The 98th edition of the Giro d’Italia marked Alberto Contador’s seventh victory in a three-week race and secured his place amongst the most prolific Grand Tour winners in history. Contador now equals Miguel Indurain and Fausto Coppi’s records, behind Eddy Merckx (11), Bernard Hinault (10) and Jacques Anquetil (8).
Contador’s overall victory appeared to come at a greater cost in terms of effort, relative to previous victories. The laboured, grinding efforts that at times characterised Contador’s climbing this year contrasted with the fluid, high-cadence, out-of-the-saddle style we have seen in previous Grand Tours.
Pedalling was a popular point of discussion in the press with Gazzetta dello Sport reporting that Contador’s chief rival, Fabio Aru, had been working on his cadence through the off-season in an effort to improve efficiency.
In hindsight, we can see that Contador’s victory was secured in the 59km Stage 14 time-trial where he finished third, 2.47 ahead of Aru. While Aru’s performance in the mountains was impressive (though he shows room for improvement on the long climbs), Contador’s superiority in the race against the clock was clear, especially when we consider that more power is required to open or close a time gap in a time-trial, relative to a climb, due the exponential impact of wind resistance as speed increases.
While we can only speculate about the pedaling and power output of the race leaders, a number of riders in the Giro peloton uploaded their rides to Strava, notably the eventual winner of the maglia azzurra, Giovanni Visconti, who provided access to his performance after every stage.
During his ride on the Stage 14 time-trial, Visconti recorded a weighted average power of 363w with a 99 per cent intensity rating - an almost a perfect ‘threshold’ effort and useful benchmark to evaluate his performances later in the race.
Visconti was aggressive throughout the Giro and came close to victory on stage four to La Spezia. The Movistar Team rider also escaped on stage 19, attacking his breakaway rivals at the base of the Col Saint-Panteleon.
Visconti made an impressivly controlled and consistent effort on the climb (see the power profile of the ascent, below), averaging 328 watts for 50.42. The fact that this required the Italian to produce 90 per cent of his threshold power for such an extended period, 193km into the stage and following nearly three weeks of racing, underlines the quality of the rider.
By the summit, Visconti had accrued a two-minute advantage but was caught on the final climb, despite a breakneck descent which saw him secure the KOM, averaging 62.2km/h over nearly nine minutes, hitting a maximum speed of more than 78kmh.
Later, Visconti uploaded the stage to Strava under the title: “Ce la farò a svegliarmi domattina? - roughly translated as “will I wake up tomorrow?” - after completing the 236.5km in 6.39 with a weighted average power of 288 watts. Fair comment.
James Hewitt is a performance coach at HINTSA Performance, Geneva