17 July 2013

Froome Edges Contador in Rainy Time Trial!

Chris Froome was the last rider in, and just eclipsed Alberto Contador's time by nine seconds to win today's individual time trial.  Contador is now second overall at 04' 34" behind Froome.  Below is how Froome did against our prediction.
  • Stage 17:  51' 33" (actual), 44' 49" (prediction), 06' 44" fast (-13.06% error)
Our prediction for this time trial now represents our worst prediction of the race.  After the way this Tour de France has gone, we would have been shocked that we were so fast with our prediction had we not observed the competition.  But today was not an ordinary race day.  There were thunderstorms, swirling winds, and even hail at times.  Riders slowed through some very dangerous spots, especially on the two major downhills.  Instead of seeing possible through-the-roof speeds, Mother Nature slowed everyone down.  Even the Tour de France's time-schedule conservative estimate of 47' was well off the winning time.  Just when we thought we had a predicted time that could compete with this year's speedy cyclists, the weather put a stop to that!  Froome's average speed is below.
  • Stage 17:  10.35 m/s (37.25 kph or 23.14 mph)
Probably the most anticipated stage of this year's Tour de France is tomorrow's Stage 18.  The 172.5-km (107.2-mi) long mountain stage begins where Stage 16 left off, in the southeastern French commune of Gap.  The stage ends north of Gap at the famous ski resort Alpe-d'Huez, which sits at an elevation of 1850 m (6070 ft).  Alpe-d'Huez has appeared in several Tours de France, always challenging riders with its renowned 21 hairpin turns (click here for a great Wikipedia image).  What makes this year's Stage 18 so special is that for the first time in the 100-year history of the Tour de France, the ascent to Alpe-d'Huez will be made twice.  Cyclists will reach Le Bourg-d'Oisans after being on their bikes for 108 km (67.1 mi) and having already navigated a category-3 climb and two category-2 climbs.  They will then begin their first climb toward Alpe-d'Huez, an hors cat√©gorie climb for sure.  Reaching the peak won't be their high-elevation mark for the day because they then have a category-2 climb to the top of Col de Sarenne, which sits at 1999 m (6558 ft) above sea level.  A sure-to-be fantastic downhill sets 
up the final hors cat√©gorie return to Alpe-d'Huez.

When we developed our model for this year's Tour de France, we were especially interested in what our model had to say about Stage 18.  Below is our prediction.
  • Stage 18:  4h 59' 50" (prediction)
So many unpredictable complications take place on mountain stages.  The weather is unpredictable, elevation changes wreak havoc on cyclists, and strategies may change on the fly.  Regardless of how our prediction comes out, tomorrow's stage is bound to be memorable!

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