What does it take to score solo victory at the Giro d’Italia? Unpacking Ben Healy’s winning power file
Here's how a 10W/kg attack, a perfectly paced time trial, and a slippery skinsuit landed Healy a sizzling debut grand tour win on stage 8 of the Giro.
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Looking at the skinsuited and TT-booted Ben Healy ahead of the Giro d’Italia‘s eighth stage Saturday, it was clear that aero truly is everything.
And judging by the Irish breakaway ace’s dazzling solo victory last weekend, he’s got the power to match his slippery position and optimized outfit.
Healy uncorked a sledgehammer 10W/kg attack and perfectly paced, aerodynamically optimized time trial to deliver the jewel in the crown of his still-young career on the roads into Fossombrone.
- Healy hits out for solo Giro win after Ardennes blitz
- What does it take to hit the podium in a Giro sprint? We dive into the power data
The 22-year-old’s Strava file from the Giro’s eighth stage makes for a masterpiece in escape artistry.
So let’s dive into that data to see what it takes to win one of the most exciting stages so far in this corsa rosa:
Healy, full stage (including neutral):
- Distance: 211km
- Elevation: 3,041m
- Time: 4:58:51
- Ave power: 259W
- Normalized power: 316W
- Work: 4,648 calories
In the break
Healy said he had highlighted the Giro’s hilly eighth stage as one he could win, and he didn’t miss his moment on a parcours that had “breakaway” scribbled all over it.
EF Eduction-Easypost’s brightest new star was quick to kick into the packed-out breakaway that formed over the first climb of the day in the first 20 minutes of racing.
And like almost any grand tour stage, the mayhem of hunting the early move was intense.
The battle for the break:
Healy cranked an average of 373W for 20 minutes in his fight for the selection, which per data from his Training Peaks, is almost directly at this threshold. Weighing in at around 65kg, that’s 5.7W/kg for the WorldTour sophomore.
The extract above shows the two moments where Healy ensured his breakaway opportunity.
Two 800W accelerations, one which measured his 5-second power peak for the whole stage, saw Healy’s stage-winning dream bubble to life.
And with a normalized power of 398W, Healy’s 20-minute hunt for the move proved both a leg-sapper and a lung-buster, pushing his heart rate toward its highest of the whole day – all while he was still digesting his breakfast.
Fully caffeinated Cappuccini: 600W attack blows apart the break
Healy saw some criticism last week after he launched a largely ineffectual attacking onslaught at the front of stage 4 into Lago Laceno.
The Irishman pivoted his strategy hard last weekend and instead uncorked one huge hammer blow to get his winning gap.
The double ascent of the short but savage Cappuccini hung heavy over Saturday’s stage, and Healy used its double-digit ramps to make the difference.
Kicking away on the Cappuccini:
- Time: 6:01
- Ave power: 436W (6.7W/kg) = ~117% FTP
- Normalized power: 474W
- Average heart rate: 165bpm
- Max one minute power: 646W (10W/kg)
Healy piled on from as soon as the Cappuccini pointed vertical with a six-minute VO2 max-level effort that peaked out with one minute at 646W/kg. For Healy – who went hungry through winter to shed more than 5kg – that’s 10W/kg.
Basically, he went into the red, then revved harder.
“Sometimes I get too excited and learned I need to kind of sit back and wait,” he said. “I took those lessons and applied them today. I put a big cross in the Garibaldi [Giro road book] for this stage as one where I could do something.”
It was an attack that blew all the break out of his wheel and gave Healy clear road for his 50km TT toward the finish line.
But intriguingly, Healy’s big move over the Cappuccini wasn’t the fastest of the day.
Damiano Caruso and Remco Evenepoel shared the Strava KoM after their second time over the gruesome goatpath.
Unfortunately, neither Caruso nor Evenepoel share their power data.
But Healy’s winning move over the official segment shown above saw him churn around 420W (6.5W/kg) for six and a half minutes. And even then, it was only good for a top-15 on the leaderboard.
It’s likely Evenepoel, Caruso, and the rest of the GC group would have hit up to 7W/kg in their all-attacking final to the stage.
Those are numbers made all the more mind-blowing given they were 200km deep into the eighth day of a foul and filthy opening phase of the corsa rosa.
Time trialing away from the chasers: 5W/kg for the win
Once Healy got his gap, there was no getting him back. Both the group of chasers and the peloton lost time to the Irishman after he powered away over the Cappuccini in what worked out as a perfectly paced tempo effort toward glory.
Healy’s heart rate rocketed in his red-hot uphill attack, but he kept things at a more steady beat once he went clear.
The Strava file below shows inevitable peaks and troughs in BPM while Healy piled on in his solo break, but crucially, there was none of the “cardiac drift” (an ever-increasing heart rate) that indicates a racer over their limit.
The 50km time trial to Giro glory:
- Time: 1:22:52
- Ave. speed: 36.7kph
- Ave power: 315W (4.8W/kg) = ~85% FTP
- Normalized power: 361W
- Average heart rate: 161bpm
- Average cadence: 93rpm
And beyond his simmering heart rate, Healy’s power numbers are a testament to his TT chops.
As a national time trial champion, the 22-year-old knows the numbers to hit, and he held them with aplomb Saturday. A 20-minute section at around 20km from the finish shows that when Healy wasn’t climbing or descending, he was only ever a half pedal stroke from ~300W in a power profile worthy of an indoor trainer ride.
“As soon as I got behind him in the team car, I was telling him where the road would pitch up, where he could recover,” EF sport director Tejay van Garderen said. “It was like I was doing a time trial with him.”
As an interesting comparator, Healy averaged 330W when he finished 42nd in his 44-minute “recovery” ride in the 35km time trial Sunday.
Yet Healy’s chase-defying 50km pursuit could have been about more than just watts.
The numbers of those chasing the aero afficianado show how his slippery skinsuit and overshoes, and his freedom to follow his own lines, might have made some difference.
Filippo Zana and Warren Barguil were two of the three that set out in pursuit of the flying Irishman. The twosome pushed similar 4.8W/kg numbers to the tucked-in and time-trialing Healy, but raced around 1kph slower.
- Time: 1:25:48
- Average speed: 35.6kph
- Average power: 314W (4.8W/kg)
- Normalized power: 350W
- Time: 1:26:36
- Average speed: 35.6kph
- Average power: 296W (4.8W/kg)
- Normalized power: 337W
It seems Healy’s all-aero approach Saturday likely contributed to serving the Irishman his biggest win to date.
“These past couple of months have been an absolute whirlwind,” Healy said at the finish. “To top it off with this … it’s just insane really.”
Kudos to you, Ben Healy.
Ben Healy. You get the TDG’s breakaway seal of approval. My hat goes off to you. Chapeau.
— Thomas De Gendt (@DeGendtThomas) May 13, 2023