Revealed: What it takes to win a pro bike race

It’s not necessarily news that Mathieu van der Poel is quite good at riding bicycles. The Dutchman, currently riding for Alpecin-Fenix, has on his CV 5 world championship titles, 4 European Championships, and wins at some of the biggest races on the calendar. His range spans road, cyclocross and mountain bike, meaning he is one of the best in the world over ~30 min, and 7 days. For those still unconvinced, this is very impressive.


At this years Strade Bianche, an iconic albeit relatively new race through the dirt roads of Tuscany, van der Poel put in an impressive display to sprint clear of fellow phenom Julien Alaphillipe on the finishing hill in Sienna. In the days after the race, much has been made of van der Poel’s ability, and he has subsequently released his power data from the race, which makes for very interesting reading.

van der Poel averaged over 370 W for nearly 5 hours through Tuscany’s dirt roads


On the day, the race covered 186 km with almost 3,500 m of climbing, which is a big day in the saddle for even seasoned pros. Strava called this a ‘Historic Effort’ and when we look at the numbers we can see why. The course was run at an average of almost 40 kmh, which required an average weighted power of 371 w. For almost five hours.


After holding power that most of us could only dream of, van der Poel released his howitzer. Moving to the front, the Dutchman hit a peak power of 1362 W, and held an incredible 1105 W for 15 s to distane his rivals, before settling in to aaverage 556 for the remaining 1 min 23 s of the climb to the finish. It probably goes without saying, he not only took the win on the day but the Strava KOM (I’ll let you decide which is the greater achievement).

In the punishingly steep finale, the Dutchman peaked at over 1300W to distance his rivals and take the win


Van der Poel is no stranger to sharing data after a big win. After the 2019 Amstel Gold, a gruelling 260 km race through southern Holland in which he topped the podium, van der Poel revealed he had averaged 337 W for six and a half hours, and still had enough in the tank to peak at 1400 W in what was one of the most remarkable finale’s of not just the 2019 season, but in the history of cycling.


As the 2021 season gets in to full swing through the classics and first stage races of the year, we will be keeping you up to date on the big results, (and big power numbers) in a new feature here on The Altitude Centre blog. Keep an eye out every Monday for a roundup of the weeks races!