The Difference between Wet and Dry Paris-Roubaix | Power Analysis

The 2021 edition of Paris-Roubaix took place in October, featuring extremely muddy Autumn conditions whilst the 2022 edition in its normal April slot was bone dry. This year’s race was the fastest ever edition, won by INEOS’ classics specialist Dylan van Baarle. After the big win, the Dutch rider surprisingly uploaded all of his data on Strava, including power and heart rate, which he usually hides. Let’s look deeper into what it took to win the fastest Paris-Roubaix ever and how that compares to the wet edition of last year.

Van Baarle’s Winning Move

Paris-Roubaix is not usually the race where riders’ power records are broken, which is clearly visible when comparing Mathieu van der Poel’s Ronde van Vlaanderen and Paris-Roubaix power data from 2022. Probably it is due to the sapping effect of the cobbles in Roubaix, which drain energy out of riders when they hit hard sectors at full-speed. There are cobbles also in Ronde van Vlaanderen, but they are not as harsh and it is easier to produce big watts on the cobbled climbs.

Van Baarle averaged his biggest watts during the last hour of the race. He attacked with 29 km to go from the chasing group, slipping away from Van der Poel, Van Aert and other favourites. When Van Baarle bridged to Mohorič, Devriendt and Lampaert, he needed to push an enormous 437 watts for almost 5 minutes to do so. 

Van Baarle attacks and bridges to leaders, then goes solo

After he completed the bridge across, he briefly rested to save some energy prior to the Camphin-en-Pevele sector, where dropped Matej Mohorič and Yves Lampaert, averaging 438 watts for 2:39. He quickly got a big gap and went into time-trial mode pushing 390 watts until the Roubaix velodrome. It is interesting to see that Van Baarle did not need to do any huge acceleration to go clear as his maximum power during the last part of the race was 500 watts.

Van Baarle Strava data

This suggests two possible things. Firstly, Van Baarle’s timing of his attack on the asphalt section was impeccable, carrying speed from behind whilst the group slowed down and secondly, he is efficient on the cobbled sectors, being able to ride away from other strong riders like Lampaert and Mohoric without a huge acceleration.

2022 vs 2021 Paris-Roubaix

2022 Paris-Roubaix was the fastest edition in the race’s history due to dry and hot conditions and a crosswind/tailwind. Dylan van Baarle averaged 45.792 km/h for 257.2 kilometres. On the other hand, the 2021 edition, which was extremely muddy and in rainy conditions, was way slower. Sonny Colbrelli averaged 42.719 km/h for 257.7 kilometres.

Paris-Roubaix 2021 mud fest

If we compare the data of 2022 winner Van Baarle and 2021 runner up Florian Vermeersch, we can see the huge divergence in speeds as the riders reached the hardest cobbled sectors of the race. Van Baarle was more than 13 minutes quicker from the Arenberg cobble sector to Roubaix, which is 93.5 kilometres:

  • Van Baarle (77 kg): 2:08:00, 353w, 377w NP, 43.9 km/h
  • Vermeersch (85 kg): 2:23:39, 350w, 374w NP, 39.1 km/h
VERMEERSCH Florian (BEL) of LOTTO SOUDAL pictured during 118th Paris-Roubaix (1.UWT) A one day race between Compiegne and Roubaix (257KM) – photo NV/PN/Cor Vos © 2021

Below is a side by side comparison between both rider’s time and power on every cobble sectors. In 2021 there were four different sectors at the start, so the data from those sectors is not included.

Dylan van Baarle 2022 vs Florian Vermeersch 2021 on the cobble sectors
  • Troisvilles – Inchy (3*). Van Baarle (77 kg): 3:05, 300 watts (3.9 w/kg) vs Vermeersch (85 kg): 3:42, 358 watts (4.21 w/kg)
  • Viesly – Quievy (3*). 2:23, 239w (3.10 w/kg) vs 3:03, 366w, (4.31 w/kg)
  • Quievy – Saint Python (4*). 6:11, 324w (4.21 w/kg) vs 6:07, 399w (4.69 w/kg)
  • Saint Python (2*). 1:59, 451w (5.86 w/kg) vs 2:13, 470w, (5.53 w/kg)
  • Vertain – Saint Martin sur Ecaillon (3*). 3:02, 456w (5.92 w/kg)
  • Haussy (2*). 1:13, 368w (4.78 w/kg)
  • Saulzoir – Verchain Maugre (2*). 2:00, 229w (2.97 w/kg)
  • Verchain Maugre – Querenaing (3*). 2:44, 366w (4.75 w/kg)
  • Querenaing – Maing (3*). 3:12, 224w (2.91 w/kg) vs 3:56, 358w (4.21 w/kg)
  • Maing – Monchaux sur Ecaillon (3*). 2:09, 337w (4.38 w/kg) vs 2:38, 437w (5.14 w/kg)
  • Haveluy – Wallers (4*). 3:49, 307w (3.99 w/kg) vs 4:24, 433w (5.09 w/kg)
  • Trouee d’Arenbeg (5*). 3:26, 383w (4.97 w/kg) vs 3:48, 457w (5.38 w/kg)
  • Wallers – Helesmes (3*). 2:18, 336w (4.36 w/kg) vs 2:37, 432w (5.08 w/kg)
  • Hornaing a Wandignies (4*). 5:29, 352w (4.57 w/kg) vs 5:45, 369 watts (4.34 w/kg)
  • Warlaing a Brillon (3*). 3:31, 368w (4.78 w/kg) vs 3:52, 398w (4.68 w/kg)
  • Tilloy a Sars-et-Rosieres (4*). 3:25, 459w (5.96 w/kg) vs 4:19, 379w (4.46 w/kg)
  • Beuvry-la-Foret a Orchies (3*). 2:03, 341w (4.43 w/kg) vs 2:20, 464w (5.46 w/kg)
  • Orchies (3*). 2:18, 376w (4.88 w/kg) vs 2:37, 409w (4.81 w/kg)
  • Auchy-lez-Orchies a Bersee (4*). 3:54, 430w (5.58 w/kg) vs 5:24, 397w (4.67 w/kg)
  • Mons-en-Pevele (5*). 4:43, 427w (5.55 w/kg) vs 5:55, 412w (4.85 w/kg)
  • Merignies a Avelin (2*). 0:51, 301w (3.91 w/kg) vs 1:01, 339w (3.99 w/kg)
  • Pont-Thibaut a Ennevelin (3*). 2:00, 423w (5.49 w/kg) vs 2:07, 374w (4.4 w/kg)
  • Templeuve (L’Epinette) (1*). 0:24, 367w (4.77 w/kg) vs 0:28, 376w (4.42 w/kg)
  • Templeuve (Moulin-de-Vertain) (2*). 0:47, 308w (4.00 w/kg) vs 0:57, 265w (3.11 w/kg)
  • Cysoing a Bourghelles (3*). 1:58, 425w (5.52 w/kg) vs 2:23, 357w (4.2 w/kg)
  • Bourghelles a Wannehein (3*). 1:41, 412w (5.35 w/kg) vs 1:55, 414w (4.87 w/kg)
  • Camphin-en-Pevele (4*). 2:39, 438w, (5.69 w/kg) vs 3:19, 435w (5.12 w/kg)
  • Carrefour de l’Arbre (5*). 3:12, 416w (5.40 w/kg) vs 3:53, 400w (4.71 w/kg)
  • Gruson (2*). 1:23, 376w (4.88 w/kg) vs 1:49, 359w (4.22 w/kg)
  • Willems a Hem (3*). 2:05, 397w (5.16 w/kg) vs 2:13, 387w (4.55 w/kg)
  • Roubaix (Espace Crupelandt) (1*). 0:23 vs 0:25, 134w (1.58 w/kg)

Van Baarle was faster on almost every sector except Quievy – Saint Python (Van Baarle 6:11 vs Vermeersch 6:07).

The biggest differences were on the Auchy-lez-Orchies a Bersee (3:54 vs 5:24) and Mons-en-Pevele (4:43 vs 5:55), which follow each other, which is understandable given that Auchy-lez-Orchies is where Van Baarle attacked and on Mons-en-Pevele Wout van Aert launched a huge offensive.

It is worth pointing out the Beuvry-la-Foret a Orchies sector. Despite pushing 341 watts, Van Baarle did it in 2:03, while Vermeesche with 464 watts, was 17 seconds slower. The dry conditions allowed riders to ride in the faster non-cobbled gutters much more frequently, including in some of the hardest sectors. This is visible in the video above when Van Baarle attacked. In contrast, many of the gutters last year contained standing water, with just mud beneath them, a recipe for crashing if the riders dared try and escape the cobbles.

Both editions of Paris-Roubaix are special in their own right, with INEOS coming close to winning last year with Moscon before his mechanical misfortune. They were deserved winners this year, with brilliant tactics from Van Baarle as well as legs strong enough to win the fastest ever edition of the race.

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