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Classics power play: How many watts did it take to win Milan-San Remo?

Joe Robinson
25 Mar 2019

Some of Saturday's best riders posted their San Remo rides to Strava and the numbers are incredible

The 2019 Milan-San Remo reverted to type; seven hours of anticipation with 20 minutes of electrifying entertainment. However as Strava shows, the race was as brutally hard as expected.

For a third consecutive year, the winning move came on the slopes of the Poggio, the race's final climb just 5km from the Via Roma finish line, after a nervy, fast yet controlled first seven or so hours of racing.

Eventual winner Julian Alaphilippe made the most of Deceuninck-Quick-Step's furious pace to force an eight-man who's who of Classics racing move when the Poggio was at its hardest. The move plus its protagonists were enough to go clear until the finish with Alaphilippe by far the strongest and smartest rider in the sprint finish. 

Alaphilippe's ability to sprint to victory after such a devastating attack is even more impressive when you consider that this year's edition was the fastest in a decade averaging 43.6kmh for 6 hours 40 minutes.

A generous tailwind helped the peloton along and the start of the race was a relaxing affair, so tranquil that even us amateurs could have potentially kept pace.

Eventual second-place Oliver Naesen only needed to ride at 118w for the first 70 minutes of the race to sit within the bunch, averaging a modest 33kmh. In fact, for the first four hours of riding, Naesen's average power was only 193w.

This intensity could even be described as benign and was almost certainly what allowed the strongest riders to save their legs and set one of the fastest ascents of the Poggio in San Remo's history, towards the race's finale.

The lead eight riders managed to climb the 3.6km, 4% Poggio in 5 minutes and 50 seconds, only four seconds adrift from the record set by Maurizio Fondriest and Laurent Jalabert in 1995.

According to the segment on Strava, the quickest climbers actually covered the climb quicker than Fondriest and Jalabert with the King of the Mountain time now 5 minutes and 41 seconds.

That was set by veteran World Champion Alejandro Valverde - who rides under the Strava pseudonym 'Bala Balin' - who could consider that more a victory than the Monument itself.

To set this new KOM, Valverde had to average 38.3kmh up the 4% incline which saw him put out an average power of 413w for the entire climb, 6.7w/kg considering his 61kg weight.

This included a 30-second surge of 754w to match the attack of Alaphilippe towards the crest of the climb with a power peak of 911w.

Valverde's a climber so these numbers are to be expected. What's more impressive are the numbers of Oliver Naesen, the AG2R La Mondiale Classics man who, despite being 10kg heavier than Valverde, climbed the Poggio at the same speed.

To do that, Naesen had to put out 501w for 5 minutes and 42 seconds which equates to just over 7w/kg. Matching Alaphilippe's kick, Naesen sustained 886w for the same 30 seconds with a peak of 1,199w.

These are pretty staggering numbers but it's worth mentioning that a tailwind for most of the day and a slow ascent of the Cipressa beforehand meant that the peloton was fresh enough to race an almost-record breaking Poggio.

Naesen also finished second in the final sprint to secure his first career Monument podium. 

In the final 20 seconds of the entire race, Naesen managed to crank up to 912w with a peak of 1,289w only to finish second behind Alaphilippe.

Alaphilippe, on the other hand, hit 970w for the same period which was enough to accelerate past the likes of Peter Sagan, Valverde and Naesen and to his first career Monument.

So, if any amateurs want to know what it takes to win a Monument, it takes six hours and 40 minutes at 170w, with 47-second, 11w/kg attack on the Poggio finished off with 20 seconds at 15.9w/kg on the Via Rome. Get training.