Back in September, I had a crack at taking a KOM off a world tour pro on quite a long climb. The pro in question was a Frenchman by the name of Thibaut Pinot. I wrote the whole story of the attempt in Cycling Weekly and you can read about it here but I didn’t cover the difference in conditions that me and Pinot faced. I’ve always been slightly suspicious that he had a slower day, as that would go some way to explaining the huge power gap that was overcome.
It’s a very long drag. The kind of climb that might even be faster on a time trial bike – especially if there’s no weight penalty as in my case. However, I rode it on the road bike as Thibaut did. It starts in the town of Saint-Gervais les Bains and finishes up at an alpine airport (an altiport) past Megeve.
To decide who had the fastest day, we will take a look at the various conditions and see who has the lowest wImapact%. This will tell us how much faster or slower the weather made us, a higher wImpact% means a slower day (a 5% wImpact% means we’d have been 5% faster on a windless day, for example).
The pacing plan was to make use of the gradient changes. This segment doesn’t really turn into a ‘proper climb’ until 10 km in. This meant that the aim was to get to this point having used as little energy as possible and we will go on to talk about how that was achieved later.
Taking a look at the map we can see that Pinot had a headwind on the early part of the climb, crosswind in the middle through Demi-Quartier to Megeve and finally a cross-tail up to the altiport. Broadly, the conditions he faced were relatively neutral in the sense that there was no dominant headwind or tailwind.
Thibaut Pinot had a wImpact% of 2.2% on the day that he took the KOM. He rode up the climb in a time of 40:31.
I had a wImpact% of 1.8% on the day that I took the KOM. I rode up the climb in a time of just over 39 minutes. My day was 0.4% faster than Pinot’s – so how did I manage to put around 3% into his time? Let’s take a look at the wind map from my day.
I had a very light headwind basically the whole way up. So, how did I do it?
Well basically we cheated a little by using my mate Harry to place the flatter sections. Here’s an excerpt from Cycling Weekly which explains our method.
“Harry paced the flatter sections for me. We avoided using the car for aero assistance as that felt unfair but, luckily for me, Harry provides a similar draft zone to that of a Peugeot Traveller and has a good amount of watts to offer up alongside, making him a perfect team-mate.”
This meant I could put all of my energy into matching Pinot on the steeper sections where the wind matters less and had Harry on the front on the flat, headwind sections meaning that he is the reason we took the KOM.
Even on a climb like this, air resistance was around 15% of the total resistance that I faced during the attempt. This is worth minutes and paints an interesting picture as to how important things like drafting and aerodynamics are on climbs, even at relatively low speeds of 25-26 kph as they were in this attempt. I am not faster than Pinot, despite outperforming the weather!
If you want to take a KOM off a world tour rider, you might wish to do so with the assistance of myWindsock. We can help you go into attempts like this with confidence and you’ll know what power you need to do for what duration for a given outcome. You can sign up here.