As I've done each of the past three years, I will put stage-winning time predictions on my blog. One of my talented students, Chad Hobson, who just completed his first year at Lynchburg College, has been working with me this summer. We've made what we hope are a few positive refinements to the model my research group has employed for more than a decade. Science and technology continue to improve bike and helmet design, and cutting-edge training methods elevate the performances of the elite athletes who compete for the famed yellow jersey. The latter part of last year's Tour de France left us stunned with never-before-seen speeds, all of which are described in our most recent paper on Tour de France modeling (click here for the paper that was published last month in the Journal of Sports Engineering and Technology).
Our goal is to predict the winning time for each stage. We do not try to model a specific cyclist. Based on published research on biker's power output, air drag, etc, we try to incorporate the dominant physics contributions in our model. There is no way we can predict with any accuracy what the weather will be like on a given stage, if there will be crashes, or if teams' strategies dictate slowed or increased pace. If we find a stage-winning time is much longer than our prediction, we aren't bothered much if it turns out there was lots of rain and a couple of crashes. When our model ran slow in the latter part of last year's race, our curiosity was certainly piqued!
With all those qualifications out of the way, here is our prediction for this year's first stage:
- Stage 1: 4h 30' 23" (prediction)
Who will don the yellow jersey after tomorrow's stage? Given the location of the stage, I wouldn't bet against Mark Cavendish!
With the World Cup and the Tour de France now overlapping, it's a busy and fun time of year for me! I hope to catch most of the action as two more countries will leave the World Cup today. I'll also celebrate my country's 238th birthday while anxiously awaiting for tomorrow's start of cycling's biggest event.