Vincenzo Nibali spent more energy and gained more time in the Arenberg cobbled stage than he would have had he raced a mountain stage in the Tour de France, but it was worth it. Team Astana’s Sicilian holds the yellow jersey by a minute and a half on most of his rivals and nearly a minute more on two-time winner Alberto Contador.
“If you consider a summit finish or a time trial stage, you’d have trouble getting time gaps like that,” Astana’s head trainer, Paolo Slongo told Cycling Weekly. “Two minutes on your rivals up a climb?! Maybe you can take 20 to 30 seconds, but two minutes is a lot.”
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The Paris-Roubaix cobbled stage to Arenberg on Wednesday ripped apart the peloton and resulted in massive gains for Nibali, who led the peloton by only two seconds beforehand. When the mud was washed away, he had 1-54 minutes on Sky’s Richie Porte, around two minutes on Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Sharp) and 2-37 on 2007 and 2009 winner Contador. However, he had to give to take.
“In the stage, he put out on average 240 watts,” said Slongo. “In the last two hours, with the pavé sectors, 320 watts at and above his lactate threshold. And consider, when you see a rider who can’t stay on the wheel and lets a gap open – that’s lethal. You have to go at 500 to 600 watts to close it.”
Nibali placed third behind Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome in the 2012 Tour de France and won the Giro d’Italia in 2013. Slongo said that in the mountain stages, he would be hard pressed to spend as much energy as he did on Wednesday.
“I looked at the file from the SRMs and for that time, about three and a half hours, they used up the same about of energy as if they raced five to or five and a half hours in a medium- or medium-high-mountain stage. Vincenzo burnt 4000 calories, which he’d normally do on a stage of five to six hours. It was a big effort for such a short stage,” continued Slongo.
“If I looked at the time he was in threshold and above threshold, that probably wouldn’t even compare to a mountain stage. You’re not in threshold so much like that if you’re a classification man. You can do most climbs with a medium effort and below your threshold. It’s only in the last climb, just 20-30 minutes, that you’re going at threshold or above threshold. The cobbled stage was bigger than an Alpine stage when you consider those numbers.”
Tour de France race leader Vincenzo Nibali strengthened position at top of general classification after a tough day