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How Hard is Cycling's Giro d’Italia? Heart Rate, Strain & More

June 1, 2022

We tracked the heart rate, daily strain, sleep, and recovery of two pro cycling teams during the Giro d’Italia, arguably the hardest race on Earth.

By Mark Van Deusen

For more than three weeks, the world’s best cyclists pushed their bodies to the limit in the Giro d’Italia. Starting in Budapest, Hungry and finishing in Verona, Italy, many consider the Giro to be the most difficult Grand Tour, even more challenging than the Tour de France.

At the 2022 Giro, WHOOP monitored the heart rate and other physiological metrics of two pro cycling teams, Alpecin-Fenix and EF Education-EasyPost. Below we’ll break down several highlights and notable findings from analyzing their data.

 

Average Heart Rate, Strain, Sleep & Recovery at the Giro d’Italia

Here are some of the average numbers from the combined data of both teams spanning the 24 days of the Giro (including the 3 rest days):

Daily Race Averages

Heart rate while riding: 131.3 bpm
Max heart rate: 175 bpm
Recovery: 59.8%
Strain (on a 0-21 scale): 18.2
Time asleep: 7:07
Sleep performance (percentage of sleep need): 72%

 

HRV Highs and Lows

As you might expect, the riders had their best numbers for heart rate variability and resting heart rate the day the Giro began:

Stage 1 Averages

HRV: 129.1 ms
RHR: 40.5 bpm

Their worst averages for these two key metrics were following Stage 7, the race’s first big mountain stage (and clearly one of the most difficult stages based on our data):

Stage 8 Averages

HRV: 88.8 ms
RHR: 47.6 bpm

 

Daily Strain and Recovery for Each Team

The average daily recovery for Alpecin riders spanning the Giro’s 24 days was 59.3%.

alpecin giro strain and recovery

AVERAGE DAILY STRAIN AND RECOVERY FOR ALPECIN-FENIX TEAM MEMBERS DURING THE 2022 GIRO D’ITALIA.

As a team, Alpecin posted its highest average day strain (20.7) during Stage 7, which was 196 kilometers through the mountains with 4,510 meters of elevation gain. The riders also burned an average of 5747 calories in the heat that day, with many pushing themselves to the max following an “easy” Stage 6.

To no surprise, their average recovery on the morning of Stage 8 was in the red at 29%.

EF’s riders managed an average daily recovery of 62.3% throughout the race, without any collective days in the red.

EF giro strain and recovery

EF EDUCATION–EASYPOST RIDERS KEPT THEIR AVERAGE RECOVERY OUT OF THE RED (ABOVE 33%) FOR THE ENTIRE RACE.

The lowest team recovery for EF riders (42%) was also following Stage 7, when they burned an average of 5555 calories.

Part of Alpecin’s race strategy was to prioritize the first week (which you can see with 5 straight green recoveries as a team to begin the Giro) in support of early leader Mathieu Van Der Poel. On the other hand, EF was aiming to be in good shape for the long haul in order to improve Hugh Carthy’s odds as a GC contender.

 

Mathieu Van Der Poel Takes the Maglia Rosa with 97% Recovery

Alpecin’s Van Der Poel awoke with a 97% recovery on the first day of the Giro. With his body in prime condition for a peak performance, he captured a Stage 1 victory and the famed Maglia Rosa (the pink jersey awarded to the race’s overall leader). Van Der Poel maintained the lead and wore the pink jersey for the next 4 stages.

Two of his teammates, Stefano Oldani and Dries De Bont, also took home stage wins, each with a green 72% recovery (signifying numbers above their baselines) on the day of their victory.

alpecin giro stage wins whoop

MATHIEU VAN DER POEL, STEFANO OLDANI, AND DRIES DE BONDT EACH POSTED GREEN RECOVERIES PRIOR TO STAGE WINS.

Hugh Carthy Staying in the Green

EF’s Carthy finished 9th overall in the General Classification standings, 17:54 off the pace with a total time of 86 hours, 49 minutes, and 8 seconds. Amazingly Carthy had just a single red recovery spanning the entire race, and was in the green for 17 of the 24 days.

hugh carthy strain and recovery

HUGH CARTHY HAD GREEN RECOVERIES (67% AND HIGHER) ON 17 OF THE GIRO’S 24 DAYS.

Despite consistent day strains of 20+, Carthy was still 92% recovered for Stage 19, and finished the Giro with 3 straight green recoveries.

His lone red recovery came following the treacherous Stage 7, on which he posted a day strain of 20.7. Even with a 20.5 strain for Stage 8, he was able to bounce back with an 81% recovery the following day.

 

READ MORE: How Strenuous is the Tour de France? Plus Other Biometric Data Insights

 

Photo Credit: Russ Ellis @cyclingimages

 

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Mark Van Deusen

Mark Van Deusen is the Content Manager at WHOOP. Before joining WHOOP, Mark served as the Managing Editor and Head Writer for CelticsLife.com. He was also a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report and a contributor at Yahoo Sports. A former tennis coach, Mark graduated from the University of Richmond with a degree in Sociology and Leadership Studies.

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