21 October 2018

Trubisky SCRAMBLES the Patriots!

The New England Patriots held on to beat the Chicago Bears today, 38-31.  Though the home fans left the game disappointed, they did have reason to cheer like crazy near the end of the 1st quarter.  The Bears had 3rd and 6 at the Pats' 8-yard line.  Bears QB Mitch Trubisky (#10) was lined up in the shotgun (click on image for a larger view).
The Patriots had a defender on every Bears receiver.  You can see Trubisky at the 13-yard line on the right hash mark, ready for the snap.  After the play began, the Patriots' end-zone coverage was great, and the Bears' pocket eventually broke down.  Trubisky scrambled backwards and to his right.  By the time he got to the 25-yard line, Pats' defensive end Adrian Clayborn (#94) nearly grabbed Trubisky (click on image for a larger view).
But Trubisky wasn't finished distancing himself from the end zone.  He actually ran just past the Pats' 30-yard line (click on image for a larger view).
At this point, about 5.27 seconds had elapsed since Trubisky received the snap, and the play wasn't even half over!  You can see that Trubisky had set his sights on the left side of the field.  He kept angling left, nearly stopping at one point as he surveyed the field.  By the time he got just past the 25-yard line, Trubisky knew he was going for the end zone.  He turned on the jets, hitting a maximum speed of about 18 mph.  He finally scored 11.8 seconds after the play began.  He had run a total distance of about 72 yards, which means his average speeds was 12.5 mph.  Compare that to the measly 1.4 mph someone could have walked the 8 yards to the end zone in 11.8 seconds.  Check out the score (click on image for a larger view).
Though he didn't output this much energy during his mad scramble, Mitch Trubisky had an internal energy burn of about 7 Calories.  That's roughly the same as the two tablespoons of mustard on a couple of Chicago-style hot dogs.  It was too bad Trubisky couldn't burn off the two interceptions he threw on the day.

The best block on the play took place right as Trubisky scored.  310-lb Bears center Cody Whitehair (#65) was running over 14 mph when he slammed into 205-lb Pats safety Duron Harmon (#21).  You can see them together in the above image, but look at the initial collision (click on image for a larger view).
With pads and helmets on those guys, the collision involved a combined weight of about 565 pounds.  Harmon was hit at school zone speed and got squashed! (click on image for a larger view)
Gary O'Reilly of Playing with Science joined me on today's Check Down piece we did for TuneIn's 1st & Goal.  Click here for the audio link.

14 October 2018

Devin Funchess MOSSES Quinton Dunbar!

The Carolina Panthers fell on the road today to the Washington Redskins, 23-17.  But the Panthers did provide a wonderful highlight deep into the second quarter when they were down 17-0.  Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (#1) lined up in the shotgun for a 2nd and 10 at the Redskins' 23-yard line.  On the far left of the formation stood 6' 4" wide receiver Devin Funchess (#17).  Opposite him was the 6' 2" Redskins cornerback Quinton Dunbar (#23).  Check out the formation (click on image for a larger view).
I don't need to dress up the above screen capture.  You can see Newton in the shotgun, and you can see Funchess and Dunbar at the top of the image.  After the snap, Newton backpedaled to the 31-yard line, where he threw his pass (click on image for a larger view).
Newton released the ball at 46.5 mph and at an angle of 27.2 degrees above the horizontal.  The image below shows the trajectory of the pass, with an air resistance force that was nearly 15% of the ball's weight after Newton released it (click on image for a larger view).
As much fun as it is for me to write and talk about football aerodynamics, let me now turn my attention to the touchdown catch.  Newton’s pass arrived at the 1-yard line, hitting Funchess’s gloved hands at 42 mph (click on image for a larger view).
Funchess leaped before Dunbar, allowing his forward momentum to carry him into the end zone.  Funchess managed to leap over 1.3 feet into the air when he caught the ball.  His leap kept him above the turf more than twice as long as Dunbar’s leap.  Funchess’s gloved hands stopped the ball using a lot of friction.  When Funchess landed on the turf with his left shoe, he was holding the ball in his right hand, well out of Dunbar’s reach.  The best Dunbar could do was yank on Funchess’s facemask with his left hand (click on image for a larger view).
Hang time is a wonderful thing!  For any of us who leap into the air, we spend nearly 71% of our time above Earth in the top half of our motion.  Do as Funchess did to Dunbar and you’ll have more time to "hang" at the top of your flight.  Funchess used his hang time to MOSS Devin Dunbar!

I had to echo the "verb" on social media, MOSS.  Who can forget Randy Moss doing that to defensive backs?  The newly minted Hall of Famer was, like Funchess, 6' 4" tall.  I'm writing this blog post in Huntington, West Virginia while visiting Marshall University for a couple invited talks I'm giving tomorrow (Monday, 15 October 2018).  Marshall is where REAL Mossing began!

Chuck Nice of Playing with Science joined me on today's Check Down piece we did for TuneIn's 1st & Goal.  Click here for the audio link.

07 October 2018

A Giant of a Trick Play!

After being down to the Carolina Panthers for most of the game, the New York Giants came back to take a one-point lead with just over a minute left.  But Graham Gano, the Panthers' placekicker, nailed a 63-yard field goal to win the game, 33-31.  Before Gano's heroics came a great trick play in the second quarter that had the Panthers completely fooled.

Check out the start of the trick play (click on image for a larger view).
The Giants faced a 2nd and 18 from their own 43-yard line.  All the action looks to be to the left of the Giants' line.  Two wide receivers were lined up to the far left, including Odell Beckham Jr (#13).  Giants' tight end Scott Simonson (#82) was in motion to the left.  Saquon Barkley (#26) was the lone running back.  When Giants' quarterback Eli Manning (#10) took the snap, tight end Rhett Ellison (#85) ran straight down the field.

Look at how the play developed in the next screen capture (click on image for a larger view).
Manning is firing to his left, toward Beckham.  Barkley is headed toward the right.  But Odell Beckham Jr is like a black hole on a football field.  When we think of a black hole in the cosmos, we think of an object that sucks everything in, and doesn't let go.  Normally, if a pass goes toward Beckham, the defense gets sucked in his direction, and he's not going to let go of the football.  That's what got the Panthers fooled!

Look at the attention Beckham is getting (click on image for a larger view).
Ellison has done his job in keeping the attention of Panthers' safety Mike Adams (#29).  Panthers' defensive end Mario Addison (#97) was getting sucked toward Beckham!  That allowed Barkley to sneak behind Addison like a stealthy Nittany Lion.  Beckham wasn't going to run; he was going to throw (click on image for a larger view).
Look how far to the left Beckham is when he let go of the pass.  Because Panthers' cornerback James Bradberry (#24) was flying at him, Beckham had to give his pass a little extra loft.  Another view helps show why Beckham had to loft his pass a bit (click on image for a larger view).
Look where Barkley caught the ball (click on image for a larger view).
He's all the way on the other side of the field!  Beckham threw the ball 31 yards down the field, and just over that same distance across the field.  He threw the ball over 45 yards in the air!  His pass left his hand at nearly 49 mph and at a lofty angle of 37 degrees above the horizontal.  The ball took 2.6 seconds to reach Barkley.  I found the trajectory.  Present was, of course, air resistance, which was about one-sixth of the ball's weight acting on the ball when thrown (click on image for a larger view).
The only Panthers' defender with a chance to catch Barkley was linebacker Jermain Carter Jr (#56).  But Barkley turned on the jets, hit 19 mph top speed, and left Carter in his wake.  The touchdown was a given (click on image for a larger view).
Odell Beckham acted first like a black hole in sucking all the attention of the Panthers in his direction.  He then acted like a pro quarterback with a nearly perfect pass to his rookie running back.  What a great trick play!

Gary O'Reilly of Playing with Science joined me on today's Check-Down piece for TuneIn's 1st & Goal.  Click here for the audio.

01 October 2018

Ridley Jukes His Way to an Easy Score!

The Atlanta Falcons lost a nail-biter to the Cincinnati Bengals today, 37-36.  Among the thrills in the game was the play of Falcons rookie wide receiver, Calvin Ridley (#17).  Just after the start of the 4th quarter, Ridley showed off one of his moves, letting everyone know that he's got a great shot at long NFL career.  The Falcons had 1st and 10 on the Bengals' 30-yard line.  Ridley was lined up on the far right side of the Falcons' line, just inside the big 30 on the turf (click on image for a larger view).
You can see Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (#2) about to take the snap.  Lined up across from Ridley is Bengals' cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick (#27).

After the snap, Ridley ran about 3.5 yards, and then initiated motion toward the right sideline.  The screen capture below shows Ridley a little further along in his juke (click on image for a larger view).
You can see Ridley's back as he's facing the right sideline.  Kirkpatrick has taken the bait!  The screen capture below shows that it's all over for Kirkpatrick (click on image for a larger view).
In the upper left of the image, you see Ridley already running toward the end zone.  Matt Ryan is enjoying perfect pocket protection and has a great view of his receiver getting open.  Kirkpatrick not only got schooled by Ridley, he got schooled by Isaac Newton!  When he bit on the juke, his linear momentum was toward the sideline.  He needed a big net, external force to stop that linear momentum and turn him back toward Ridley.

Timing was perfect as Ryan fired the all at about 50 mph, nearly 30 degrees above the horizontal (click on the image below).
Ryan threw from the 36-yard line at the right hash mark.  The ball went about 7 yards above the turf at its maximum height.  Look where Ridley was when Ryan threw the ball (click on the image for a larger view).
Ridley was just crossing the 20-yard line, about to hit a speed of 18 mph.  He didn't have to reach his top speed because he was so wide open, and because the pass was perfectly thrown.  You can see that Kirkpatrick is already badly beat.  Ridley caught the pass on the fly at the 5-yard line (click on the image for a larger view).
Think about the timing on the play.  Ryan aimed for a spot 15 yards ahead of Ridley.  Ryan knew his receiver's speed.  No Bengal was within 6 yards of Ridley when he made the catch, so he could waltz into the end zone (click on the image for a larger view).
It was Ridley's second touchdown of the day.  Unfortunately for the Falcons, they failed to make the two-point conversion, and lost by one.

Isaac Newton helped us understand how planets like Mars and Venus -- and Earth! -- go around the sun.  He also helped us understand how Ridley ran around Kirkpatrick on his way to the end zone.  Perfect timing in the NFL and juking physics are a joy to watch!

Chuck Nice of Playing with Science joined me on today's Check-Down piece for TuneIn's 1st & Goal.  Click here for our segment.

23 September 2018

Mahomes Scrambles the 49ers!

The Kansas City Chiefs defeated the San Francisco 49ers, 38-27, in today's NFL action.  Nearly midway into the 2nd quarter, Chiefs' quarterback Patrick Mahomes (#15) put on quite a display in racking up a 4-yard TD pass.  Check out the shotgun formation on 3rd and goal at the 49ers' 4-yard line (click on image for a larger view).
Note that wide receiver Chris Conley (#17) is lined up on the far right side of the Chiefs' formation.  I circled 49ers' defensive tackle DeForest Buckner (#99) and defensive end Arik Armstead (#91), both lined up across the right side of the Chiefs' offensive line.  I also circled 49ers' defensive end Cassius Marsh (#54) lined up across the left side of the Chiefs' offensive line.

At the snap, the Chiefs' pass rush used lots of linear momentum and a great swim move from Marsh to bust through the 49ers pocket protection.  By the time Mahomes backpedaled to the 13-yard line, he knew he had to improvise, and began to spin backwards (click on image for a larger view).
Just look at what Mahomes saw coming at him when he knew that a score would only come via his athleticism and talent (click on image for a larger view).
Marsh was in hot pursuit and chased Mahomes all the way back to the 49ers' 24-yard line (click on image for a larger view).
Mahomes then turned on the jets and ran toward the right side of the field.  Conley followed his quarterback and ran for the right corner of the end zone.  Mahomes let go of the ball on the run at the 19-yard line and found Conley in the back, right corner of the end zone.  Check out the throw (click on image for a larger view).
Mahomes's mind had to add his velocity to the ball's velocity.  My introductory physics students have to work problems with adding velocity vectors all the time!  Look at the throw from the back (click on image for a larger view).
You can see Conley running to the right in the back of the end zone.  Check out where he caught the TD pass (click on image for a larger view).
It’ll go into the record books as a 4-yard TD pass, but Mahomes took 7.2 seconds as he scrambled a total distance of about 32 yards before releasing his pass, which actually traveled roughly 29 yards.  He threw off his right foot, running nearly 20 mph when he released the ball.  He was able to throw the ball around 53 mph.  Conley got credit for a 4-yard TD reception, but after he ran nearly the width of the field, he had run about 60 yards before catching the ball.

The 4-yard TD pass entry in the box score doesn’t reveal how much running and how much wonderful physics went into the play.  Patrick Mahomes turned 23 just 6 days ago.  I think we’re in for many more jaw-dropping plays from that kid!

This was the first play of the new NFL seasons that I analyzed for TuneIn's 1st & Goal.  Gary O'Reilly of Playing with Science joined me on the show.  Click here for our segment.

16 August 2018

Belated Tour de France Finish

I thought I would have this post out a few days ago, but my basement suffered a lot of damage from a storm that took place in my town on 1 August.  My girls and I returned from holiday to a big mess!  But on to happier topics:  the Tour de France.  The 2018 edition of the world's most famous bicycle race ended on Sunday, 29 July while I was on holiday.  I managed to snag a few glances of the race while I was away, but had to wait until I returned to watch the final four stages.  I'm sure all of Wales was going nuts when Geraint Thomas secured the win in Paris.  I grabbed a screen shot of Thomas on the podium with runner-up, Dutchman Tom Dumoulin on Thomas's right and Chris Froome, who came in third, on Thomas's left (click on image for a larger view).
Froome's second-place finish in the Stage 20 individual time trial secured his third-place finish in the general classification.

Our model did reasonably well during the final four stages.
  • Stage 18:  3h 46' 50" (actual), 4h 02' 11" (prediction), 15' 21" slow (6.77% error)
  • Stage 19:  5h 28' 17" (actual), 5h 17' 38" (prediction), 10' 39" fast (-3.24% error)
  • Stage 20:  0h 40' 52" (actual), 0h 39' 11" (prediction), 01' 41" fast (-4.12% error)
  • Stage 21:  2h 46' 36" (actual), 2h 45' 13" (prediction), 01' 23" fast (-0.83% error)
In my last post, I mistakenly typed 4h 02' 35" for the Stage 18 prediction.  Sorry about the typo!  I suppose the 24" reduction helped us a teeny bit, but Stage 18 will be one we need to analyze more closely in the future.  I'm glad we finished so well with Stage 21's prediction coming in under 1%.

One piece of silliness each year is to compare the sum of the actual winning times with the sum of our predictions.  Here is the result:
  • Total:  82h 32' 17" (actual), 81h 50' 50" (prediction), 41' 27" fast (-0.84% error)
Note that the above "actual" time is not Geraint Thomas's winning time of 83h 17' 13", but the sum of all the stage-winning times.  We do not model an individual cyclist.  Missing by less than 1% of the actual total time may seem impressive, but keep in mind that we missed some stages because we were too fast, and we missed others on which we were too slow.  We have a good feeling for how the entire race will be run, so errors tends to cancel when forming the sum.

Our model cyclist expended about 116,435 Calories (487.5 MJ or 135.4 kW⋅hr).  That amounts to over 5500 Calories burned per stage.  A McDonald's Big Mac contains 550 Calories, meaning a Tour de France cyclist burns an average of 10 Big Macs each stage.  Don't ever try fueling up for a grueling bike ride with 10 Big Macs!

Modeling the Tour de France was once again a delight.  Kudos to my research student, Carl Pilat, for his efforts.  More research work lies ahead as we dissect this year's race to determine what worked well with our model and what didn't work well.  We learn when we are ignorant of something and when we are wrong about something.  Continual learning is what makes being a scientist so much fun!

25 July 2018

Quintana Dominates Col de Portet!

Nairo Quintana won his second Tour de France stage with an inspiring climb to the summit of Col de Portet.  Does he look happy at the finish line? (click on image for a larger view)
The downhills were just a tad slower than my model predicted.  Below is the comparison between Quintana and my model.
  • Stage 17:  2h 21' 27" (actual), 2h 12' 27" (prediction), 09' 03" fast (-6.36% error)
To match the actual time, I need to drop my model cyclist's power output by only 1%.  See how tough it is to nail the winning time!  Chris Froome cracked a bit in the final kilometers and couldn't keep up with Tom Dumoulin, who jumped over Froome for second place in the general classification.  Geraint Thomas came in third day and made it clear that he is the man to beat for the yellow jersey, not Froome.  Quintana averaged 27.57 kph (17.13 mph).

Okay, now for something different.  I am going on a much-needed holiday.  I've only had three days off in 2018 and I need a break!  I'll do my best to keep up with the Tour de France over the next few days, but I'm not likely to write blog posts.  My model's predictions for the next four stages are given below.
  • Stage 18:  4h 02' 35" (prediction)
  • Stage 19:  5h 17' 38" (prediction)
  • Stage 20:  0h 39' 11" (prediction)
  • Stage 21:  2h 45' 13" (prediction)
When I return from holiday, I'll write a blog post that summaries how my model fared over the above four stages.  Can anyone catch Geraint Thomas???  Will Peter Sagan be able to dominate the remaining points after his crash today???  Lots of drama remains!

24 July 2018

Alaphilippe OBLITERATES Our Model!

There are stages like today's Stage 16 that I watch and think, "Wow, those guys are flying!  We're not going to have a good prediction today."  We had a terrible prediction today.  I'll start with the good news before showing the comparison.  Julian Alaphilippe was absolutely ecstatic as he crossed the finish line (click on image for a larger view).
French fans were cheering for the French cyclist.  His main competitor for the stage win was Brit Adam Yates.  Yates looked like he had a shot at the win as he was flying down the final descent, but he crashed (click on image for a larger view).
You can tell that he was about to get a very sore left arm and shoulder.  I was hoping to see a thrilling two- or three-man race for the finish line.  Yates was able to finish third.  He was not the only one to crash.  I cringed when I saw Belgian cyclist Philippe Gilbert fly over a short wall (click on image for a larger view).
Give the guy credit.  He got back up, finished the race in 142nd place, and easily won the combativity prize (I love the red award with the white 1).  The image below was inspiring to see (click on image for a larger view).
This stage of the Tour de France not only had crashes, it had a protest from farmers.  The race had to be paused early on (click on image for a larger view).
Some cyclists got sprayed with what looked like a fire extinguisher.  During the pause, they had to flush out their eyes.  Check out the Italian cyclist Oliviero Troia (click on image for a larger view).
The pause really threw me for a loop.  I thought the clock was stopped, but it kept ticking.  When Alaphilippe was approaching the finish line, I thought we were going to be slow, but inside 10 minutes off.  When the actual time came up on the screen, I couldn't believe it.  Check out our prediction.
  • Stage 16:  5h 13' 22" (actual), 5h 44' 15" (prediction), 30' 53" slow (9.86% error)
When I first started modeling the Tour de France in 2003, an error under 10% seemed okay.  But not any longer.  We've gotten a lot better, but that didn't show today.  I'd have to give my model cyclist a 15% power boost to make that winning time.  Of the 147 riders who finished today's stage, 141 beat our time prediction.  We actually did a great job modeling Philippe Gilbert's time, but we don't have crashes in our model!

Our string of great picks is over with this stage.  But as I told my research student, Carl Pilat, this morning, this is a learning opportunity.  When the race is over and we look at this stage again, we'll see where the model let us down.  I am stunned that all cyclists finished in less than six hours.  They are getting better every year and our model needs to keep up!  Alaphilippe averaged 41.74 kph (25.94 mph).  That's high, but not insanely so.

Everyone has been waiting for tomorrow's Stage 17.  Picking back up in Bagnères-de-Luchon, the stage is just 65 km (40 mi) long.  Right out of the gate, cyclists will face a category-1 climb to the peak of Col de Peyresourde.  A fast downhill will be followed by a sprint section before cyclists have the category-1 climb to the summit of Col de Val Louron-Azet.  The fast downhill will end abruptly.  This year's Tour de France winner might be settled on the highly-anticipated Hors catégorie stage-finishing climb to the peak of Col du Portet in Saint-Lary-Soulan.  Our prediction is given below.
  • Stage 17:  2h 12' 27" (prediction)
After today, I'm really nervous about tomorrow.  Putting physics aside, I can't wait to watch the stage!

22 July 2018

Magnus Cort Nielsen Gets Us Under 1%!

It was another great stage today with a trio sprinting for the win.  Rafał Majka of Poland, who is a great mountain climber, was out front for a good bit of the race, but a group of seven riders caught him.  Check out the screen capture I got as Majka was about to be caught (click on image for a larger view).
It's really tough for a lone rider to outpace a group of seven.  Those guys in pursuit are constantly swapping out the lead cyclist, thus saving energy for the following cyclists.  Drafting is a huge advantage the group had that Majka didn't have.

Majka ended up finishing eighth, meaning all seven pursuing riders finished ahead of him.  The trio of Magnus Cort NielsenIon Izagirre Insausti, and Bauke Mollema broke away from the group of eight and sprinted for the stage win.  It was the Dane who took the stage.  Does Nielsen look happy as he crossed the finish line? (click on image for a larger view)
Izagirre was second and Mollema was third.  Check out how our prediction fared.
  • Stage 15:  4h 25' 52" (actual), 4h 28' 09" (prediction), 02' 17" slow (0.86% error)
Oh, I love being under 1%!  Nielsen averaged 40.96 kph (25.45 mph) today.  But you see in the above image that the final sprint had the cyclists at 51 kph (32 mph) as they reached the finish line.

Riders will stay in Carcassonne for tomorrow's rest day.  Tuesday's 218-km (135-mi) Stage 16 takes riders from Carcassone into the Pyrenees.  The mountain stage will dip into Spain for a bit near the end before finishing in Bagnères-de-Luchon.  A couple of massive category-1 climbs are in the second half of the stage, and a huge downhill sprint will finish the stage.  Our prediction is given below.
  • Stage 16:  5h 44' 15" (prediction)
Many riders will surely take more than six hours to finish the stage.  That's a long time in the saddle!  It'll be a race to the summit of Col du Portillon to see who's in position for the big downhill sprint.

21 July 2018

Fraile's Timing was Perfect!

Omar Fraile timed his attack perfectly on the final, brutal climb in Mende.  He looked positively elated when he crossed the finish line (click on image for a larger view).
Behind Fraile is Julian Alaphilippe on the right, who came in second, and Jasper Stuyven, who came in third.  Peter Sagan is behind them and came in fourth.  I have to put a few words down for Jasper Stuyven.  He was part of a group of three who lead a good chunk of the race.  He broke away and looked determine to win the stage (click on image for a larger view).
There he is in the lead with less than 30 km (19 mi) to go.  He biked his tail off trying to get a large enough time gap to give him a chance when he hit the final climb.  It just wasn't enough.  Fraile and Alaphilippe benefited from drafting before they attacked.  They had more gas in the tank.  It just goes to show how critical strategy is.  If a rider goes for glory and sets out alone, he better be sure he's got enough energy to make it to the end without getting caught.  But Stuyven honored his home country of Belgium on Belgian National Day and most definitely earned the red jersey.

The general classification leaders were well behind the stage winner.  They came in a bit more than 18 minutes after Fraile.  Below is a comparison between Fraile's winning time and our prediction.
  • Stage 14:  4h 41' 57" (actual), 4h 38' 11" (prediction), 03' 46" fast (-1.34% error)
I love that error!  My model is performing well this year.  Fraile averaged 40.01 kph (24.86 mph) today.  I'm glad he got over 40 kph.  The pace seemed slow at the start and I worried that our prediction might be too fast.

Tomorrow's 181.5-km (112.8-mi) Stage 15 is another medium mountain stage.  Beginning in Millau, the stage ends in Carcassonne and get riders to the second of two rest days in this year's Tour de France.  The Pyrenees will be so close!  Riders will face a tough category-2 climb before they reach the halfway point.  They will contend with a category-1 climb that will take them nearly to the top of Pic de Nore.  After that climb, cyclists will have a thrilling downhill and fly to the finish line.  Our prediction is given below.
  • Stage 15:  4h 28' 09" (prediction)
Will a lone rider go for the stage win?  How will the general classification leaders ride with a rest day coming up and the Pyrenees to follow?

20 July 2018

Sagan Stretches for the Win!

Michael Schär left the peloton early today and rode courageously alone until the peloton caught him inside of 7 km (4 mi) left in the race.  I was hoping he could hold on because I was inspired by his efforts.  But when the cyclists got into Valence, the elite sprinters took over.  Peter Sagan timed his sprint perfectly and stretched as only he can at the finish line (click on image for a larger view).
The Slovakian finished just ahead of Alexander Kristoff of Norway and France's own Arnaud Démare.  It was a fantastic finish!  Oh, and check out how our prediction fared in today's stage.
  • Stage 13:  3h 45' 55" (actual), 3h 42' 28" (prediction), 03' 27" fast (-1.53% error)
I'd say I'm happy with that!  Sagan averaged 45.02 kph (27.97 mph) today.  Not too bad!  But I can't leave with Sagan.  I have to show an image of Michael Schär (click on image for a larger view).
He really pushed the peloton and made me root for him today.  He definitely earned the red jersey today!

Tomorrow's Stage 14 is classified as medium mountain, but it has some good climbs, including a category-2 climb near the finish in Mende.  The 188-km (117-mi) stage begins in Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux and heads west.  Our prediction is given below.
  • Stage 14:  4h 38' 11" (prediction)
How will the climbs during the second half of the stage shake up the general classification?

19 July 2018

Thomas Goes Back-to-Back After INCREDIBLE Finish!

I'm not rooting hard for any particular cyclist, but it was difficult not to root for Steven Kruijswijk today.  The Dutchman took a chance and broke off early.  He lead after that and tried so hard for the stage win.  With about 3.4 km (2.1 mi) left, Chris Froome caught Kruijswijk.  I was so inspired by Kruijswijk's effort that I was rooting for him to hold on, but he didn't have a strong team supporting him.  Team Sky is just too powerful.  Froome, who heard boos throughout the route, was part of a group of cyclists who battled Alpe d'Huez to the very top.  Froome was passed by home-country favorite Romain Bardet, Dutchman Tom Dumoulin, and stage-winner Geraint Thomas of Wales.  Does Thomas look happy going back-to-back and taming Alpe d'Huez? (click on image for a larger view)
I'd say that looks like happiness!  Check out how our predication fared.
  • Stage 12:  5h 18' 37" (actual), 5h 27' 15" (prediction), 08' 38' slow (2.71% error)
I'll definitely take an error under 3% with Alpe d'Huez!  I would need to up my model cyclist's power output by less than 1% to match today's winning time.  That's why slow cycling up steep climbs is hard to predict.  Check out Alpe d'Huez (click on image for a larger view).
Is that the most famous stretch of road in cycling?  I believe today's finish was the 30th Tour de France stage finish for the famous climb.  There is one problem with slow cycling up such steep climbs.  Fans -- not all, but some.  A few fans had flares ignited.  Look at Kruijswijk trying to get through the smoke (click on image for a larger view).
Check out the screen capture I got of some asshole punching Chris Froome (click on image for a larger view).

It doesn't matter what you think of Froome.  Punching a guy on a bike is a coward's move.  And of course we live in a world in which too many people are addicted to their damn cell phones.  Check out this idiot getting a selfie with Kruijswijk (click on image for a larger view).
He had been cycling for nearly five hours at that point and was trying to win the stage.  He didn't need that loser in his face.

Thomas won one of the most thrilling stages I've seen.  He averaged 33.05 kph (20.54 mph) and hit a top downhill speed of 97 kph (60 mph).  Whether it's that top speed or the ability to climb Alpe d'Huez after 4.5 hours in the saddle, I am in awe of elite cyclists.

Thomas maintains the yellow jersey with Froome 01' 39" behind.  Dumoulin sits in third at 01' 50" back.  Tour de France champ in 2014 Vincenzo Nibali is in fourth at 02' 37" back.  I wonder how much closer Nibali would be if a motorcycle hadn't bumped into him (click on image for a larger view).
Nibali was amazing afterwards.  He got up and managed to come in seventh, just 13" back.

Tomorrow's Stage 13 begins in the French commune of Le Bourg-d'Oisans and ends 169.5 km (105.3 mi) farther in Valence.  The stage is in the southeastern part of France, but racing is to the west as cyclists make their way toward the Pyrenees.  The flat stage has one category-3 climb early and then a short category-4 climb just past the halfway point.  Our prediction is given below.
  • Stage 13:  3h 42' 28" (prediction)
I keeping wondering if Thomas wants to support Froome.  That yellow jersey must be tough to get rid of!