We know that genes alone contribute “more to sporting success than training, nutrition, coaching, tactics and any other interventions combined.”
So it’s really all about physiology. It’s common to see that the parents of pro cyclists were also successful endurance athletes of some kind.
We can assume everyone at the starting line of the Tour de France naturally possess high oxygen uptake, power-to-weight, peak-power and big hearts and arteries.
But when it comes to winning bike races, a lot of the analysis focuses on random stuff. Their character, their past performances, their likes and dislikes. “He’s very strong.” “He rides very offensively.” “He’s really thinks on his feet.” That sort of thing.
In the ATP (Association of Tennis professionals) there is an ‘Under Pressure Rating©‘ leaderboard calculated by adding the percentage of break points converted and saved, percentage of tie-breaks won and percentage of deciding sets won.
Photo: Cycling Tips
What would an ‘Under Pressure’ rating look like for a pro cyclist? Winning a Grand Tour by a few seconds takes a remarkable amount of physical and psychological strength, but here are a few other ideas:
- Stillness in the body
- Low number of crashes or near crashes. I’d be interested in how comfortable people look to be around this person in the peloton. For example, Roglic is an incredible cyclist but no one wants to ride behind him and he frequently crashes himself out of races.
- How often brakes are used (not including descending)
- Avg. descent speed
- Ability to hide pain (facial expressions)
- Ability to take off jacket, accept food, multi-tasking.
- Performance in wet
- Performance in chaotic races (eg. Roobaix)
- How often they do stupid stuff like take the wrong turn
- Accuracy of power output if they are riding to a target
Dylan Van Baarle, Tadej Pogacar Stefan Kung. The kind of guys you throw a banana at while they are descending at 100km/h and they’d laugh.
Notice I don’t mention anything about winning or peak power. Winning a race is function of many smaller behaviors and I’m interested in those little things adding up over months and years. This is also not about designing a ‘robotic’ cyclist, rather a clearer definition of a trustworthy/reliable cyclist.
Side note: These characteristics are probably more likely to be found in domestiques rather that star riders.