Powerlevels / FTP: Pros vs Humans

Its just you. That screen (with all the flashing digits). And that f**king bike.

Its just you. That screen (with all the flashing digits). And that f**king bike.

Lets have a frank conversation, how good is good? What numbers do you have to post (in addition to a number of amateurs watching your number cross the finish line in front of them) to realistically go for a little cycle in France during July?

So what is the ‘numbers’ for the top riders?

Unfortunately it is unsurprisingly difficult to get hard numbers on the top riders – bit of spying might get you somewhere but generally quite difficult. Team Sky did release to the French newspaper L’Equipe and respected French physiologist access to two years of power data in light of drug speculation in the 2013 Tour. For those cycling academics out there it is interesting to note that a few conclusions were made from the data (we will move onto the numbers in a second).

Grappe suggested that Froome’s power indicated that his performance was consistent during 2011-2013 and similar to other riders that had been studied. His power does drop off after 20 to 60 minute efforts at about 60 watts (0.88w/kg). Athlete’s on average lose about fifity watts in the same time interval. Apparently he has exceptional aerobic potential and compared to his main rivals it is estimated that he has a margin of 20 watts of extra power (you would have never guessed that from Mt Ventoux…). Finally there was his weight, which remained stable at 68 kg – very important when considering the w/kg – and excellent recovery.

Can't work out if that is a smile or just a cry of pain. Probably a bit of both

Can’t work out if that is a smile or just a cry of pain. Probably a bit of both

With all that in mind, let’s take some numbers from Jens Voigt (Ger) professional rider for RadioShack-Leopard – who has worn the yellow jersey twice (never challenged the overall title because of his weakness in the mountains) and considered one of the best rouleur riders out there. In 2012 Jens Voigt won Stage 4 of the US Pro Challenge – Aspen-Beaver Creek, a distance of 97.2 miles. His power analysis was as follows, and I quote Hunter Allen’s article

‘For the entire stage — 3 hours and 54 minutes — Voigt averaged 328W (4.25 w/kg) Normalized Power. He burned 4,219 kilojoules, which equates to roughly 4,600 calories — the same as eating 19 hot dogs. He created 305 TSS points, which is the equivalent training stress of riding for three hours at your threshold power. Finally, he averaged 24 mph over the stage, during which he climbed more than 6,500 feet.


Beast – Jens Voigt

On Independence Pass alone, he averaged 370W (4.8w/kg) for 52:25, and dropped his breakaway companions with sustained hard efforts at 390W (5.0 w/kg). On the descent of Independence Pass, he averaged 36.2 mph, hit a max speed of 48.8 mph and averaged 266W — while riding downhill.

Once on the flat, Voigt pounded out a hard tempo between 300W to 320W, averaging 21.5 mph. Remember, he was riding between 9,000 and 10,000 feet of elevation for much of the way to the finish! Voigt’s functional threshold power (FTP) at sea level is around 420-440W, so adjusting 12 percent off for the elevation, I’ve estimated Voigt’s FTP at 370W for this high elevation race.

The sustained power output on the flats is what got Voigt the win. His ability to tap out a strong rhythm for nearly two and half hours on his own made the difference. He created the gap to the peloton on the climb, but maintained it in the two and half hours after that to the finish. Think about this for a moment. It means Voigt basically rode as fast as the entire peloton, with riders taking turns at the front and resting in the draft — and he did it all by himself, for two and a half hours!’

If we take the first FTP figure (the one at sea level) of 440W and his weight as 76kg (as per google) that gives us a w/kg of 5.79. Putting that in perspective, this was my graph tonight:

In my defence, I set the FTP at 360w and it was a test recorded 256w 2 weeks ago - so there is progress!

The goal in this interval training is to not drop after each peak and thus bring your power average up

Even if I claimed that my average power was 360 (and I won’t, probably around 330w since writing this post & after being put to the sword in the #beroccachallenge) and my weight remained at 80kg – that would only give me 4w/kg……and if you see from the graph I slogged it. The leader board in the club has a top recorded amateur w/kg of 4.3 – which is by all means a strong profile for a guy that is probably at his desk 50 hours a week.

So I think this puts things into perspective. Oh and back to Froome. Assuming he has the same ‘power’ as Jens Voigt but yet weighs 68kgs, that gives his w/kg at 6.47……….

Interestingly this chart from johnstonefitness.com seems to back up these assumptions. Yep you are reading it right, you are looking at a 4.7 at least to be a ‘pro’.


So will I see you down in Athlete Lab in Singapore/Sydney/London to test how far you need to go?