What does it take to hit the podium in a Giro d’Italia sprint stage? We dive into the power data

Strava shows the 6W/kg climbs and 1,500W sprints needed to score in even one of the 'easy' stages of a grand tour.

Photo: Getty Images,

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Thought stages 2 and 3 of this year’s Giro d’Italia looked easy?

Hours of endless tapping in the bunch, a bit of action in the final hour, then a bunch sprint. Couldn’t have been that hard for those thoroughbred pros of the cosa rosa peloton, could it?

Think again.

Power data shows the 6W/kg selections, 1,500W sprints, and thousands of calories burned in what may work out as the two most straightforward days of the entire Giro d’Italia.

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Let’s dive into the Strava files of the podium finishers and protagonists to discover what it takes to be competitive in a grand tour sprint stage:

In the bunch, in the break

Evenepoel and the peloton had a mostly straightforward day in the saddle on stage 2. (Photo: Chris Auld / VN)

Stages 2 and 3 of this year’s Giro opened out per the bunch sprint script.

With the sprinter teams eyeing their opportunity, non-threatening groups were allowed the gap and left to dangle out front for most of the day.

Stage 2’s blueprint bunch sprint stage saw five riders go out almost at the flag, and the scenario repeated Monday in the snoozey-then-spicey stage to Melfi, won by Michael Matthews.

Riders cruising in the bunch barely broke a sweat for much of either day.

Larry Warbasse averaged 169W for the 5 hours 20 minutes of stage 2, and his compatriot Joe Dombrowski didn’t pedal much harder, tapping up a 184W average for the same time.

At around 230W normalized power, those rides are toward the very bottom of both the U.S. riders’ zone 2, “all-day” power.

Dombrowski would have been saving his legs for the mountains to come in his stage 2 cruise.

The third stage saw a similar procession in the peloton after two riders from Team Corratec tapped away.

Warbasse crystal-cranked at an average 140W for the flat first 180km of the 220km marathon, and rising sprinter Kaden Groves did only a touch more.

But that’s not to say life in the bunch is “easy.”

Both Warbasse and Dombrowski burned 3,000-4,000 calories and kicked out 1,000W sprints in the fights for position and surges out of corners of the packed peloton.

Dombrowski total stage 2 — in the bunch:

  • Average power: 184W
  • Normalized power: 232W (3.41 W/kg)
  • Max power: 1,067W
  • Workload: 3,478kj
  • Average heart rate: 115bpm
  • Max heart rate: 177bpm

Warbasse total stage 2 – in the bunch:

  • Average power: 169W
  • Normalized power: 228W (3.40W/kg)
  • Max power: 1,112W
  • Workload: 3,269kj

What about being in the break?

Monday’s third stage saw teammates Veljko Stojnić and Alexander Konychev put Corratec into the spotlight.

The two swapped turns at the front for the opening 170km in what was a long, lonesome two-up TT. Stojnić averaged 295W, or 4W/kg, for four hours of steady-state tapping.

Stojnić went on a long two-up TT with his Corratec teammate on stage 3. The heart rate lines clearly show when he was on the front and when he sat in.

But being in the break isn’t all a zone 3 tempo ride for the T.V.

Check out the wild spikes in heart rate and power in the Strava file of Thomas Champion. The Frenchman bust into the five-rider escape in stage 2 in a day that became a series of frantic uphill sprints in the race for the prized azzura KoM jersey.

Champion’s quest for the KoM points on stage 2 was a far wilder affair than Stojnić’s steady ride at the front.

Champion was pipped by compatriot Paul Lapeira on both prize-giving climbs (at around 90 and 130km on the above), but he sure didn’t make it easy for his rivals.

Eight and then 10-minute efforts at ~400W with peaks just shy of 1,200W put the Cofidis climber second in the mountain rankings at the end of a long, hard day at the front of the race.

Burly sprinters in the 6w/kg club

Zana lit up the pace over the stage 3 climbs. (Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images)

The numbers got way hotter in the decisive selection of stage 3, and shed light on how sleek even the burliest of sprinters need to be.

A double-ramp ascent of a cat 3 and cat 4 climb deep in the stage shaped Monday’s ride into Melfi. The breakaway was blown away on the grinding uphills as Trek Segafredo, Alpecin-Deceuninck, and Jayco AlUla turned the throttle for their sprinters.

Alpecin-Deceuninck speedster Groves belied his branding as a pure bunch sprinter to hang tough through a total of 10km of climbing, and it must have hurt.

The hefty 76kg Aussie hit 6W/kg for almost 15 minutes, saw just three minutes of descending recovery, then bust out another 6W/kg effort, this time for nearly seven minutes.

The two 450+W climbs were more than 10 percent over Groves’ FTP – right in the vomit-inducing VO2 max zone.

Who said sprinters can’t climb? Groves hit 6W/kg for nearly 15 minutes in the first selection.

Groves: Climb 1

  • Time: 14:27
  • Average power: 455W (6.0W/kg)
  • Max power: 757W

Groves: Climb 2

  • Time: 6:40
  • Average power: 461W (6.1W/kg)
  • Max power: 720W

Jayco-Alula’s Italian champ Filippo Zana was at the front of the carnage through the double-header climb.

Zana piled on at almost 390W – 6W/kg for the feathery climber – for more than 26 minutes to decimate the bunch and set Matthews on course for a winning gallop.

“He put a lot of people under big pressure on that climb, including me,” Matthews admitted.

For context, GC outsider Santiago Buitrago was one of the fastest over both ascents, and he hit 6.5W/kg both times, but he didn’t have a sprint or leadout to worry about.

David Dekker was one of the sprinters that was put in the hurt box and dropped over those uphills.

David Dekker’s data is a picture of pain (check the heart rate peak at the vertical line) as he gets dropped out of the front group.

His Strava file shows him chasing the wheels at more than 500W for a couple of minutes at the base of the climb and hitting a heart rate peak for the day.

He either blew up or let the group go soon afterward, as shown by his declining heart rate and power charts above.

When a 1,500W sprint isn’t enough

Groves kicked more than 1,500W when he finished third behind Milan on stage 2.

Groves must be wondering what it takes to get a lucky break at this year’s Giro.

The 24-year-old placed third on both stages 2 and 3, even after he uncorked a 1,527W sprint Sunday and hit a 1,345W peak after his climbing feats Monday.

Groves had around 30 minutes to let the lactic burn out after he made the selection on the stage 3 climbs before a technical town-center final had him hit similar 400+W for four minutes.

Groves opened up early in the small group of puncheur-sprinters with a 52-second, 611W sprint that proved only enough for the third step of the podium.

Groves: Stage 3 final 3km

  • Time: 3:58
  • Average power: 440W (5.8W/kg)
  • Max power: 1,345W (17.7W/kg)

Groves: Stage 3 sprint (3rd place):

  • Time: 52s
  • Average power: 611W (8.0W/kg)
  • Max power: 1,345W (17.7W/kg)
Groves punched out a 1345W sprint on stage 3, despite his efforts on the climbs before.

Think Groves’ stage 3 sprint was something?

On fresher legs after a straightforward day, he unleashed a one-minute effort close to 10W/Kg when he blasted to third behind Dekker and Jonathan Milan on stage 2.

It’s pretty wild to think Groves’ 1,527W (20W/kg) peak only proved good for third best that day.

Groves: Stage 2 sprint (3rd place)

  • Time: 56s
  • Average power: 774W (10.2W/kg)
  • Max power: 1,527W (20.1W/kg)

Dekker: Stage 2 sprint (2nd place)

  • Time: 55s
  • Average power: 635W (7.9W/kg)
  • Max power: 1,329W (16.6W/kg)

Intriguingly, Dekker went one step higher than Groves on stage 2, despite punching out lower power.

But the numbers should be taken with a dash of Italian table salt – positioning, drafting, and the use of different power meters all make a direct like-for-like problematic.

Sadly, stage 2 winner Milan and stage 3 winner Matthews didn’t share their power data.

But it’s a guarantee their numbers would have been even bigger than the size of their pasta plate later that night.

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