#justaskGMC – why are not all sprinters equal climbers?

Mark Cavendish and Peter Sagan are sprinters at their core; different sprinters, but sprinters nonetheless. But when the road goes up Sagan seems to be much more climb friendly than the Manx Missile. Despite being a bigger, taller and heavier, climbs are much more Sagan’s friend than Cav’s. Why are not all sprinters equal climbers?

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Peter Sagan won his second stage of the Eneco Tour after a messy sprint, just ahead of a charging Andre Greipel, photo Sirotti

Mark Cavendish and Peter Sagan are sprinters at their core; different sprinters, but sprinters nonetheless.  But when the road goes up Sagan seems to be much more climb friendly than the Manx Missile.  Despite being a bigger, taller and heavier, climbs are much more Sagan’s friend than Cav’s.  Why are not all sprinters equal climbers?

#justaskGMC:  Sagan’s not the smallest rider but he’s got a lot of power to climb quite well.  Cav is a smaller rider but he really struggles to climb.  How does that work?

This all really depends on a rider’s individual physiological make up and even psychological motivation to an extent.  Without seeing any data on the two riders chances are high Sagan may have a higher VO2 max as well as high power output at the anaerobic threshold (FTP for those who use power).  Sagan may have a larger distribution of slow twitch muscle fibres as well and his watts per kilogram will be higher which answers his stronger climbing ability.

Cavendish however may or may not have a higher maximal power over Sagan, but when combined with his lower frontal area or drag co-efficient (aerodynamic) means he is able to pass through the air much cleaner; therefore faster.

These differences are not unheard of before.   Another great example of similar riders would be Laurant Jalabert and Robbie McEwan.  Robbie is a tiny fellow but was one of the best sprinters of his generation yet would go backwards up the climbs faster than you could say ‘out the hoop’.

Jalabert was an incredible sprinter who Sagan could perhaps be compared to, he not only won the Green jersey in the Tour de France twice, but the KOM competition twice as well as winning the overall of the Vuelta and placing and impressive 4th in the Tour d France whilst winning one of his Green jerseys.

Perhaps in the next few years we may see Sagan targeting Mountains classifications or overall GC in the grand tours.

 

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