24 July 2015

The Shark Jumps to 4th!

I felt like I was watching 2014 Tour de France today.  Italy's Vincenzo Nibali, who was such a joy to watch last year, showed that if he isn't going to repeat as champion, he will be a serious challenge for a podium spot in Paris on Sunday.

The penultimate Alpine stage took place on yet another beautiful day.  Cyclists have been lucky with mountain weather!  The hors catégorie climb to the 2067-m (1.284-mi) peak of Col de la Croix de Fer was more challenging than I initially thought.  The mountain not only tamed the Tour de France cyclists but our model!  But as tough as the ascent turned out to be, the scenery was still lovely (click on the image for a larger view).
France's Pierre Rolland was amazing today.  He led the charge up the monster climb and took the most points at the summit (click on the image for a larger view).
Nibali caught Rolland soon afterwards and appeared to get Rolland to work with him on the descent.  The two alternated drafting positions and fared well on the tricky turns.  I thought Nibali might even concede the stage win as long as Rolland would help him move up in the overall standings.  Rolland tried to stay with Nibabli, but with 16 km (9.9 mi) left, Rolland cracked on the climb toward Le Corbier, and the Shark took off alone.  Nibali was thrilled to win the stage (click on the image for a larger view).
Nibali looked like the Nibali of last year's Tour de France on the final climb.  As I noted in yesterday's post, our prediction was a bit bold.  The Alps were simply tougher than we thought.  Reality and our prediction are compared below.
  • Stage 19:  4h 22' 53" (actual), 4h 03' 33" (prediction), 19' 20" fast (-7.35% error)
That is our worst prediction since early in the race when the riders were near the English Channel.  To give you an idea of just how bloody tough modeling is, we need only have brought our cyclist power output down to 98% of its current value to match today's winning time.  The times on the steep climbs are very sensitive to cyclist power output.  You can easily see that while watching the race.  When a cyclist cracks on a climb, he'll likely lose a couple of minutes or more.  Below is Nibali's average speed.
  • Stage 19:  8.749 m/s (31.50 kph or 19.57 mph)
Tomorrow's final Alpine stage begins in the commune of Modane.  Cyclists will begin the 110.5-km (68.66-mi) mountain stage with a nice downhill as they head west for another rendezvous with the 2067-m (1.284-mi) peak of Col de la Croix de Fer.  But that will be only the first hors catégorie climb of the day.  The second one will close the stage and the riders' Alpine experience when they traverse the famous 21 hairpin turns up to the 1850-m (1.15-mi) peak of Alpe d'Huez.  Our prediction is below.
  • Stage 20:  3h 15' 50" (prediction)
I've been waiting all month for the Alpe d'Huez climb.  Tomorrow should be fun!

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