The third week of this year’s Tour de France was strange. Questionable team tactics, a hotel raid and a five-minute lead for the yellow jersey were just a few of the quirks. It all started on stage 16, a 170 km stage that included four categorized climbs, one of which was the 13 km long Col de la Core. -Quick-Step), Toms Skujiņš (Trek-Segafredo) and Christopher Juul-Jensen (Team BikeExchange). Chaos ensued, and at the end of the day Bora-Hansgrohe’s Patrick Konrad claimed the solo stage victory.
Next is Stage 17, which finished at the top of this year’s Tour’s most difficult climb, the Col du Portet (16.4 km @ 8.6 percent). Already in the yellow jersey with a comfortable lead, Tadej Pogačar (UAE-Team Emirates) was the stage favorite, but no one really knew Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma). The young Dane was originally a servant to Primož Roglič, but after the 24-year-old’s third place in the stage 5 time trial, many spoke of Vingegaard as a legitimate threat on the podium .
Before facing the Col du Portet, the runners first had to climb the Col du Peyresourde (13.3 km at 6.9%) and the Col de Val Louron-Azet (6.8 km at 8.1%) . A relatively small breakaway occurred at the start of the stage, and UAE-Team Emirates kept them in check with Davide Formolo and Brandon McNulty making huge turns on the main climbs. From the power roster of race favorite Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) we can see how high the pace was in these preliminary climbs – the hardest part was yet to come.
Carapaz – Col du Peyresourde:
Average power: 335w (5,6w/kg)
Standardized power: 351w (5,9w/kg)
Carapaz – Col de Val Louron-Azet
Average power: 346 W (5,8 W/kg)
Standardized power: 355w (5.9w/kg)
In the final climb of the Col du Porter, Rafał Majka (UAE-Team Emirates) took over 12km from the finish, finishing his turn after a false flat 8.5km from the finish. Pogacar attacked immediately, tapping the pedals and barely grimacing at over 600w. Vingegaard clung to Pogacar’s wheel with Ben O’Connor (AG2R-Citroën) and Rigoberto Urán (EF Education-Nippo). Carapaz was initially abandoned but quickly returned to the leading group.
What happened next was a fascinating mix of art and sport. Pogacar continued to attack, intending to show he was by far the strongest runner in the world, Vingegaard stayed on his wheel and Carapaz went from cycling to poker. The Ecuadorian clenched his teeth so hard that I hoped his dentist wasn’t looking and refused to take a single puff.
After the stage, Pogačar said he thought Carapaz was bluffing, and he was right. At 1.3km from the finish, Carapaz attacks from behind and leads up to 220m from the finish. Vingegaard took his time getting back, but as soon as he did, Pogačar sprinted ahead and took an easy victory at the top of the Col du Portet. The battle of the trio on the Col du Portet is one of the most incredible climbing performances we have seen in recent years, as all three runners climbed over 6w / kg for almost an hour.
Carapaz – Col du Portet:
Average power: 364w (6,1w/kg)
Standardized power: 374w (6,2w/kg)
8.5 km final following the Pogacar attacks
Average power: 370w (6,2w/kg)
Standardized power: 386w (6,4w/kg)
2 km final
Average power: 402w (6,7w/kg)
Standardized power: 446 W (7,4 W/kg)
Carapaz’s power file is so unique because it actually has an uptrend. Normally, for a climb of this length (> 40 minutes), we would see that the power of the stronger runner either stays the same or increases slightly during the climb. But on the Col du Portet, Carapaz, Vingegaard and Pogacar rode so easily compared to everyone, despite dozens of riders coming out from behind.
In the first half of the climb, Carapaz was riding at “only” 350w – 360w, and we can see how much it was left in the tank by how much its power increased in the second half. And to finish the last 2 kilometers at almost 7w / kg, that’s what makes a world class climber. To top it off, the last 3 kilometers of the Col du Portet culminate in more than 2000 m of vertical drop. Any normal rider would start to suffer at such an altitude and see a slow drop in power, but not the podium in this year’s Tour de France.
Stage 17 was to be the last mountain stage of this year’s Tour, and the last opportunity to make major moves in the overall standings before the stage 20 time trial. The 130 km stage included two category 4 climbs, plus the epic Col du Tourmalet (17 km at 7.4%) and Luz Ardiden (13.4 km at 7.5%). Although the climbs weren’t as hard or as steep as the day before, the peloton did them as they did on the last day of the Tour.
Before the big mountains, Team BikeExchange got started on the second cat 4, the Côte de Loucrup, to try to bring down Mark Cavendish (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) before the intermediate sprint. Sepp Kuss (Jumbo-Visma) was waiting in the peloton, as he would be Vingegaard’s super-domestic in the second half of the stage. At nearly 7w / kg, that’s a huge effort to put in with hours of racing to go.
Kuss – Loucrup Coast:
Average power: 409w (6,7w/kg)
At the Col du Tourmalet, Dylan Van Baarle (Ineos Grenadiers) sat at the head of the peloton for almost an hour, trying to tire the peloton for Carapaz. Not much would happen in terms of excitement, but a look at Kuss’s power roster and we can see how much of an effort the Tourmalet was.
Kuss – Col du Tourmalet:
Average power: 333w (5,5w/kg)
As the field touched the bottom of Luz Ardiden, Van Baarle was still – sort of – in the lead. After a good number of turns by Ineos, Majka gained the upper hand, this time up to less than 4km from the finish. Pogacar attacked directly from his teammate’s wheel, and Kuss was there to help close the gap for Vingegaard. Kuss then took the lead and set a steady pace until 1 km from the finish, keeping the group together to protect Vingegaard’s 2nd place overall.
Kuss – 4km to go 1km to go to Luz Ardiden:
Average power: 390w (6,4w/kg)
When Enric Mas (Team Movistar) attacked inside the red kite, Kuss had finished – he would finish 6th on the stage – and it was again Pogačar who attacked and attacked until he there is no one left. The yellow jersey won its second consecutive stage victory – and with it the lead of the mountain jersey with – as well as a lead of more than five minutes in the last three stages.
Kuss – Luz Ardiden:
Average power: 359w (5.9w/kg)
Here again, we can see that the best riders of the Tour were indeed able to accelerate in the last kilometers of these top arrivals. The riders ranked 5th to 20th in the general classification held on for life, while Kuss, Vingegaard, Carapaz and Pogačar were just waiting to move on. It’s not just about holding 6 w / kg for 30 minutes – it’s about holding 5.5 to 5.8 w / kg for 30 minutes, then doing 6.5 to 7 w / kg during the Last 5 to 10 minutes, and finish with a sprint. This is how we win a mountain stage of the Tour de France.
Kuss – Tour de France stage 18 (outside neutral zone):
Average power: 278w (4,6w/kg)
Standardized power: 313w (5,1w/kg)
Maximum energy: 930w (15,3w/kg)
Gain d’altitude: 3,535 m (11,598 ft)
Job: 3,679 kJs
Maximum power of 2 minutes: 434w (7,1w/kg)
Maximum power of 5 minutes: 399w (6,5w/kg)
Maximum power of 10 minutes: 374w (6.1w / kg)
Maximum power of 30 minutes: 363w (6w/kg)
Power analysis data courtesy of Diet and Dietary sauce extension.