Following the release by Team Sky of Chris Froome’s performance data from stages of his 2015 Tour de France win, we took a look at how pro triathletes and age-groupers compare on the bike to Britain’s two-time winner of cycling’s biggest race.
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First, a disclaimer – our sister publication Cyclingnews recently quoted Sky’s head coach Tim Kerrison as saying that power can be affected by many things in a race, including gradient, temperature, wind direction and altitude.
What’s more, using Froome’s performance data to work out his physiology “requires a lot of assumptions about his relative aerobic and anaerobic consumptions on the climb, the percentage his V02 max that can be sustained and his efficiency as a rider," says Kerrison.
Triathletes on the bike leg at Kona 2014 (credit: Paul Phillips)
With that said, let’s see what our triathlon experts thought, starting with 220’s current Coach of the Year, Simon Ward: “Compared to Froome's 60-minute power of 366w (Functional Threshold Power), which works out at 5.4w/kg, the best pro triathletes have power outputs below this. In an ITU race the lead cyclists would expect to average around 300 watts for 40km with 20sec power outputs of around 500watts.”
Ward adds that at Ironman level the pros will be averaging around 4w/kg for 180km (approximately 280-300w), with 20sec peak power still above 500w. “W/kg are lower because triathletes have to run after the bike so it's not an all-out effort, and they are often a little heavier due to upper body muscle.”
Joe Skipper on the bike at Challenge Weymouth
Another tri coach, regular 220 contributor Joe Beer, invokes the RAMP fitness test to see how Froome compares to elites and age-groupers. What is a RAMP TEST you ask? It measures your aerobic capacity by gradually increasing the resistance on a turbo trainer or Wattbike until failure – there’s a good explainer here.
"Chris Froome’s data, along with that from elite triathletes, staggers the keen amateur used to seeing numbers much less elite,” says Beer. “For example, many readers will have a RAMP test peak power of anything from ~250watts (female veteran) to ~400 watts (male senior to age-grouper). Froome's RAMP test by comparison probably tops out for a minute at 540-570w and the best (biggest) of the elite triathletes probably 500-530watts (~5.5w/kg).
Ain-Alar Juhanson racing the 2009 Wildflower Triathlon (credit: Thomas Kriese)
“The elite male Ironman athlete can hold around 300 watts (320w cited to Ain-Alar Juhanson’s Ironman Lanzarote best)," adds Beer. "Most elite triathletes are in the 250-290w range for the 4.5-4.75 hours of racing on the bike, but unlike Froome they have to run after. Horses for courses if you like, albeit thoroughbred horses.”
To put the above in perspective, rising British pro Joe Skipper recently recorded an average power of 304 watts during Ironman Texas, where he shattered the bike course record and came second overall. You can find more data here.
(Main image: Denismenchov08)
What do you think? Let us know in the comments below!