awake.

Overall strain is a measurement of your cardiovascular load and the time you spend in various heart rate zones and therefore tells you how hard your heart and body are working. The daily strain you place on your body, which is supposed to inform you when to push yourself and when to rest and to help avoid overtraining, is scored from 0 to 21.

Unsurprisingly, as the women tackled 1,029 kilometres in eight stages of racing with zero rest days, their average strain for the entire race was 20.4. Doesn’t get much harder than that.

Compare this to the men, who never raced more than six consecutive days. Take that middle section of six consecutive days in the second week from July 12-17 and their average strain score was 19.5 but add in the rest day on Monday July 18 in Carcassonne and that average comes down to 18.1.

Now, to the nap stats.

There are a few different measures here. Sleep performance is calculated by comparing how much sleep the rider got on a given night compared to how much sleep they needed.

Sleep need is calculated by the individual’s baseline sleep requirement while factoring in how strenuous their day was and if they have accumulated any sleep debt.

The team’s best Tour de France sleeper, which you will have undoubtedly guessed thanks to the headline above, was Rigoberto Urán who nailed an 86 per cent score, spending on average 8 hours and 44 minutes in bed every day and getting an average of 7 hours and 17 minutes of shut eye every night.

In the graphic below, you can see his sleep performance peak on and around rest days. The worst night of sleep Urán had was after his teammate Magnus Cort won stage 10, getting only 6 hours and 24 minutes. Let’s assume that was because of the excitement and celebration surrounding the team winning a coveted stage of the Tour and not because he was rooming with the Dane.

While Urán was the best of the eight-man squad, the fact that he needed 9 hours and 5 minutes of sleep per night, on average, and only got 7 hours and 17 minutes goes to show not only the physical exertion the Colombian had to deal with, but accentuates the suffering of his teammates who got even less sleep than this.

The Tour de France Femmes followed the men’s race and the riders of EF Education-Tibco-SVB were much better at getting the required rest.

Magdeleine Vallieres was the team’s best sleeper, spending a whopping 9 hours and 58 minutes in bed on average (what a life), and on average the team got into bed and slept for longer than the men’s squad did.

Vallieres managed a 96 per cent average sleep performance, on three days getting exactly the amount of sleep she needed and only missing out on 16 minutes of shut eye a night.

Insights like this from inside the peloton are rare, and the data helps us all realise what these riders put themselves through when riding the biggest bike races on the planet.

Even before EF Education-EasyPost and Whoop collected all of the data, they must have known Urán was one of the team’s best at being in bed, judging by the photoshoot the team had during the three weeks in France.

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