Thursday 17th October 2019

Road Biking

Hitting your peak is one of those objective views which pundits across most sports will apply based on various factors such as the most obvious one age, the pattern or trend in winning titles/championships and the stresses and requirements of that particular sport. Egan Bernal became the youngest male TdF winner ever this year (we're still waiting for a women's champion, no need to explain why!) but the oldest ever GT winner was Chris Horner at 41 so where does 'hitting your peak' lie and how does it compare to other sports? Finishing On A High explains more (worth checking out for their nifty comparison graphics!)...

Egan Bernal’s success on the Tour de France proved that there is no age barrier when it comes to sport, and in particular cycling. The Columbian rider claimed the yellow jersey at the age of just 22 to become the third youngest winner of the general classification, and the youngest since 1909. But just how much did his achievement go against the grain of recent history?


Well, thanks to Finishing on a High, we can see that the average Grand Tour winner peaks at 28 years old, which shows just how significant Bernal’s achievement is. Finishing on a High looks at the average age of champions across six sports since 2000 to assess what the peak age for elite athletes is while also considering the most common age for success and the oldest/youngest winners across each sport and picking out a potential future star in each.


Age bracket of male Grand Tour champions

  • 22-25 (18%)

  • 26-29 (38%)

  • 30-33 (40%)

  • 34-37 (2%)

  • 38+ (2%)

Of the 53 cycling champions since the turn of the century (discounting those won by Lance Armstrong), the average age of a champion is 28.7 but more significantly, the previous five winners of the Tour de France had an average age of 30.8 before Bernal smashed those records. At the other end of the scale, Chris Horner’s Vuelta success aged 41 is proof that age is no barrier in sport - something Roger Federer, Serena Williams and Tiger Woods would agree with.


Research from Finishing on a High shows that 31 is the most common age for Tour winners, with nine champions since 2000 aged 31, while there have been seven winners aged 32 and seven at 29. This shows us that road cyclists tend to peak at around 29 and maintain that form for around three or four years until they reach 33, when their performance begins to drop off. The recent success of cyclists beyond the age of 30 is proof that elite athletes are enjoying sustained peaks in their careers, something which is a pattern developing across all sports.


Golfers, tennis players and boxers have all enjoyed later peaks in recent years, and Associate Professor of Exercise Physiology at Staffordshire University, Jacky Forsyth, told Finishing on a High: “The age for being at peak is getting older – maybe this is more to do with a societal change than a technological/treatment change. “There have been medical advancements and we have a better understanding of how the body responds and adapts to training. There is also the idea that, for endurance sports, an older age is preferable since, with ageing, the body responds more to endurance training in terms of muscle tissue and cellular adaptation.


Beyond the age of 33, there have been just two winners with Horner one at 41, and Cadel Evans (34, in 2011) the two oldest winners in the last 19 years. While Bernal has already put himself forward as a star for both the present and the future, Finishing on a High predicts that Miguel Angel Lopez could be the next rider about to enter his peak years and compete for major honours. Six individual sports are broken down by age to consider future prospects and look at which players have also defied their age to enjoy success beyond the average age.


To view Finishing on a High, visit: https://www.finishingonahigh.com/