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Classics power play: The numbers needed to ride in the wake of Van der Poel

Joe Robinson
23 Apr 2019

It was a finish that will go down in history and here are the numbers to go along with it

Mathieu van der Poel's Amstel Gold victory was extraordinary, to the point of it being almost unfathomable. With 3.5km left, he was a reported 67 seconds behind the race leading duo of Julian Alaphilippe and Jakob Fuglsang.

With 500m left to ride, Van der Poel was leading an unstoppable train of six riders to the finish. He had managed to chase down the leading two ahead, catch up to a chasing Michal Kwiatkowski, launch a sprint lead out in the last kilometre and execute the winning sprint to become the first male Dutch winner of Amstel Gold since Erik Dekker in 2001.

One of the few riders who jumped upon the Van der Poel train was Education First's Simon Clarke

Going on his own attacks in the final 15km, he was eventually gathered up by the day's winner, contributing towards that final chase and managing to take second on the day for his efforts.

After the race, Clarke said 'I assumed I was racing for fifth place. Then the group caught us from behind. Here I was, flat out, thinking: "Well, I guess I’m not even going to be finishing in the top 10".

'I wasn’t aware everything was close together until I saw everyone in front of me with just over a kilometre to go. It was pretty crazy. And pretty motivating. I knew Van der Poel was the fastest guy, so I got on his wheel.'

It was an effort that would have needed some impressive numbers and thanks to Clarke being a Strava user, we can look further into this.

The 32-year-old Australian crossed the line just behind Van der Poel in six hours and 28 minutes. 

That means Clarke covered the 264.25km of racing at an average speed of 41kmh, which is even more impressive considering the 3,807m of climbing across 35 short yet sharp hills in the Limburg region of the Netherlands.

To do this, Clarke had to ride at an estimated average of 382w for the entire six and a half hours of racing which, taking into account Clarke's claimed body weight of 63kg, equates to 6.06w/kg.

Considering the amount of time spent surfing wheels in the bunch, this is probably a bit exaggerated but still indicative of how hard the race was.

Also in the group was young French talent Valentin Madouas. Just 22-years-old, the Groupama-FDJ rider hung on to the coat-tails of Van der Poel as part of that chase in the final 5km.

While Van der Poel did the lion's share of the work, Madouas still had an average 362w for the six minutes of racing sitting in the wheels. Within that was a 500w turn for twenty seconds and a 583w effort to react to Van der Poel's change of pace just before the final kilometre.

Then in the final straight, reacting to the Dutchman's first acceleration to close the gap, Madouas had to average 643w with a peak of 1,097w just to stay on his wheel.

Launching the final sprint, the lightweight climber managed to push out 793w for 15 seconds with a max of 1,067w. Huge numbers after such a long day of riding but still only good enough for eighth in the bunch gallop.

Madouas's Strava file also helps us understand how he, Van der Poel and the rest managed to catch the leading duo and Kwiatkowski in the closing stages.

Thanks to the segment 'Final loop AGR 2018' we can see that Kwiatkowski, who is also on Strava, raced the final 15.9km in a time of 22 minutes and 36 seconds averaging 42.2kmh. Madouas and the chasers, however, covered the same distance in a KOM time of 21 minutes and 51 seconds, allowing the 45 seconds gap to be closed in that final run to the line.

The decisive point being the point between 257.5km and 261.5km. 

During this, Madouas, Van der Poel and the other chasers averaged 46.5kmh compared to Kwiatkowski's 41.1kmh with the leading duo riding even slower as they began to play cat and mouse before the line. 

So it seems that Van der Poel's historic victory all came down to 4km of all-out effort through the small village of Terblijt until the finishing straight in Vilt.