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The Science Behind Marcel Kittel’s Race Strategy in the Tour de France (Bicycling)

NEW RESEARCH SHEDS LIGHT ON HOW THIS SPRINTER SUCCESSFULLY TACKLED THOSE INFAMOUS CLIMBS.


What does it take to be a world-class sprinter in the Tour de France? To find out, researchers did a case study of former pro cyclist Marcel Kittel, a sprinter who won 19 stages in the three Grand Tours between 2011 and 2019.


Published in the International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, researchers looked at Kittel’s power output data from four different Tours, and analyzed the different stage types—flat, hilly, mountain, and time trial. They also looked at load, intensity, and performance characteristics.


The researchers found that Kittel—who, as a sprinter, excels in the flat and time-trial stages—sustained a higher load and spent more time in the high-intensity zones in the mountainous stages, which is called a reverse pacing strategy. That means the sprinter had adopted a different strategy compared to the rest of the peloton. Mountain passes at the beginning of the stage are executed above threshold so the sprinter doesn’t get isolated from the peloton, but this causes the rider to spend more time in a high-intensity zone compared to non-sprinters...


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