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Strava insight: Philippe Gilbert's Vuelta a Espana stage win was record breaking

Joe Robinson
12 Sep 2019

Stage 17 of the Vuelta a Espana was the fastest race over 200km in cycling's history

Deceuninck-QuickStep's Philippe Gilbert made history yesterday. Crossing the finish line in Guadalajara to win Stage 17, he took the record for the fastest average speed in a race over 200km.

In a whirlwind day that saw the race battered by severe crosswinds, the veteran Belgian covered the 219km run from Aranda de Duero to Guadalajara with an average speed of 50.63kmh.

That means the five-time Monument man covered the longest day of this year's Vuelta - a distance most amateurs would take all day to cover - in just 4 hours 20 minutes.

It sees Gilbert take the prestigious Ruban Juane record from former teammate Matteo Trentin, whose average speed of 49.64kmh at the 2015 Paris-Tours was the previous best.

Needless to say, riding at 50kmh for 200km is tough and thanks to the 37-year-old being an avid user of popular training app Strava, we can get a deeper insight into the efforts that were needed for a record-breaking stage.

After the race, Gilbert told the post-stage interviews that the pace was so high at points that, despite being on a flat road, he was hitting a cadence of 110rpm 

Fast from the flag

From the flag drop, the peloton had split. Strong cross-tailwinds created an almost certain chance of echelons and it was Belgian experts of adverse weather, Deceuninck-QuickStep, who took advantage.

Seven of the eight riders in the team's roster caused the split, including Gilbert. Constantly rotating, Gilbert averaged 49.5kmh in the first 20km maxing out at almost 80kmh on the flat, exposed roads.

While Gilbert is savvy enough not to release his power numbers, Strava made a rough estimate that the above effort would have seen an average wattage of about 559w for almost 30 minutes.

After such a lightening start, you'd expect the next 20km to have been a bit slower. Wrong.

In fact, the pace was notched up a further 2kmh with Gilbert clocking a cool 51.8km as the lead group rode further and further away from the red jersey group of Primoz Roglic.

Even when the race entered its bumpy middle, the likes of Gilbert and teammates James Knox and Tim Declercq kept the pace sky high. The group behind docked 30 seconds off the gap in this time but, ultimately, it was to no avail.

When the race entered its final 30km, Gilbert and his QuickStep team smelt blood and cranked it up again with 'The Wolfpack' sensing the opportunity for a stage win and the chance to propel Knox into the top 10 on General Classification.

The average speed for this final part of the race was a spectacular 57.7kmh. Granted, there was a net loss of elevation, but it's still incredible to think the lead group covered almost a kilometre a minute for the final 30km of a 219km stage.

By the time the leaders entered Guadalajara, most in the front group of 47 were spent forces, making the final kick to the line look like the Galibier.

Gilbert, however, proved he still had it in old age with a frightening sprint past Sam Bennett of Bora-Hansgrohe to prove he is in excellent form ahead of the World Championships later this month.

Lead image: La Vuelta online