13 July 2013

Trentin Wins Stage 14!

Matteo Trentin ended Italy's three-year absence from the winner's podium by taking today's Stage 14.  No shock how our prediction fared against this year's fast cyclists.
  • Stage 14:  4h 15' 11" (actual), 4h 35' 15", 20' 04" slow (7.86% error)
As with Stage 13, my "if they're still flying more than in 2012" prediction of 4h 20' 00" was still five minutes too slow.  Also as in Stage 13, all 181 cyclists beat our time.  We went from great predictions early on to rather slow predictions for the past four stages.  Trentin's average speed is given below.
  • Stage 14:  12.47 m/s (44.91 kph or 27.91 mph)
Today's stage was 191 km long.  How fast is the above speed?  Stages 2 (156 km) and 3 (145.5 km) from this year's race were both classified medium mountain.  The averages speeds for the winners in those two stages were 41.94 kph and 39.43 kph.  The Tour de France's website had 43 kph as its maximum estimate for today's Stage 14 (I hope those of you in France got out earlier than what was on the time schedule!).  Today's last place finisher (181st place) had an average speed of 43.02 kph.  How about a comparison to last year's four medium-mountain stages' winners' average speeds?  Check out the table below (2012 Tour de France medium-mountain stages).

Stage Length (km) vave (kph)
3 197.0 41.77
7 199.0 39.99
8 157.5 40.01
12 226.0 39.56

Medium-mountain and mountain stages are probably harder to compare from year to year than flat stages because weather, strategy, and all the random things that happen during a stage can make comparisons in different mountains moot (i.e. simply looking at length and average speed is not good enough for a scientific comparison).  With much study ahead of us, all I can do now is a superficial comparison.  Today's last-place finisher's average speed beat the winners of this year's Stages 2 and 3 and all of last year's medium-mountain stage winners.  To say that we are perplexed by what is happening in the middle of this year's Tour de France is an understatement.

Tomorrow's Stage 15 is a 242.5-km (150.7-mi) mountain stage.  When the stages were released for this year's Tour de France, I thought Stage 15 looked incredible.  Imagine what it takes to cycle 221 km (137 mi), enduring three category-4 climbs and one category-3 climb along the way.  Think you would be tired?  That 221-km distance is longer than all but two of this year's 21 stages.  So, imagine beginning in eastern France in the commune of Givors and then biking for 221 km all the way to the commune of Bédoin, which sits in southeastern France.  You would have biked a distance that would have had you finished in 19 of 21 stages this year.  But you wouldn't be finished yet!  Another 21.5 km (13.4 mi) remains in the stage.  You reach Bédoin at an elevation of 330 m (1083 ft) knowing you won't be finished until you ascend Mount Ventoux and reach an elevation of 1912 m (6273 ft or 1.188 mi).  How do you fancy that?!?  The hors catégorie climb is a 7.5% grade on average and will surely separate contenders from pretenders.

Given how the middle of this race has gone, the prediction below is offered with tepid confidence.
  • Stage 15:  6h 30' 17" (prediction)
There is a reason that Monday is a rest day.  Enjoy the magnificent scenery and the grueling 1582-m (5190-ft) climb up the "Beast of Provence" in the final 21.5 km (13.4 mi) of tomorrow's stage!

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