Tour de France Review: Comparing Race Files for 2009 and 2010 from Team Saxo Bank’s Chris Anker Sorensen
A rare view into what it takes to compete in the world’s hardest bike race, by Dirk Friel
Team Saxo Bank’s Chris Anker Sorensen recently completed his second Tour de France, and for the second year in a row he was a major contributing factor in the success of his teammate Andy Schleck, who placed 2nd overall. Chris has had a very successful season and continues to notch up impressive results despite suffering a broken collar bone just 7 weeks before the start of this year’s Giro d’Italia. In fact, Chris went on to win stage 8 of the Italian tour by riding away solo from a long breakaway.
As in 2009 Chris was again recruited to ride the Tour de France in support of Andy Schleck, where he has proven to be a very valuable helper when the race heads into the crucial mountain stages. Chris plays a much-needed role within the Saxo Bank team as his duty is to be one of the final two Saxo Bank riders remaining alongside Andy Schleck when it gets tough in the mountains. Chris regularly sets a blistering pace which can only be matched by a handful of contenders. This strategy isolates the remaining elite team leaders and serves as a launch pad for Andy to attack from in the hopes of riding away from Alberto Contador.
The Numbers Behind the Dramatic Stages
Just like in 2009, Chris was gracious enough to share his daily SRM power files with TrainingPeaks and allow fans everywhere to download his actual power data. This is a rare view into exactly what it takes to complete the world’s hardest bike race. However, in the case of Chris we not only get to see what it takes to finish the Tour de France, but in one particular stage we even get to see what it takes to beat the top riders as Chris did within the final 52km time trial.
Before you dive into the race files you should keep in mind a few important concepts. Cycling is a sport where an athlete’s power to weight ratio is in almost direct relation to the finishing results. This is very evident when the road tilts upwards and the rider with the best sustainable power, and lower body weight, tends to win. This is commonly expressed as watts per kilogram of body weight (w/kg).
In the case of Chris he weighs 141lbs, or 64kg, and is just over 6ft tall. That is one slim cyclist and certainly a big key in his success as a successful pro cyclist. Chris also has the ability to crank out a lot of watts for a long period of time. This allows him to outlast the competition and be one of the last few riders to get dropped in the mountains.
So what are his actual numbers? Check out the stats below, listed first for 2009 and then 2010:
Peak 5 minutes: 433w vs 462w
Peak 20 minutes: 388w vs 393w
Peak 4 hours: 259w vs 288w
Hardest Stage (highest TSS): 372 TSS (Stage 7) vs 370 TSS (Stage 17)
TSS Total: 4,640 TSS vs 5172
Easiest Stage : 127 TSS (Stage 21) vs 113 TSS (Stage 20)
Those are impressive numbers! See how well you stack up: if you weigh 180lbs you’d have to ride at 499w for 20 minutes in order to be at Chris’s level (oh, and do that in hour 5 of a long hard bike race). If you don’t own a power meter head on down to your local gym and see if they have any stationary bikes which display watts. You can also inquire at sports medicine facilities and while you’re there ask for a lactate threshold test to see how many watts you can pump out at lactate threshold. If you’re Chris Sorensen it would be in the neighborhood of 380w.
The above two charts display Chris Sorensen’s daily Training Stress Score, Daily Max 5-minute, 20-minute, 60-minute and 240-minute power output for the 2010 and 2009 Tour de France.
Stage 19-July 24, Bordeaux - Pauillac Time Trial 52km
21st place for Chris!!!!!! INCREDIBLE! Chris nearly beat Alberto Contador by one minute! This is a rare treat to have actual power data from a rider that actually beat both Andy Schleck and Contador. This file also shows some of the best pacing ever witnessed within a time trial. He started out quick, but not unrealistic getting up to speed in the first 30 seconds at 460 watts, and then settling into his rhythm and for the next two minutes he averaged 363 watts. This makes really good sense as typically when in an aggressive time trial position, you cannot hold the same wattage that you can hold in your road position. Chris' threshold power has been right at 390-395 for the Tour and he averaged 369 watts(5.76 w/kg) normalized for the time trial. So, about 20-25 watts lower than what he can do on a climb on his road bike. This acceptable especially since he has an aggressive position.
The graph above shows Chris Sorensen’s 2010 Stage 19 Time Trial where he beat both Alberto Contador and his teammate Andy Schleck. Chris paced his time trial extremely well.
Stage 17- Thursday, July 22nd- Pau - Col du Tourmalet 174km
This stage featured the Tourmalet where Chris set a new record for sustained power output, cranking out 6.5 watts per kilogram for 11 minutes before peeling off to allow Schleck and Contador to attack.
Col du Tourmalet Summary stats for Chris Sorensen:
Stage 16- July 20, Stage 16: Bagneres-de-Luchon - Pau 199.5km
This was one heck of a fast start. This must be a new record in terms of effort as Chris rode at 6w/kg for 31 minutes right from the beginning! That is unreal! We even got word that many of the riders warmed up for this stage which is a rarity in the world of Professional cycling. Normally these guys only warm-up for the time trials. Why warm-up when you have a hard 6hrs ahead of you. I heard that most of the riders were warming up before the start, but that start EQUALS Chris hardest effort of the Tour so far!
Stage 15- July 19, Stage 15: Pamiers - Bagneres-de-Luchon 187.5km
A solid days work in the mountains. If you saw the TV coverage you saw Chris setting a tremendous tempo at the front. He was suffering by the look on his face and pushing right at his threshold power (390w). Chris rode 21 minutes right at the front and drilling it for all he was worth. When Nicky Sorenson and Jakob were on the front, there were about 30-40 riders in the front group. After Chris got done riding on the front there were only 12 guys left!
Stage 9- July 13, Morzine-Avoriaz - Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne, 204 km
So far in the Tour, this has been the hardest stage. At 6 hours long, Chris burned 5233 kilo joules, or about 5500 kilo calories and he needs to eat tonight! His Training Stress Score for the ride was 358, which was the hardest stage so far.
Stage 8 - Sunday, July 11 2010, Station des Rousses - Morzine-Avoriaz, 189 km
Ever wonder how hard the guys are going even after they crash and are out of contention? Well today Lance crashed twice and lost his chance at finishing on the podium in Paris. Chris ended up riding with Lance up the final climb just outside of Morzine. This was a very casual affair at this point, with Chris only averaging 292 watts (4.6w/kg for 40'on final climb), which is just at the top of his endurance zone (75% of FTP). Try that for yourself and you’ll quickly see how their casual pace is unattainable for most.
Stage 7 - Saturday, July 10 2010, Tournus - Station des Rousses, 161 km
In his Power Distribution chart from today, there is a 'drop-off' at the 400-410 watt 'bin'. This is a good indicator of his threshold power.
July 6, Stage 3: Wanze - Arenberg Porte du Hainaut 213km
Carnage on the cobbles!
Team Saxo Bank (along with most teams) chose to use specially designed bikes for the rough roads of stage 3. This meant power meters remained on their original race bikes so unfortunately no data was available for this stage.
Prologue July 3 Rotterdam-
1 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Team Saxo Bank 0:10:00
2 Tony Martin (Ger) Team HTC - Columbia 0:00:10
3 David Millar (GBr) Garmin - Transitions 0:00:20
Solid ride by Chris. Notice how when he was pedaling, that most of the time it was near 420 watts. With the turns and time not pedaling, even his normalized power seems a bit low at 397. Solid effort though and just getting through the stage safe was the goal, especially as he went when the road was very wet. Place 161 out of 197. Chris will have plenty of work to do in the upcoming stages protecting that Yellow Jersey of Cancellara!
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