In this year’s Tour de France, INSCYD partner Alpecin-Deceuninck won the sprint on the Champs-Élysées with Jasper Philipsen. Here’s what it takes to win this historical last stage of a 3-week bike race.

Jasper Philipsen wins Tour de France 2022 stage 21 on Champs-Élysées

Before you can even participate in the sprint on the Champs-Élysées, you need to survive 20 other stages that include long days in the saddle and hard, steep climbs.

Obviously, this is not something pure sprinters eat for breakfast. But once arrived on the Champs-Élysées, the sprint is all that matters.

Let’s gain an unique INSCYD into the energetics of winning cycling’s most prestigious sprint…

Power data

Up to 1900 watts of maximum power is what sprinters need to produce to win a sprint. How can this be done? How do those top athletes produce this high power output?

Thanks to being the secret weapon in the arsenal of high performance sports organizations in the past decade, INSCYD has exclusive access to data of worlds best sporting performances.

Today we’re going to dive deeper into the sprint of the Tour de France 2016. André Greipel allowed us to share his data of his winning performance on this final stage.

To recap the sprint, here’s a short video:

The sprint power numbers are as follows:

Before the actual sprint

In the final 4 minutes before the sprint, André Greipel averages 424 Watt. More important then the average value are the many spikes of power. For a few seconds, he had to push up to 920 Watt to fight for his position and accelerate out of corners.

The actual sprint itself

A first push of 1000W can be seen before André turns off behind the man in front of him and starts his own sprint. André uses a double punch technique: his 1st  acceleration sees him reaching 1510 Watt. The 2nd punch follows 4 sec later and shows a massive 1700 Watt of peak power.

André Greipel wins on the Champs-Élysées

How can an endurance athlete produce such high power numbers?

Lets have a closer look into Andrés muscle energetics during the last sprint of the Tour de France. 

Energetics before the sprint:

424 Watt is an effort that is covered mostly be aerobic energy supply. At 80kg of body weight and a VO2max of approx. 78 ml/min/kg , Andrés aerobic power equals approximately 525 Watt.

The 424 Watt during the final 4 min before the sprint start, accounts for approx. 81 % of his aerobic capacity (424 ÷ 525 x 100%).

The frequently occurring spikes of high power are covered mostly by the use of creatine phosphate. Only a small amount of energy is covered by glycolysis and thereby lactate production.

Energetics during the sprint

During the first 4 sec of the sprint, the usage of creatine phosphate still contributes to 30% of the power output. However the energy supply from glycolysis rapidly increase, contributing to 60% of the power output by the end of the sprint.

Energy contribution of aerobic (blue) glycolytic (green) and creatine phosphate (red)

What it takes to win a cycling sprint

Here are 2 take home messages:

1. Although the high aerobic capacity of 525 Watt (which equals a VO2max of 78 ml/min/kg) is important, it would not be possible to cover the required power output before the sprint by aerobic metabolism only, because of the power spikes.

2. The sprint took about 60% power supply from glycolysis. Which at 1700 Watt equals approximately 1000 Watt of energy production under the formation of lactate. This is possible with a comparable high VLamax of 0,8 – 0,9 mmol/l/s. Such a high glycolytic capacity (VLamax = maximum lactate production rate) can be seen only in sprinters.

Check out our VO2max and VLamax articles to better understand energy contribution and subscribe to our newsletter to stay up to date!