04 July 2016

Cavendish makes it two out of three!

Today's Stage 3 was as bizarre a Tour de France stage as I've ever seen.  It was SO SLOW!  The peloton looked like molasses moving down the road.  After nearly six hours, Mark Cavendish crossed the finish line.  Below is his winning time and a comparison with our prediction.
  • Stage 3:  5h 59' 54" (actual), 5h 07' 03" (prediction), 52' 51" fast (-14.68% error)
 I need to check my archives, but that might be the worst prediction we've ever made!  Check out Cavendish's average speed below.
  • Stage 3:  10.35 m/s (37.26 kph or 23.15 mph)
Keep in mind that today's stage was a flat stage.  The above average speed is comparable to what we've seen on a few mountain stages.  It's also nearly 2 kph less than the slowest time schedule average speed given by Tour de France organisers.  No wonder race commentators were using phrases like "slow motion" and "snail's pace"!

As happy as we were to be under 1% yesterday, we're just as mystified to be nearly 15% off today.  I tell audiences during my Tour de France talks that there are many things we cannot know about the race, and teams' strategies are right at the top of the list.  The same model that nailed yesterday's stage needed its cyclist power output cut by nearly a third today.  Riders were clearly holding back, and I don't claim that because we had such a bad prediction.  Learning as the race unfolds is a lot of fun, and we certainly learned something today.

Tomorrow's Stage 4 is a 237.5-km (147.6-mi) flat stage, which is this year's longest stage.  Were cyclists saving energy today for tomorrow's long ride?  That could very well have been the teams' strategies.  Beginning in the commune of Saumur, the stage takes riders southeast to Limoges.  Below is our prediction.
  • Stage 4:  5h 56' 59" (prediction)
The above would have been a great pick for today!  Tomorrow's stage is 14 km (8.7 mi) longer than today's stage.  I hope the peloton moves a little faster tomorrow.

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