23 July 2017

Froome Wins 4th and We're Nearly Perfect!

After his performance in the Alps and in yesterday's time trial, there was no doubt that Chris Froome would win his fourth Tour de France.  He now has a three-peat (should I send Pat Riley money for using that term???).  Froome didn't win a stage this year, but was clearly the best cyclist.  Staying near the winners in the mountains and in the time trials, Froome was simply better than everyone else.  His Team Sky mates played a large role in his victory.  It doesn't hurt to be supported by a powerful team!

Dutch cyclist Dylan Groenewegen won today's final stage.  How did our model perform today?  We saved our best for last, as you'll see below.
  • Stage 21:  2h 25' 39" (actual), 2h 25' 50" (prediction), 00' 11" slow (0.13% error) 
As tough as it is to predict the mostly-ceremonial final stage, I'm thrilled to end this year's Tour de France with a near-perfect prediction.  How did our model perform overall?  After summing the stage-winning times, I found we were 1.11% slow.  I'll definitely need to spend time thinking about how much athletes and technology have improved since last year.

I never cease to be amazed by elite athletes.  A total of 167 cyclists finished the Tour de France.  I would be hard-pressed to finish a long flat stage during daylight hours.  As for those grueling mountain stages, forget it.  I need more time in the gym!  My model estimates energy burn, i.e. internal energy burn with an average efficiency of about 20% and not just energy output needed to power the bike.  During the entire race about 115,000 Calories could have been burned.  Published cyclists' data may be below that number, but an estimate has to be made of internal energy efficiency.  Our published papers on Tour de France modeling cite sources that are consistent with our energy estimates.  The point is that a LOT of energy is burned during the three-week race.  At 550 Calories apiece, those 115,000 Calories amount to nearly 210 Big Macs.  That averages to 10 Big Macs per stage!  I don't recommend eating Big Macs before cycling, but it does give you some idea of how much energy those cyclists burn each day.  You may have heard that 3500 Calories matches the energy content in a pound of fat.  That's roughly true, but you may have to burn about twice the Calories to get a pound of fat off because of the complicated way the body converts energy.  Either way you think about it, 115,000 Calories represent one or two bowling balls of fat weight.  No wonder elite cyclists stay in such great shape.  Their job is a wonderful form of exercise!

I once again thank rising high-school senior Ryan Wainer from New York for his work this year.  He acquired all the terrain data, which led to a successful set of predictions.  How successful?  We had one bad prediction with Stage 5 (9.24% error) and five good-a-decade-ago-but-want-to-do-better-today predictions in the error range of 4% - 8%.  But that leaves 15 predictions to better than 4%, 11 of which were better than 2%.  Five of those 11 were better than 1%, including our best prediction today.  A nice way to end!

22 July 2017

Froome Seals the Deal!

Chris Froome did what he needed to do in today's individual time trial.  He came in third, just six seconds behind Poland's Maciej Bodnar.  Froome now leads the overall classification by 54 seconds over Colombia's Rigoberto Urán Urán.  Unlike the first individual time trail in Stage 1, today's result was slower than I thought it could be.  We were a bit more than 5% off, as you'll see below.
  • Stage 20:  28' 15" (actual), 26' 42" (prediction), 01' 33" fast (-5.49% error)
One of the first things to look at after this year's Tour de France will be the two individual time trials.  We were short on power in the first time trial and had too much power today.

Tomorrow's final stage will be mostly ceremonial until the big sprinters go for the stage win once they are in Paris.  Froome will probably be seen with some champaign and four fingers up (three in a row!).  The last stage is always tough to predict because of the ceremonial nature of the stage.  We've done well in the past by backing off on power.  Our final prediction is given below.
  • Stage 21:  2h 25' 50" (prediction)
  Chris Froome showed today why he's the best cyclist in the world.

21 July 2017

Hagen Makes Norway Proud!

Norwegian cyclist Edvald Boasson Hagen won today's flat stage, which was the longest stage of this year's Tour de France.  We had a good prediction, as you'll see below.
  • Stage 19:  5h 06' 09" (actual), 5h 11' 09" (prediction), 05' 00" slow (1.62% error)
That makes 12 of 19 stages that we've hit better than 3%.  Strategies on long flat stages are hard to predict because the peloton dictates so much of the pacing.  Boasson Hagen and 19 other cyclists came in within two minutes of the winning time.  Chris Froome and the rest of the peloton came in 12' 27" after Boasson Hagen.  I would therefore claim that our prediction was spot on!

Tomorrow's individual time trial will be the last chance Romain Bardet (23 s back) and Rigoberto Urán Urán (29 s back) have of catching Chris Froome.  Below is our prediction.
  • Stage 20:  26' 42" (prediction)
We were a bit slow on the first individual time trial, which was the opening stage this year.  I'll be anxious to see if we do a little better tomorrow.

20 July 2017

Barguil Puts Us Under 1%!

Warren Barguil made France proud today with his second mountain stage win in this year's Tour de France.  We predicted the two big mountain stages in the Alps really well.  Look below to see how well we did today.
  • Stage 18:  4h 40' 33" (actual), 4h 41' 48" (prediction), 01' 15" slow (0.45% error)
Chris Froome came in fourth today with a group just 20 s behind Barguil.  He has a 23-s lead over Romain Bardet.  The goal for Team Sky in tomorrow's long flat stage will be to keep Froome with the cyclists just behind him.  The individual time trial on Saturday looks like it could be a lot of fun!  Below is our prediction for tomorrow's Stage 19.
  • Stage 19:  5h 11' 09" (prediction)
If Chris Froome is to secure a three-peat, his team will have to have a great day tomorrow.

19 July 2017

Another Prediction Error Under 1%!

Primož Roglič won today's Stage 17 by 73 seconds.  We hit the stage by less than two minutes, as you'll see below.
  • Stage 17:  5h 07' 41" (actual), 5h 09' 36" (prediction), 01' 55" slow (0.62% error)
If riders thought today's stage was grueling, they'll enjoy tomorrow's stage.  It has a delightful Hors catégorie climb to the finish line.  Below is our prediction.
  • Stage 18:  4h 41' 48" (prediction)
Froome now has a 27-s advantage over the two riders behind him.  Based on how he looked today, it seems he is headed for a three-peat.

18 July 2017

Matthews Makes it Two out of Three!

Michael Matthews won his second stage today.  Racing turned out to be fast on the downhill, which is what I mentioned in yesterday's post.  There is no way to predict team strategies!  Below is a comparison between reality and our prediction.
  • Stage 16:  3h 38' 15" (actual), 3h 45' 02" (prediction), 06' 47" slow (3.11% error)
Not a bad error, but yesterday's result spoils me for more sub-1% predictions.  The next two stages in the Alps will likely decide this year's winner.  Our prediction for tomorrow's stage is given below.
  • Stage 17:  5h 09' 36" (prediction)
Monster climbs in tomorrow's stage, but the finish will be a downhill sprint.  Can anyone sneak across the finish line in under five hours?

17 July 2017

Stage 16 Prediction

Below is our prediction for tomorrow's Stage 16.

  • Stage 16:  3h 45' 02" (prediction)
The stage is classified as flat, but it's quite hilly for the first half.  The middle of the stage is mostly downhill.  Depending on racing strategies coming off a rest day, the above prediction could be slow.  I'll be anxious to see if cyclists push themselves to high speeds on the downhills.

16 July 2017

Nearly Perfect Prediction!

There are some stages I watch come to an end and hope the winning cyclist can give just a tiny bit more effort in the last kilometer.  Check out the comparison between Bauke Mollema's winning time with our prediction for today's Stage 15.
  • Stage 15:  4h 41' 47" (actual), 4h 41' 26" (prediction), 00' 21" fast (-0.12% error)
Come on, Bauke!  Just 21 seconds faster today and we reach perfection.  He won by 19 seconds, so he didn't need to rush the final few hundred meters.  But I'll definitely take today's result.   Missing a nearly five-hour stage by 21 seconds is a lot of fun!  I'm glad I didn't make the mistake I made with yesterday's prediction and alter power output.  Our model did its thing today.

Chris Froome remains in yellow.  Nairo Quintana, who I loved watching battle Froome in the mountains in 2015's Tour de France, slipped to #11 in the overall classification, more than six minutes behind Froome.

Tomorrow is a rest day.  Teams will plot strategies for the next day's flat stage and the two, grueling stages in the French Alps that follow.  I'll post our prediction for Stage 16 tomorrow.

15 July 2017

Froome Back in Yellow!

Chris Froome got 25 s on Fabio Aru in today's Stage 14 and turned a 6-s deficit into a 19-s lead on the Italian cyclist.  Michael Matthews won what I consider to be a slow stage today.  Below is a comparison between the winning time and our prediction.
  • Stage 14: 4h 21' 56" (actual), 4h 12' 56" (prediction), 09' 00" fast (-3.44% error)
We were too slow on hilly Stages 5 and 8, so power was upped slightly for today's stage.  We would have been under 1% without the change!  Oh well, that's what makes this so much fun.  We can't predict team strategies, crashes, and weather.  Below is our prediction for tomorrow's hilly stage.
  • Stage 15:  4h 41' 26" (prediction)
I'm not tweaking the power in our model for tomorrow's stage.  Will I regret that with a rest day to follow???

14 July 2017

Barguil Gives Us a Great Pick!

Warren Barguil delivered a second consecutive mountain stage win for France with his impressive ride in today's Stage 13.  Below shows how well we picked this stage.

  • Stage 13:  2h 36' 29" (actual), 2h 34' 22" (prediction), 02' 07" fast (-1.35% error)
That makes six stages predicted to better than 2% and nine of the 13 stages predicted to better than 3%.  Below is our prediction for tomorrow's hilly Stage 14.
  • Stage 14:  4h 12' 56" (prediction)
Fabio Aru holds a slight 6-s lead over Chris Froome for the yellow jersey.

13 July 2017

Bardet Makes France Proud!

Romain Bardet won a fast Stage 12 in the mountains today.  Check out how fast below.
  • Stage 12:  5h 49' 38" (actual), 6h 04' 33" (prediction), 14' 55" slow (4.27% error)
Our error isn't too large, but I've gotten used to hitting the mountain stages a little closer.  Tomorrow's mountain stage isn't even half as long as today's stage, but it has three category-1 climbs and a speedy downhill finish.  Our prediction is given below.
  •  Stage 13:  2h 34' 22" (prediction)
Aru Fabio picked up time on Chris Froome today and wrested the yellow jersey away from the three-time champion.  Will Froome get it back tomorrow?

12 July 2017

Kittel Gets #5 and We're Under 3%!

Marcel Kittel got his fifth stage win of this year's Tour de France.  The guy is flat-out killing the flat stages!  Below is a comparison between Kittel's winning time and our prediction.

  • Stage 11:  4h 34' 27" (actual), 4h 41' 44" (prediction), 07' 17" slow (2.65% error)
Kittel won't win tomorrow's mountain stage.  Our prediction is given below.
  • Stage 12:  6h 04' 33" (prediction)
A rider may come in under six hours, but the stage will tax everyone.  They may need to conserve a little for Stage 13.

11 July 2017

Kittel Gets 4th Stage Win! We Are Under 2%!

Marcel Kittel is dominating the flat stages in this year's Tour de France.  He won his fourth flat stage of this year's race.  I thought someone might come in under four hours.  Kittel was just a minute over that time.  Below is a comparison between Kittel's time and our prediction.

  • Stage 10:  4h 01' 00" (actual), 4h 05' 31" (prediction), 04' 31" slow (1.87% error)
I love seeing an error under 2%!  Tomorrow's flat stage is longer than today's stage.  Our prediction is given below.
  • Stage 11:  4h 41' 44" (prediction)
Can Kittel pick up a fifth stage win?  It will be fun seeing if he can!

10 July 2017

Great Stage 9 Pick and Stage 10 Prediction

I was traveling yesterday, so I missed watching Stage 9 of the Tour de France.  That grueling mountain stage is one I'll have to catch on replay.  Below is a comparison between the actual winning time and our prediction.

  • Stage 9:  5h 07' 22" (actual), 5h 11' 15" (prediction), 03' 53" slow (1.26% error)
I'll definitely take that error!  We nailed the first mountain stage.  Below is our Stage 10 prediction:
  • Stage 10:  4h 05 31" (prediction)
I fully expect at least one cyclist to come in under four hours.  But what will strategies be like?  Will a relatively short flat stage after a rest day be competed for in an all-out manner?  Will cyclists save up for a longer flat stage the next day?  The leaders in the full classification certainly won't be going all-out for the win.  But will their teams reign in breakout cyclists going for glory?  It will be interesting to see what happens after the first rest day.

08 July 2017

One great prediction, one not-so-great prediction ... again!

Our model hit Stage 7 rather well, as shown below.
  • Stage 7:  5h 03' 18" (actual), 4h 56' 08" (prediction), 07' 10" fast (-2.36% error)
I definitely like coming in under 3%!  Stage 8, however, was not so good for us.
  • Stage 8:  4h 30' 29" (actual), 4h 51' 54" (prediction), 21' 25" slow (7.92% error)
I'll be most interested to see why we were a bit slow on the past two hilly stages.  Tomorrow is a travel day and I'll miss watching Stage 9, which contains three brutal climbs.  I'll definitely check it out on replay!

07 July 2017

Back on track!

After a not-so-great Stage 5 prediction, we hit Stage 6 to better than 3%.  Below is the comparison of the actual winning time to our prediction.
  • Stage 6:  5h 05' 34" (actual), 4h 56' 51" (prediction), 08' 43" fast (-2.85% error) 
I'll be traveling again tomorrow, so I'll have to check the online results when time avails itself.

05 July 2017

One great precition, one not-so-great prediction ...

Stage 4 finished for us rather well, but not so well for the riders involved in the controversial crash.  It's a shame Peter Sagan won't be in the rest of the race.  He is a great cyclist to watch, but his elbow cost him a chance at another points title.  I'll also miss seeing Mark Cavendish, who was the unfortunate recipient of Sagan's elbow.

Today's Stage 5 had a grueling climb at the finish, but cyclists completed the stage much faster than we anticipated.  We thought perhaps a little energy would be kept in storage today, but only three of the 193 cyclists were slower than our prediction.

Below are comparisons for the past two stages.
  • Stage 4:  4h 53' 54" (actual), 4h 48' 37" (prediction), 05' 17" fast (-1.80% error)
  • Stage 5:  3h 44' 06" (actual), 4h 04' 49" (prediction), 20' 43" slow (9.24% error)
When I return from traveling, I'll need to look at Stage 5 more closely and determine where we were slow.  The first part of the stage to check will be the final climb.

Below are predictions for the next four stages.  That will take us to the first rest day on Monday.
  • Stage 6:  4h 56' 51" (prediction)
  • Stage 7:  4h 56' 08" (prediction)
  • Stage 8:  4h 51' 54" (prediction)
  • Stage 9:  5h 11' 15" (prediction)
With Chris Froome in the yellow jersey and the big climbs still to come, can anyone keep him from winning his fourth Tour de France???

03 July 2017

So far, so good!

I'm currently in West Virginia while traveling.  I had to sneak a few minutes away from other activities to report on the first three stages of the Tour de France.  Our model is doing well!  I thought we might be a tad slow on the time trial, and we were, but we've nailed Stages 2 and 3.  Below are the comparisons for the first three stages.
  • Stage 1:  0h 16' 04" (actual), 0h 16' 48" (prediction), 44" slow (4.56% error)
  • Stage 2:  4h 37' 06" (actual), 4h 42' 08" (prediction), 05' 02" slow (1.82% error)
  • Stage 3:  5h 07' 19" (actual), 5h 04' 57" (prediction),  02' 22" fast (-0.77% error)
It's great being under 2%, not to mention being under 1%!  I'll try to check in on the next two stages and then get more predictions online while on my travels.  Team Sky certainly looks strong again this year!

30 June 2017

Predictions for First Five Stages

I see that I made a mistake in my previous blog post.  I wrote that the Tour de France begins this Sunday, but of course it begins tomorrow, which is Saturday.  My research student has accumulated terrain data and I've run the data through my model.  I won't be able to watch the first few stages as I'll be traveling.  I'll thus put our predictions for the first five stages in today's post and then do my best to comment on the results when I'm able to do so.
  • Stage 1:  0h 16' 48" (prediction)
  • Stage 2:  4h 42' 08" (prediction)
  • Stage 3:  5h 04' 57" (prediction)
  • Stage 4:  4h 48' 37" (prediction)
  • Stage 5:  4h 04' 49" (prediction)
Stage 1 is a short time trial.  I always worry that we'll be a bit slow, especially when such a time trial takes place at the start of the race when cyclists are well rested.  Will a new time-trail record be set tomorrow?  I'll be checking in when I can.  Stages 2 and 4 are flat stages with a few small climbs.  Stage 3 is hilly and Stage 5 is definitely medium-mountain with a category-1 climb at the finish.

I will have to do a lot of reading and catching up when I finish traveling.  In past years, riders have taken the first couple of stages a bit easier than later stages.  We've been a tad fast early in the race on the flat stages.  I'll be curious to see if that's the case this year.

28 June 2017

Return to Blogging and Tour de France

It has been 281 days since my last blog post.  I have missed writing about the Cubs winning the World Series after 108 years of rebuilding.  A thrilling overtime Super Bowl passed without a word from me in this space.  I've missed a lot of opportunities to write.  Even the ongoing 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup in Russia has been off my radar (will Germany take it???).  The reason for my long absence is that a personal tragedy befell me just eight days after my last blog post -- nine months ago today.  Many friends, family members, and colleagues have kept me going during incredibly difficult times, but none more than my two wonderful daughters.  They remind me on a daily basis that I can survive inconceivable betrayal.

To those of you who have contacted me in recent months and asked about my blog writing, I offer a heartfelt "thank you" for your interest.   I hope to return to more regular blog writing, beginning with the upcoming Tour de France, the 104th edition set to begin this Sunday in Düsseldorf.  My former student, Chad Hobson, who helped me with the past three Tours de France, graduated Lynchburg College last May and is off to study physics at the graduate level at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  This summer I have Ryan Wainer, a rising high-school senior in the state of New York, working with me.  He has collected terrain data and I'll run them through the latest model that Chad and I put together after last year's race.

I will not be able to put the kind of detail into my Tour de France blog posts that I have inserted in the past.  But I will get predictions up soon.  I can't wait to see if anyone can knock off Chris Froome!  I also hope to get a blog post written that highlights my appearances on Star Talk Radio.  It's good to stroll my fingers across a keyboard once again.

20 September 2016

Fun Time Chatting Sabbatical Research!

I thoroughly enjoyed giving the first Science Gang talk at my college yesterday.  Speaking about my research is a lot of fun for me.  My talk's theme was friction, a topic that included not only my sabbatical research, but elements of friction existing between people and places.  For example, political divisions are so wide these days.  It seems as if some of the friction between people on different sides of the political spectrum could be alleviated by getting together and engaging in civil conversations.  Instead so many of us have ensconced ourselves with people who agree with us, websites that share our opinions, and even online searches that filter based on our preferences.  It wasn't hard during our travels abroad to notice lots of different types of friction between people, both in today's world and in the past.

Moving from friction between people to my friction research was a welcome transition.  Many in my audience had not been exposed to much physics, so I kept the friction science light.  The photo below shows me discussing some friction basics (click on the image for a larger view).
The room was a dark and a colleague was kind enough to grab a photo with a cell phone.  I was happy to receive a photo.  I got some great questions after I finished, giving me more to ponder.  There is always more to learn!

17 September 2016

Talk on Monday the 19th

I will give a public lecture on Monday, 19 September at 4:30 pm here at Lynchburg College.  My talk will be the first Science Gang lecture of the current academic year.  It will be held in Hopwood Auditorium.  A flyer for my talk appears below (click on the image for a larger view).
I will discuss the research work I did at the University of Sheffield in England during my sabbatical.  Topics include friction between tennis shoe and hard court, soccer aerodynamics, and Tour de France modeling.  Because friction was such an important part of my research, I'll make connections to other types of frictions seen during our travels throughout Europe.  Check out my talk if you find yourself in the Lynchburg area on Monday the 19th.

16 August 2016

How fast could YOU swim Burj Khalifa?

Getting my family moved back to the US from England and preparing for a new semester at Lynchburg College have greatly reduced the amount of time that I've had available for watching the Rio Olympics.  I certainly won't be able to write blog posts at the rate I did during the 2012 Olympics in London (click here for a summary of what I wrote back then).  Despite how busy life for me is right now, I've been thrilled and moved watching the majesty of Simone Biles (born on Pi Day in 1997!) and the rest of the US women's gymnastics team, the continued dominance of athletes like Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps, and the emotional win for Thiago Braz da Silva in the pole vault.  But one event really took my breath away, and that was the women's 800-m freestyle.

Katie Ledecky (born on Saint Patrick's Day in 1997, just three days after Simone Biles!) so dominated that event that I wondered if she would finish, hop out of the pool, and then enjoy a cool drink while watching the rest of the field finish.  She shattered the world record, setting the new standard for excellence at 8:04.79, which was more than 11 s quicker than silver medalist Jazmin Carlin of Great Britain.  Ledecky's average speed was 1.65 m/s or 5.94 kph or 3.69 mph.  Consider that a typical walking speed is about 5 kph (3 mph), which means that Ledecky swam faster than someone walking over a distance of 0.8 km (0.5 mi).  I'm not in terrible shape, but swimming a half mile is a fairly daunting thought for me.  Doing so in anything close to eight minutes would be impossible for me!

How about more perspective on what Ledecky did?  The tallest building in the world is Dubai's Burj Khalifa.  From ground to tip, the building stands 829.8 m (2722 ft) tall.  Elevators in that building are incredibly fast, with speeds of 10 m/s (36 kph or 22 mph).  That's Usain Bolt speed, but Bolt can only sustain that average speed for 100 m or so.  I'm impressed that Bolt could keep up with Burj Khalifa's elevators for about 20 floors.  But I'm equally impressed that Ledecky could swim the entire length of Burj Khalifa in about 8.5 minutes.  Thinking "outside the pool" sometimes helps me gain better perspective.

29 July 2016

Back in the US!

I suppose this is the last of my sabbatical journal entries on this blog.  We are back in the US after my wonderful sabbatical year at the University of Sheffield.  The last week in Sheffield was a lot of fun.  My daughters were out of school and got to spend time with their friends.  Both my girls made me proud, not only with their schoolwork, but with their ability to acclimate themselves to living in Europe for a year.  They missed their Virginia friends and will be glad to see them in a few days, but they made good friends in Sheffield that they'll surely miss in the coming weeks.

My research work advanced significantly during my sabbatical.  I learned a great deal about friction, especially the interaction between rubber treads and hard courts.  Teaming up with colleagues in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Sheffield gave me the opportunity to further my understanding of friction and publish our novel studies.  We still have more work to do!  Working with Matt Carré during my two sabbatical years has been a joy.  I can't recommend highly enough collaborating with someone outside your area of expertise.  My approach is that of a physicist; Matt's is that of an engineer.  Our different ways of seeing problems and tackling solutions led to very fruitful research efforts.  Working with his students and postdocs was rewarding, too.  Young and fresh eyes view problems in interesting ways, and I don't mind learning from someone half my age.  Advancing scientific understanding isn't about ego; it's about pursuing what is true about the universe.

I also enjoyed new collaborations with a couple of engineers at Sheffield Hallam University.  Simon Choppin and John Kelley gave me new ways of looking at trajectory analysis when studying the flight of soccer balls.  I again benefited from engineering eyes looking at a problem I was used to seeing with a physicist's eyes.  And of course I continued working with my Japanese colleagues, Takeshi Asai and Sungchan Hong, at the University of Tsukuba.  We continued to combine my trajectory analysis and computational skills with their engineering and wind-tunnel skills to further what we know about soccer ball aerodynamics.  Working with engineers has helped my career more than I can describe here.

Equally important to me are my collaborations with Lynchburg College physics students.  Chad Hobson has made significant contributions to my soccer aerodynamics and Tour de France research.  Chad and I presented some of our work at ISEA 2016 in Delft, the Netherlands.  I am always looking for good physics students to research with me.  If you are a prospective student looking to contribute to sports physics, come to Lynchburg College and work with me!

There are many things I will miss about living in Sheffield.  I'll miss not having a car and using public transportation to get everywhere.  I'll miss my gym at Ponds Forge, which I hit six days in a row before we left Sheffield.  My family will miss the cute neighborhood we lived in where every kind of shop one could want was in short walking distance.  We'll all miss Endcliffe Park and the walking trails, playground, and ducks there.  I'll miss the chance to walk across the street to the Lescar for a pint.  I'll miss living in a place where guns aren't allowed -- for sure.  And of course I'll miss the Peak District, which is one of my favorite places on Earth.  We made one last visit to the Peak District the day before we left England and had to stop at the Fox House, one of our favorite Peak District pubs.

Before touching down in the US, we stopped for a few days in Iceland.  We stayed in Keflavík, which is a lovely little town on the water in the southwestern part of the country.  Visiting the Blue Lagoon was a must, and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves there.  I had never been to a geothermal spa before and that one will be tough to beat!  The day after we were at the Blue Lagoon, we rented a car and explored the southwestern part of Iceland.  It was like driving on the set of a science fiction movie.  That is one interesting country to look at!  We stopped first at Gullfoss, a truly beautiful waterfall (click on the image for a larger view).
I took that photo on Wednesday, 27 July 2016.  Was that just two days ago?!?  Our second stop was to see Strokkur.  I shot a movie of the geyser doing a double belch (as I called it!).


Our third and final stop was Þingvellir, a meeting place for the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates.  Two plates are separating, but I thought I would help (click on the image for a larger view).
My arms might need to be a little longer!  We certainly enjoyed ourselves in Iceland and we want to go back so that we can explore some more.  But when?

As I wrote to start this post, my sabbatical journal writing ends now with the end of my sabbatical.  I can't emphasize strongly enough how important it is to interact with people from different countries, cultures, and backgrounds.  My wonderful wife introduced me to that concept on a trip to Japan we took in the summer of 2001.  She has been helping me appreciate that concept ever since.  And she makes all of our travel seem effortless and smooth.  I'll be back at work in my Lynchburg College office on Monday, 1 August 2016.  Waiting for me is research work from Sheffield and a pile of work related to the upcoming fall semester.  But I've got another year of wonderful memories dancing around in my head!

24 July 2016

Greipel gets us under 1%!

André Greipel took the last stage of this year's Tour de France.  His time and a comparison with our prediction are given below.
  • Stage 21:  2h 43' 08" (actual), 2h 41' 38" (prediction), 01' 30" fast (-0.92% error)
We'll definitely take that error to finish off this year's race!  Greipel's average speed is given below.
  • Stage 21:  11.54 m/s (41.56 kph or 25.82 mph)
The big prize, of course, goes to Chris Froome who makes it three out of four.  Froome is now in the upper echelon of Tour de France cyclists.  I was wrong to pick against the defending champion!  Froome's average speed is given below.
  • Chris Froome:  11.00 m/s (39.60 kph or 24.61 mph)
Not bad for 3528.5 km (2192.5 mi)!  Congratulations to Froome and all the cyclists for a great Tour de France.  I wish I could have seen more of the race, but my family will soon be moving across the pond.  And we've got packing to do!

23 July 2016

Izagirre gets penultimate stage!

Jon Izagirre of Spain won this year's final mountain stage.  Spain can celebrate its first Tour de France stage win this year!  Izagirre's winning time and a comparison with our prediction is given below.
  • Stage 20:  4h 06' 45" (actual), 4h 01' 44" (prediction), 05' 01" fast (-2.03% error)
I'll definitely take a 2% error on today's stage!  Izagirre's average speed is below.
  • Stage 20:  9.895 m/s (35.62 kph or 22.14 mph)
Chris Froome will win this year's Tour de France tomorrow in Paris.  He has just over a four-minute lead on second place.  Our prediction for the lovely ride into the French capital is given below.
  • Stage 21:  2h 41' 38" (prediction)
I hope it doesn't rain like it did last year!

22 July 2016

Bardet makes France proud!

Romain Bardet gave France its first stage win of this year's Tour de France.  Below is Bardet's time and a comparison with our prediction.

  • Stage 19:  4h 14' 08" (actual), 4h 04' 57" (prediction), 09' 11" fast (-3.61% error)
I'll take that error on such an arduous mountain stage.  Bardet's average speed is given below.

  • Stage 19:  9.575 m/s (34.47 kph or 21.42 mph)
Froome still has the yellow jersey, and he widened his lead over second place.  Nairo Quintana could only cut ten seconds off of Froome's lead over him.  Tomorrow is the last shot climbers will have to take down Froome, but his lead looks mighty impressive for the final mountain stage.  A category-2 climb, two category-1 climbs, and an HC climb will have cyclists excited about the big downhill finish.  Our prediction is given below.

  • Stage 20:  4h 01' 44" (prediction)
Will Froome hold the yellow jersey?  Hard to imagine losing it the way he's cycled this year.

21 July 2016

Has Froome locked it up?!?

Chris Froome showed why he's a multiple Tour de France champion today.  He dominated the mountain time trial and makes me wonder if the Tour de France is over.  His winning time and a comparison with our prediction appear below.
  • Stage 18:  30' 43" (actual), 29' 27" (prediction), 01' 16" fast (-4.12% error)
I was hoping the winner would come in under half an hour, but Froome was impressive nonetheless.  His average speed is below.
  • Stage 18:  9.224 m/s (33.21 kph or 20.63 mph)
Froome won the first mountain stage and he dominated the mountain time trial.  I picked Nairo Quintana in my TOUR magazine interview.  Froome has a 04' 37" on Qunitana, and a nearly four-minute lead on second place.  There are two more mountain stages to go.  Time is running out!  Our prediction for Stage 19 is below.
  • Stage 19:  4h 04' 57" (prediction)
Besides an HC-climb in the middle, a category-1 climb finishes the stage.  Another uphill finish!

20 July 2016

Zakarin dominates the Alps!

Russian Ilnur Zakarin won today's arduous mountain stage with a time nearly a minute faster than anyone else.  This is Zakarin's first Tour de France stage win.  Below is Zakarin's winning time and a comparison with our prediction.

  • Stage 17:  4h 36' 33" (actual), 5h 00' 10" (prediction), 23' 37" slow (8.54% error)
What's funny for me watching a stage is that I don't root for our prediction unless at the end I think we are really close.  I wanted to see the elite tackle today's mountains and come in under five hours.  And did they ever!  Check out Zakarin's average speed below.

  • Stage 17:  11.12 m/s (40.03 kph or 24.87 mph)
That speed is 2 kph faster than what race organisers had as their upper limit on the time schedule.  Incredible to average 40 kph today!  We aren't happy to be more than 8% off today, but we'll have plenty to study when the race is over.  Several determined cyclists clearly outputted more power today than we had in our model.  We'll have a clearer picture of elite cyclist power output after this Tour de France is over.

Tomorrow's Stage 18 is a 17-km (11-mi) mountain individual time trial.  Cyclists will be back in France for the uphill time trial.  They'll get a chance to sprint on the downhill finish, though.  Our prediction is given below.

  • Stage 18:  29' 27" (prediction)
I definitely want to see cyclists coming in under half an hour tomorrow.

19 July 2016

Stage 17 Prediction

I'm busily getting items packed for our big move across the pond next week.  It hit me this afternoon that I'd not put our Stage 17 prediction online.  Well here it is:
  • Stage 17:  5h 00' 10" (prediction)
Cyclists will compete in the Swiss Alps tomorrow.  A great category-1 climb to the 1527-m (5010-ft) peak at Col de la Forclaz will tire cyclists.  But they'll have to rejuvenate on the descent because the HC-climb to Finhaut-Emosson at elevation 1960 m (6430 ft) will challenge even the most elite cyclist.