12 July 2013

The Manx Missile Blasts Off Again!

Mark Cavendish won his second stage of this year's Tour de France.  Chris Froome maintains his hold on the yellow jersey.  As I expected, we were once again too slow.  Below is Cavendish's time compared to our prediction.
  • Stage 13:  3h 40' 08" (actual), 4h 01' 57" (prediction), 21' 49" slow (9.91% error)
Despite 15 kph (9.3 mph) crosswinds with headwind components, Cavendish was able to achieve the average speed you see below.
  • Stage 13:  13.10 m/s (47.15 kph or 29.30 mph)
Check out my post from yesterday.  Granted, only Stage 15 from last year's race was shorter than today's 173-km (107-mi) stage.  Still, no average speed from last year's flat stages comes close to what was seen today.  Last year's Stage 15 was 14.5 km (9.01 mi) shorter than today's stage, yet the winner's average speed in that stage was 43.18 kph (26.83 mph).  Even my super-low estimate of 3h 45' 00" at the end of yesterday's post would have been five minutes too slow.

All 181 cyclists beat our prediction today.  The last rider's time was 3h 53' 44", which gives an average speed of 44.41 kph (27.59 mph).  That would have been the third fastest average speed for last year's flat stages.  Put another way, today's last-place finisher had an average speed that would have won six of last year's flat stages.

To say we are flummoxed by the speeds we've seen in recent stages would be an understatement!  For those of you in France who are watching the race live, be sure to get out earlier than what the Tour de France website suggests on its time schedule.  Today's time schedule had 46.0 kph (28.6 mph) for its maximum estimated average speed.

Tomorrow's Stage 14 is of the medium-mountain variety.  The 191-km (119-mi) stage begins in the commune of Saint-Pourçain-sur-Sioule and ends to the southeast in the city of Lyon.  Along the way, cyclists will meet five category-4 climbs and two category-3 climbs.  Our prediction is given below.
  • Stage 14:  4h 35' 15" (prediction)
If this were 2012, I would be quite confident with the above prediction.  Given how this year is going, I won't be surprised to see something close to 4h 20' 00".  I am not trying to play two predictions.  We are sticking with what is written above because we want to be fair to the model we created when this race started.  It is clear, however, that the jump in athletic performance and technology from last year to his year is greater than we anticipated.

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