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How Fast!? We take a look at Tom Pidcock's Alpe d'Huez conquering Strava file

Just how fast do you have to climb and descend to win the Queen stage of the Tour de France?

Ask any rider in the pro peloton to pick any stage of any race to cross the line first on, chances are the queen stage of the Tour de France is well up there. 

Add in that this year the stage finished up Alpe d'Huez, on Bastille Day, and you're likely to make any pro rider's dreams come true, no more so than if you're a young Brit in just your second Grand Tour with only one major senior road race win to your name.

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2022 TdF stage 12 pidcock ineos Zac Williams/
 Zac Williams /

To win any stage at the Tour de France is no mean feat, but even fewer riders manage to win the Queen stage as their first ever. Stage 12 was always going to cause fireworks with ascents of the Col du Galibier, Col de la Croix de Fer and Alpe d'Huez, it was likely that a breakaway would get away but whether it could stay away was a very different question.

2022 tour de france stage 12 profile

So what does it take to win?

Well, thanks to many of the pro riders now uploading their data to Strava as part of their collaboration with the Tour de France and Tour de France Femmes Avec Zwift, it's possible to see just how fast Pidcock was going. Over the 165.1km stage, the Ineos Grenadiers rider averaged 32.8kph despite the route having 4,862m of elevation gain. Unfortunately his power and heart rate data are hidden for obvious reasons, but Ineos Grenadiers has allowed him to publish cadence data: 88rpm for the stage.

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2022 TdF stage 12 tom pidcock strava galibier descent.JPG

Pidcock didn't make life easy for himself, missing the initial break and then bridging across on the descent of the Col du Galibier. In fact, he took the KOM by a significant margin. Chris Froome is the next TdF competitor on the leaderboard, the fellow Brit getting caught by Pidcock and then trying to cling on to his rear wheel.

At the end of the stage, Froome said [Pidcock] "was flying on the descents today, I think that his bike handling and mountain biking probably came in handy today", adding that "there was a few points where I backed off the wheel a bit because he was definitely pushing the limits." 

2022 TdF stage 12 tom pidcock strava croix de fer descent.JPG

It was on the descent of the Col de la Croix de Fer, though, that Pidcock hit his maximum speed of the ride, a massive 100.8kph according to his Strava. Pidcock said in a post-race interview that this was his record and that he'd never been over 100kph on the bike before. What a time to do it!

Of course, Pidcock also had to climb at speed. He whittled down the breakaway group on the ascent of the Croix de Fer, averaging 21.1kph for the 22.5km mountain that averages 5.3%. That wasn't enough to snatch the KOM though, as Laurens Ten Dam holds on to that with his effort from 2015. Who won the stage on that day? None other than Chris Froome.

2022 TdF stage 12 tom pidcock strava alp d'huez ascent.JPG

As Pidcock hit the final climb of the day, the race could still have gone either way. Alpe d'Huez has a reputation for a reason, and has been the downfall of many a great rider. Pidcock conquered the 21 hairpins with an average speed of 20.4kph, which although slower than the GC favourites behind was more than enough to hold off their late charge. The experienced climbers of Chris Froome and Louis Meintjes couldn't live with the pace as Pidcock waded his way through the crowds.

Tom Pidcock Alpe d'Huez Tour de France 2022 stage 12 (ASO / Pauline Ballet)
ASO / Pauline Ballet

If you're struggling to put into context just how quick Pidcock assailed the Alpe, then look no further than his VAM (Vertical Ascent in Meters). This is a unit that helps to judge climbing performance regardless of the gradient or the particular climb, and 1,563 is an absolutely huge figure to hold for 43 minutes! If you're on Strava then take a look at some previous rides and see how close you have got.

2022 TdF stage 12 tom pidcock strava temp.JPG

The elevation did offer some relief from the heat though. At low elevation Pidcock's data indicates a maximum temperature of 42°C, but thanks to spending much of the 5-hour ride above 1,500m, the average was a slightly more manageable 33°C.

What did you find more impressive, Pidcock's climbing or descending? Let us know in the comments section below...

Jamie has been riding bikes since a tender age but really caught the bug for racing and reviewing whilst studying towards a master's in Mechanical engineering at Swansea University. Having graduated, he decided he really quite liked working with bikes and is now a full-time addition to the team. When not writing about tech news or working on the Youtube channel, you can still find him racing local crits trying to cling on to his cat 2 licence...and missing every break going...

Add new comment


mdavidford | 1 year ago
1 like

look no further than his VAM (Vertical Ascent in Meters)

Velocità Ascensionale Media (or average ascent speed).

leedorney | 1 year ago

1,563vam for 43min is quite a figure im on about 500 for about ½ a mile.. 😁

Lozcan | 1 year ago

Betting on him made it even more interesting !!

IanMSpencer | 1 year ago

Well it was easy for Pidcock, he didn't have to look for Froomey, he could just listen for the ting ting ting of his rival's discs, then wait for Chris to jump off to make an adjustment.

galibiervelo | 1 year ago
1 like

fantastic result for the kid!

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