High ᵉW/Kg performances are the norm in 2023 and Tour of the Alps is not an exception despite not being a WorldTour race. Lennard Kämna won the longest mountain top finish of the week, pushing by far the best watts in his career. It was a career day for other climbers too, many of whom are at this race preparing for the Giro d’Italia.
It was the perfect day for high level climbing performances, with cool conditions. The easy stage finished with the San Valentino climb (15.4 km, 7.5%) which was great for pushing high watts as it is regular, long and starts at a low altitude. The stage before it was not particularly hard as the peloton did 12.54 kj/kg/h for 3:30h. Most of the fatigue was accumulated on the Lago di Cei climb which topped out 38 km before the finishing mountain. The peloton did close to 6.00 ᵉw/kg on it for 23 minutes.
It was a tailwind up San Valentino which helped the breakaway. The light blue sections are straight tailwind and there was plenty of it on San Valentino. The last survivor of the day’s break, Joe Dombrowski, was caught with only 3 km to go by Lennard Kämna and Jefferson Alexander Cepeda who attacked from the GC group after the pacing of Bora-Hansgrohe. The tailwind also benefitted these attackers, as the drafting benefit is not as big as it would be in a headwind for example.
Kämna (+0:59) and Cepeda (+0:40) had lost some time in previous stages but INEOS could not afford to let the gap grow too big. With 1.8 km to go after Thomas, De Plus and Sivakov had emptied their tanks, the winner of the first two stages Tao Geoghegan Hart attacked with Haig, Carthy, Fortunato and Vlasov in the draft.
Geoghegan Hart’s efforts were not enough to catch the leading duo, with Cepeda doing all of the pacing seemingly without looking to Kämna to pull. However, as is customary for him in the last few years, the German attacked Cepeda in the last kilometre when the gradients were not steep after saving some energy in the legs drafting for several kilometres. From the GC group, Kämna’s teammate Aleksandr Vlasov passed Cepeda at the last moment to take second place but in the end, the 40-minute climb did not change much in the GC. Felix Gall after yesterday’s fall finished 66 seconds behind Cepeda and fell to 10th position in overall. It was a terrible day for Ivan Ramiro Sosa. The Colombian lost more than 3 minutes and dropped from 5th to 17th place.
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As mentioned previously all the conditions were perfect for high ᵉw/kg performances. Even the temperature was 15°C which is in the range of the perfect temperature for climbing. Cepeda was close to hitting the red generational trend-line but he missed it by a very small margin. Due to the drafting, based on our estimations, Kämna produced slightly less w/kg than Cepeda despite finishing four seconds ahead of him on the stage – the Ecuadorian produced 6.28 ᵉw/kg for 40:35 min.
20-year-old Max Poole and 21-year-old Matthew Riccitello performed exceptionally for their age and pushed 6.13 ᵉw/kg for 41:03 min. Not many U23 eligible riders in history have ever pushed that much ᵉw/kg on climbs, especially on 40-minute ones. The Tour de l’Avenir mountains stages won by Cian Uijtdebroeks in dominant fashion in the summer of 2022 were not as high as this level purely on a w/kg basis.
San Valentino so far is the longest climb in 2023, as the higher roads begin to thaw in early Spring. Cepeda's performance was exceptional and he almost produced the eigth generational performance this season (perhaps it needs a new name). In 2023 riders are performing at such a level that hitting the red trend-line is not such a surprise now but from 2014 to 2018 there were zero generational climbing performances in the Sky era. In 2023 alone there are seven so far and the Grand Tour season has not even started yet.
Kārlis Ozols (@CyclingGraphs)