15 July 2015

Majka Dominates Stage 11!

The second Pyrenees stage was raced on yet another gorgeous French summer day.  Riders were challenged by warm temperatures (33 C or 91 F) during their climbs.  Below is a screen grab of the peloton during the climb up Col d'Aspin (click on the image for a larger view).
The Tour de France is a grueling athletic event, but look at that view for those who can do it!  Dan Martin was the first to reach the peak of Col d'Aspin (click on the image below for a larger view).
Martin had a great day.  He was aggressive and climbed with an enormous amount of grit.  But Martin was a minute slower than today's winner, Polish cyclist Rafał Majka, who made his move on the 17.1-km (10.6-mi) ascent up Col du Tourmalet.  When he crossed the peak, he had a 5.5-minute lead on his competition (click on the image for a larger view).
Majka was positively flying down Col du Tourmalet, expertly navigating hairpin turns and avoiding fans.  His downhill technique definitely minimized air drag (click on the image for a larger view).
Imagine sitting on a bike like that while zooming downhill at 80 kph (50 mph)!  My favorite moment on the Col du Tourmalet descent was when some cows decided to join the race (click on the image for a larger view).
That is French cyclist Warren Barguil who's the object of bovine curiosity.  Luckily, no cyclist was injured.

Cows aside, the day belonged to Rafał Majka (click on the image for a larger view).
Below is his winning time and a comparison with our prediction.
  • Stage 11:  5h 02' 01" (actual), 4h 58" 09" (prediction), 03' 52" fast (-1.28% error)
Given how far ahead Majka was at the end, there was no sprint for first.  Had there been, we would have been even closer.  I was hoping for a big sprint to get the winner under five hours.  But we'll definitely take that error!  Below is Majka's average speed.
  • Stage 11:  10.37 m/s (37.35 kph or 23.21 mph)
Stage 12 is sure to be the toughest Pyrenees stage.  Commencing in the commune of Lannemezan, the 195-km (121-mi) stage takes riders southeast to the ski resort at Plateau de Beille.  Sprinters will be thrown a bone after only about 20 km (12 mi) before the real stage gets underway.  A category-2 climb will get riders to 1069 m (3507 ft) on Col de Portet d'Aspet, and that's just the warm-up.  Two category-1 climbs, the first to the 1395-m (4577-ft) peak of Col de la Core and the second to the 1517-m (4977-m) peak of Port de Lers, occupy the middle of the stage.  If that's not enough mountain brutality, cyclists will have to finish the stage with a 15.8-km (9.82-mi) hors catégorie climb to the 1780-m (1.106-mi) ski resort.  I believe I counted six riders who abandoned the race today.  How many will tomorrow's stage claim?  Below is our prediction.
  • Stage 12:  5h 38' 04" (prediction)
Because of the difficulty, length, and timing of the stage, we've backed off our model's power ever so slightly.  Will cyclists hold back and save themselves for the Alps or will some try to cut into Chris Froome's lead?  It will be fun watching the best cyclists in the world tackle tomorrow's challenging stage.

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