Intensity in Tour de France 2020

Twitter user Velofacts does great work compiling and sharing power data from pro riders on Strava. He’s collected stage level normalized power data from about 60 Tour de France riders and what looks to be nearly 1000 different stages. He’s analyzed the data by calculating watts/kg which shows FDJ domestique Sebastien Reichenbach as the rider who has generated the most watts/kg at just under 4.0 average over the race. He has also calculated stage level averages which shows the peak power output stage was stage 9 (306 watts) and that mountain stages were generally raced at 275-300 watts (with Bora’s demolition of the peloton in stage 7 and ensuing splits in crosswinds coming in as the 5th toughest stage).

Related to my recent post on measuring intensity using relative perceived effort and power data, we can utilize this data to calculate a rider’s relative power output across the race. van Erp and Sanders have found power output in grand tours is not on average any higher than even lower level one day races, however this can be explained by riders pacing themselves throughout with as many big efforts and lesser efforts. Is this obvious in the data?

Relative power outputs in 2020 Tour de France

Of Velofacts’s 60 some riders I’ve chosen 33 of the most interesting riders who made an impact on the Tour and calculated their relative power output (each stage divided by their race average). I’ve also classified them roughly into three groups to show what role they played in the race; guys like Dries Devenyns, Roger Kluge, and Tim Declercq were ‘Workers’, Sepp Kuss, Harold Tejeda, and Reichenbach were ‘Climbers’, and Simon Geschke, Quentin Pacher, and Carlos Verona were ‘Breakaway’.

Relative power output averages by rider type in 2020 Tour de France (data from @Velofacts)

You can see the whole peloton got a break on stages 3, 5, 11, and 21 with all of the groups having much lower average power outputs. Climbers posted their peak relative power output in Stage 9 at 16% higher than their Tour average. Breakaway men peaked in Stages 9 and 16. Workers peaked in relative power on the difficult mountain days between stages 16-18, but also had to generate equal effort in Stage 7. Interestingly, the workers had less variable power outputs overall with a standard deviation of 7% vs 9-10% for the other two groups of riders.

Selected riders with relative power output by stage (data from @Velofacts)

Some interesting items above:

  1. The days riders were in breakaways are obvious – especially the ones in the first half of the race on easier days. Pacher’s stage 4 breakaway was 16% higher than his average and Ladagnous’s in stage 11 was equal to his race average, but about 15% higher than the average for other riders!
  2. Similarly, we have three of the top 5 on Stage 16 in this data-set – stage winner Kamna was +19%, Geschke +21%, and Reichenbach +19%. Those are three of the top 6 relative efforts in the entire race.
  3. The upper range in terms of efforts looks like about +20%. Harold Tejeda and Sepp Kuss both hit those figures in Stage 9, while Geschke and Pacher did in Stage 16. The standard deviation across all 619 stages analyzed by me is about 10%.
  4. The three riders who varied the most between stages were Neilson Powless, Simon Geschke, and Sepp Kuss. Powless and Geschke were both involved in several large breakaways racking up the 3rd and 10th most kilometers in breakaways according the Pro Cycling Stats. Kuss was Roglic’s top climbing domestique and as such had four efforts of 10% or higher than his average as well as three of around 20% below his average.
  5. Tim Declercq’s monster efforts at the front of the peloton on Stage 10 is obvious. That was Declercq’s peak effort in the race. He spent about 67% of the race in front of the peloton – by far the highest total of the day.

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