How Hard Did the Riders Work in the Tour de Georgia?

If you've talked to me by phone or email since I returned from the Dodge Tour de Georgia, you know that I was exhausted when I got home and it took me two or three days to start to feel reasonably normal again. This gives me even more respect for the effort that the riders have to put forth in a pro cycling stage race.

You may remember that I spent two weeks on the road, not one. The first week I was in Chicago at the Chicago Showcase Hockey Tournament where I officiated nine hockey games in five days. On Wednesday I unpacked the Polar S625x that I've been testing recently, uploaded my exercise data from the week in Chicago, and found that I had burned 15,645 calories in 16 hours and 31 minutes of intense exercise. That's the most calories burned I've recorded in any one week in the three years I've been journaling my exercise with Polar Precision Performance Software.

I don't think I realized how hard I worked in Chicago. When I got to Augusta for Stage 1 of the Tour de Georgia, I went out and ran four miles as if I needed the exercise after the workouts I had over the previous few days. I wanted to run again, but I ran into logistical and time constraints later on in the week. I drove almost 1,400 miles following the Tour de Georgia and spent hours each day in the Media Center posting my stories. There just weren't enough hours in the day until I went back home.

My immediate thought after I uploaded my exercise data from the S625x was, if I burned over 15,000 calories during the Chicago Showcase, how many calories did the riders burn in the Tour de Georgia? Let's assume for the moment that the pros have similar fitness levels and metabolic rates to me. This is an underestimate of the pros' fitness levels, but I'm in very good aerobic shape since my Polar heart rate monitor estimates that my VO2 max is between 50 and 60. On the other hand, as difficult as the Chicago Showcase was to officiate, the riders in the Tour de Georgia probably worked harder during the difficult mountain stages than I did on the ice. This is why I think a ratio calculation is worth doing.

Tom Danielson completed the Tour de Georgia in 26 hours 53 minutes and 44 seconds. That's 1.63-times the amount of time that I was on the ice at the Chicago Showcase. If you multiply my calories burned by 1.63, you get 25,506 calories.

To give you an idea of how the number of calories burned relates to the number of calories needed to maintain current body weight, the Basal Metabolic Rate Calculator on DiscoveryHealth.com says my body needs 1,883 calories per day. Tom Danielson is smaller than I am (both in weight and height). He only needs 1,547 calories per day by this calculator.

So when I burned 15,645 calories, that's the number of calories I'd burn if I lied on the couch for 8 days and 6 hours. If Tom Danielson burned 25,506 calories, that's the number of calories he would burn if he sat around for 16 days and 12 hours. Can you imagine burning enough calories to live for 16.5 days in only 6 days of life?

Even if I overestimated Danielson's physical effort somewhat in these calculations, the aerobic capacity of a pro cyclist is unbelievable. I wish I had capabilities at this level. Danielson's weight to power ratio is such that if he were a car, he would need a supercharger.