1,300 watt sprints – Vlad Dascalu’s power data shows how fit you need to be for an XC World Cup podium



Vlad Dascalu is one of the rising stars of the Cross Country World Cup and Albstadt saw him claim a second straight third place finish, which puts him in fourth place overall in the World Cup standings. However, he did not have it easy. Dascalu only arrived at the site on Friday due to illness and therefore had to start on the fourth row of the grid. He fought to make the lead group after the first lap, but just half a lap later his saddle broke and he had to make a pit stop and lost about a minute. He fought back for the rest of the race and even launched an attack on the final climb in a bid to take second place, but was shut down by Schurter by a second at the finish line. Dascalu was clearly one of the strongest riders in the race and without his mechanics he might have had the best chance of keeping up with Pidcock.

Dascalu posted his full power data to Strava after the race, so we decided to dig in to see what it takes to be a top World Cup pro.

Title statistics

During his 6 laps, Vlad covered the 25.54 km (15.85 miles) and 1,159 meters (3,800 feet) of elevation in just under 80 minutes. Sauce for Strava (a plugin that allows further analysis of Strava file data) lists its average power at 332 watts. The most common way to compare this is to use a measurement called watts per kilogram. Pure watts are not a good measure as generally heavier riders produce more power, so when comparing between riders it is best to include their weight as well.

Distance: 25.4 km
Weather: 1:19:10
Elevation: 1,159 meters
Average speed: 19.4 km/h
Average power: 332W (4.55W/kg)
Normalized power: 408W (5.59W/kg)

Doing this for Vlad’s effort yields 4.5 W/kg, based on a weight of 73 kg listed on Strava. How does this compare to top road cyclists? Well, on the face of it, not too great – yesterday at the Giro d’Italia the riders will probably have produced over 6 w/kg climbing Etna, but that’s not apples to apples.

These riders will be aiming to keep the power pretty consistent for as long as possible, while Dascalu’s effort is extremely sharp. Cross-country racing also involves downhill runs and lots of technical turns and sections where you simply can’t deliver as much power as measured steady effort. On Sunday, Dascalu spent 27.4% less of the run pushing between 0 and 24W, which will certainly have lowered his average wattage from what it might have been if we were considering a counter-force type effort. -watch.

There are other metrics that can be calculated such as normalized power or weighted average power (for Vlad these are 408 watts and 384 watts respectively) that are designed to better quantify a performance over varying effort, but even those- ci cannot take into account a race situation where Vlad may have raced tactically or caught behind slower runners. Instead, we’re going to get very specific and dive into specific parts of the race to see exactly what Vlad was doing.

The starting round

Getting off to a good start is crucial in World Cup XC. You need to sprint hard to be in the lead group, otherwise the bottlenecks and concertinas will see you far from the front of the race when the single-file single-track sections begin.

Vlad must have known as he rushed from his fourth row position. From a standing start, he pushed a maximum of 1,305 watts, which would be his peak power for the entire race. In fact, he made efforts of more than 1,000 watts three times in the first 200 meters of the race. First off the line, then after negotiating some traffic in the peloton and finally accelerating to pick up speed after the first turn. It was his biggest 15-second effort of the race, averaging 891 watts or 12.2 W/kg.
On the first climb of the opening lap, Vlad also put in his most sustained effort of the race. From the base of the first ascent, which averages 12.5%, Vlad does a 2-minute effort of 539 watts (7.4 W/kg), including a 1-minute effort of 630 watts (8.6 W/kg) and a maximum of 1029 watts. Unlike road cycling there is no neutral zone at the start or 50km of easy riding to let the break slip away, in cross country racing you are the red line of the gun and then you try to recover and run for the remaining 80 grueling minutes.

Vlad’s fastest lap

Vlad’s best time on the circuit came on lap 5 of 6. At 11:27.6, it was the third-fastest lap of all, 1.6 seconds behind the fastest effort of the race. ‘Alan Hatherly. On his fastest lap, he averaged 345 watts (normalized output of 409 watts) as he came back through the lead group of Schurter, Carod and Hatherly. This is only slightly above his average power for the entire race and shows that in cross-country racing there is more than raw power to going fast. Sure, fitness is definitely a main ingredient, but so is positioning, line choice, fueling, and spending your resources wisely.

Last turn attack

After catching up with the leaders, Dascalu stood out with Schurter on the final climb of the Mercedes Benz Uphill section for the silver medal. With a fatigue run through his legs, he hit that two-minute section at 490 watts (6.7 W/kg) with a peak of 1,067 watts – about 49 watts (0.7 W/kg) below his maximum of 2 minutes in the race. We don’t have Nino’s data here, but after his smoother race weekend, it’s no surprise the Swiss veteran was able to hold off Dascalu in the race to the finish.

How does this compare?

So how does that compare to a professional road cyclist? Well, Sauce for Strava uses Dr. Andy Coggan’s power curve to give Vlad an 87% rating, equal to a pro level, but it’s pretty hard to compare the two totally different types of effort. This article suggests that a peak of 1,300 watts isn’t too far off the peak output of some World Tour sprinters, but they often have more than 100 km in their legs, without sprinting off the line like Dascalu. We also doubt these sprinters can keep up with Dascalu on the short steep Albstadt climbs. Likewise, you can’t compare Dascalu to the pure climbers in the peloton, as his data is made up of peaks and troughs, short sprint efforts as opposed to the extended grind of an alpine pass.

A look back, for example on Mathieu van Der Poel’s Strava, shows that he may be a bit stronger in pure physical condition, but let’s not forget that the Dutchman took 3 years before winning a race of Olympic length World Cup. Although he may have had the power, he had to develop his skills and tactics until he could finally defeat his longtime rival Nino Schurter. It’s racing know-how, along with exceptional physical condition, that sets the best cross-country pros apart.

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