Energy and cycling: an inseparable team

Energy and cycling are inseparable. At events like the Alpenbrevet, the athletes put enormous performances on to the pedals.

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The calendar for cyclists, whether professionals or enthusiasts, is full. One race follows the next. The highlight in Switzerland is clearly the Tour de Suisse. In addition, many other high-profile events such as the Alpenbrevet attract hundreds of participants each year. To keep up with such a tour, you need the best preparation. Because only those who are in top shape can also deliver top performances.

But how can this be measured and compared? The essential power value in cycling is the wattage. “It’s a bit like horsepower in a car,” says David Loosli, ex-pro and now sporting director of the Tour de Suisse. “Everyone knows how many watts they can do when they’re in top shape.” An averagely trained amateur cyclist produces 3 to 4 watts per kilogram of body weight during an hour, while professionals produce 5 to 6 watts per kilogram.

The wattage provides information about the performance of a cyclist. A top sprinter is able to put up to 1900 W on the pedals, but only during a few seconds. Calculated over an entire race, the average power output of a professional is between 250 and 300 W; for amateurs it is somewhat less.

To enable comparative values, many cyclists calculate their power values in relation to body weight, the so-called weight-related or specific power. The measurement is made by sensors in the pedals over a certain duration. For example, if a cyclist weighing 75 kilograms produces 300 watts of power over sixty minutes, his specific value over this period is 300/75 = 4 watts/kilogram.

In order to perform at such levels, the supply of energy is of course crucial. If a balanced nutrition plan is in place during the build-up phase, calories need to be bolted during the race. “Many are permanently eating while riding,” confirms David Loosli. No wonder, since the body needs around 8,000 to 10,000 calories a day in a big race. According to Loosli, however, eating on a road bike is not a pleasure. “The physical strain is so great that there is hardly any hunger pangs.”

A 72-kilogram top rider with a power rating of 6 watts/kilogram surges toward the finish with a power output of 400 watts. In popular sports, power outputs of 150 to 200 watts are achieved. This power would be sufficient to…

… light up 20 LED lamps (10 W each)*.

… run 2 LCD TVs (100 W each).

… run 1 simple electric mixer (200 W each).

The values refer in each case to average values for commercially available devices. Of course, there is a wide range in all devices: a simple hand mixer, for example, has an output of 100 W, while a powerful mixer, which can also knead bread, is capable of up to 500 or 600 W.

The Alpenbrevet is considered one of the most difficult events of its kind. The main reason is the many meters of altitude that the riders have to overcome. The right preparation and proper catering are therefore crucial to retrieve the energy needed at the end. We wish all participants a great experience and much success.