Why aren't they going any faster?

Discussion in 'Professional Cycling' started by Randyforriding, Jul 12, 2013.

  1. Randyforriding

    Randyforriding New Member

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    A friend of mine brought to my attention an interesting fact. The average speed needed to win the TDF hasn't changed much over the years. Supposedly the bikes are lighter and stiffer, training is better, nutrition is better, drugs are better (epo), and there is a larger base of amateur riders to draw from for the pro ranks. Yes, routes are harder, but distances are shorter and there are more rest days than in the past. Have we been duped? If I bought a vintage bike and a book on how to train and race, from the '60s, would I be only a fraction slower than I am now?
     
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  2. ambal

    ambal Active Member

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    There is not way the drugs are better now compared to 10 or even 20 years ago, safer maybe, but not better. Less drug use = slow speed. It's quite simple really.
     
  3. alienator

    alienator Well-Known Member

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    Uhm, average speed is pretty meaningless without taking terrain and weather into account. As for you question, no, you haven't been duped. The bicycle itself doesn't have a very big impact on speed. The biggest factor in speed is the person pedaling. By the way, the average speed has changed greatly since the first TdF in 1903.
     
  4. daveryanwyoming

    daveryanwyoming Well-Known Member

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    Well your friend is mistaken. Here's a summary of TDF statistics over the years: http://bikeraceinfo.com/tdf/tdfstats.html

    In 1903 the winner's average speed was 25.679 km/hr

    That went up year by year and in the pre-EPO era it was up in the range of 37 to 38 km/hr. Then there was a big jump up over the 40 kph average speed point around the turn of the century with the 2005 tour being crazy fast at more than 41 kph and then in recent years it's slowed a little.

    Those may not seem like huge changes but when you consider the way power to ride a bicycle increases rapidly for small increases of speed they are huge improvements. These aren't pure flat time trials so it's not as easy as the normal p=V^3 relationship you get from aero considerations alone but even with riding in the field and hills to climb rider power has to go up a lot to see even marginal increases in overall average speed.

    If you don't think speeds have gone up a lot then find a flat stretch of road and ride for 20 minutes at a selection of the speeds listed in that link. Maybe start with the 1903 average of approximately 16 mph. That's probably no big deal but then try the 2005 average of 25.8 mph and maybe last year's average of 24.7 mph. And of course do this on a road bike, not a TT bike as they ride most stages on road bikes. Throw some hills into the mix and tactics and those are crazy fast speeds for 21 days of racing.

    The posts above are dead right as well, bikes don't help as much as marketing would have you believe but taking everything together the speeds have definitely improved over the years.

    -Dave
     
  5. Randyforriding

    Randyforriding New Member

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    I checked out my friends claim before posting this thread and he is right. Average speed has only increased ten percent since the sixties. This is more than just ten or twenty years. And I don't think you can claim that climate change has anything to do with it. And as stated before, they have made the routes tougher, but the mileage has actually dropped and they now have rest days, which they didn't before, so this should even things our somewhat. Considering the changes in bikes, training, nutrition, etc. one would expect more than a ten percent improvement over forty or fifty years. Yes, the rider is the most important part of the equation, but he should be faster too. I think if you look at times in just about any Olympic event, they have come down more than ten percent since the sixties and in most of these events, equipment plays less of a role than it does in cycling. So, again, my question is why aren't they going faster. I would expect about a twenty percent increase in average speed, not ten percent.
     
  6. sitzmark

    sitzmark Member

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    What is magical about 20%?

    So you want to see a 43+/- kph average. Can you ride at that rate? If not, you may have no idea how difficult that is. Reread DRW's post and rethink the power requirements needed to generate that increase in speed - it FAR exceeds a 20% increase. Power must increase by the cube of speed to overcome aerodynamic drag. Working percentages isn't the way to look at it.
     
  7. CAMPYBOB

    CAMPYBOB Well-Known Member

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    47+ KPH avg. today! In one hellova cross wind that split the field and shredded podium riders. Any faster and the bikes would have Harley-Davidson decals.

    Thankfully, everyone is passing their tests. We're all clean here, boss.
     
  8. daveryanwyoming

    daveryanwyoming Well-Known Member

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    So are you just trolling and part of this discussion: http://bicycles.stackexchange.com/questions/7661/why-arent-tour-de-france-riders-going-any-faster

    Seems awfully coincidental with your choice of wording. Still I'll hold that there has actually been a continual increase in speed and if you view that in terms of power requirements it has definitely increased over time and not by a small amount. So your basic premise of speeds not increasing seems flawed as they have increased over time, maybe not as fast as you would like to see but they have definitely increased.

    You should also not dismiss race tactics, the goal is not to go as fast as possible as a group. The goal is to gain as much time advantage as possible on your competition over the three weeks of racing. Sure in time trials that works out to the same goal but in mass start racing there are tactical reasons to attack, to sit in, to wait for decisive moments like climbs and to pace for the entire race and not race to your limit each and every day.

    Hard to say how big an impact on overall race speed that has, but I know from amateur racing that the hardest races are not always the races with fastest average speeds but often the races that had the fastest speeds on decisive sections of the course even if they were slower overall. I've been in Masters races where we caught and passed the P/1/2 field on course and have been in open P/1/2/3 races that were slower on average but brutally hard during the selections that decided the race. I've got to believe that same thing occurs at the pro level, it doesn't always pay to use your team strengths to try for the fastest tour if you can gain a more important tactical advantage by riding comfortably until the decisive sections occur and then gain bigger time gaps when they'll have the biggest impact. They're clearly not on a charity ride out there when they average around 40 kph for 21 days of racing including mountain stages but could they ride a bit faster if the goal was to set the fastest possible time instead of winning the race? It certainly complicates any speed analysis as it's hard to know how the stages were ridden tactically. Sure this happened in past tours as well but as we saw during Postal's rein, tactics vary over time and some teams are very precise in how they dole out their efforts.

    -Dave
     
  9. danfoz

    danfoz Well-Known Member

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    With the increasing drag of wind at higher speeds, and considering the general rules regarding the bicycle and rider position laid out by the UCI and USAC, a lot more than a 10% increase in power is needed for a 10% increase in speed. And drag reduction on bicycles can only go so far.

    Like Dave said above, just because it's a race doesn't mean they are going balls out every mile during the 21 days so any comparison is not very scientific anyways.
     
  10. alienator

    alienator Well-Known Member

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    You should read daveryanwyoming's posts again to understand what they mean. Exactly what do you expect average power output ought to be over a stage and a 3 week race? How much do you think human's have evolved since the 1960's? (Hint: evolution moves very slowly. Very slowly. Very, very slowly). The average speed for the last 10 TdF's (not counting this year) has increased by 4.9km/hr over the average speed of TdF's in the 1960's. That means average power over a TdF has increased by 2.7%, at least. What is the biggest force against which a bike racer has to pedal? Why that's the aero drag from their own body. How much has the size of rider decreased compared to a rider in the 1960's? I'd wager there's been little decrease if none at all. Wheel drag is a very small component of forces acting against a rider, even smaller than the drag induced by a rider's head and/or helmet, which is itself very small. If your "friend" were to actually think about things using tools like science and objectivity, he'd realize that improvements have been incremental at best because the human body and bike tech hasn't been able to provide the gains your "friend" pretends there should be. Simply put, your "friend" doesn't understand the physical reality. Now, you and your "friend" run off and troll somewhere else.
     
  11. An old Guy

    An old Guy Member

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    Speed has little to do with bike racing. In the TdF one just needs to have the lowest elaped time for the 20 some days.

    Once you get a slight lead, you let others try to get time back. At 24-25mph no small group is going outrun the rest of the race. So going off the front is not worth while. So you sit and watch the second string go up the road.

    Now the last couple days have been interesting. In the hills dropped all but Froome from Sky, and then no one knew what to do. One on one is not going to beat Froome. No one saw a plan that would involve riding faster.

    Today the wind was good. The echelons formed. Lots of work was done to take 1 minute back from Froome. Had the race been an hour longer, might have been an even larger gap.

    No one wants to work hard just to work hard. There needs to be at least a hope of good news at the end. Remember that when you are racing.
     
  12. cyclightning

    cyclightning New Member

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    I don't know about speed but the modern TdF is quite a safe race today. Riders were sometimes beaten up ( a different kind of cheating) in the 1904 edition and in the early 1900's they were riding during the night as well. The longest tour was 5,745 km and the tour was first organized to increase publicity for a newspaper (L'Auto). The TdF has a colourful history.
     
  13. vspa

    vspa Active Member

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    the guys make it look easy, i assure you it is not, a 200 cyclists peloton diving at 55+ kph in the finale through roundabouts and corners where every team wants to have their leader and sprinters upfront, its quite something, or descending a mountain pass at 80+ kph and sometimes in the rain, in fact modern bikes have better braking systems which make it even more fast because you can brake later at the last possible moment,
     
  14. alienator

    alienator Well-Known Member

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    Given all the broken bones of the last, say, 5 years, I'd hardly call the TdF safe. Given the number of crashes in a TdF, I'd hardly call it safe. I'd wager that there'd be a fair number of riders who'd say it's not exactly safe.
     
  15. danfoz

    danfoz Well-Known Member

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    Quote: Originally Posted by vspa .


    the guys make it look easy, i assure you it is not, a 200 cyclists peloton diving at 55+ kph in the finale through roundabouts and corners where every team wants to have their leader and sprinters upfront, its quite something, or descending a mountain pass at 80+ kph and sometimes in the rain, in fact modern bikes have better braking systems which make it even more fast because you can brake later at the last possible moment,

    You sir are correct, and at 17 seconds in big Bernie shares your sentiment...

    [​IMG]

    It's been ages since I saw this movie but that statement always stuck with me.
     
  16. swampy1970

    swampy1970 Well-Known Member

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    Quote: Originally Posted by alienator .


    Given all the broken bones of the last, say, 5 years, I'd hardly call the TdF safe. Given the number of crashes in a TdF, I'd hardly call it safe. I'd wager that there'd be a fair number of riders who'd say it's not exactly safe.

    I'd say the Tour is more dangerous that it was back in the early 80's. Just the number of crashes alone makes it inherently dangerous.

    I don't think that people realize how fast and how dangerous the Tour is. Even as an ex-1st Cat guy, I'd probably be wide eyed and shitting my pants even during the neutralized zone before the start when they're all fighting for position for the "off".
     
  17. slovakguy

    slovakguy Active Member

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    Not only the crashes initiated within the peloton, there is also the 2011 tdf crashes caused by a motorcar which put hoogerland in the barbed wire and scuppered the chances of several others that day. Hardly a safe pastime.
     
  18. danfoz

    danfoz Well-Known Member

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    Quote: Originally Posted by slovakguy .

    Hardly a safe pastime.

    Some years back one of the popular cycling rags had some general statistics around the Tour... apparently, on average, one spectator is killed each year as well.
     
  19. oldbobcat

    oldbobcat Well-Known Member

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    Ah, but average speeds have increased, even in the modern (post-post WW2) period. Decade-wise, average speed during the 1960s was 35.944 kph. During the 2010s, average speed had risen to 39.937 kph. The 2000s were slightly faster, at 40.322 kph, but you could either say that figure is statistically insignificant or the result of widespread blood doping and use of corticosteroids.
     
  20. ambal

    ambal Active Member

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    I doubt the one a year stat, but it does happen once every few years.
     
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