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Tour de France winner will burn the equivalent of 210 Big Macs in 24 days

Imagine you start pedaling from the start of Stage 12 of this year’s Tour de France. Your very first process could be to bike roughly 20.6 miles (33.2 kilometers) as much as the height of Col du Galibier within the French Alps whereas gaining round 4,281 toes (1,305 meters) of elevation.

But that is solely the primary of three large climbs in your day. Next you face the height of Col de la Croix de Fer after which finish the 102.6-mile (165.1-km) stage by taking up the well-known Alpe d’Huez climb with its 21 serpentine turns.

On the fittest day of my life, I won’t even be capable to end Stage 12 – a lot much less do it in something remotely near the 5 hours or so the winner will take to complete the trip. And Stage 12 is only one of 21 phases that have to be accomplished within the 24 days of the tour.

I am a sports physicist, and I’ve modeled the Tour de France for almost twenty years utilizing terrain knowledge – like what I described for Stage 12 – and the legal guidelines of physics. But I nonetheless can not fathom the bodily capabilities wanted to finish the world’s most well-known bike race.

Only an elite few people are able to finishing a Tour de France stage in a time that’s measured in hours as a substitute of days. The purpose they’re in a position to do what the remainder of us can solely dream of is that these athletes can produce huge quantities of energy. Power is the speed at which cyclists burn power and the power they burn comes from the meals they eat. And over the course of the Tour de France, the profitable bike owner will burn the equal of roughly 210 Big Macs.

Cycling is a recreation of watts

To make a bicycle transfer, a Tour de France rider transfers power from his muscle mass, by the bicycle and to the wheels that push again on the bottom. The sooner a rider can put out power, the larger the facility. This price of power switch is usually measured in watts. Tour de France cyclists are able to producing huge quantities of energy for extremely lengthy durations of time in comparison with most individuals.

For about 20 minutes, a match leisure bike owner can persistently put out 250 watts to 300 watts. Tour de France cyclists can produce over 400 watts for the same time period. These execs are even able to hitting 1,000 watts for brief bursts of time on a steep uphill – roughly enough power to run a microwave oven.

But not all the power a Tour de France bike owner places into his bike will get become ahead movement. Cyclists battle air resistance and frictional losses between their wheels and the street. They get assist from gravity on downhills however they should combat gravity whereas climbing.

I incorporate all the physics related to bike owner energy output in addition to the consequences of gravity, air resistance and friction into my model. Using all that, I estimate {that a} typical Tour de France winner must put out a mean of about 325 watts over the roughly 80 hours of the race. Recall that almost all leisure cyclists could be glad if they may produce 300 watts for simply 20 minutes!

Turning meals into miles

So the place do these cyclists get all this power from? Food, in fact!

But your muscle mass, like several machine, can’t convert 100% of meals power immediately into power output – muscle mass could be anyplace between 2% efficient when used for activities like swimming and 40% efficient in the heart. In my mannequin, I take advantage of a mean effectivity of 20%. Knowing this effectivity in addition to the power output wanted to win the Tour de France, I can then estimate how a lot meals the profitable bike owner wants.

Top Tour de France cyclists who full all 21 phases burn about 120,000 energy in the course of the race – or a mean of almost 6,000 energy per stage. On a few of the tougher mountain phases – like this 12 months’s Stage 12 – racers will burn shut to eight,000 energy. To make up for these enormous power losses, riders eat delectable treats equivalent to jam rolls, energy bars and mouthwatering “jels” so they don’t waste energy chewing.

Tadej Pogačar gained each the 2021 and 2020 Tour de France and weighs only 146 pounds (66 kilograms). Tour de France cyclists don’t have a lot fats to burn for power. They should maintain placing meals power into their our bodies to allow them to put out power at what looks like a superhuman price. So this 12 months, whereas watching a stage of the Tour de France, be aware what number of occasions the cyclists eat – now you realize the rationale for all that snacking.

John Eric Goff is a physics professor on the University of Lynchburg in Lynchburg, Va. This was first revealed by The Conversation — “Tour de France: How many calories will the winner burn?

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