Power Numbers in Grand Tours – Breakaways

By Jiri Kaloc

Stage 18 of this year’s Tour de France showed that impressive power numbers are not exclusive to climbers and time trialists but can be seen during breakaways as well. Let’s take a closer look at the feat that Kasper Asgreen pulled off with the help of only 3 other rides in a breakaway that lasted nearly 185 km.

When Kasper Asgreen, Victor Campenaerts, and Jonas Abrahamsen sprinted away from the peloton right at the start of the stage, it’s no surprise that they weren’t pursued. Nobody believed that they would hold on for long. What followed was a breakaway executed to perfection over the entire 184,9 km of the stage, a true masterclass.

First 120 km in the breakaway

The three riders only had to put in about 2 minutes of a very hard effort to distance themselves. The fact that they stayed relatively close to the peloton, only about 1 minute ahead meant they weren’t pursued very hard for a long time. This allowed them to conserve energy and gradually build their effort over the whole length of stage 18.

Abrahamsen (first 2 minutes): average speed 49,4 km/h; average power 488W (6,3W/kg)

Abrahamsen (first 120km): average speed 42,1 km/h; average power 303W (3,9W/kg)

Eenkhoorn joins the breakaway

Many riders tried bridging the gap from the peloton to the breakaway but none succeeded because Alpecin-Deceuninck was pushing a hard tempo to keep the breakaway that close. With around 80 km to go, Pascal Eenkhoorn was trying too. He was struggling with about 10 seconds behind the breakaway but his Lotto Dstny teammate Victor Campenaerts slowed to wait for him and help. With around 60 km to go, they both successfully got back to the breakaway.

Eenkhoorn (bridging the gap): peak 1-minute power 613W (8,8W/kg); 20-minute power 366W (5,2W/kg)

Asgreen at the Tour
Kasper Asgreen and the breakaway during stage 18 of the 2023 Tour.

50 km till the finish line

With about 50 km to go the sprint teams started working harder at trying to catch the breakaway. Abrahamsen’s power went up significantly as the breakaway fiercely resisted. In the final hour of the stage, he averaged 49,8 km/h and 388W of power (5W/kg). This is a big jump from the 3,9W/kg he averaged in the first 120 km.

Entering the last 20 km of the race, the sprint teams were fully cooperating in pursuit of the breakaway but the gap was still around 50 seconds and they had a hard time cutting into it. All four riders in the breakaway were nearing their limits to hold of their pursuivants, it was apparent from their grimaces as well as the power numbers.

Abrahamsen (ramp up to the final 5km): average speed 53,1 kmh; average power 404W (5,2W/kg)

The sprint finale

With 5,5 km to go it was looking grim for the breakaway, their lead had shrunk to only 18 seconds. Around 3 km before the finish line, it went down to 8 seconds and it seemed almost certain they would be caught. Thanks to Victor Campanaerts’ incredible push to setup his teammate Eenkhoorn for the sprint, the breakaway held. In the end, it was Kasper Asgreen that won the sprint for the stage win with sprinters from the peloton finishing not more than 1 second after him.

Abrahamsen (final 5km): average speed 58,6 km/h; average power: 460W (5,9W/kg)

Abrahamsen (final sprint): average power 1204W (15,4W/kg)

185 km in a breakaway

Three riders went into a breakaway at km 0 and held it all the way to the finish line of stage 18 without ever having more than a minute lead over the peloton. Their ability to gradually ramp up their efforts over the 185 km of cycling are likely what allowed them to succeed. Here is the 4-hour ramp that Jonas Abrahamsen did as well as his average power over the whole stage.

  • Hour 1: 295W at 43,7 km/h
  • Hour 2: 297W at 40,0 km/h
  • Hour 3: 325W at 43,8 km/h
  • Hour 4: 386W at 50,2 km/h

Abrahamsen (stage 18): average speed 44,6 km/h; average power 326W (4,2W/kg)