For many riders at Paris-Nice, Monday’s stage two would have been one of the fastest races they may have ever completed.
With tailwinds and crosswinds battering much of the 163.5km route from Les Bréviaires to Bellegarde, there was barely any time to take a breath as riders flew through the stage in 3-14-04, at an incredible average speed of almost 51kmh.
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While Dylan Groenewegen went on to win the stage from a small escape group and retain the overall lead thanks to a strong effort all day by his Jumbo-Visma team-mates, it was many of the general classification teams that were forcing the issue in order to try and gain some valuable seconds for their respective leaders.
Team Sky were the most successful, utilising Luke Rowe to help put Egan Bernal and Michał Kwiatkowski in the front group at the end of the day.
Ag2r La Mondiale were also active at the front of affairs for much of the stage, making a huge effort to keep Romain Bardet in contention.
Now, thanks to the magic of Strava, we can see just how much effort it took to ride in such a fast and chaotic stage, with Bardet naming his activity ‘3/4 tailwind means warzone’.
Classics rider Oliver Naesen, who was working to protect Bardet, is one rider happy to share his power data on Strava for everyone to see.
The Belgian finished in 14th on the stage in the second group five seconds back, averaging 314 watts throughout the entire day, with a weighted average of 346. Naesen put out a best 20-minute effort of 388 watts during the race with a max output of 1450w.
With no particularly large climbs en route, it was a perfect day for the attributes of the heavier Classic riders, but for smaller climbers, it would have been a day of just trying to survive.
American Lawson Craddock (EF Education First), who finished 52 seconds back in 50th place, averaged 298w (337 weighted) during the stage, spending an hour at 5w/kg along the flat roads.
Craddock also includes his heart rate data on his activity (that he simply called ‘Woah’), which shows he spent 1-03-42 at his threshold heart rate during the stage, with Strava labelling it an ‘historic’ effort.
Unfortunately, Michał Kwiatkowski doesn’t include much data on his activity file, but we can still see just how fast he was able to go in the final sprint from a seven-man group at the end.
Even after suffering a mechanical earlier in the race and having to work to get back to the front group, the Polish champion was still able to reach almost 70kmh in the final push to the line. And while he was only able to finish in fifth place, Kwiatkowski was able to move into second overall behind Groenewegen.
With mountains still to come, riders may be hoping the coming stages may prove a little bit easier ahead of the big climbing stages.