What separates the best...from the rest?

Winners at WorldTour level are truly exceptional, but what makes them so? Chris Sidwells investigates what sets apart the best cyclists from the merely excellent

Mark Cavendish (Getty)

Three hundred and eighty-nine watts for four hours and 45 minutes, rising to an average 439 watts over the final 60km. And he had plenty left for the finish, smashing out 738 watts for a full 60 seconds, leaving enough pop in his long legs to blast out 1,004 watts for 20 seconds in his final uphill gallop into Sienna, winning Strade Bianche 2021. We’re talking about Mathieu van der Poel, but you knew that already – who else could produce those numbers?

Make no mistake, all the men and women competing at WorldTour level are extremely talented, totally dedicated and hardworking. But even in their exalted company, some riders – Van der Poel a glittering example – stand out above the rest. They are best of the best, bike racers who can make world-class athletes look like amateurs. Such superstars have been a feature of pro cycling since its earliest days. In this feature, I want to pinpoint exactly what makes these people stand out in an already exceptional cohort.

Thank you for reading 20 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access

Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

Chris Sidwells
Freelance Journalist & Author

Chris has written thousands of articles for magazines, newspapers and websites throughout the world. He’s written 25 books about all aspects of cycling in multiple editions and translations into at least 25

different languages. He’s currently building his own publishing business with Cycling Legends Books, Cycling Legends Events, cyclinglegends.co.uk, and the Cycling Legends Podcast