Visualising Annemiek van Vleuten’s Giro Rosa dominance

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During this year’s Giro d’Italia, VeloClub member Cameron Harris pulled together some nifty visualisations that helped to illustrate the race in an interesting and engaging way. Now Cameron is back with similar coverage for both the Tour de France and the Giro Rosa.

In this post we dive into Cameron’s visualisations from the 2019 Giro Rosa — the biggest stage race in women’s cycling. His graphs and charts show us exactly how dominant Annemiek van Vleuten has been so far, while also uncovering some other interesting stories from the race.

There’s little doubt that Annemiek van Vleuten (Mitchelton-Scott) is the strongest rider in the 2019 Giro Rosa. The defending champion bided her time nicely in the first four stages, sitting pretty inside the top 10, before blowing the race apart on stages 5 and 6.

Stage 5 was meant to finish with the legendary ascent of the Gavia Pass but landslides forced a course change. Van Vleuten clearly wasn’t perturbed — she attacked at the bottom of the new final climb and rode away to win the stage comfortably.

The time trial world champ crossed the line almost three minutes ahead of her nearest rival (fellow Dutchwoman Lucinda Brand), a truly dominant performance that prompted GC contender Elisa Longo Borghini (Trek-Segafredo) to describe van Vleuten as an “alien”. As the chart below shows, van Vleuten’s stage 5 victory catapulted the 36-year-old into the overall lead — up from seventh before the stage.

The chart above shows that Van Vleuten held onto her overall lead on stage 6 as well. What it doesn’t show is that she didn’t just stay in the maglia rosa, she blitzed the uphill individual time trial, extending her overall lead. Her winning margin was a little less than a minute, but the combination of stage 5 and stage 6 now leaves the Dutchwoman 4:17 clear at the head of the race.

The following graph shows the extent of Van Vleuten’s dominance. It charts the time gap (in seconds) between each rider and the overall leader over the course of the race. That horizontal pink line at the top right of the graph is Van Vleuten. As you can see, it’s a case of Van Vleuten first, daylight second.

Progressive time gaps at the 2019 Giro Rosa.

The magnitude of Van Vleuten’s dominance can be seen even more clearly in the following chart. The bigger the time gap between two riders, the longer the pink bar that separates them.

Besides showing the yawning chasm between Van Vleuten and the rest of the field, this chart shows us that the rest of the GC battle is actually reasonably tight. After two decisive GC stages, Anna van der Breggen (Boels-Dolmans) and Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM) are tied on time, in second and third respectively. There’s a minute between them and the rest of the GC field but from fourth through 10th is very tightly bunched, with just 1:13 separating seven riders.

In other words, if Van Vleuten wasn’t in the race, we’d actually have a very tight battle for both the overall lead and for the podium. This “swarm graph” of the top 10 paints an even clearer picture.

Speaking of the podium, check out Anna van der Breggen’s progress. The world champion moved from 10th to fifth on stage 5 (by finishing sixth) then moved up to third with a runner-up finish in the ITT. Expect the two-time former winner to continue improving as the race goes on, and to push past Niewiadoma as the race drags on.

Another rider to keep a close eye on is Frenchwoman Juliette Labous (Sunweb). The 20-year-old has ridden brilliantly, improving her standing as the race has gone on. She leads the best young rider classification by nearly seven minutes and is eighth on GC.

Other riders have had interesting journeys through the race too. Ashleigh Moolman (CCC-Liv) might have lost ground in the stage 6 time trial, but she was great on stage 5. With a couple more uphill finishes still to come, the flyweight climber should improve on her ninth overall.

As predicted on CyclingTips earlier in the week, Marianne Vos (CCC-Liv) slipped down the rankings once the race reached the proper mountains. But the three-time former winner won’t be concerned about that. She’s already got two stage wins and has the chance for more as well.

One of the most significant drop-offs so far is that of Italian Nadia Quagliotto (Ale-Cipollini). You might remember her as the breakaway rider that celebrated too early on stage 4 and was pipped on the line. That result moved the 22-year-old from 36th to 27th, but she’s since dropped down outside the top 50.

Finally, here’s a snapshot of how the GC battle is looking overall. As you can see, there was a considerable reshuffling after the stage 1 TTT, and again on the first mountain-top finish (stage 5), but riders are now starting to settle into place. We’ll see some more movement in the days ahead — particularly stages 7 and 9 — but any changes won’t be as dramatic as those earlier in the race.

It’s easy to feel a little disheartened about how this year’s Giro Rosa is playing out. Van Vleuten is in a league of her own, she’s already leading by more than she won last year’s Giro by (4:12), and there are still four stages remaining. The only way she loses the Giro is if she crashes out or gets sick.

But beyond Van Vleuten’s dominance, there are plenty of other interesting storylines to consider. Not least the battle between Van der Breggen and Niewiadoma, and for the minor GC placings.

You can dig into the 2019 Giro Rosa yourself by checking out the full page of Cameron Harris’ great data visualisations. All of the images you see above are screenshots of the interactive graphs Cameron has created.

What other stories are you seeing in the data from the 2019 Giro Rosa?

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