Let's face it, most of what we here at the Suitcase write about is made better by the same thing. More Power! More power behind a penalty kick, more power in the back of your race car, and more power in the legs for the sprint. Formula 1 has always been a power sport and any discussion of race cars leads to the inevitable question of horsepower. How much you packing? Cycling on the other hand traditionally didn't have the means to quantify power outputs.
As training methods have improved over time pro cyclists have learned more and more about how to fine tune their training and understand their power output. Lance Armstrong famously stated that when he and Johan began their dominant run at the Tour de France most of the pro peleton were still a bunch of amateurs when it came to training. They took the game to the next level with the help of tools like the SRM Powermeter, which allows one to monitor power output in real time on a bike computer. Suddenly riders know exactly when they are hitting their peak in the season and where they are in their training at any point along the way.
The most famous example of this kind of training was played out at last year's Tour de France when Boulder's own Allen Lim coached Floyd Landis on his miraculous comeback attack. As Dr. Lim explained to me just days after the Tour, they knew exactly how many watts Floyd could generate over a set period of time, and they figure out that this number was higher when his body temperature was lower. As that day's stage in the Tour was extremely hot, the team decided Floyd would go on a daring attack throughout most of the stage to try and win back the Tour. The trick to all this was that by riding by himself off the front of the peleton Landis was able to keep his team car close by so he could dump close to 80 bottles of cold water on his head throughout the day. This kept his body temperature lower than his pursuers and he simply had to watch his power meter and keep producing the designated wattage levels which had been calculated the night before. At this point Landis and Lim knew with some certainty that he could win the stage, and grab back important time, which he did.
So watts are great and all, but normal people understand one power figure, and that's horsepower. So how much horsepower does it take to win a tour stage in the mountains, and how much does it take to win a sprint on the Champs Elysees? And could the horsepower of the entire peleton harnessed together beat Lewis Hamilton in a 30 second sprint? These seem like normal questions that any SofC reader would love to answer.
First off, here's a nice little chart showing comparative power outputs for different levels of athlete, courtesy of the before mentioned Allen Lim. For conversion purposes, one horsepower is equivalent to about 745watts.
And to take it a bit further, here's a table with the power outputs and power to weight ratios ( in horsepower) of race and road cars, pro and amatuer riders, and the F1 grid versus the ProTour peleton. The conclusions here of course are that gas holds a hell of a lot more energy than pasta, a ProTour rider is way stronger than you are, and the peleton's combined might couldn't beat Hamilton even if he was going in reverse.