The 2022 season has been awash with races for almost two months straight, with plenty of high level climbing performances meriting an early Top 10 ranking. In this list only four climbing performances are from World-Tour races and perhaps you might have missed some of the under the radar ones, which came at races like Tour of Oman and Gran Camiño.
First, these rankings always require some housekeeping and definitional clarification. Only climbs greater than 5 minutes duration are counted as a climb. As all of the performances are at different durations above that 5 minute threshold, they are then ranked primarily according to a w/kg x duration curve, but things like altitude and how hard a race was before the climb (for which we used spent kj/kg/h) are all factored in on an admittedly subjective basis. To keep it interesting, only the best rider on each climb is considered, otherwise we might see Jumbo-Visma lock out the top 5 positions on one climb in an updated version of this article later in the year.
It is impossible to include every good climbing performance. Here are some of the efforts that were close to the Top 10 in a random order:
- Ben O’Connor, Volta a Catalunya stage 3, La Molina, 6.09 w/kg, 20:44 min
- Joao Almeida, Volta a Catalunya stage 4, Boí Taüll, 5.73 w/kg, 32:48 min
- Luke Plapp, Volta a Catalunya stage 6, Coll de les Llerbes Mussara, 6.61 w/kg, 24:18 min
- Remco Evenepoel, Volta a Valenciana stage 1, Torralba del Pinar, 6.80 w/kg, 10:38 min
- Tobias Johannessen, Etoile de Besseges stage 4, Le Mont Bouquet, 6.67 w/kg, 13:29 min
- Ivan Sosa, Gran Camiño stage 3, Alto de Moura, 6.15 w/kg, 21:18 min
- Sergio Higuita, Volta a Algarve stage 5, Malhao, 7.21 w/kg, 7:07 min
10. Jan Hirt, Jabal al Akhdar
Tour of Oman stage 5, the Jabal al Akhdar climb (5.7 km; 10.37%).
6.35 w/kg for 19:39.
Easy difficulty before the climb (11.57 kj/kg/h for 3:15h).
The Intermarché train with Rein Taaramäe did a great work setting up Hirt’s attack. Maybe the watts for the whole climb do not look impressive, but that is because it was paced in the first part fairly easily. Hirt attacked with 2 km to go and did almost 7 w/kg for the last 8 minutes on a very steep section. His attack was so insane that the leader’s jersey wearer Fausto Masnada completely broke and lost 1:48 min to the Czech climber.
9. Aleksandr Vlasov, Maigmo Tibi
Volta a Valenciana stage 3, Maigmo Tibi (5.6km; 10.05%).
6.43 w/kg for 18:45.
Hard difficulty before the climb (14.12 kj/kg/h for 3:45h).
The race in Valencia from early February already seems like a long time ago, where Vlasov on the controversial gravel section annihilated everyone and secured his first pro GC win. Remco Evenepoel’s legs blew up completely in the last kilometre as he lost 41 seconds to the Russian. However as we saw in later races like Paris-Nice, Vlasov since the end of the 2020 season continues to struggle on climbs longer than 20 minutes.
8. Adam Yates, Jebel Hafeet
UAE Tour stage 7, Jebel Hafeet (11.0 km; 6.76%).
6.33 w/kg for 26:19.
As always, incredibly easy difficulty before the climb (9.36 kj/kg/h for 2:58h).
Although Tadej Pogačar won the stage, he drafted more and produced according to @naichacacycling calculations around 0.05 w/kg less than Yates, who needed to gain time on the Slovenian. As Jebel Hafeet is not incredibly steep and INEOS did not have resources to set-up Yates’ attack, Pogačar could not be dropped and clung on to Yates in a repeat of the 2021 edition.
7. Brandon McNulty, Saint Romain de Lerps
Faun Ardeche Classic, Saint Romain de Lerps (6.16 km; 7.51%).
6.50 w/kg for 16:07.
Hard difficulty before the climb (14.54 kj/kg/h for 4:00h).
It is the only entry from a one-day race and an incredibly hard race at that. In this French semi-classic on Opening Weekend, McNulty escaped from the peloton with Mauri Vansevenant, Lennard Kämna and Sepp Kuss. The American easily dropped them on the 16 minute climb and soloed to an impressive victory, during an incredible run of form, which later included a Paris-Nice stage victory. McNulty’s average power for the last 52 minutes of the race was 396 watts (5.74 w/kg), which is insane, but in this list only the climbing performance is taken into account, not the whole race effort.
6. Nairo Quintana, Montagne de Lure
Tour de la Provence stage 3, Montagne de Lure (13.32 km, 6.58%).
6.06 w/kg for 32:44.
Medium difficulty before the climb (12.48 kj/kg/h for 3:51h).
It was the first race in 2022 where Nairo Quintana showed his great form, which he has kept for almost two months. Only Julian Alaphilippe could follow Nairoman’s attack, but that was a big mistake as the Frenchman blew up when Quintana hit him with his trademark second surge. Quintana after the attack did 6.55 w/kg for 9:55 and took not only the stage, but the general classification of this beautiful early season race for the second time.
5. Nairo Quintana, Col d’Eze
Tour des Alpes Maritimes et du Var stage 2, Col d’Eze (5.38 km, 7.79%).
6.78 w/kg for 14:07.
Hard difficulty before the climb (14.29 kj/kg/h for 3:45h).
Perhaps the best performance so far this year in a losing effort. The penultimate stage of Tour des Alpes Maritimes et du Var did not have a mountain top finish, with a false flat downhill section after the crest of the climb. Quintana was able to put 11 seconds into Tim Wellens on the climb, even as the Belgian did 6.66 w/kg for 14:18 and broke multiple personal power records for various time durations. He eventually caught the Colombian on the descent and outsprinted him for the stage (although Nairoman would take his revenge the next day).
4. Primož Roglič, Col de Turini
Paris-Nice stage 7, Col de Turini (14.71 km, 7.48%).
6.05 w/kg, 39:58.
Medium difficulty before the climb (13.11 kj/kg/h for 3:45h).
Primož Roglič could have pushed even more watts as he did not go full-gas in the last part of the climb after he and Daniel Martinez were caught by Nairo Quintana and Simon Yates. While standing still, they wasted a lot of time and the watts dropped to below 6w/kg for some minutes. Despite this, still a high level performance for nearly 40 minutes, superior to the Paris-Nice queen stage last year on La Colmiane, which was 5.92 w/kg for a similar duration. Roglič, as usual, was unbeatable in the final 200 metre sprint against GC competition sans Pogacar.
3. Michael Woods, Mirador de Ezaro
Gran Camiño stage 2, Mirador de Ezaro (1.8 km, 14.61%).
7.71 w/kg for 6:58.
Medium difficulty before the climb (12.74 kj/kg/h for 4:30h).
This new Galician stage race contained the perfect stage profile and finish for Woods. An extremely steep 7-minute VO2 Max climb. The Canadian was flying as he beat Alejandro Valverde by 16 seconds and 3rd place Ruben Fernandez by 37 seconds on a climb less than 7 minutes long. Joaquim Rodriguez in 2012 was 11 seconds faster than Woods on Mirador de Ezaro. Despite this insane effort, Woods did not win the GC of Gran Camiño, losing the leader’s jersey to Valverde in the last stage time-trial, a similar experience to his GC loss at Tour de Romandie last year.
2. Tadej Pogačar, Monte Carpegna
Tirreno-Adriatico stage 6, Monte Carpegna (6.0 km, 9.9%).
6.50 w/kg, 19:29.
Very hard difficulty before the climb (14.02 kj/kg/h for 5:00h).
It was a hard stage, but perfect for Pogačar, who can perform at an exceptional level after tough days and in cold conditions. No one even tried to follow the Slovenian’s devastating attack on the second ascent of Marco Pantani’s training climb. The next fastest climbers were Landa, Mas, Vingegaard and Porte, who lost to Pogačar 1 minute and 24 seconds in a very short period of time as they surrendered and fought for second place after the Slovenian’s move.
1. Simon Yates, Col d’Eze
Paris-Nice stage 8, Col d’Eze (6.04 km, 7.83%).
6.57 w/kg, 16:51.
Very hard difficulty before the climb. The kj/kg/h is unknown as no one from the leading riders uploaded their ride on strava, but analysing numbers from the chasing group riders, it was undoubtably an extremely hard day in cold and wet conditions.
Simon Yates deserves the first spot after he dropped Primož Roglič and Nairo Quintana into a headwind, who are arguably two of the best three climbers in the world right now alongside Tadej Pogačar, when taking into account consistency (something Yates lacks). Jumbo-Visma made the stage hard from the start and before the Col d’Eze climb it was a group of just four riders after Martinez had attacked on the penultimate climb, the Cote de Peille. In gloves, a neckwarmer and a jacket, Yates attacked on the steep part and took such a gap that he was also able to claim the stage victory, despite van Aert’s best efforts to chase him down on the descent with Roglič on the wheel.
We have plotted all of these top 10 performances on a graph below, with trendlines drawn from historical levels. In this graph Michael Wood’s Mirador de Ezaro is not included as it is too short and hard to compare it with longer efforts. As you can see, every effort in the list that is above 10 minutes is between Not Great, Not Terrible and Nuclear trendlines. We will see if a rider can go close to the Mutant trendline at some point this year, which requires, for example, 6.75w/kg for 20 minutes duration
With the numbers given (unless typo?) doesn’t this make Plapp’s effort the best of these?
I think Plapp’s effort was on the first climb of the day of that stage (like 30km in), so it’s ranked lower than these. The top ten performances mostly involved multiple hours of difficult racing before starting the climb.
I’m the author of this article. You’re right. Plapp did his monster effort at the start of a stage completely fresh, but possibly it still might be in Top 10. It is really hard to evaluate Plapp’s effort. It is impossible to evaluate also mountain time-trials because they would not do near those watts after 3-4 hours racing
I DM’d LR yesterday about this too!
I suspect that it’s a little lower than that though. I just tried to reverse engineer using his Strava details + climbbybike.com + assumed 72(+7 bike) kg and I got 6.3 W/kg. Caveat: I’m amateur at this estimation game and there are quite a few assumptions in there, particularly trusting Strava as his and Carapaz data seem wrong…
But as a sense check, these riders came in next and had power data + weight on internet (46s, 47s, 54s slower respectively): Ben O’Connor: 410W / 66kg = 6.21 W/kg; Carlos Verona: 425W / 68kg = 6.25 W/kg; Sébastien Reichenbach: 408W / 64 kg = 6.38 W/kg (suspect he’s ~2kg heavier).
These guys have power but no internet weights… guestimating those (40s, 48s slower respectively): Javier Romo Oliver: 429W / 69? kg = 6.22 W/kg; Tobias Johannessen (enemy of the LRCP): 378 W / 61? kg = 6.20 W/kg?
-> Seems like 6.2 W/kg seems about right for the chasers (climbbybike has it just under) so 6.3-6.4 W/kg for Plapp perhaps seems about right. That would then move it from almost Mutant to sub Nuclear, and with it being at the start of the stage, arguably not quite top 10. If it was 6.6+W/kg for 24+ mins it would be top 3 in my books despite it being at the start of the stage. Even with the draft, this would make the ride by Higuita and Carapaz even more impressive!
You’re ignoring the most important part: drafting. Plapp paced for the whole climb and it was a 6% climb. Wind also is important
Fair enough gents cheers for the explanation! Mad numbers for someone riding as a domestique this season though regardless!
What would Contador 2009 Verbier be?