19 July 2015

The Gorilla Gets #3!

As the old saying goes, all good things must come to an end.  Our streak of eight consecutive stage predictions with error 1.85% or less came to an end today.  I watched in awe as the world's best cyclists set a blistering pace on another hot day (temperatures reached about 33 C or 91 F).  They were averaging about 48 kph (30 mph) after half the distance had been covered.  When the nine breakaway riders reached the category-2 peak of Col de l'Escrinet (click on the image below for a larger view), they were averaging 44.3 kph (27.5 mph), much faster than we predicted.
Once over that peak, the cyclists tore through the rest of the stage, at times reaching speeds around 80 kph (50 mph).  I was amazed by the skill with which they maneuvered around turns, avoided spectators, and dodged road obstacles.

The Tour de France organizers certainly knew what they were doing because fans were treated to a fantastic sprint for the stage win.  André Greipel once again proved he is as good as it gets when he eclipsed his competitors and took his third stage win of this year's Tour de France (click on the image for a larger view).
Greipel is on the far right of the screen capture, coming in just ahead of fellow German John Degenkolb.  Russian Alexander Kristoff is in third, and Peter Sagan in fourth is yet again just out of reach of the finish line.  Below is Greipel's time and a comparison with our prediction.
  • Stage 15:  3h 56' 35" (actual), 4h 12' 01" (prediction), 15' 26" slow (6.52% error)
If our streak had to end, I'm glad it ended while I was watching the best of the best showcase what they are capable of on a bicycle.  Check out Greipel's average speed below.
  • Stage 15:  12.89 m/s (46.10 kph or 28.84 mph)
That is an incredibly fast speed, and it's well outside the organizer's estimate for top speed.  I am definitely impressed!

Tomorrow's medium-mountain stage is the last before the second and final rest day.  Stage 16 is 201 km (125 mi) long and commences in the commune of Bourg-de-Péage.  Cyclists will head southeast toward the Alps.  A couple of category-2 climbs highlight the mostly uphill first 189 km (117 mi) of the stage before cyclists finish with 12 km (7.5 mi) of what is sure to be torrid downhill racing as they reach the commune of Gap.  Below is our prediction.
  • Stage 16:  4h 47' 26" (prediction)
If riders tear out of the start tomorrow like they did today, we could be a tad slow again.  I can't wait to see the scenery as they get to the end of the stage.

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