16 July 2015

Rodríguez Conquers Plateau de Beille!

Stage 12 of this year's Tour de France began with great summer weather.  Temperatures reached 35 C (95 F).  But then rain started on the first category-1 climb and temperatures dropped to around 26 C (79 F).  At that point, 22 riders were in the breakaway.  Kristijan Đurasek of Croatia was first atop Col de la Core (click on the image for a larger view).
Hairpin turns are the norm in the mountains and wet roads slow racing down just a bit.  Scenery was still spectacular (click on the image for a larger view).
Michał Kwiatkowski of Poland was the first to cross the line at the summit of Port de Lers (click on the image for a larger view). 
You can see Kwiatkowski getting much-needed calories after completing the category-1 climb.  Kwiatkowski had a quality stage, coming in 27th.  But the man of the day was Joaquim Rodríguez of Spain.  He dominated the final climb and was 72 s faster than the second-place finisher.   Does he look happy after crossing the finish line (click on the image for a larger view)?
Below is a comparison between reality and our prediction.
  • Stage 12:  5h 40' 14" (actual), 5h 38' 04" (prediction), 02' 10" fast (-0.64% error)
We're back under 1%!  Given the rain and the fact that Rodríguez was celebrating in the final couple hundred meters, I'd say we did rather well.  Below is the winner's average speed.
  • Stage 12:  9.552 m/s (34.39 kph or 21.37 mph)
That speed is impressive after nearly six hours in the saddle and a brutal climb to finish.

Cyclists get a more subdued medium-mountain stage tomorrow with only a couple of category-4 climbs and a category-3 climb.  Beginning in the commune of Muret, Stage 13 takes riders 198.5 km (123.3 mi) northeast to the commune of Rodez.  Below is our prediction.
  • Stage 13:  4h 46' 07" (prediction)
Tomorrow's stage is a tough one to predict.  Chris Froome maintained his 02' 52" lead over Tejay van Garderen after today's stage.  Will BMC Racing Team challenge Team Sky tomorrow and make us slow?  Will sprinters try to speed up the pace?  Will the past three grueling stages in the Pyrenees cause riders to take it easy and make us fast?  It will be fascinating to watch tomorrow's action unfold!

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