Ever wondered how long an average racer could hang on racing with the pros? Let’s assume a typical flat stage of a WorldTour stage race is 200ish km. How long could you stick in the group? There’s a variety of factors to consider, and it’s not just your FTP. (Although your fitness, of course, plays a big part.)
Not just numbers you need to worry about
Before we get to that, let’s consider just how good the pros are at the technical aspects. Even if the race were flat, that doesn’t mean there won’t be all sorts of other obstacles. Pro cyclists ride much closer in the peloton, both side by side and on each other’s wheels. If you were thrown in a WT race, you may find yourself freaked out at how close you’re riding to your “peers.” Riders brushing up against you is common. Feeling someone’s hand on your back or thigh would happen several times. The gaps between your front wheel and their back wheel are far closer than your local group ride. Plus, the speeds in which they would carve corners or go through roundabouts might be something you’re not used to. Medians might pop up out of nowhere which would require cat-like reactions.
But there’s also the question of where you’d be allowed to ride in the actual peloton. If you’re not from a bigger team (and you’re not, btw) you’d never see the front. The top teams simply wouldn’t permit you anywhere near there, if you could even move up there. And moving up in a pro peloton is not easy. It’s a skill that WorldTour riders master. It’s not just hammering up the side of the pack and moving to the front row. It’s working your way through tiny holes in the pack, or taking risks by riding on shoulders. Either way, you’d find yourself at the back.
The chaos at the back
When you’re hanging on at the back, you’ll notice it’s pretty busy there. Domestiques will be going back for all kinds of things, and that aspect of the race, the “service churn” will create a tough place to just hang on. Pros have the fitness to move back and forth between the bunch and the caravan, but you’ll find yourself getting gapped, exhausting what precious firepower you have.
Take a moment to appreciate the bonkers bike handling skills of Mathieu van der Poel
And bear in mind the typical pattern of a WT race. According to Kevin Field, who has run several pro teams, there will usually be an aggressive start for up to 50km, where car feeding opens up…
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