When I told many of my friends and family I was riding some of the Tour de France routes, they automatically assumed I would be participating in the race. As nice as that would be, I would be shelled off the back of the pack before the Tour had left the start village.
Although I’ve occasionally dreamed of joining the pro peleton and perhaps donning the maillot jaune – the yellow jersey of the Tour de France leader – pro riders are on a whole other level than average cyclists like me.I’m lucky enough to know and have ridden with several domestic elite and professional riders. While I’m a decent enough cyclist – I’ve won a couple of amateur races and lead my share of segments on Strava – I know my pro friends could ride me off their wheel with little effort. They’re on a whole other level, and the elite international pros that contest the Tour de France are at a whole other level above them.
Just how much better are they than your average Joe squeezed into spandex? According to an article in Bicycling magazine, quite a lot.
Your typical cycling enthusiast averages up to 18 mph on flat roads and about 10 mph on hills. But according to Bicycling, the pros in the Tour de France average up to 10 mph and 15 mph faster, respectively. Your elite Tour de France rider averages more than double the wattage of the enthusiast, and can top an incredible 1,400 watts in the finishing kick of a stage sprint.
How do they get so fast? A lot of it is genetics for sure, but it’s also insane amounts of training and discipline. (We won’t get into other, less-legal reasons why.) I average about 150 miles a week on my bike; pros can average up to 800 miles during that same seven-day period.
But we do have advantages over the pros. While I can reward myself with a beer or three after a particularly grueling ride (or a not-so-hard ride as well), pro riders need to be cautious with every calorie they consume in order to maintain a body-fat percentage under 10 percent. If I have a bad race, I might be upset at myself for a day or two, but for a lower level or budding pro, a few bad races could mean the end of their career. Best of all, pro riders must look at cycling as a job, while we can just hop on our bikes and have fun.