Visualising the 2019 Tour de France: The ups and downs of the first ‘week’

by Matt de Neef


Throughout this year’s Tour de France CyclingTips VeloClub member Cameron Harris has been putting his data journalism skills to work to help us make sense of the race. He’s created a bunch of charts that illustrate various aspects of the Tour in a way that a results sheet simply can’t. Through Cameron’s work, we get a novel perspective on how the race is unfolding, who’s performing well and who isn’t, and who might have a story to tell about their Tour de France.

You can find all of Cameron’s charts over at the “Visualising the 2019 Tour de France” hub page. Every graphic on that page is interactive and updates daily, so check back often to see how the race is evolving.

For now though, as the ‘second week’ of the Tour gets underway, here’s what’s caught our eye in the charts so far.

As usual, the first few days of the Tour were typically chaotic for the GC.

Look at the first few stages below. The general classification changes massively from the stage 1 road stage into the stage 2 team time trial, and then again into the lumpy stage 3 road stage. Each stage offered a very different challenge and it’s no surprise that different riders excelled at different times. Check out Jens Debusschere’s plight, for example — from finishing on bunch time on stage 1 down 174th after the TTT.

It took an impressive combination of skills to emerge at the top of the GC after those first few days. Julian Alaphilippe needed to finish in the bunch on stage 1, ride a strong TTT (his team was third) and then win stage 3 solo to earn himself the yellow jersey.

We can tell from the “GC swarm” chart that stages 4 and 5 were bunch sprints, without even looking at the results.

Note the abundance of straight lines for those at the top of the GC. These were days where the overall contenders could just try to stay safe and ride through to the finish unscathed, while the fastmen duked it out.

Stage 6 had a real impact on the GC.

Just as the straight lines of stages 4 and 5 suggest a bunch sprint, so the abundance of ups and downs on stage 6 clearly show the difficulty of that day. Some of the high-placed riders kept or improved their position — e.g. George Bennett and Geraint Thomas — but the steep ramp at the top of La Planches des Belles Filles really shook things up.

Wout van Aert dropped from second down to 40th, for instance, while Guilio Ciccone soared from 42nd into the overall lead with second on the stage, from the breakaway.

Something to consider when it comes to Ciccone: he’s now in 10th, having dropped time on stage 10, but that puts him roughly 90 seconds ahead of his team leader Richie Porte. If Porte doesn’t have it in the mountains, will Ciccone get the nod for GC? Or will he be more interested in trying to follow up his KOM jersey from the Giro earlier this year?

Dylan Teuns’ journey tells the story of a successful breakaway.

Before stage 6, the Belgian was down in 55th. When he won stage 6, he moved up to third overall. He held that position for a day, and then, when things got lumpy again on stage 8, he dropped back down into 52nd. Still, he’ll hardly be upset. He’s taken a stage win in his debut Tour. Anything beyond that is a bonus.

You wouldn’t know stage 10 was a sprint stage.

Seriously, that’s a lot of ups and downs for a stage that was contested by the sprinters. Of course, stage 10 was split apart by the crosswinds into Albi, which explains why so many gained time, and so many lost time.

Emanuel Buchmann was one rider who gained a bunch of time.

The magnitude of George Bennett’s stage 10 mishap is plain to see.

While Buchmann gained time, Bennett was going in the opposite direction, by a lot. Caught out fetching bidons from the teamcar when the split happened, the Kiwi dropped nearly 10 minutes.

His fall from fourth overall to 27th is the most prominent change for that day.

Bennett’s descent is even clearer when you take a look at the “GC top 25 time swarm” graph. Such was the magnitude of his fall that he drops out of frame on stage 10:

The gap from first to second is about the same as second to 11th.

The “GC top 25 time swarm” graph shows just how big a gap Alaphilippe has, relative to the rest of the contenders. His solo win on stage 3 plus being able to finish near the front every day since (including, notably on stage 10), gives “Loulou” a buffer of 1:12 over the defending champion, Geraint Thomas. From Thomas to Thibaut Pinot in 11th is 1:21.

In other words, leaving Alaphilippe aside, the GC battle is actually reasonably tight.

That yellow line at the top is Alaphilippe.

As for Alaphilippe himself, everyone expects him to drop out of yellow sooner or later, but that lead is quite substantial. It might be enough to see him hold the lead until the stage 13 individual time trial, but it’s hard to see him in yellow that night.

Here’s another perspective on the time gaps near the top:

The significance of the stage 10 time gaps is clear.

If you look closely at the “GC top 25 time swarm” graph, you can get a great perspective on just who lost time in the crosswinds on stage 10. The horizontal lines are those that didn’t lose time (Alaphilippe, Thomas, Bernal, Kruijswijk, Mas, Yates, Quintana, Martin and Konrad). The riders with a downward trajectory all lost time (Uran, Bardet, Fugslang, Barguil, Porte and Mollema).

Yoann Offredo is way ahead in the lanterne rouge competition.

The “overall GC time swarm” chart tells the story of Yoann Offredo’s up-and-down Tour. As of stage 10, the Frenchman is well and truly last on GC, more than 20 minutes behind the next slowest rider. Check out that gap.

There must be a story here, right? Yep. Turns out Offredo wasn’t just taking it easy, cruising to the finish after each of his three breakaways. Rather, he got sick and has been battling his way through the past couple days.

“I was sick all night, like a few members of my staff,” he said after stage 8. “I was suffering even in the neutral start …

“I turned myself inside out. I said to myself only one thing: ‘Abandoning is out of the question. The Tour may abandon me, but I don’t abandon the Tour’.”

Hopefully Offredo is on the mend and can make it all the way to Paris. With any luck he’ll be back animating the race again soon.

Peter Sagan will be very hard to beat in the green jersey competition.

As we wrote late last week, Peter Sagan looks set to make history with his seventh points classification win. He’s basically been leading that battle since the start and continues to rack up the points.

That’s Sagan at the top.

Michael Matthews is accruing points relatively consistently as well, but it’s very hard to see Matthews overhauling a 60 point deficit from here. It’s not impossible, of course, and Sagan could crash out at any time (fingers crossed he doesn’t!), but all going to plan, Sagan will win green again, giving him the all-time record.

It’s anyone’s guess who the maillot sable will go to.

“The what?”, I hear you ask. You mean you haven’t been listening to CyclingTips’ daily podcasts from the Tour de France?!

The maillot sable (“sand jersey”) is a fictional prize that our podcast hosts Caley Fretz and Rupert Guinness have been “handing out” in recent days at the Tour. It’s awarded to the rider that’s closest to one hour behind the overall leader (they have to be over one hour behind, not under). Why sand? That’s a nod to the humble hourglass.

At the moment, Jens Keukeleire leads the maillot sable classification at 1:01:27 behind Alaphilippe. But he won’t win in Paris. Anyone that’s around the hour mark now is going to be much further behind by the end of the race. To avoid that fate they’d need to keep pace with the overall leader from here on out — almost impossible for a rider already an hour behind.

Caley reckons Greg Van Avermaet will win the final prize, Rupert’s backing Vincenzo Nibali, and the creator of this chart, Cameron Harris, fancies Jack Haig. Who do you think will be closest to an hour behind come Paris?

As mentioned above, all of the charts you see in this post (and more) can be found at the Tour de France visualisations hub page. They’re updating automatically every day (as Cameron adds each new stage’s data) so keep an eye on that page as the race unfolds.

Thanks to Cameron for his hard work in pulling all this data together. If you haven’t already, be sure to check out his work from the recent Giro Rosa as well.

What else do you see in the data from the 2019 Tour de France?

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