The Tour de France is an arena where legends are born. Stage 1 of the 2023 Tour was no exception, with an exhilarating finale on the Côte de Pike. For the riders, this climb was more than just a hill; it was a test of their VO2 max. And their speeds up this hill indicated their current power-to-weight ratio.
This article will dive into the significance of this climb and its impact on the race as it unfolds.
Côte de Pike – The VO2 Max Playground:
The Côte de Pike featured in Stage 1 was a treacherous ascent with an average gradient of approximately 10%, with the midsection ramping up to a lung-busting 15%. This final climb was akin to a VO2 max test, where cyclists pushed their aerobic engines to the limit.
VO2 max, or maximal oxygen uptake, is pivotal for a cyclist’s performance, particularly in climbs. It is the maximum rate of oxygen consumption during incremental exercise and a key indicator of a cyclist’s cardiovascular fitness and aerobic endurance.
One of the most intriguing comments after the stage came from Mattias Skjeldmose, winner of the Tour de Suisse, in June 2023. He mentioned that he pedaled his highest watts ever on the Côte de Pike. He finished among the top 10, a little behind the fastest trio of Vingegaard, Pogacar, and Lafay. Skjeldmose’s admission suggests that the climb brought the riders close to their VO2 max.
The speed up the Côte de Pike can be seen as a reflection of peak climbing abilities. With gradients as steep as 15%, it’s not just about power output but also how effectively the power is translated into ascending the hill. In this light, the performances of Vingegaard, Pogacar, and Lafay are certainly commendable and worth analyzing.
Notably, VO2 max per kilogram (VO2 max/kg) is a strong indicator of race performance. A higher VO2 max/kg ratio often translates to better climbing prowess. It’s essential to consider the raw power output and how efficiently a rider can convert that power into speed, especially when gravity is working against them.
Vingegaard, Pogacar, and Lafay: A Deeper Dive
Vingegaard showcased a remarkable performance, illustrating his immense climbing capabilities. This feat isn’t surprising considering his previous accomplishments and steadily building form.
Pogacar, who needs no introduction, is a formidable adversary on any climb. His performance on Côte de Pike is a testament to his indomitable spirit and physical prowess. It seems almost like a continuation of where he left off last season.
Further magnifying the sheer impressiveness of his performance, Pogacar shattered records on Strava by recording an astonishing 2347 VAM (Vertical Ascents in Meters per hour) on the Côte de Pike. VAM measures your vertical ascent in meters per hour, meaning that it gauges how quickly you are traveling upward. Achieving 2347 VAM is an astounding feat that highlights Poga?ar’s exceptional climbing ability and the extraordinary efficiency with which he can ascend at a sustained pace. Such a phenomenal VAM indicates a combination of raw power and cycling finesse that could redefine what is considered to be within the realm of human potential in the sport of cycling.
Simon Lafay, the dark horse among the trio, was impressive. His ability to stay with riders like Vingegaard and Pogacar speaks volumes about his form and capability. Lafay might not have been among the top favorites initially, I was a surprised to see him there, but this climb put him squarely in the spotlight.
What to Expect Next:
The Côte de Pike gave us a crystal-clear indication of the strength of the best riders in this year’s Tour de France. The riders who excelled here have made a statement, and we can expect them to be dominant figures throughout the race.
We should keep an eye on how these riders fare in upcoming mountain stages. Climbers who can keep or even build on the momentum from
Stage 1 will likely be contending for not only stage wins but possibly the General Classification.
In particular, expect the likes of Vingegaard and Pogacar to animate the race in the mountains. However, we should not rule out surprises, especially from riders who showed promising form on the Côte de Pike.
For aspiring cyclists, the Côte de Pike serves as an educational tool. It emphasizes the importance of VO2 max and power-to-weight ratio in climbing. Altitude training can be a crucial component for developing climbing skills, as it improves the body’s ability to utilize oxygen efficiently. For more information on altitude training for road cyclists, check out this article on our website.
The first three stages of the Tour de France 2023 have been nothing short of electrifying. The Côte de Pike has already proved to be a defining moment in this year’s Tour. As the race moves into more mountainous terrain, the riders who shone on Côte de Pike will be the ones to watch. The Tour de France is an unpredictable beast, but one thing is certain – we are in for a thrilling ride.