It had been a while, but that was not surprising. Just before the Tour de France, few riders show their cards on Strava and in the first days there was little to do with a rained out time trial and two bunch sprints. How different it was on days four, five and six of the Tour, in which Wout van Aert and Tadej Pogacar grabbed the spotlight. Time to get back to the numbers!
The fourth, fifth and sixth stage in the Tour were difficult to predict in advance. Big time differences? Just sprinting? And if so, do we do that with a small group or a tough platoon? Van Aert didn’t wait for it and after three second places thundered over the last climb of the day, and we didn’t see him again. A day later, Pogacar did the same on the cobblestones in slightly different proportions. To attack! Stage six was completely insane, with Van Aert leading more than 200 (!) kilometers in yellow. Pogacar won after an impressive sprint up the hill…
Van Aert drives everyone out of the wheel
Back to Tuesday 5 July, the first day after the rest day. It was a rest day on which there was a lot of talk about three times silver, three times short and three times no win. Van Aert had undoubtedly received it and although he excelled in green and yellow, he wanted to win. The eagerness with which he laid the groundwork for his epic stage win on day four was of a different order. He finally talked Jonas Vingegaard and Adam Yates out of the wheel on their terrain.
In his Strava file of that day, it is not for nothing that the KOMs in that final. We count seven, partly thanks to Jumbo-Visma. They did what they already did in Paris-Nice: blast up the last hill mercilessly and break into pieces. At the time, Van Aert came up with Primoz Roglic and Christophe Laporte, now it was solo. The climb – on Strava 860 meters at 7.9 percent – was moped up by Van Aert at 32.2 kilometers per hour. He popped out of his thighs at a maximum of 42.9 per hour and was up in 1.37 minutes. Tadej Pogacar, who was among the first behind him, did it in 1.45 minutes, at an average of 29.8 per hour. In any case, Van Aert drove faster than 700 watts, powers that Geraint Thomas claimed to drive.
It was also impressively fast in the descent. The yellow comet was descending at 71.2 kilometers per hour, with a peak of 82.9. He only extended his lead with it, given that Pogacar in the peloton behind ‘only’ descended at 66.7 kilometers per hour on average. More impressive evidence? Van Aert drove home from the bottom of the final climb to the finish at 57.3 (!) kilometers per hour, with parts even well above 60 per hour. Solo! Nothing could stop him, even spreading his famous RedBull joy wings at the finish.
Pogacar thunders over the cobblestones
A day later, Van Aert would have loved to show his class again, but a crash in the cobblestone stage put an end to that dream. It was blown servants and damage limitation for Jonas Vingegaard. There had to be hunting, because one Tadej Pogacar was loose, from the front peloton. The Slovenian had no teammate around all day, was of course lucky that he never had a puncture and turned every lane in the first five. The more that followed, the easier he drove, until he left with Jasper Stuyven and no one else could take it.
Pogacar and Stuyven completed the last twenty kilometers together at 47.3 per hour. That was no faster than the peloton behind it, where steam locomotive Van Aert saved Vingegaard’s body. On the last stretches Stuyven and Pogacar were always only two or three seconds above the existing KOMs on Strava, which indicated he was going really fast. All those KOMs were set in 2018 during Paris-Roubaix for promises, under ideal conditions.
Unfortunately no heartbeats or abilities from Pogacar, who claimed after the finish that he was about to release at Stuyven. The fact that the two drove as fast as Van Aert and associates on the last lanes does indicate that the time in the final phase was mainly lost on the asphalt. Nevertheless, the thirteen seconds of time saved for pogi felt like a great victory.
Van Aert and Pogacar show their unprecedented class
Day six of the Tour was the longest stage and many people had already arranged their couches so that they could take a nap in the afternoon. None of that, because it was war from the start and that didn’t stop until we finished uphill in Longwy. Van Aert and Pogacar were once again the protagonists. Van Aert, because in yellow he was in the lead from the start to sit. He went himself, made escape attempts and eventually drove away with two colleagues in his wheel.
Van Aert’s Strava file is ridiculous. If we look at the analysis sector and look up to ten kilometers from the finish line, we see what an enormous effort the yellow jersey wearer made. He drove more than 210 kilometers at an average of 48.2 kilometers per hour, with a max of 93 per hour. 48.2 is bizarrely hard, but it becomes even more special when we consider that Van Aert drove at least 150 of those 210 kilometers into the wind. Unfortunately there are no abilities, but what an effort!
In Pogacar’s Strava upload, we mainly look at the last kilometers, in which the Slovenian sprinted out of the wheel of his competitors and thus claimed the yellow jersey. Pogi thundered up the final climb at about 30 per hour, but reached a peak of 54. In his sprint to the finish he was once again able to pass 50 kilometers per hour. He rode the rest at a few bike lengths and was able to put his hands in the air.
Vear more Spotted on Strava, click here.
Bram van der Ploeg (Twitter: @BvdPloegg † e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org)