19 July 2013

Costa Takes Stage 19 in the Rain!

Rui Costa of Portugal won his second mountain stage today.  There was a lot of rain in the latter part of the route.  We were denied a great downhill sprint to finish the stage.  Cyclists were cautious on the final descent, including having to dodge some nutty fans who were out in the road with their umbrellas.  Below is Costa's winning time and the comparison with our prediction.
  • Stage 19:  5h 59' 01" (actual), 5h 48' 01" (prediction), 11' 00" fast (-3.06% fast)
We like our small error and, as I wrote yesterday, we were a faster than today's top cyclist.  Below is Costa's average speed.
  • Stage 19:  9.494 m/s (34.18 kph or 21.24 mph)
I mentioned yesterday that I thought the winning time should be over six hours.  When I saw all the rain on the final descent and watched Costa cruise to victory with no real sprint at the end, I was even more surprised that the top two cyclists sneaked in under six hours.  The reason is that today's stage is almost an exact replica of Stage 17 in the 2004 Tour de France.  Click here and scroll down to Stage 17's profile.  When you compare that profile with today's profile (click here, scroll down, and click on "Stage profile"), you'll see the same 204.5-km distance, the same two early climbs to Col du Glandon and Col de la Madeleine, and then a category-2 climb followed by two category-1 climbs.  The second category-1 climb was indeed a different mountain in 2004 compared to today's stage, and there are some more differences in the middle of each stage, including the location of the sprint.  I am neither claiming that the two stages are exact nor that cycling Stage 17 in 2004 is exactly the same as cycling Stage 19 in 2013.  But, the stages are about as similar as two stages of the Tour de France can be:  same beginning and ending communes (sightly different elevations), same distance, and almost the same climbs.  Lance Armstrong won 2004's Stage 17 with a time of 6h 11' 52", which is why we thought our prediction was going to be much too fast today.  We are impressed to see 46 of 170 (about 27%) cyclists finish today's rainy stage in a time less than 6h 11' 52".

Given that they finished today's stage in the same group, Froome maintained his 05' 11" lead on Contador.  It is clearly Christopher Froome's Tour de France to lose.

Tomorrow's final mountain stage is short at just 125 km (77.7 mi).  Beginning in the commune of Annecy, Stage 20 has cyclists tackle a category-2 climb early on, followed by three category-3 climbs by the time they reach the two-fifths point of the route.  They then have a category-1 climb to the 1463-m (4800-ft) peak of Mont Revard.  The Alps bids cyclists adieu with an hors catégorie stage-ending climb to the 1655-m (5430-ft) peak at Mont Semnoz.  As much as we thought today's stage prediction would be too fast, we think that the way this year's Tour de France has played out, we'll return to being too slow tomorrow.  Below is our Stage 20 prediction.
  • Stage 20:  3h 45' 04" (prediction)
If I were betting, this year's Tour de France makes me think 3h 15' 00" will be more likely tomorrow.  But, if the past two, grueling mountain stages have worn the cyclists down a little, we might be have a shot.  Let's hope there is no rain tomorrow!

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