Tour de France 2010 vs 2009: Which is Harder So Far?

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07/19/2010| 0 comments
by Hunter Allen

Tour de France 2010 vs 2009: Which is Harder So Far?

So far in the 2010 Tour de France, we have seen plenty of drama including crashes, cobbles, hills, and headbutts. Some of the favorites have left the race, and others have seen their dreams of a podium finish fade away.

So far in the 2010 Tour de France, we have seen plenty of drama including crashes, cobbles, hills, and headbutts. Some of the favorites have left the race, and others have seen their dreams of a podium finish fade away. As the second week of this epic event draws to a close and we look forward to a final showdown in the Pyrenees, the question arises: going into this last week of battle on the bikes, are the riders generally more or less exhausted than they were at this point in the race last year?

Of course, the story is different for each rider, but one good way to get a general idea of the overall toughness of this year's Tour compared to 2009 is to compare data from the same rider doing the same job on the same team in both years. We have been following "super domestique" Chris Anker Sorensen of Team Saxo Bank this year in the Tour de France and we had the chance to follow him last year as well. He is the right-hand man for Andy Schleck and is really the only guy on the Saxo Bank team that can ride in the high mountains with Andy. Chris is also a winner in his own right with a mountain stage win in the Giro D' Italia this year and the queen stage win in the Dauphine Libere last year, so getting the opportunity to review his power files and see how many watts he can put out is a true insight into one of the worlds' best cyclists.

So far in the 2010 Tour, Chris has had nearly the equivalent amount of training stress, or overall fatigue caused to his body by riding, as he did in 2009. This year Saxo Bank has had the yellow jersey longer than last year, first with Cancellara and now with Andy Schleck, and as a consequence Chris has had to ride near the front. However, with Chris being the main supporting mountain climber, he has been fortunate that he did not have to do too much work in the early stages of the Tour this year even though Saxo was defending the jersey. Once the mountains started though, Chris was always seen at the front.

An excellent example of how much power Chris can bring to the front of a climb was in Stage 9, when Chris played a large role in launching Andy Schleck off the front of the Col de la Madeleine climb from an elite group of 10 or so riders. Chris started setting a hard tempo at the bottom of the hour-plus-long climb and rode at an average of 410 watts, or 6.4 watts per kilogram, in the first ten minutes of the climb: an extremely impressive power output that essentially doubles what most Cat 4 recreational riders would be able to sustain.

After such a hard effort, Chris peeled off and rode at a slightly lower pace to recover, putting out 5.6 w/kg for the next ten minutes. This effort still kept him in

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