‘Some of my best power, still in the last group’ - Why the level is so high in the 2021 Tour de France

Thomas De Gendt and Greg Van Avermaet both put out some of their best ever power numbers on stage nine, but still couldn’t keep up

Thomas De Gendt at the Tour de France 2021
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/Getty Images)

The 2021 Tour de France has been a brutal race and we’re not yet halfway through. 

While all the riders have battled the hectic crash-ridded stages and some brutal weather conditions, some of the best riders in the world have found themselves struggling under the pace.

As a result of cycling’s murky past, the sport marred with unbelievable performances in previous generations, some have questioned whether the rides we're seeing in the 2021 Tour are too good to be believed.

But according to some, the speed of this year’s Tour down to the wave of youthful talents storming the peloton in recent years.

Greg Van Avermaet, Olympic gold medallist and Monument winner, told Dutch broadcaster Sporza that he had ridden some of his best ever power on the tough mountain day to Tignes on stage nine, but  the 36-year-old finished in 165th place on the stage, only narrowly making the day’s time cut. 

“I rode my better [power] numbers and was in the last group”, Van Avermaet said, “the others just rider faster.”

Thomas De Gendt, the winner of some of the biggest stages in Grand Tours, including a Mont Ventoux summit finish, also revealed he put out some of his best ever power numbers but still finished 30 minutes down on the stage winner. 

The Lotto Soudal rider said: "[On stage eight] I pushed the values of a breakaway and finished 28 minutes down. 

"The day must come when the younger riders are better, they're just doing it very abruptly. Normally it is gradual, now they suddenly take over everything and push older riders back. 

"That's a hard statement, but I can't change it."

De Gendt said he pushed one of his best ever 10-minute power outputs on stage eight, but was still struggling 100 metres behind a group of around 70 riders. 

Retired cyclocross star Sven Nys shared his thoughts, saying: “The level is just gigantically high. It’s quite impressive. If you don’t push seven watts per kilogram you don’t really have anything to do in the Tour. 

“There is an enormous amount of talent, both in stage races and in the Classics."

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Belgian cycling writer Michel Wuyts said: “Every day is raced as if it was a Classic. 

“Due to the efforts of the best one-day racer, the level in the Tour is so high the older riders have a hard time.

“De Gendt and Van Avermaet are good, but Wout van Aert and Mathieu van der Poel are even better.”  

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Alex Ballinger

Alex Ballinger is editor of BikeBiz magazine, the leading publication for the UK cycle industry, and is the former digital news editor for CyclingWeekly.com. After gaining experience in local newsrooms, national newspapers and in digital journalism, Alex found his calling in cycling, first as a reporter, then as news editor responsible for Cycling Weekly's online news output, and now as the editor of BikeBiz. Since pro cycling first captured his heart during the 2010 Tour de France (specifically the Contador-Schleck battle) Alex covered three Tours de France, multiple editions of the Tour of Britain, and the World Championships, while both writing and video presenting for Cycling Weekly. He also specialises in fitness writing, often throwing himself into the deep end to help readers improve their own power numbers.  Away from the desk, Alex can be found racing time trials, riding BMX and mountain bikes, or exploring off-road on his gravel bike. He’s also an avid gamer, and can usually be found buried in an eclectic selection of books.