Volta a Valenciana ended with a huge upset from veteran Rui Costa who not only won the final stage but also the overall thanks to his exploits in a cat and mouse final few kilometres. In this article, we will analyse in particular the decisive climb, La Frontera (5.1 km, 9.22%), where the best climbers rode away from the peloton after an hour of racing, doing great watts for early February and maybe even setting their all-time bests.
It was a short stage with only 94.6 kilometres and the pivotal climb cresting with 45 kilometres remaining, almost all of which then comprised of a descent and flat roads. The GC riders had been riding for only around 70 minutes before they started climbing up La Frontera, bringing fresh legs after barely spending 1000 kilojoules before the steep climb – always a recipe for high watts.
Bora-Hansgrohe lit up the climb with Bob Jungels and Matteo Fabbro. They were riding for the defending champion Aleksandr Vlasov who would probably have preferred a hard uphill finish like Maigmo Tibi, which featured in last year’s Valenciana. After his teammates emptied their tanks, Vlasov was pulling the GC group up the steep La Frontera for quite a while, which is why he pushed 6.7 w/kg for 15 minutes and 7 seconds based on our estimations. That is 0.09 w/kg more than Ciccone, Bilbao, Geoghegan Hart and Soler, who largely sat in the draft.
This is a great performance for February as it is slightly below the yellow Grand Tour winner trend-line. All the climbing efforts from this edition of Valenciana are the red dots in the graph below, and you can see that La Frontera is way above the rest. As mentioned previously, the riders had fresh legs after a fairly easy first hour of the stage and Bora-Hansgrohe did their best from the base of the climb, holding a high steady tempo, which is crucial for high w/kg performances.
After the race, Tao Geoghegan Hart posted in his Instagram story that he averaged 475 watts for 15 minutes and 20 seconds on La Frontera. In the next story, he revealed his weight - 68 kilograms, which meant he did 6.99 w/kg according to his power meter. Our calculations are normalised for 60-kilogram riders which means Geoghegan Hart's 60 kg etalon power for La Frontera would be 7.13 w/kg if using the numbers from his Instagram story.
This performance would be between the Generational (red) and All Time Top 25 (pink) trend-lines. Even with fresh legs, 7.13 w/kg for 15 minutes would have been one of the greatest performances in the 21st century as most of the high w/kg efforts happened between 1994 and 1999. Vlasov was also not drafting for the whole time, which meant his etalon power would be even higher, at around 7.22 w/kg for 15 minutes (+0.09 w/kg higher than Tao's) - one of the greatest 15-minute performances of all time.
But of course, this is too good to be true and in Valenciana Stage 5, the leading group still contained multiple GC riders and they did not push all-time great numbers. Geoghegan Hart's teammate Thymen Arensman's Strava power data shows he pushed close to 500 watts on the climb with a Strava input weight of 69.5 kilograms. Arensman suggested on Twitter after the stage that he still has 2-3kg to lose before being at his ideal race weight, but to be even close to our estimations, Arensman would need to currently weigh around 77.5 kilograms, which is of course unlikely.
The other scenario is that INEOS have unreliable power meters that over-read and/or are inconsistent. If that is not the case, then the INEOS riders' published power numbers suggest they are significantly stronger than Chris Froome at his peak, even in a February preparation race above their target race weight. Regardless, an interesting final stage in Valenciana, with Geoghegan Hart's overall point in his post remaining true - almost all racing requires a top level year round.