Remco Evenepoel's commanding victory on stage four of the Volta ao Algarve yesterday had Belgian cycling fans believing that he could be a match for the Italian double world champion Filippo Ganna at major time trials this year; although it appears Evenepoel and his team Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl were less keen to give anything away about how he achieved it, as his power numbers - 392 watts over 38 minutes of riding - were quickly deleted from his Strava upload.
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The 22-year-old was in fine form yesterday, finishing 58 seconds ahead of Stefan Küng in second and 1:06 over rising British star Ethan Hayter of Ineos Grenadiers. In blustery conditions, Evenepoel average almost 51km/h over a 32km course, finishing in 37:49.
At the finish line Evenepoel claimed that this was his best time trial ever, with his numbers, feeling and position adding up to a perfectly dominant time trial performance. The Belgian publication Het Laatste Nieuws also claims that Evenepoel's Specialized Shiv has been optimised with shorter cranks and new TT extensions to get his his hands narrower, pushing his CdA (Coefficient of drag multiplied by frontal area) down even lower to improve aerodynamics.
It's already thought Evenepoel's position was superior to many riders in the World Tour, with EF Education's manager Jonathan Vaughters claiming last year that his underwhelming virtual racing performances suggested he was achieving better results on the road by being more aerodynamically efficient.
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Minutes after Evenepoel's Volta ao Algarve stage win was uploaded to Strava the power numbers were removed, with some of his followers commenting on the post asking if anyone knew what the wattage figures were. Luckily at least one was quick to grab a screenshot, with Eliott Aime posting the above to Twitter, showing that Evenepoel averaged 392 watts.
According to Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Evenepoel's weight is 61kg, which would mean the Belgian was pumping out an average of over 6.4 watts per kilo of bodyweight over the course of the race; and while that weight is approximate, it gives you an idea of what it takes to be one of the world's best time triallists.
To put that into perspective, recreational cyclists usually have an FTP of 2 to 3 w/kg, while a decent club cyclist can crank out 4 w/kg.
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Why did Evenepoel hide his power numbers?
Though some are more open about their efforts, you'll find the majority of world-class pro cyclists who upload rides to platforms such as Strava omit power data from their uploads, for training rides and races. The most likely explanation is that pro teams and their riders simply don't want to give anything away to competitors, even down to an approximate number to aim for.
Of course a rival couldn't hit the numbers without putting the work in, and would need more information such as Evenepoel's exact weight and his CdA to work out what was required to match his Volta ao Algarve performance. Any bonus information could be too much when it comes down to training in order to peak at Grand Tours and world championship events, though.
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Back in 2017, David Lappartient and some pros hit out at power meters, with the UCI President saying they make racing "sterile"; although at the time, the comments were thought to be in reference to Team Sky's dominance of road stages, controlling everything down to individual ramps on climbs by instructing riders to hit certain numbers in order to prevent attacks. For now, it looks like time trial specialists like Evenepoel will keep trying to hide those numbers so we're not completely sure what to expect of them on raceday...
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