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Tour de France Final TT Predictions
22 Jul, 2008 - DB
The first Alpine stage of the TdF clearly showed the tactics of the climbing specialists - they have to put time in to Cadel Evans, Christian Vandevelde and Denis Menchov before the Tour leaves the mountains. In the first (stage 4) TT Frank Schleck, Carlos Sastre and Bernhard Kohl lost significant time to the leaders and know that they need a good margin to have a hope of retaining the podium after the penultimate stage.

But how much of a buffer do they need? The simple comparison is just to extrapolate their time gaps from 29.5km out to 52.8km. As a numerically oriented person I'm not really satisfied with this so I've created course models of both Stage 4 and Stage 20. In this way I can more accurately compare the strengths of different riders over the different terrain.

I used the stage 4 model to make a bit of a comparison between the TdF and our local TT in the article posted at http://www.avantipluscycles.co.nz

The models are based on GPS data and use power data from the pros, that is posted on the net at www.trainingpeaks.com, for verification that the model is realistic. Weather data from www.wunderground.com is used to determine actual conditions for the stage 4 TT and I've used the predicted wind for this week on the stage 20 model.

The image below is a screenshot of the output from the comparison model. The first table is a mix of the best riders in the last TT and the current leaders of the GC, it lists the predicted time for the final TT and the resulting differential to the winners time in that event.

The second table is the key one in terms of the question under consideration. It shows what the GC would be if they went into the final TT with the current ordering.

These predictions do not take account of fatigue, motivation, injury, PEDs or an uncharacteristically poor performance in the first TT. What I have done is work out a power:drag ratio for each rider based on the first TT, then use the rule of thumb that power drops by ~5% per doubling of distance. The reduced power:drag is then input, along with the weight to the model for the second TT. The first TT was quite hilly so the larger riders suffered, for that reason the lighter riders will be penalised more in the secound TT and the gaps between the bigger guys do not increase as much as may be expected.

So according to what I've calculated here - Kohl, Schleck and Sastre would be looking for at least another 2 minutes over the next two stages to have a hope of wearing yellow in Paris. If one gets 3 minutes they might be able to have a bit of confidence of victory but would still have to perform very strongly in that final TT.

I think the biggest competition is between Vandevelde, Menchov and Evans - the first two were able to take a bit of time from Evans today and if they steal back a bit more then it will be very interesting come stage 20. I hope that the smaller climbers do get a minute or two and that Menchov and Vandevelde can close the gap so that we have a real nailbiting TT. The two stages after this rest day will be telling but if I were in Evans' position I'd be watching Menchov like a hawk as he would appear to be the most dangerous for his combination of climbing and time trialling strength.

This analysis is only intended as a discussion piece, I fully expect that a couple of those guys are going to blitz the TT because they're dreaming of yellow. Knowing what the climbers have to achieve in the next two stages makes it a bit more interesting though.

On a final note, internet forums were full of analysis of last years tour - pointing out that Cadels equipment choices could easily have lost the small amount of time he needed for the victory. If he loses by 30s or less then (and this is the only prediction in this article that I am 100% confident of) the same will occur - despite the effort his team have put in this year.

Click to enlarge...

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