Power-to-weight ratio is the ultimate measurement
One of the most important metrics to understand if you want to have some idea about how impressive professional cyclists at Grand Tours are, is the power-to-weight ratio (PWR). Cycling is not only about the power that legs can produce, it’s also about how much body weight and bicycle weight the riders have to move. If you want to calculate your own PWR, you can check out our previous article on this topic.
This year saw some truly record-breaking power numbers at Grand Tours, especially by the two world’s best Jonas Vingegaard and Tadej Pogačar. But to set the scene, let’s take a look at one of our older articles from 2020. We talked about Julian Alaphilippe’s amazing time trial performance at the Tour in 2019 where he sustained approximately 6,2W/kg PWR for 35 minutes. We also mentioned a fantastic Michal Kwiatkowski’s near 6-minute effort at 6,5W/kg in the final climb of the Milan-San Remo 2019 after racing for 7 hours already. These are truly impressive numbers but 2023 completely blows them out of the water.
Col de Marie Blanque
Stage 5 at the 2023 Tour de France was where we saw Jonas Vingegaard fully unleash his abilities to produce one of the best climbing performances of his career. Col de Marie Blanque is a category 1 climb 7,8 km long with an average gradient of 8,4% where the final 4,8 km are averaging over 10%. Here is a comparison of data from the same climb done in 2020 by Pogačar and estimates power output for Vingegaard.
Pogačar (2020): time 24:28, average power 428w, 6,4W/kg
Vingegaard (2023): time 22:56, ~6,9W/kg
Col du Tourmalet & Cote de Cauterets
Pogačar didn’t have to wait long for an opportunity to show off as well because stage 6 included the mythic climb to Col du Tourmalet and finish at Cote de Cauterets. With a length of 17 km, average gradient of 7,4%, and an elevation of 2100 m, Tourmalet earns the “Hors category” badge ranking it among the hardest climbs in Grand Tours. Vingegaard attacked 4,7 km below the top but Pogačar stayed with him. Here are the approximate power numbers for both of them for the last 4,7 km of Tourmalet.
Pogačar: time 13:19, average power ~449w, ~6.8W/kg
Michał Kwiatkowski was the only one able to hang with Pogačar and Vingegaard in the final climb to Cote de Cauterets. He was pushing 6,5W/kg before he was dropped. With around 2,8 km to the finish line Pogačar attacked and dropped Vingegaard to earn a stage win.
Vingegaard: time 13:24, ~6.6W/kg
Pogačar: time 13:00, ~6.7W/kg
Puy du Dôme
Incredible numbers kept coming in stage 7 with a steep finish at Puy du Dôme that averages 11,5% in the last 4,5 km. Pogačar launched his attack with 1,3 km to go to sprinting for nearly 30 seconds to create a gap between himself and Vingegaard. He managed to finish 8 seconds ahead of his rival. Here is what the approximate numbers for both looked like in the final 4,5 km.
Vingegaard: time 14:54, ~6.8W/kg
Pogačar: time 14:46, ~6.9W/kg
We are entering an era of 7W/kg
The first week of the Tour de France this year has showed us that Vingegaard and Pogačar are able to ride at 6,9W/kg for 15 minutes towards the end of a 5-hour long Tour stage. These are numbers that many didn’t think would be possible without performance enhancing drugs. It really seems like we are entering a new era of cycling performance.
The only thing more impressive than the numbers mentioned here may be the other-worldly performance of Jonas Vingegaard during the time trial of stage 16 of the 2023 Tour de France. We will take a closer look at that in the next article in this series.