Analyzing Carpenter’s blitz in Britain – Rally Cycling


When Robin Carpenter initially went on the attack on stage 2 of the Tour of Britain, it looked as though the stage would follow the pro cycling script: the early breakaway goes, the big teams chase, and the last rider from the breakaway gets caught with a few miles to go.

But this stage was different. Carpenter had a four-minute lead when he attacked the breakaway, and with 1km to go, he still had a minute over the peloton. The American took the biggest win of his career ahead of riders like Wout Van Aert, Julian Alaphilippe, and Mike Woods.

Here’s how he did it:

Rally Cycling came into stage 2 of the Tour of Britain wanting to put one of their riders in the breakaway, and Carpenter was keen. The Philly native saw the stage profile and thought, “Get me ahead of this climbing.”

The stage included three intermediate sprints and three KOMs, plus a number of uncategorized climbs that made for a total of 3000 meters (9850 ft.) of climbing. On the rolling uphill start, the breakaway was starting to go when a large crash near the front slowed the peloton. Carpenter saw his opportunity, and jumped across to the breakaway amidst the chaos.

In the space of 20 minutes – with a huge 500w effort in the middle – Carpenter averaged over 5w/kg, with a normalized power close to 6w/kg, just to make it into the breakaway. To put it in simpler terms, Carpenter put out world-class power numbers just to make the breakaway.

Making the breakaway
Establishing the breakaway

Time: 20:36
Avg Power: 371w (5.2w/kg)
Normalized Power: 404w (5.7w/kg)

Attack: 504w (7w/kg) for 2:32

As the gap went out as the breakaway approached the first intermediate sprint. This was Carpenter’s main goal for the day – he was interested in the KOM points and possibility of a stage win too, but those were not yet at the forefront of his mind. With numbers like these, it’s clear that Carpenter isn’t holding anything back.

Also, take a look at how quickly Carpenter was able to recover in between sprints – these were only 10km apart – and then put out a nearly identical max sprint effort.

Intermediate sprints

Once the breakaway’s lead reached seven minutes, Carpenter knew they had a shot at the stage victory. As the breakaway whittled down on the KOM climbs, Carpenter made the decision to not contest the KOM points, and instead let the KOM leader (who was also in the breakaway) have them. In exchange, Carpenter got cooperation – the KOM leader would work with Carpenter, trading pulls on the flats, and not attacking him on the climbs.

Carpenter scored maximum points on both intermediate sprints

This was an ideal scenario for Carpenter, who rarely goes solo. In fact, Carpenter said after the race, “Going solo is out of my comfort zone, not something I normally do.” But as the breakaway approached the final 30km of the stage, Carpenter was thinking about going outside his comfort zone. On an uncategorized climb with 25km to go, Carpenter made his move, putting in a huge five-minute effort, and dispatching his final breakaway companion.

Attack on uncategorized climb with 25km to go

Time: 5:29
Average Power: 416w (5.8w/kg)

Carpenter had done his homework before stage 2, looking at the profile, climbs, and technicality of the finish. Carpenter said he believed that a solo breakaway could work because of the downhills in the finale, as well as the “scary” nature of the British descents.

While the downhills in the UK aren’t like alpine descents, they can be difficult to navigate because of their steep grades, and tall hedges that line the road, making it difficult to see. Carpenter said he used his Wahoo ELEMNT ROAM GPS a lot in the final 25km, constantly switching between the profile which would show him how long the climbs were, and the map which would show him the upcoming turns.

Although he already spent a lot of energy throughout the day – Carpenter had by now burned over 4000 calories – Carpenter went all-in on his solo effort, while also making sure to pace himself on the undulating terrain. There was a series of small hills before the finish, which Carpenter rode at close to his threshold, while also maintaining a sub-threshold effort on the flats.

25km solo

Time: 34:00
Average Power: 313w (4.4w/kg)
Normalized Power: 337w (4.8w/kg)

Average Power on the climbs: ~400w (5.6w/kg)
Average Power on the flats: ~340w (4.7w/kg)

Carpenter watched his power a lot more than usual during his 25km solo effort, saying that a power goal helped him stay focused and motivated. Typically, Carpenter is a breakaway guy, but not solo. He buffers lactate very well, which means that he does well with short rest periods in between heavy workloads.

Translated: Carpenter prefers doing over/under intervals rather than steady-state intervals.

But on this day, Carpenter said he was “really motivated to not have anyone else with me.”

The undulating terrain of the final 25km suited Carpenter, who pedaled harder up the climbs than he did on the flats, rested on the descents, and still maintained a significant advantage over the peloton. In the end, Carpenter had a minute in hand as he came under the flamme rouge, and had plenty of time to celebrate the biggest win of his career, as he became the first American to win a stage of the Tour of Britain.

— Zach Nehr to rallycycling.com