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Speed Increases In A Century of TdF

Apologies if this was discussed before.

I'm not sure how many of you read an article in this summer's edition of Bicycle Quarterly titled - Are Modern Bicycles Faster? An Analysis of Tour de France Speed. The writers, who have Ph.D's, found out that 88% of speed increases in the last 100 years of TdF can be explained by physiological factors that are common to both medium distance running and cycling. It was quite interesting.

It seems very little of the increase had to do with the bikes those guys were riding. The question is - how much was due to doping? Perhaps some of you with encyclopedic knowledge might want to chime in about the magnitude of doping across the 100 years. And perhaps Ross from Science of Sports may want to discuss the validity of comparing cycling speeds with running speeds that BQ chose to make a point?

More discussion about this article here on my blog : http://bit.ly/ag2SOR
 
May 23, 2010
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No mention of someone like Bernard Hinault leading the peloton and cussing anyone who dared try to escape..Many have controlled the pace this way. Just tactics and more money at stake could explain general speed variations. The style of burning up the true climbers leaving the chemically supercharged to rule has little to do with bike technology.
 
redtreviso said:
No mention of someone like Bernard Hinault leading the peloton and cussing anyone who dared try to escape..Many have controlled the pace this way. Just tactics and more money at stake could explain general speed variations. The style of burning up the true climbers leaving the chemically supercharged to rule has little to do with bike technology.

Thanks for chiming in!

Good point! I must add that the Hinault era was one that the authors of the BQ article couldn't partcularly understand (I don't blame them). On one hand, the av. TdF speeds increased between 1980-1982. On the other hand, the speeds decreased in later years. They argued that this couldn't be a technologically related speed increase since it was so short lived.

After your comment, I added a little blurb to my "Suggestions and Critique" section, which I will copy paste here :

4. Details of each stage : The exact details of each stage were not investigated by the authors. It would be interesting to see how many flat stages and how many mountain stages each Tour so far consisted of and how gravity would play a role in changing outcomes. Data may be tricky to find. Now keep in mind that we do have data for the speeds, distances, number of entrants and number of finishers in each of the Tours. Perhaps blending all this information into one graph for different eras of cycling may lend some insight.

For illustration, lets take the Hinault Era (1978-1985). I plotted speed (kph), % of entrants who finished the race, and number of stages with respect to the years and the distances involved. Check this out :



You may be able to come to some kind of understanding about what was going on in those 7 years. For instance, during 1980-1982, speeds increased drastically. It is also interesting to see that between 1980-1981, the number of participants who finished the race had also risen and the distance in Km of the race had fallen, although the number of stages were increased from 22 to 24. It would be interesting to superimpose the percentage of km in uphill roads and downhill roads on this graph for those years. It would also be interesting to see how the "Badger's" temperamental tactics and pace control influenced the speeds in those years.
 
May 23, 2010
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In Hinault's first years he could have proven the ability and temperament to punish the field and cause massive abandonments, which set the stage for later when he rode at the front and admonished anyone who dared try to ride up the road.

More tv coverage probably brought on more early break aways where in less covered eras if Merckx or Hinault didn't really want to race that day they would just ride it out(at the front) without earning scorn from the peanut gallery. (lots of Cancellara stages) Average speed for the entire peloton might go up on orderly controlled stages where there weren't big sacrifices made.. Even when someone (like LeMond) said the pace increase of 93 94 was brutal. he could have just meant that the tactics for the stages right before the first climbs were made especially hard instead of a "lets all take it easy before the mountains" attitude that might have been more the norm before.. The hardening of a few pre-mountain stages would not have made the tour any faster than good weather..
 
Cozy Beehive said:
In Hinault's era, how many riders were sidelined for doping? Anyone know? What about Hinault himself?
All PEDs were legal until 1965 and they only paid lip service to doping controls for some time to come. In Hinault's era, the penalty never covered future events, just the one(s) during which the doping occurred. Except Tom Simpson. He was wound guilty of taking amphetamines in the '67 TdF and was banned for eternity.

Hinault himself I don't think was ever caught. Merckx was kicked out of the '69 Giro and the '73 Tour of Lombardy for doping. Some still hold la Cosa Nostra was behind the '69 incident.

Anquetil -- who often publicly remarked that he always rode amped -- refused to provide a urine sample after breaking the world hour record in 1967, yet the record stood. Moser admitted he had blood boosted when he broke Merckx's hour record in 1984.
 
Cozy Beehive said:
Thanks for chiming in!

Good point! I must add that the Hinault era was one that the authors of the BQ article couldn't partcularly understand (I don't blame them). On one hand, the av. TdF speeds increased between 1980-1982. On the other hand, the speeds decreased in later years. They argued that this couldn't be a technologically related speed increase since it was so short lived.

After your comment, I added a little blurb to my "Suggestions and Critique" section, which I will copy paste here :

just one observation: the graphic you're showing has an enormous gap between the 40's and the 70's-so what happened during those years? my understanding is that "the 70's" registered a good jump of speed, with the introduction of blood transfusion, which it wasn't popular/common practice due to risk of getting hepatitis and/or any kind of blood decease- then the steroids & testosterone started to emerged....
 
hfer07 said:
just one observation: the graphic you're showing has an enormous gap between the 40's and the 70's-so what happened during those years? my understanding is that "the 70's" registered a good jump of speed, with the introduction of blood transfusion, which it wasn't popular/common practice due to risk of getting hepatitis and/or any kind of blood decease- then the steroids & testosterone started to emerged....

Which graphic are you referring to? The one in this thread ? It only shows the years between 1978 and 1985.
 
Here's a bit of info about the parcours comparing mountain stages of 1981, 1984 and 1985

Number of climbs above 2nd category

1981

4 hc 6 1st 7 2nd

1984

5 hc 10 1st 7 2nd

1985

3 hc 9 1st 11 2nd

Length of high mountain stages (stages with at least 1 cat 1 climb or MTF)

1981

117.5/199.5/230.5/131

1984

226.5/241.5*/22 MTT/151/185/186/140.5

1985

173.5*/204.5**/195/269/179*/209.5/52.5/83.5***

*last big climb 30 km or more from the finish

**cat 2 finish

*** only climb is HC 66 km from the finish
 
Cozy Beehive said:
Which graphic are you referring to? The one in this thread ? It only shows the years between 1978 and 1985.

my apologies-I must rephrase it- the graphic should have included the past decade too(from 71 to 78) so it could clearly shows/establishes specifically how much was the increase in speed.
 
hfer07 said:
my apologies-I must rephrase it- the graphic should have included the past decade too(from 71 to 78) so it could clearly shows/establishes specifically how much was the increase in speed.

That's quite simple. Its just a matter of including data for '71 to '78, something I can do in 10 mins but right now I'm chillaxing.

Hey, bottom-line of this discussion seems to be that there's too many variables unaccounted for. Its simply a collossal task to get all this data and make any meaning out of it. I think we can agree that instead of investigating all data, we can look at a few "predominant" ones that make large, sweeping changes to average speeds each year. One is length of the course. The other is number of participants - the more the better, as there is more shielding from the wind. Lastly, doping. That's something that needs to be investigated. How much of a benefit? 5%? 10%? If you can recover faster for the next day and ride faster, average speeds are going to go up. Also, if you can fly up mountains without as much as opening your mouth to breathe, that's an advantage as well.
 
Jul 21, 2009
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StyrbjornSterki said:
All PEDs were legal until 1965 and they only paid lip service to doping controls for some time to come. In Hinault's era, the penalty never covered future events, just the one(s) during which the doping occurred. Except Tom Simpson. He was wound guilty of taking amphetamines in the '67 TdF and was banned for eternity.

Hinault himself I don't think was ever caught. Merckx was kicked out of the '69 Giro and the '73 Tour of Lombardy for doping. Some still hold la Cosa Nostra was behind the '69 incident.

Anquetil -- who often publicly remarked that he always rode amped -- refused to provide a urine sample after breaking the world hour record in 1967, yet the record stood. Moser admitted he had blood boosted when he broke Merckx's hour record in 1984.

Can you please provide sources. for Moser stating that he doped and likewise for Anquetil.
 

flicker

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Aug 17, 2009
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Speed increases, better training techniques, more fit athletes, more carbon, stiffer and lighter, more efficient echelons, global climate change, riders targeting specific racers, faster tires, quicker tires, this is what makes the tour faster! Oh yeah TT bikes and carbon wheels!
 
Aug 24, 2010
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http://bikeraceinfo.com/tdf/tdfstats.html

on this site you see the average speed of the winner, some observations:

- for the first 3 decades speed remained fairly constant 25-29 km/h
- slow increase after that in the late 30's to mid 50's
- from 1956 tot the early 80's the speed is usually around 35/36 km/h
- slight increase in the 80's to 37/38 km/h
- from the early 90's the speed has been between 38-41 km/h with the exception of 2005, then an average speed of almost 42 km/h
 
mercycle said:
Anyone think better road surfaces may play a role in speed increases? Just curious as I look at pictures from before 1950 or so.

I think that would be a fair point. In a recent interview with a former tour rider (sorry, forget who at the moment) in either ProCycling or Cycle Sports Magazine (sorry, don't remember which) he talks about how you'd feel standing still in Pyrenees compared to the Alps because of the difference in road surface.

As for equipment Saxo rider Nicki sorensen recently said (just after the tour I think) that he would like the new wheel type outlawed as it increased the speed by about 4 km/hr and that speeds were plenty high as it was already (they were on the topic of dangers in crashes). As I don't know the first thing about the gear they use I've got no personal comment or idea whether there's credibility to this...

Bike frames have gone a lot shorter over the years as well improving aerodynamic positions, haven't they?
 

Barrus

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Wasn't there a study debated here, I think it was in may or something, which handled this exact topic. I believe it compared cycling to other sports. All sports showed three distinct periods, I believe it was pre WW II, post WO II and then an increase in speeds in the 80s. Only cycling was different in that it showed another increase since the average speeds, especially if you take into account that more climbing kilometres and longer stages were introduced. I think the authors of that piece contributed a large part of the increase to EPO. But I might be mistaken in the exact details
 
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Another factor in the last 20-30 years which shouldn't be overlooked is the increased globalisation of cycling. In the 1980 TdF of the 130 starters, 117 (90%) of them came from just five countries (France, Spain, Italy, Belgium, Netherlands).

By contrast, in 2010, 106 out of 198 came from these countries. There were almost as many teams (10), from outside the big five in 2010 as there were riders (13) in 1980.

The greater talent pool has inevitably lead to a raising of standards, regardless of doping.

Rabobank even recently produced a report about it, which you probably seen: http://www.rabobank.com/content/news/news_archive/039-RabobankreportCyclingsbalanceofpowerhasshiftedstrongly.jsp

The full pdf report even has some nice graphs in it.

The greater than usual acceleration in speeds between about 1988 and 1998 is often attributed entirely to doping, and obviously this was a big factor. But this period also saw the shorting of the TdF distance, the advent of satellite/cable TV in Europe and the influx of Eastern Europeans (Tonkov, Berzin, Ugrumov, Ekimov etc). All of these played a part.