Why aren't they going any faster?



swampy1970

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Feb 3, 2008
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oldbobcat said:
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.
Tours have tended to be shorter in recent years. Less time trial stages and no real monster 8 hour stages in the big hills either. Hinault did a 39kph, 3700km tour in 81. LeMond and Indurain knocked out 39 kph tours in the early 90s and they were 3700 to almost 4000km...
 

WillemJM

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Sep 28, 2012
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In a road race if the entire peleton had the objective of trying to achieve maximum speed and work together, average speed and stage time would be a factor, but racing is more about tactics and strategy. To answer the question of improvement over time, one would have to research 40k time trial times through the years, based on similar conditions.

If cycling REALLY gets "clean" I would expect times to get slower rather than faster. I believe that is a challenge in itself, talking from experience going right back to the early 70's. I can't remember many day races back then where we averaged below 42km/h. Nothing compared to below though.

From Wikipedia, I am not sure if this is up to date?

Igor González de Galdeano holds the record for the fastest road stage. 2001 Vuelta stage 9, 179 km @ 55.176 km/h.


Fastest Time Trial longer than 20 km
Greg LeMond 54,545 km/h Versailles - Paris (24,5 km) 1989
David Millar 54,361 km/h Pornic - Nantes (49 km) 2003

Fastest Team Time Trial
Orica-GreenEdge 57.841 km/h Nice - Nice (25 km) 2013
Discovery Channel Team 57,320 km/h Tours - Blois (67,5 km) 2005
Gewiss - Ballan 54,930 km/h Mayenne - Alençon (67 km) 1995
Carrera 54,610 km/h Berlin (40,5 km) 1987
 

oldbobcat

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Aug 31, 2003
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Originally Posted by swampy1970


Tours have tended to be shorter in recent years. Less time trial stages and no real monster 8 hour stages in the big hills either.

Hinault did a 39kph, 3700km tour in 81. LeMond and Indurain knocked out 39 kph tours in the early 90s and they were 3700 to almost 4000km...
For the period, '81 and '82 were outliers, and '89 was faster than average for its decade. My intention was to show a general upward trend, since conditions and competitiveness vary too much to show a yearly upward trend. But how much of this is attributable to shorter races, technology, and the doping will always be up for debate.
 

Randyforriding

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Nov 30, 2012
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In 1971, Eddy Merckx won the tour with an average speed of 23.8 mph. Forty years later, in 2011, Cadel Evans won it with an average speed of 24.9. Eddy was on a steel frame, aluminum components, toe straps and, supposedly, drug free. Fory years later, on a carbon frame, carbon components, clipless pedals, and who knows if he was clean or not at this point, Cadel wins it only 1.1 mph faster. All those advances in bike tech, training and nutrition and we can only gain slightly over one mph?! What's wrong with this picture?
 

WillemJM

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Sep 28, 2012
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Originally Posted by Randyforriding

In 1971, Eddy Merckx won the tour with an average speed of 23.8 mph. Forty years later, in 2011, Cadel Evans won it with an average speed of 24.9. Eddy was on a steel frame, aluminum components, toe straps and, supposedly, drug free. Fory years later, on a carbon frame, carbon components, clipless pedals, and who knows if he was clean or not at this point, Cadel wins it only 1.1 mph faster. All those advances in bike tech, training and nutrition and we can only gain slightly over one mph?! What's wrong with this picture?
Go here and watch the video

http://www.olympic.org/content/results-and-medalists/gamesandsportsummary/?sport=31494&games=1924%2f1&event=122083

It follows that the bicycle is a very simple piece of equipment, not much one can do about that. 1924 in the video looks almost like what we spend thousands of dollars on today.

I have not looked, but would assume if one looks at similar team time trial results, there will be huge improvements.
 

alienator

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Jun 10, 2004
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Randyforriding said:
In 1971, Eddy Merckx won the tour with an average speed of 23.8 mph. Forty years later, in 2011, Cadel Evans won it with an average speed of 24.9. Eddy was on a steel frame, aluminum components, toe straps and, supposedly, drug free. Fory years later, on a carbon frame, carbon components, clipless pedals, and who knows if he was clean or not at this point, Cadel wins it only 1.1 mph faster. All those advances in bike tech, training and nutrition and we can only gain slightly over one mph?! What's wrong with this picture?
I don’t think you understand what factors need to improve and what improvements are needed to gain a performance gain like you magical 20% gain in speed. Hell, just to overcome aerodynamic drag, you would need to increase power output by 72.8% to gain a speed increase of 20%. For a 10% increase in speed, you’d have to increase power output by 33.1% to overcome aero drag. Note that those figures don’t take into account the extra power required to overcome rolling resistance, drivetrain losses, and etc. So in the end, the overall increase power would have to be bigger yet. Do you have any idea how hard is to increase your power output by 33.1%—let along 72.8%—when you’re already an elite athlete? Training techniques? Yeah, they’ve improved, but it’s difficult at best to quantify what improvements have been achieved. Human evolution hasn’t progressed very far at all since the TdF began, so big gains as the result of new training techniques are likely not to happen in the way you imagine. There can be gains, but those gains are very likely small, incremental. Those small, incremental gains result in even smaller gains in speed on the bike. See the info about power and speed above. I think the biggest problem is your implied belief that the races are completed as fast as possible, which absolutely is not the case. Only time trials are done as such. Other stages aren’t raced balls-out for the entire stage. In fact, in a great number of stages the peloton is quite content to roll fairly easily. As for the bits about the bike, carbon frame? Uhm, that adds very little to speed, so little that I’d say it’s vanishingly small. Clipless pedals? They don’t contribute to speed. Search the sub-forums to see thoughts on performance benefits of clipless pedals. Lighter bikes? Again, not a huge impact on TdF average speed. What’s wrong with the picture? Your assumptions.
 

danfoz

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Apr 12, 2011
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Originally Posted by WillemJM

It follows that the bicycle is a very simple piece of equipment, not much one can do about that. 1924 in the video looks almost like what we spend thousands of dollars on today.

I have not looked, but would assume if one looks at similar team time trial results, there will be huge improvements.
Pretty much, except in the vid some of those fellas look like they're auditioning to be human parachutes :p

You are probably correct about the team time trials, today's professional squads are made up from a generation of riders who understand the importance of aerodynamic significance, possibly even from the time they entered the sport as juniors. Looking at grand tour TTT's from as recently as the early 90's it appears the Lemond lesson from '89 still hadn't caught on yet with riders spending a fair amount of ride time in the bullhorns despite having aero bars.

And no matter how tough those men o'yore, today's professional squads are capable of a paceline discipline undreamed of in yesteryear, even by most in the lower ranks of USAC.


Disclaimer: these particular gents are mostly Aussies who make all synchronized speed related things on a bike look easy. Don't try this at home.
 

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