Wednesday 28 December 2022

Critical power curves of professional riders (and how mine compares)

I recently came across an interesting set of data, summarised on Twitter, which contains the critical power data from 188 professional cyclists between the years of 2013 and 2021.

I'm fascinated by this kind of data.  It's interesting and humbling to see the kind of numbers that the pros produce.  Until now, the best source of data of this type that I knew of is the chart in Table 4.10 of Hunter Allen & Andrew Coggon 2010 book 'Training and Racing with a Power Meter 2nd Edition' (Ref. 1).  That chart is also readily available on the Training Peaks power profiling blog page.  However, it has always been unclear to me, at least from reading the book, what data Allen & Coggon used to create that chart.

With this new data, from Pedro L. Valenzuela et al (Ref. 2), data has been analysed from 188 cyclists (144 of them male), from 7 teams.  It contained both Pro Tour and World Tour level athletes.  Furthermore, the 144 male athletes were a mixture of all-rounders, climbers, sprinters, time triallists and GC contenders.  The data, collected from ~130,000 race and training data files, was analysed to identify the best power values at standard durations.
I don't have access to the full journal article, but the key information was already published on Twitter and also analysed on the website

I have further analysed the data to compare this new data with the older chart from Allen & Coggon. I also looked at my own critical power curve to see how I compare.

My Analysis

In the chart below you can see in the three red and pink lines the new data from Pedro L. Valenzuela et al, for the 10th, 75th and 90th percentiles of the 144 male riders.  The blue symbols and the error bars show the range of W/kg values from Allen & Coggon for 'World Class' and 'Domestic Pro' categories.

It can be seen from the plot that the two sources of critical power data agree very well for 1-minute, 5-minute and 60-minute durations.  For the 5-second duration, the Allen & Coggon data shows higher W/kg values than the data from Pedro L. Valenzuela.  However, the author commented on Twitter, in reply to one of my tweets, highlighting that they had only 11 sprinters in their database as a possible explanation why his data for the 5-second critical power might seem to be relatively low.

Nevertheless, I would say that the two sources of data agree rather well.

My Power Curve versus the Pros

The dashed black curve in the chart above shows my own critical power curve, for comparison against the pros.

At the lower durations, less than a minute or so, my critical powers aren't too bad. In some cases, they actually exceed the worst pro riders (the 10th percentile pro riders).  However, at the longer durations, my lack of aerobic fitness is clearly visible, with the pro riders having critical powers approximately 30-60% better than me.  This is further illustrated in the graph below, which shows how much better, as a percentage, the pros are compared to me.

What I conclude from this is that my power over short durations is pretty good considering that I am, at best, a very mediocre amateur racer.  However, the longer durations reveal my lack of aerobic capabilities.

This probably explains why I've been able to get and hold many local Strava KOMs during the last 5-10 years, over one hundred of them, mainly on segments lasting <2 minutes, whereas I've never won a bike race of any kind!  All this suggests that I have a relatively good anaerobic work capacity (AWC).  I will analyse my AWC as a next step - something I've never done before - and write a blog post to explain my findings.

My Power Curve versus other amatuers

Finally, I want to show quickly how my power curve compares to other amateurs, because I think this shows a broadly similar picture of my strengths and weaknesses.

The website provides an excellent and free set of analytical tools for your cycling data files that are stored on Strava.  Furthermore, the power curve analysis page allows you to see how your critical power numbers compare to other athletes in the same demographic, showing you graphically where you sit on the 'bell-shaped curve'.  For my 40-49 age range, that's a good-sized population of around 12,000 cyclists in that age range.  The people using are likely to be fairly serious recreational riders and amateur riders, so that's also worth keeping in mind.

The pIot below shows that I'm at about the 80th percentile mark for my best 5-minute and 60-minute powers, but my critical powers for 1-minute and 5-second durations are much better, where I'm in the ~95th and ~98th percentiles respectively.

Again, this goes to show that my strengths are with the relatively short duration efforts. 


1) Hunter Allen & Andrew Coggon 2010. Training and Racing with a Power Meter 2nd Edition

2) Valenzuela PL, Muriel X, van Erp T, Mateo-March M, Gandia-Soriano A, Zabala M, Lamberts RP, Lucia A, Barranco-Gil D, PallarĂ©s JG. The Record Power Profile of Male Professional Cyclists: Normative Values Obtained From a Large Database. Int J Sports Physiol Perform. 2022 May 1;17(5):701-710. doi: 10.1123/ijspp.2021-0263. Epub 2022 Feb 21. PMID: 35193109.


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