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Power play: The watts Thomas De Gendt needed to defend a race lead in the mountains

Joe Robinson
28 Mar 2019

De Gendt held on to the Volta a Catalunya race lead at Valter 2000 yesterday, just. Here is what it took to do so

Thomas De Gendt's breakaway efforts on Stage 1 of the Volta a Catalunya were inspiring. Riding as part of the day's break, rolling over the day's five classified climbs and holding off the charging peloton to win by two minutes and 38 seconds.

He pushed a big gear and even bigger watts to hold off the chase of Team Sky and Movistar behind, riding into the race lead and the praise of all those who watched.

De Gendt's advantage of almost three minutes was healthy but with two major mountain stages and a raft of climbing talent waiting in the wings, it was seen as a matter of when rather than if he would hand over the race's lead.

It was expected that the Belgian rouleur would relinquish the lead on Stage 3, which finished atop the Valter 2000, a high-altitude summit finish that had the race riding uphill for the final 20km of the day.

After the tremendous efforts of just two days before, which saw him push an average of 324w for the entire stage almost alone, it came as no surprise to see De Gendt sliding back through the peloton 8km from the summit.

Eventually, he had been dropped and the likes of Nairo Quintana, Egan Bernal and Adam Yates had shot ahead to contest the day's win. It looked almost certain that De Gendt would lose the jersey when Yates crossed the line as stage winner, having been dropped a full five miles further down the mountain. 

However, as the clock clicked to 2 minutes 21 minutes, De Gendt rolled over the line with 27 seconds in hand to fight another day. The 32-year-old posted his ride to Strava so we can see exactly what it takes to hold on against the world's best climbers.

The main Strava segment for the Valtar 2000 climb sees riders climb at a 7% average for 11.8km with 884m of vertical elevation. To make things even tougher, the summit comes at 2,146m, high enough for the effects of altitude to be felt.

Steven Kruijswijk finished sixth on the stage, 30 seconds behind the leading five riders, setting a new Strava KOM of 33:04.

Incredibly, despite being dropped so early in the climb, De Gendt rolled over the segment end in 35:06, not only giving him the 10th quickest time on Strava but enough to retain the race lead.

To do this, De Gendt had to enter time-trial mode, riding at an average of 375w for the climb which equates to 5.4w/kg.

De Gendt's cadence averaged 84rpm, snail-like compared to the flying Colombians further up the road. His average power then rose to 411w for the final 500m as he attempted to reach the line in time.

This is pretty reasonable for most riders but considering the fatigue likely to be in De Gendt's legs from two days previous and the altitude, it makes his efforts that ever more impressive.

De Gendt also managed to hold on to the jersey thanks to a little help from some old friends. Realising he was dropped, fellow peloton veteran Laurens Ten Dam riding for rivals CCC Team offered his wheel for the final 2km all but securing another day in the lead for De Gendt.

Today was the straw to break the camel's back with Stage 4's summit finish at La Molina proving too tough a test for De Gendt as he finally lost control of the race.

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