Because we’re cyclocross and data geeks, we put together a spreadsheet of the lap times of the Elite Men’s race from the 2015 Cyclocross World Championships. We sorted, analyzed and averaged the data, wondering what we might see by looking at the numbers. See our analysis of the lap times from the Elite Women’s race here.
It’s fascinating for those of us who can’t get enough of top-level cyclocross racing, but probably as interesting as a stats class for many of you (if there’s demand, we’ll do the same for the women’s race).
We have three tables below, separated mostly due to width constraints, and also because of the limitations of our sorting functionality in displaying these tables.
It’s worth noting that these are just numbers. Numbers never lie, but conclusions drawn from them can be inaccurate due to unknown mechanicals or crashes. A number can reveal a rider is inconsistent, but that doesn’t mean his output was inconsistent if he spent time riding a flat. Oh yeah, and there’s a chance we made an error. Let us know.
From the tables below, especially the final table, you can start to get more insight into how a rider’s race played out. Here are a few observations we wanted to share before offering the raw data:
We looked at the lap times, and throwing away the first lap (due to traffic and start positions), analyzed who had the most consistent race. Marcel Meisen, the surprise winner of the German National Championships over favorite Philipp Walsleben, put in the most consistent ride, and proved his victory of Walsleben was no fluke, beating him by one spot at Worlds to finish eighth. Meisen’s ride, even including his first lap, was like clockwork, with every lap except his second within four seconds of his average. And that second lap? Just nine seconds faster than his average.
Other amazingly consistent riders were 10th place Marco Auerlio Fontana and 34th place Aitor Hernandez Gutierrez. Fontana never strayed more than five seconds from his average, while Hernandez Gutierrez’s typical lap was within two seconds of his average (but was 15 seconds faster on lap 2).
Czech Michael Boros and Kevin Pauwels slowed down quite a bit on their last laps, and combined with their fast starts, earned most inconsistent rides of the day. Third and fourth most inconsistent? Jeremy Powers, who slowed down dramatically throughout the race, and silver medalist Wout van Aert, whose two chain drops, flat and dramatic crash helped create a rollercoaster of lap times.
Soft pedaling it in:
Zach McDonald slowed down the most on his last lap, compared to his average lap times. He was the last lead lap finisher, and spent some time in the superman position coming down the finish. Boros and Pauwels were next in line for slowest last laps (in relative terms). Boros flatted on his last lap, and was left wondering what could have been if he didn’t lose 40 seconds due the flat. He would have been close to Meisen and Walsleben to fight for eighth (the spot he was in with one to go).
Blew his wad:
Francis Mourey had a fast first lap, but perhaps it was too fast as it was 27 seconds faster than his average lap time, the most of all lead lap finishers. He’d finish the first lap in 7th, but end up 20th by the end. Kenneth Hansen and Marcel Wildhaber were also fast first-lap racers who eventually slowed quite a bit.
Something left in the tank:
Only four riders has enough energy to finish the long race with a faster-than-average lap time. France’s Fabien Canal had the fastest last lap, in relative terms, beating his average by four seconds. Meisen and Thijs Van Amerongen both turned in last laps three seconds faster than (their own) average, while Simon Zahner beat his average by a mere second. Everyone else was slower on their last lap, which may not be too surprising given the long race and big time gaps.
First half legs:
Walsleben followed by Powers led the field with first halves of their races that were much faster than their second halves.
Second half bonk:
Although most racers slowed down throughout the race, Mourey and Powers both had the most noticeable slow-down on the last four laps.
The first table is lap times per racer, listed in order of place. It’s not sortable.
Lap Times - Elite Men 2015 Cyclocross World Championships
|1||VAN DER POEL Mathieu||NED||1:09:12||16||8:22||8:41||8:28||8:30||8:43||8:37||8:41||8:54||8:36|
|2||VAN AERT Wout||BEL||+00:15||16||8:34||8:46||9:01||8:27||8:31||8:30||8:34||8:48||8:37|
|3||VAN DER HAAR Lars||NED||+00:17||15||8:37||8:33||8:33||8:37||8:37||8:35||8:42||9:00||8:40|
|10||FONTANA Marco Aurelio||ITA||+02:54||17||9:05||8:55||9:01||8:57||8:54||8:56||9:00||9:01||8:59|
|15||VAN AMERONGEN Thijs||NED||+03:27||16||9:06||9:01||9:04||8:56||9:02||9:05||9:09||9:00||9:03|
|27||RUIZ DE LARRINAGA IBANEZ Javier||SPN||+04:53||17||9:27||9:11||9:01||9:08||9:13||9:19||9:15||9:14||9:13|
|33||VAN DER POEL David||NED||+06:39||16||9:32||9:01||9:13||9:24||9:35||9:33||9:36||9:41||9:30|
|34||HERNANDEZ GUTIERREZ Aitor||SPN||+06:40||18||9:30||9:13||9:23||9:27||9:32||9:28||9:31||9:30||9:28|
|40||GOLLINGER Karl Heinz||AUS||-2LAP||17||9:50||9:39||9:48||9:46||9:48||x||x||x|
Looking at this table, it’s immediately obvious that Mathieu van der Poel and Wout van Aert had great speed on the day. Van der Poel had the fastest and third fastest lap. Despite van Aert’s two chain drops, crash and last-lap flat tire, he was the fastest in the second half of the race (the last five of eight laps) and only rider other than van der Poel to break 8:30.
Taking a deeper look at the individual lap times, you can get more insight into how the final lap played out between van Aert and Lars van der Haar. Van Aert flatted on this lap and still caught van der Haar, leading us to initially believe that he must have turned in one of the fastest laps of the day to get second. But this lap was actually his second slowest, only van der Haar really fell apart on his last lap, rolling in with his slowest lap of the day by far (18 seconds slower than average).
Only three riders took turns cranking out the fastest laps. Of course it was the three Vans: Van der Poel (first and third laps), van der Haar (second lap), and van Aert (fifth through final).
The second table is the rider’s lap time ranking for each individual lap and is sortable. See how your favorite rider did each lap. See who had the best lap three. Sort until your eyes glaze over.
Lap Ranks - Elite Men 2015 Cyclocross World Championships
|1||VAN DER POEL Mathieu||NED||1:09:12||3||1||5||1||2||4||3||2||3|
|2||VAN AERT Wout||BEL||+00:15||4||4||8||19||1||1||1||1||1|
|3||VAN DER HAAR Lars||NED||+00:17||1||5||1||2||4||2||2||3||9|
|10||FONTANA Marco Aurelio||ITA||+02:54||33||20||15||23||15||10||7||10||12|
|15||VAN AMERONGEN Thijs||NED||+03:27||15||21||22||27||13||16||17||16||10|
|27||RUIZ DE LARRINAGA IBANEZ Javier||SPN||+04:53||42||36||36||21||25||24||28||23||15|
|33||VAN DER POEL David||NED||+06:39||17||41||21||36||36||37||33||33||32|
|34||HERNANDEZ GUTIERREZ Aitor||SPN||+06:40||48||38||40||39||38||35||32||32||29|
|40||GOLLINGER Karl Heinz||AUS||-2LAP||46||45||46||48||43||42||99||99||99|
The third table is an attempt to rank a rider’s consistency. There are different ways to view consistency, either from a standard deviation expressed as a percentage, or how much the rider deviated from their average lap time. We chose the former for the ranking, but talk about the latter. We threw out the first lap in our calculations (except average lap time), thinking that with start order, traffic, crashes and general chaos there was a lot outside the rider’s control.
Only riders finishing on the lead lap are listed.
Consistency Ranks - Elite Men, 2015 Cyclocross World Championships
|10||FONTANA Marco Aurelio||ITA||+02:54||8:59||2|
|34||HERNANDEZ GUTIERREZ Aitor||SPN||+06:40||9:28||3|
|15||VAN AMERONGEN Thijs||NED||+03:27||9:03||8|
|27||RUIZ DE LARRINAGA IBANEZ Javier||SPN||+04:53||9:13||11|
|33||VAN DER POEL David||NED||+06:39||9:30||22|
|1||VAN DER POEL Mathieu||NED||1:09:12||8:36||23|
|3||VAN DER HAAR Lars||NED||+00:17||8:40||24|
|2||VAN AERT Wout||BEL||+00:15||8:37||32|
More Than Just Numbers:
For most racers, the only thing that matters is the final placing, especially if it ends in a rainbow jersey.
One could argue looking at van der Poel’s times and consistency, he’s lucky because van Aert would have won if he didn’t crash, flat or drop his chain. But we’ll never know, and it’s impossible to say as the 20-year-old Dutch star arguably rode more conservatively (including running the barriers) late in the race when he had his gap.
If anything, for viewers limited by camera angles, or or live spectators limited by viewing only small portions of the course, the data can give better insight into what happened outside what was visible in the video coverage and covered by the announcers and media, ourselves included.
See our analysis of the Elite Women’s race at the 2015 Cyclocross World Championships here.
Thanks for reading this far. We’re impressed.