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Geek Stats: Windham

10:47 4th July 2012 by Billy Thackray
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Look at the stats! Heatmaps, time charts and expert race analysis from the Windham World Cup.

Words and charts: Mark Shilton

Another Sunday, another win for Aaron Gwin. I think this man is trying to do me out of a job. What can I say about the same guy winning week after week?! On the surface it looks the same but luckily this week I was drowning in a sea of interesting stats to keep all you sad geeks like me happy until Val D’Isere.

Overall

Looking at the overall time gaps it looked like another comprehensive win for Gwin. Only Steve Smith and Gee Atherton got within 2 seconds and Danny Hart was over 3 seconds back in 4th. Compare this to the fact that the gap from 4th to 20th was a mere 2.3 seconds and you can see Gwin’s dominance.

Things get more interesting when you look at the heatmap for individual splits. Aaron Gwin won the race but he wasn’t actually fastest on any of the three sectors. What won him the race was his crushing consistency – he was 3rd, 2nd and 2nd across the sectors and no-one could match this across the whole course. The only top rider with anything like the same reliability was Gee Atherton but he was always just off Gwin with a 4th, 4th and 6th.

Darker colour = higher placing. Lightest colour = position outside top 20 for the sector.

Is this a sign that he’s getting into the other rider’s heads? Taking risks where they might otherwise not, to try and bridge the gap? The most revealing statistic of all has to be that only Atherton and Gwin managed to place in the top 10 in all three sectors with some big holes on the heatmap for some top riders: Danny Hart 16th and 26th on Sectors 2 & 3, Mick Hannah 27th in Sector 2, 32nd for Greg Minnaar on the shorter Sector 3.

Sector 1

The difference between the top 20 in Sector 1 and Sector 2 shows up the risks some riders must have taken in the middle section. Damien Spagnolo put over a second into the entire field, except Danny Hart, but then suffered a puncture further down. Kiwis Brook Macdonald and Cameron Cole were also both comfortably in the top 10 at the first split but crashed out with 70th and 71st place splits in Sector 2. Steve Smith must be kicking himself after a poor top section where he could only manage 12th place and gave away a second to Gwin. We all know that Gwin will never let you back in if you give him a gap like that on a course this short although, as we’ll see, Smith did his best to turn it around…

Sector 2

This was where Gwin pulled away from the rest of the field after MacDonald and Cole had both fallen by the wayside and Spagnolo punctured. Gwin was only 0.1 seconds off Smith’s fastest time and these two were way ahead of the rest by at least a second. Hart dropped almost 2.5 seconds and Atherton gave away a second but the stand out here is a third place for Richie Rude. This is a name I seem to keep mentioning in these articles and he clearly has all round skills (11th on the pedal at PMB) but perhaps lacks consistency, as you might expect for a junior riding his first full World Cup season. It will be interesting to see how his career pans out with the experience of a couple more seasons of international racing under his belt.

Sector 3

Sector 3 was short but as in Fort William, the gap between 1st and 20th was the largest of all three sectors in percentage terms – over 5%. This shows again how fitness counts in the final third of a World Cup race. Mick Hannah showed his condition with the fastest time here but Gwin was still in touch, only 0.4 seconds back. Smith virtually matched Gwin but Atherton lost 0.4 seconds, and Minnaar and Hart gave away over a second each to Gwin on a sector that was only 25 seconds long. This section was also where junior Loic Bruni came from 10th at Split 2 to sneak onto his first podium with the 5th fastest time on Sector 3 only 0.7 seconds back.

Consistency and calculated risks.

Statistically this race was all over the place. Only Gwin and Atherton could get in the top 10 in all three sectors. Granted Windham is a relatively short course so the time gaps were smaller for any given sector but no rider seems to be able to get near Gwin’s winning combination of speed AND consistency at the moment. Still, the final two rounds in Val D’Isere and Hafjell are new courses for the World Cup. Maybe a change might be as good as a rest for the chasing pack…

Check out Mark’s website lookatthestats.blogspot.co.uk

  1. PedOakley

    Spagnolo must be properly gutted at the moment. Should have won it

  2. woodrat

    Thanks Mark! Interesting stuff as usual.. Looking forward to finding out what happens at Val d’Isere and Hafjell.

  3. Fan

    Great, thanks for this!

    Spagnolo, Smith and Gwin really were on fire. Also fun to watch Sam Hill taking different lines to everybody else again.

  4. A "Rude" Supporter ;-)

    Thanks for doing this!! I am quickly becoming a stat geek. I enjoy seeing this. I too am impressed and looking forward to what Richie Rude will bring to this sport. We were at Windham, it was great all around! So cool to see it live and Aaron Gwin win on USA soil.

  5. iloper

    yap PEdOakley… The fitness on Gwin wins races…

  6. justasking

    How exactly do the ‘sectors’ (said in a Keith Lemon style) work?

    On screen it showed that Gwin was up at the first split, and second split and then won the race……. I can see how the ’1-2′ sector would work as he lost time and also the ’2-finish line’ – it’s just the first split I do not understand. Or are sectors different to splits??

  7. justasking

    PS – I suppose no one cares about the women?

  8. down2ride

    Nice one mark, I love these statistics and you do a great job putting it all together. Hopefully we see Stevie pick it up straight out of the gate next race, better luck for spagnolo and hill come into form with new lines on new trails in the next two rounds. And I hope it rains soon, Hart and Hill are masters in the wet! Props to Gwin too though, the guy is killing it.

  9. tyler

    justasking: I believe the split times you see when the race is going on would show the total time to get to that point, so Gwin would still be up overall, even though his second split minus his first split was slower than Steve Smiths. Also, I think when it shows that the split is up, or green, when the race is on, that is compared to the current leader’s time at that point, and not who had the fastest split in each section if that makes sense.

  10. Pup Tentacle

    This is interesting and as far as the data collected go, it makes reasonable sense. However, the splits are not placed in course positions that make the 3-sector breakdown essential for understanding why Gwin won.

    For example, the splits don’t have anything to do with Spagnolo’s flat causing him to lose what may have been his first WC win.

    And they don’t tell us anything about Gwin’s approach or what is enabling him to hold top placing at each split.

    That Steve Smith nearly took it even though he was well behind on 1st split also suggests analyzing based on split times isn’t enough of the story.

    But it’s a fair analysis of the data provided. Well done on that score.

    I’m reminded of people who follow other sports by following statistics. It’s a mistake to believe the statistics tell anything about individual talent, team cohesion, or reasons for up vs down performance. They’re a fun diversion, I guess, for people who like to play with numbers. But for my time/attention, I’d rather either simply do the sport, or simply appreciate it without all that crazy data collection/analysis.

    Anyway, well done on the data and an interesting read!

  11. Dan

    Very interesting as always. Would like to see some analysis of the women’s race data if you have time?

  12. Betsie

    Splits are an excellent distinction of who can get from the top to the bottom the fastest and who may do it in the future.
    They remove mistakes etc from a run which “might have been”. Today’s might have been will be tomorrows Danny Hart WC run, to which there is no answer.
    They give riders confidence, they also let riders know what they need to work on. Was it a line choice, mistake or just more training needed for a certain obstacle type….

    More of this please, the world of engineering lives on statistics.

    Interesting one from Fort Bill… On 10s or the woods where many lost it. Gwin was 2 seconds slower than Brycland, who was over 1 second faster than everyone else. If only he knew he was allowed to pedal! haha

  13. Ciaran Campbell

    really enoyed this read… shit.. i’m goin biking asap

  14. Ciaran Campbell

    @Dan time of the month would also be a factor…. MESSY

  15. Mark

    @Pup Tentacle – I totally agree that the stats only go so far to telling the story of the race but they do provide an insight into the race from another angle and hopefully let you think about it in a different way.

    What I hope my words and analysis of the stats show is that Gwin is so much more consistent than anyone else right now. A lot of riders are able to match him for speed on parts of the course but not the whole.

    It ain’t perfect as the splits aren’t very evenly spaced but even so, the fact that the gaps are bigger in % terms on the lower splits is (I think anyway!) an interesting observation on what it takes to go fast in a World Cup race.

    In a perfect workld a GPS track of each rider all the way down the hill would be even better. Then you could run them simultaneously and see exactly where on the course riders made up/lost time!

  16. Mark

    @justasking, @Dan – No womens’ stats is a glaring oversight on my part, especially after such an excting race and a much closer overall battle. I’ll see what I can do…

  17. Mark

    For all those asking for it – just put up a look at the women’s race at Windham here:
    http://www.lookatthestats.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/world-cup-rd-5-windham-women.html

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