The talk of the last week has been the inaugural Tour de France Femmes. The rider around much of that talk has been Annemiek van Vleuten (AMVV) who turned around illness in the first half of the race, to triumph at the end. The pivotal performance was in the Queen stage 7; where she soloed away after the second climb to ride alone for over 60kms, including the final climb to claim victory.
AMVV has shared the file to Strava, but without power data. This is not unusual for a major event. She often includes her power data in training rides, but not this time. So, I can’t do a complete file analysis for her. However; with some super sleuthing I can work it out. And the data for the well-placed Juliette Labous is very helpful. Labous finished in 4th place on the stage, and also placed in the top 5 overall on GC.
The analysis requires some context of the stage. There were 3 major climbs. The first was the Petit Balloon (9.3km at 8.1% summitting at the 49km mark of the race). AMVV continued the strong pace on the next ascent (Col du Platzerwasel 7.1km at 8.3%, 66km) and broke all riders just before the summit. She then went solo for the final 65km including the last ascent (Grand Balloon, 13.6 km at 6.6%).
Labous’ power data is available in her Strava profile. She has her FTP set as 260W on a body mass of 55kg. I say ‘set’ because as you are aware, you can set your FTP and weight to whatever you want in Strava. This gives her an FTP of 4.7W/kg. I am going to say that this is an underestimate, as 4.7W/kg is under that we would typically expect for a world class female rider that can climb. They normally sit in the 5.0 to 5.1 W/kg range. Either her FTP is more than 260W or her weight is less than 55kg (or both).
This file analysis that I have done confirms that it is set low (I’ll explain as we go). Not that it matters, this is just an FYI for you folks reading. Labous has done the 4 hour stage at a Normalized Power of 239W. This gives an intensity factor (IF) of 0.92 (239/260). This means she rode at 92% of her set FTP for more than 4 hours. This is the first clue that her FTP is set low in Strava. This sort of IF is possible for 2 hours, perhaps a bit more, but not 4 hours.
Her peak 20 minute power is on the first climb. In fact her peak 1 minute, 5 minute, 20 minute and 30 minute power are all on the first climb. The peak 20 minute power is 288W. Using the commonly applied method of 95% of 20 minute power = FTP, this gives 273W. So, here is the second indicator her FTP is set low in Strava.
That first climb was done at 277W for 33 min. This is 5.0 W/kg which sounds legitimate. But here is the kicker, AMVV put 2 and a half minutes into her on that climb! We can estimate AMVV’s power from the male times on the segment that are similar to her time. Analysing these gives us around 5.3W/kg for 31 minutes.
The second climb even more damage was done by AMVV. She gained almost another 3 minutes on the first chasing group on this climb. So let’s look at the numbers. Labous rode this climb at 267W for 26 minutes. That is 4.8W/kg. And AMVV put nearly 3 minutes into her! The VAM (vertical ascent in meters) gives us a further clue about her power numbers. This only decreased by 1% for AMVV, whereas it was a 3% decrease for Labous. So it looks like AMVV held very similar power for the second climb in the 5.2W/kg range.
After she crested the second climb, AMVV went long solo to the finish. Looking at the climb times for the 3rd and last ascent, these are similar for AMVV and Labous. But the damage had already been done, and the lead she had gained could not be brought back. Also, Labous was in a small group and AMVV was solo. Even a small group makes a difference when climbing.
So what is the summary of all this:
- AMVV rode climb one at around 5.3W/kg (31 minutes)
- AMVV rode climb two at around 5.2W/kg (24 minutes)
- AMVV rode climb three at around 4.8W/kg (44 minutes)
- Before starting the final climb she already had around 2500kj of work in her legs
This fatigue resistance is what sets apart truly elite riders from us mere mortals. The capacity to produce power when fresh is one thing. The capacity to produce it when fatigued, is another thing altogether. She was in a class of her own as a climber in this race. And using her own words ‘I’m a bit older than the other girls, so I can do a bit more training so this stage is suited for me. I want to make something clear it’s not that my colleagues don’t train as much as I do, it’s also to do with training years.’
And ‘my style is always attacking and not waiting until the final. I did a recon of the stage and thought that already on the Petit Ballon it was a hard one. After six days of waiting and surviving and recovering, I wanted to make the biggest time gaps and that means going on the first climb.’
Here are the links to to the rides: