we explain why the performances of Vingegaard and Pogacar are exceptional

It’s not in this article that you’ll know if the two riders flying over the Tour de France are on drugs. But you will have the elements to form an opinion.

“From another planet”. This is the title of the newspaper The group, the day after the supersonic performance of Jonas Vingegaard in the time trial between Passy and Combloux, on Tuesday 18th July. The Danish yellow jersey defeated the competition, starting with his great rival Tadej Pogacar, who he missed in the 22.4 km timed stage (he took 1’38” off him having started two minutes later).

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Stage 3, Belgian Wout van Aert, an exercise specialist, joked about being “the best of ordinary people”, 2’51” from the winner. Performance that reminds many of the Lance Armstrong years, and this title “On Another Planet”by the same sports newspaper, after a show of force by the American, two decades earlier.

Should we cry doping? Here are the figures from the debate.

Vingegaard’s time trial, never seen since Jacques Anquetil

To say it is the former Danish yellow jersey (but excluded from the Tour before the finish line), Michael Rasmussen. “I don’t remember a time trial where the winner took 4.5 seconds per kilometer to second place. Neither [Miguel] Indurain. Not even Armstrong”he tweeted.

After digging through the archives, he completed a daily interview Western France : “I think the last yellow jersey to dominate the second so much on the time trial was Jacques Anquetil in 1961. He put five seconds into the kilometer.”

Comparison with recent performance shows that, when a runner sets a time, he takes 2 seconds per kilometer for his runner-up. Not double.

The distribution of the runners according to their average speed clearly shows that Vingegaard has flown over the debates, but that Pogacar also achieved an excellent time outclassing the competition. As proof, he caught up with the rider who started two minutes before him, the Spaniard Carlos Rodriguez, 4th in the general standings and former Spanish champion in the discipline, all equal.

That said, in the visual impression, the Danish looks much faster than the Slovenian. This is confirmed by specialists such as Frédéric Grappe, performance manager within the Groupama-FDJ team of David Gaudu and Thibaut Pinot, on RMC: “I didn’t imagine such a gap, especially since it’s not a poor performance from Pogacar. The interesting thing is that it was essentially muscle strength that made the difference. And Pogacar had a really good time. I don’t know how to explain this gap because we rarely saw it.”

Jonas Vingegaard’s team, Jumbo-Visma, went there with his terse explanation to explain such a bang, on social media: “Strategy, equipment, personnel, Jonas… Everything fell into place today.”

Outstanding performance never seen in Armstrong or Sky years

Even in the mountains the ascent records are broken day after day by the two duetists. And this, while French riders, such as David Gaudu or Romain Bardet (before his retirement) explained that they were at their best as they were dropped by the leaders of the peloton. Thus, during the last climb of Sunday’s stage in Saint-Gervais, Jonas Vingegaard improved the previous record by almost a minute, measured by the Strava Performance application. It was already like that the day before, during the stage of July 14th at the Grand Colombier…

Data questioning former racer Félix Pouilly, questioned by The voice of the North : “Looking at the stage details on Strava, at times when they are going 100%, the speed data is mind blowing. Over a 2.5km stretch, they climb 4km/h faster than a runner like Felix Gall and 5.5km/h faster than Tom Pidcock or David Gaudu.”

Cofidis performance manager Samuel Bellenoue does not hide his surprise about RMC: “Philosophically, it seems to me rather wise to doubt and question. (…) When we take times of ascent, rates of ascent [depuis le début de cette édition 2023], we see that we are dealing with things that did not even exist during the doping period, so this raises questions. But I am unable to go beyond this question.

In The ParisianTHE The head of research and performance of the French Cycling Federation, Emmanuel Brunet, highlights the technological developments that have come a long way in twenty years, such as the progress made on tires which allow, with equal effort, to gain watts (the power released by the cyclist pressing the pedals) and therefore seconds on each climb. Others point out that the riders approach the passes in different states of freshness depending on the stage and that the comparison is therefore biased. Finally, that teams like Jumbo-Visma are even stronger than the US Postal or Sky of the great era.

Differences exceptional in the general classification

The excessive power of the “Vingo-Pogi” duo is such as to relegate the competition to improbable levels. Take the gap with the 3rd overall: it is currently higher than the record of the last 20 years, observed during the 2014 edition. At the start of the 17th stage, Wednesday morning, the yellow jersey preceded Adam Yates, 3rd, by 8’52”.

Did you say “stratospheric”? When we look at where 20th overall, Valentin Madouas is, we can also get this feeling. On Wednesday morning he clocked over an hour (1h06) from the leading duo. In 2003, Didier Rous, who occupied the same place at the end of a Grande Boucle dominated by the duo Lance Armstrong-Jan Ullrich, was stopped in half an hour on the Champs-Elysées. However, such differences are not unheard of: in 1997, during Ullrich’s victory and the Festina team’s heyday, 20th overall, Stéphane Heulot, who was 1h06 behind at the end of the 21 stages. It was, however, the worst of the EPO’s years.

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