Stage 9 of the Tour de France took us to Tignes - to the same finish that was cut out of the 2019 Tour due to a landslide on the course - in the second of an Alpine double-header that saw the GC tree well and truly shaken.
Mathieu van der Poel, the holder of the yellow jersey coming into the weekend, was always expected to lose his lead when the road pointed up, but after Saturday's stage 8 where Geraint Thomas and Primož Roglič lost 35 minutes and Tadej Pogačar proved he was in a league of his own with a long-range solo attack, Sunday's stage 9 was set to be a thriller.
And what a thriller it was; on a day where Pogačar proved once again that he is on another level, it was Ben O'Connor (AG2R Citroën) who took the honours, with a win that saw him jump 12 places in the standings and gain 6:02 on Pogačar. In the end, he finished the day 2:01 down on the Slovenian, but in a strong second place ahead of Rigoberto Urán at 5:18.
But as the only GC rider who managed to stave off the Pogačar steam train, what sort of power does that require? Well fortunately for us, O'Connor has uploaded his ride to Strava for all to see, so let's dive in.
Ben O'Connor's Tour de France stage 9
Official timing from the race sets O'Connor's time for the day at 4:26:43, however, according to his Strava, he was moving for an extra 11 minutes for a total ride time of 4:37:32. Throughout this time, he averaged an impressive 313 watts with an even more impressive normalised power of 344w, all while weighing 67kg according to ProCyclingStats.
In this time, he burned through an incredible 5,195 calories, averaged 31.9km/h and topped out at 92.5km/h.
Getting into the break
Despite knowing the big day he had ahead, it was the first ascent of the day where O'Connor burned his brightest match, forcing his way into the breakaway on the Category 2 Côte de Domancy, which averages 9.5 per cent for 2.5km.
The main portion of this effort lasted 22 minutes, for which he averaged 403 watts at an average cadence of 95, peaking at 691 watts.
Looking at the Zone Distribution of his ride, we calculate his FTP to be set at 395 watts, so assuming those calculations are up to date, O'Connor would have been over his limit and pushing into VO2 Max territory.
Fortunately for him, the following 12 minutes afforded some recovery. They were spent at a slight descent (minus one per cent gradient), and O'Connor averaged 228 watts, before tackling the second ascent of the day.
Easy up this one, lads?
Unfortunately, in the Tour de France, there's no such thing as easy.
The second major ascent of the day took in the Col des Saisies, which averages 6.2 per cent for 9.4km. The climb comes in three steps separated by short periods of descending. The first and last step are short, while the middle ramp is the longest of the three.
O'Connor ascended the entire climb in 32:30, enough to take the 'Col de saisies de Flumet / Crest Volland' Strava KOM by 37 seconds over Warren Barguil in second place. Throughout this period, he averaged 389 watts, peaked at 796 watts, and averaged an 23.9km/h (14.9mph).
Next up came a 15km descent, which saw O'Connor spend a lot of time freewheeling, interspersed with countless violent accelerations out of hairpin corners that saw him hit his peak power for the day, 890 watts. And then came the day's main course, the HC climb of the Col du Pré.
This ascent took O'Connor 43m 51s, throughout which he averaged 364 watts, peaked at 691, and averaged 19.7km/h (12.2mph).
The final climb of Montée de Tignes is where O'Connor made his mark. Easing away from Sergio Higuita with 17.3km to go and spending the rest of the race alone. All in, the ascent lasted 1h 12m, and he settled into a rhythm that saw him average 345 watts, peaking at 659, and covering the 31.1km (19.5mi) at 26km/h (16.25mph).
O'Connor's ascent of the Strava KOM 'Monteé de Tignes (myCols.app) Tour de France 2021 - Stage 9' was the fastest ever recorded, however despite uploading his ride to Strava, Pogačar's SRM looks to have dropped the GPS data.
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Josh has been with us as Senior Tech Writer since the summer of 2019 and throughout that time he's covered everything from buyer's guides and deals to the latest tech news and reviews. On the bike, Josh has been riding and racing for over 15 years. He started out racing cross country in his teens back when 26-inch wheels and triple chainsets were still mainstream, but he found favour in road racing in his early 20s, racing at a local and national level for Team Tor 2000. He's always keen to get his hands on the newest tech, and while he enjoys a good long road race, he's much more at home in a local criterium.
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