The Strava stats don’t lie, but they do provide a fascinating insight into the performance levels of the elite riders competing in the Tour de France.
Laurens ten Dam (Belkin) produced his usual dogged display in the mountains to finish eighth on arguably the hardest stage of the race so far.
The Dutchman posted his results under the headline “Happy with result. But Cycling HURTS” – a statement supported by an impressive set of numbers.
Two figures encapsulate the all-round abilities demanded of an elite professional cyclist. Ten Dam’s average power output of 240w for a ride of more than five hours opens a window on his performance level, while a maximum speed of 94kph (more than 58mph), doubtless recorded on a descent, speaks volumes for his bike handling skills.
He collected two KOMs, including a segment on the final climb into Chamrousse. Ten Dam’s VAM score for the full 21.6km of the final climb is 1503. The value – an estimate of climbing speed in metres per hour – is far beyond the reach of most mortals, and even the peloton’s sprinters, but is still a notch below the standards of its climbing specialists.
Thibaut Pinot (FDJ.fr) who finished fifth on the stage and who topped the table of riders registered on Strava, recorded a VAM score of 1520. The small difference in the two scores can be verified with a more tangible measurement: Pinot crossed the line just 35 seconds before ten Dam. Sadly, Pinot’s profile contains no power data.
A comparison of Strava data between different types of rider is also illuminating. Marcus Burghardt, a 78kg ‘diesel’ deployed by BMC Racing principally for his abilities in the spring Classics, was the next fastest of the Tour’s Strava athletes on the final climb to Chamrousse, but recorded a VAM score of 1064.
The result? Burghardt took nearly 22 minutes lone than Pinot to complete the final 21.6km of the stage 13 parcours. The German would undoubtedly highlight Pinot’s 15kg weight advantage.
With the Queen stage of the 101st Tour still to come, Burghardt and riders of his physical stature can expect to suffer more before the road flattens and the pendulum swings away from the benefits of a lower body mass and back towards the advantages of bulk and power.