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.
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.
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…
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 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