Wout van Aert, Mathieu van der Poel, Lars van der Haar. © Matthew Lasala / Cyclocross Magazine

Wout van Aert, Mathieu van der Poel, Lars van der Haar. © Matthew Lasala / Cyclocross Magazine

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:

Mr. Consistency:

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).

Mr. Inconsistency:

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

1VAN DER POEL MathieuNED1:09:12168:228:418:288:308:438:378:418:548:36
2VAN AERT WoutBEL+00:15168:348:469:018:278:318:308:348:488:37
3VAN DER HAAR LarsNED+00:17158:378:338:338:378:378:358:429:008:40
4PAUWELS KevinBEL+01:06168:298:398:348:378:418:498:559:188:46
5VANTORNOUT KlaasBEL+01:12168:378:368:438:428:468:568:558:538:47
6MEEUSEN TomBEL+01:17158:308:408:418:478:468:578:548:598:47
7VERMEERSCH GianniBEL+02:26168:518:488:548:538:549:038:599:008:56
8MEISEN MarcelGER+02:37168:598:488:578:599:018:578:588:548:57
9WALSLEBEN PhilippGER+02:43179:238:478:438:438:518:599:129:008:58
10FONTANA Marco AurelioITA+02:54179:058:559:018:578:548:569:009:018:59
11TARAMARCAZ JulienSWI+02:56168:459:188:518:538:579:059:039:008:56
12BRAIDOT LucaITA+03:13189:108:428:559:098:548:549:039:209:03
13BOROS MichaelCZE+03:19168:578:448:588:508:579:019:059:439:04
14CANAL FabienFRA+03:26169:039:079:088:528:529:069:168:589:02
15VAN AMERONGEN ThijsNED+03:27169:069:019:048:569:029:059:099:009:03
16ZAHNER SimonSWI+03:30179:278:598:548:558:549:059:099:029:03
17NYS SvenBEL+03:30168:528:478:549:009:128:599:189:249:05
18PAPRSTKA TomasCZE+03:38179:158:559:059:069:108:588:569:089:05
19PEETERS RobBEL+03:56168:519:048:599:059:119:049:089:309:06
20MOUREY FrancisFRA+03:59168:418:588:559:039:079:189:209:339:08
21FIELD IanGRE+04:00169:039:028:559:079:069:129:099:229:07
22GIL MariuszPOL+04:22179:128:589:029:089:109:109:149:239:11
23PAGE JonathanUSA+04:33179:228:549:038:569:289:139:119:219:13
24PETRUS LubomirCZE+04:41179:239:079:079:129:109:089:139:169:12
25WILDHABER MarcelSWI+04:47178:539:079:139:159:189:249:179:159:13
26WUBBEN NielsNED+04:51169:159:129:079:119:129:139:189:199:13
27RUIZ DE LARRINAGA IBANEZ JavierSPN+04:53179:279:119:019:089:139:199:159:149:13
28GRAND ArnaudSWI+05:00179:079:028:599:079:159:269:319:289:16
29LASAK MatejCZE+05:05179:179:099:019:249:169:139:139:279:15
30HANSEN KennethDEN+05:21178:579:099:149:199:169:219:219:399:18
31HARING MartinSLO+05:29179:319:069:089:119:169:149:299:299:19
32POWERS JeremyUSA+06:18169:228:599:059:129:369:349:379:499:27
33VAN DER POEL DavidNED+06:39169:329:019:139:249:359:339:369:419:30
34HERNANDEZ GUTIERREZ AitorSPN+06:40189:309:139:239:279:329:289:319:309:28
35MCDONALD ZachUSA+07:53179:239:089:509:259:279:359:3710:239:32
36SCHOOLER AaronCAN-1LAP189:329:169:229:289:329:55xx
37KONWA MarekPOL-1LAP179:529:139:289:479:489:37xx
38YAMAMOTO KazuhiroJPN-2LAP189:579:389:419:439:46xxx
39SIMUSAK RadomirCZE-2LAP179:079:059:0311:549:47xxx
40GOLLINGER Karl HeinzAUS-2LAP179:509:399:489:469:48xxx
41CHALAS JaroslavSLO-2LAP179:509:359:389:529:50xxx
42MCCONNELL MarkCAN-2LAP189:519:499:3610:039:45xxx
43METLICKA VaclavSLO-3LAP189:539:499:4310:07xxxx
44REDENBACH PaulAUS-3LAP189:549:469:4310:00xxxx
45TAKENOUCHI YuJPN-3LAP179:509:569:429:47xxxx
46FEJES GaborHUN-3LAP189:539:569:439:50xxxx
47MILLBURN GarryAUS-3LAP189:419:5510:0910:17xxxx
48BATORA LukasSLO-3LAP179:559:5710:0610:08xxxx
49GARRIGAN MikeCAN-4LAP179:3111:4910:35xxxxx
50DRISCOLL JamesUSA-4LAP1712:399:279:52xxxxx
51UKHANOV OleksiyUKR-4LAP1810:2310:0510:40xxxxx
52EDMOND AngusNEW-5LAP189:5710:18xxxxxx
DNFFALASCHI BryanITADNF169:099:049:019:149:26xxx
DNFHYDE StephenUSADNF179:419:1410:079:339:45xxx

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

1VAN DER POEL MathieuNED1:09:12315124323
2VAN AERT WoutBEL+00:154481911111
3VAN DER HAAR LarsNED+00:17151242239
4PAUWELS KevinBEL+01:065233334618
5VANTORNOUT KlaasBEL+01:12862655652
6MEEUSEN TomBEL+01:17234476846
7VERMEERSCH GianniBEL+02:2611912101091497
8MEISEN MarcelGER+02:37161710151615984
9WALSLEBEN PhilippGER+02:432635956710198
10FONTANA Marco AurelioITA+02:5433201523151071012
11TARAMARCAZ JulienSWI+02:561384281113161211
12BRAIDOT LucaITA+03:134925612261151120
13BOROS MichaelCZE+03:192015716814131333
14CANAL FabienFRA+03:26191931329819245
15VAN AMERONGEN ThijsNED+03:27152122271316171610
16ZAHNER SimonSWI+03:30313719111212181513
17NYS SvenBEL+03:306111191723122624
18PAPRSTKA TomasCZE+03:3822281629221911714
19PEETERS RobBEL+03:56121025182022151428
20MOUREY FrancisFRA+03:597717141818272830
21FIELD IanGRE+04:00181823132117221722
22GIL MariuszPOL+04:22242618242421212223
23PAGE JonathanUSA+04:33353114261434251821
24PETRUS LubomirCZE+04:41373430313020202017
25WILDHABER MarcelSWI+04:47231232353130302516
26WUBBEN NielsNED+04:51142737332725232719
27RUIZ DE LARRINAGA IBANEZ JavierSPN+04:53423636212524282315
28GRAND ArnaudSWI+05:00292224172326313126
29LASAK MatejCZE+05:05412935203528242125
30HANSEN KennethDEN+05:21381634373429292931
31HARING MartinSLO+05:29393928342827263027
32POWERS JeremyUSA+06:18103020282938343534
33VAN DER POEL DavidNED+06:39174121363637333332
34HERNANDEZ GUTIERREZ AitorSPN+06:40483840393835323229
35MCDONALD ZachUSA+07:53403233493733353435
36SCHOOLER AaronCAN-1LAP564241383936379999
37KONWA MarekPOL-1LAP274938404443369999
38YAMAMOTO KazuhiroJPN-2LAP525445434140999999
39SIMUSAK RadomirCZE-2LAP282327255241999999
40GOLLINGER Karl HeinzAUS-2LAP464546484342999999
41CHALAS JaroslavSLO-2LAP444644424446999999
42MCCONNELL MarkCAN-2LAP514849414542999999
43METLICKA VaclavSLO-3LAP545048474999999999
44REDENBACH PaulAUS-3LAP555247464899999999
45TAKENOUCHI YuJPN-3LAP304751444599999999
46FEJES GaborHUN-3LAP535152454799999999
47MILLBURN GarryAUS-3LAP504350535199999999
48BATORA LukasSLO-3LAP475353515099999999
49GARRIGAN MikeCAN-4LAP364057549999999999
50DRISCOLL JamesUSA-4LAP325743509999999999
51UKHANOV OleksiyUKR-4LAP585656559999999999
52EDMOND AngusNEW-5LAP565554999999999999
DNFFALASCHI BryanITADNF202426223232999999
DNFHYDE StephenUSADNF344439529939999999

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

PlRiderCtryTimeAvgConsist. Rank
8MEISEN MarcelGER+02:378:571
10FONTANA Marco AurelioITA+02:548:592
24PETRUS LubomirCZE+04:419:124
25WILDHABER MarcelSWI+04:479:135
7VERMEERSCH GianniBEL+02:268:566
26WUBBEN NielsNED+04:519:137
15VAN AMERONGEN ThijsNED+03:279:038
11TARAMARCAZ JulienSWI+02:568:569
18PAPRSTKA TomasCZE+03:389:0510
5VANTORNOUT KlaasBEL+01:128:4712
16ZAHNER SimonSWI+03:309:0313
22GIL MariuszPOL+04:229:1114
6MEEUSEN TomBEL+01:178:4715
30HANSEN KennethDEN+05:219:1816
21FIELD IanGRE+04:009:0717
31HARING MartinSLO+05:299:1918
29LASAK MatejCZE+05:059:1519
35MCDONALD ZachUSA+07:539:3220
14CANAL FabienFRA+03:269:0221
33VAN DER POEL DavidNED+06:399:3022
1VAN DER POEL MathieuNED1:09:128:3623
3VAN DER HAAR LarsNED+00:178:4024
12BRAIDOT LucaITA+03:139:0325
19PEETERS RobBEL+03:569:0626
9WALSLEBEN PhilippGER+02:438:5827
23PAGE JonathanUSA+04:339:1328
17NYS SvenBEL+03:309:0529
28GRAND ArnaudSWI+05:009:1630
20MOUREY FrancisFRA+03:599:0831
2VAN AERT WoutBEL+00:158:3732
32POWERS JeremyUSA+06:189:2733
4PAUWELS KevinBEL+01:068:4634
13BOROS MichaelCZE+03:199:0435

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.