Final yr’s Tour de France was an enormous ripoff. Coming off the heels of 2020’s dramatic reversal of fortune, we had been hoping for a real boxing-style rematch between the 2 Slovenian stars of the grand tour scene, Jumbo Visma’s Primož Roglič and UAE’s Tadej Pogačar. Coming into the race we had zero thought of who would win — Egan Bernal beat a weak area in 2019 and got here to his title protection missing kind from a again drawback — however after a pair weeks of them driving neck and neck Pogs all of a sudden cracked Rogs within the closing time trial to grab yellow away from his countryman in 2020, and possibly a brand new, unique rivalry was born? It was additionally 2020, extra exactly September of 2020, and nothing was precisely regular, so we (OK, possibly simply I) determined we would have liked one other match earlier than drawing too many conclusions.
Then Roglič crashed out of the 2021 Tour and Pogačar turned the youngest rider ever to win two Excursions, bossing the race nearly all the way in which to Paris like he had no peer. And he hasn’t actually had friends since then, profitable classics and brief stage races seemingly at will, even taking over the Cobbles Warriors on their house floor with spectacular outcomes. Roglič, in the meantime, suffered from a knee ailment which at occasions made him straightforward to neglect. Pogačar will now begin the 2022 Tour, assuming all goes effectively for the following few weeks, because the presumed winner in ready. Betting odds have him at -150 to win, which means he’s considerably extra seemingly to take action than the whole remainder of the sector mixed.
Is it over earlier than it begins? In no way. Let’s run by means of the varied methods to evaluate the relative statuses of the 2 Slovenian Supermen.
What the Outcomes Say
Each riders have extraordinarily spectacular curricula vitae. Roglič is almost 9 years older, so his outcomes return a bit additional than Pogs, however as a late starter he was pretty nameless till 2016, when he received a Giro stage and registered another excessive finishes, all in time trials. Beginning with a Tour stage win in 2017 on a day that includes the Galibier, Roglič turned a prime stage racer and landed on a couple of podiums, setting him as much as win races like Romandie and Basque Nation whereas taking fourth on the 2018 Tour. His subsequent step was a Vuelta title in 2019, turning into the primary Slovenian to win a grand tour, and after two extra of these he now trails solely Roberto* Heras*** in all time Vuelta wins.
Rogla’s Tour legacy contains that fourth and the second place in 2020, the place he additionally received a stage and led for 11 days, however that’s it. Whereas we had been gnashing our tooth over his Tour profile, he additionally slipped in an LBL win and an Olympic gold medal within the ITT. It is a huge legacy for a man on a five-year run of high quality, and whereas his 2022 season has been fitful, he simply wrapped up a stable Dauphiné victory this previous weekend.
Pogačar, after all, has the 2 Tour victories, the primary of which occurred lower than two years after his closing U23 look. Unusual because it sounds, it was in entrance of an American viewers that 20-year-old Pogs burst totally onto the scene in 2019, on the Tour of California, the place he received the general and the important thing mountain stage in opposition to a reasonably good, if not completely dedicated, area of World Tour execs. He then was in a position to dangle on to the rostrum within the Vuelta, third total in his first grand tour, which scuppered any plans UAE may need needed to deliver him alongside extra slowly. Effectively, that and Covid possibly? Regardless of the considering was, he was at the beginning of the delayed 2020 Grand Boucle on the age of 21, and proceeded to swap lunge-for-the-line mountain stage victories with Roglič (plus another shuffling about) till the fateful Planche des Belles Filles time trial that flipped a 57” deficit into an historic 59” win.
Final yr he pocketed the UAE Tour, Tirreno-Adriatico and L-B-L en path to his second Tour win, plus Lombardia and the bronze medal within the Olympic Highway Race. This yr he doubled up on the UAE Tour, out of obligation to his sponsor little question, and Tirreno once more, earlier than difficult the Cobbles Guys and bagging Strade Bianche alongside the way in which. We would have had extra to say however for his schedule change to go house along with his grieving associate, Girls’s World Tour rider Urška Žigart, on the eve of the Ardennes classics.
Each riders have rather a lot to be pleased with, so how will we evaluate them? Head-to-head we now have however two necessary knowledge factors: the unforgettable 2020 Tour and the 2021 Tour of the Basque Nation, received by Roglič. That’s it. Or possibly you’d throw within the 2019 Vuelta, additionally received by Roglič, although Pogačar is far stronger now. The purpose is, while you say you suppose Pogs >>> Rogs, you’re actually simply speaking about that in the future on the finish of the COVID-year Tour.
Not less than the place outcomes are involved.
What the Information Says
Wait, you’re looking at outcomes? OK boomer. When you find yourself prepared to affix the twenty first century and actually analyze biking, come on over to Information World.
Ah sure, the numbers. Background: I like sports activities metrics virtually as a lot as I like telling folks that trying up sports activities metrics and understanding what they imply doesn’t truly contain doing math. [Someone did the math already, and it was pretty much just simple multiplication and division.]
The important thing to a superb metric is considering creatively about what you may measure that can truly reply the query you need answered — whether or not the particular person/staff I’m rooting for will win the factor I’m rooting for them to win. In baseball, for instance, house runs are good at telling you who does that one factor that even probably the most informal fan can establish as one thing that helps you win, however till you go in search of all the opposite methods individuals win, or the way to squander the house run’s worth added by doing any of a number of different issues badly, you haven’t realized something about who will win. I used to be a Purple Sox fan within the Seventies. They hit a number of house runs and… effectively…let’s transfer alongside.
Biking’s main metric for profitable the Tour de France is phrased as watts produced per kilogram of physique weight. It’s a blunt device, and you’ll wager that the groups have much more subtle info that they hold to themselves — endurance athletes’ bodily efficiency info is a little more private than one thing about catching a baseball. However for twenty years now, since Johan Bruyneel began authorizing books that made him look good (sigh), we now have been calling a w/Kg worth of >6 as a reasonably good signal that you could win the Tour de France. Supplied you may maintain that output for some time.
The Kg half is straightforward: attempt to weigh much less. However in doing so, retain your whole wattage. I’m not conscious of riders publishing their weight fluctuations, so whereas that’s good to know, it’s not on the market to tinker with. Irrespective of, although: there appears to be loads of wattage and w/Kg numbers round — once more, somebody has already executed the work for us. I don’t know precisely what to say concerning the quantity 6, I think it originated with Michele Ferrari? Anyway, it was good again then throughout the doping days, and now it looks as if the EPO increase (hopefully) went away solely to get replaced by higher coaching. Hopefully.
Once I name w/Kg a blunt device, it’s as a result of there isn’t a single measurement that you’d depend on, given the variations in efforts. Logically, the wattage an individual can maintain will probably be increased for a short while after which stage off over an extended interval, so what you actually need is a spread of measurements to reply the query, who precisely is the strongest? This leads to plotting factors throughout a efficiency curve — w/Kg versus time — to see who’s on the prime stage.
In contrast 2018-2021 Tour de France greatest performances. 2020 and 2021 are so a lot better than 2018 and 2019. TDF 2020 is likely to be the perfect in W/KG sense since 2009. Pinot in 2019 had a few good efforts that may be nice additionally within the Pogačar period. Information: @NaichacaCycling pic.twitter.com/VreD5gWvBl
— Biking Graphs (@CyclingGraphs) November 6, 2021
That’s a number of numbers! And could also be a bit exhausting to see, however the yellow represents 2021 and the entire actually superb factors belong to Pogačar. There’s a 6.42 w/Kg for about 27 minutes; a 6.18 for about 35 minutes, and 5.96 for 49 minutes. The crimson is 2020 and principally exhibits Pogs and Rogs matching one another. So we don’t have a lot to essentially assist us with this comparability.
Extra numbers although:
Primož Roglič exhibiting good w/kg at the moment on Vaujany (4.4km, 9.32%) after a reasonably tough day. Tomorrow if Roglič goes full-gas on Plateau de Salaison (11.4km, 8.9%) he ought to produce his greatest 30-35min watts.
Information: @NaichacaCycling pic.twitter.com/gkgEoZk8JK
— Biking Graphs (@CyclingGraphs) June 11, 2022
It is a graph of assorted Roglič performances with one recent one added from final week, the Vaujany climb following the Croix de Fer and Galibier climbs, the place Rogs put up a powerful 6.81 for about 13 minutes. Not apples to apples, however an indication that he’s nearly on his curve for prime outputs, even with a month to go earlier than the Tour. There’s additionally a quantity from the Col de Turini from Paris-Good earlier this season, a 40-minute effort at simply over 6 w/Kg. Once more, that early within the season looks as if a superb signal.
And so, the numbers inform us… uh, I don’t know. Kind of what the outcomes advised us already? That the secure decide is Pogačar however we don’t have almost sufficient info to rule something out. And therein lies the issue with knowledge. In comparison with baseball, a sport that entails countless repeated actions to the purpose the place the noise will get blocked out, biking knowledge like w/Kg is relative to any variety of components which reduce its predictive worth, and is available in means too few knowledge factors to say all that a lot. Biking is quirky, and even the groups, with all their inside data, can’t actually say who could have the legs on a sure day.
What the Parcours Says
I received’t go right into a prolonged discourse on the whole Tour de France map, for one cause: they’re each actually nice at every thing within the mass begin occasions, so it doesn’t matter a ton what the course seems like, assuming it’s a typical, balanced Tour de France course, which I suppose you possibly can say it’s. A couple of issues I can consider:
- Does Pogačar simply actually love the Planche des Belles Filles climb? As a result of that’s taking place on the finish of the primary week, which explains why Rogs just isn’t ready too lengthy to ramp up his kind. [Not that people really do that anymore.]
- Absolutely the flat ITT kms favor Roglič? His ITT loss to Pogs was iconic, but it surely was additionally a hill climb, whereas Rogs is the Olympic champion on extra typical (rolling to flat) programs, the place he both wins or finishes simply behind the specialists.
- I’m curious whether or not individuals suppose one is a greater descender than the opposite, although even there I can’t see rather a lot factors the place that could possibly be a distinction maker.
Backside line, the course doesn’t tip the benefit in both route a lot if in any respect. However 2020 undoubtedly did nullify Roglič’s one identifiable benefit, so in comparison with that, he in all probability likes this course.
What the Groups Say
This too will probably be brief. Each riders have wonderful groups, in all probability the 2 strongest outfits within the Tour (together with INEOS). Just like the parcours, I’m unsure the staff lineup ideas the race towards both rider… although maybe Roglič has a slight benefit.
UAE will characteristic a assist staff of Marc Hirschi, Brandon McNulty, Rafal Majka, George Bennett, and possibly Marc Soler. Jumbo-Visma can rely on Wout Van Aert, Jonas Vingegaard, Christophe Laporte, Rohan Dennis, Sepp Kuss and possibly Steven Kruijswijk. [Neither team has been finalized.]
I’d say the groups are totally different, even when they might ship about the identical outcomes. Jumbo is a extra seasoned squad, having been collectively in some sense for much longer. In case you take a look at the 2020 startlist, Jumbo’s full lineup is almost an identical to what we are going to see subsequent month, whereas UAE’s solely featured Pogs and Vegard Stake Laengen (assuming he makes this yr’s minimize) from two years in the past. Groups which are thrown collectively is likely to be at a slight drawback in comparison with groups which have operated as a unit for years. However ultimately, the strongest man will in all probability win regardless.
The one different wrinkle is Vingegaard, whose personal energy numbers counsel that he’s a bona fide contender, ought to plan A get shelved, or possibly simply in the midst of occasions the race will evolve right into a two-against-one dynamic. Not anticipating any 1985 Lemond/Hinault stuff — Roglič is sort of absolutely Jumbo’s greatest wager.
What the Intangibles “Say”
And now we go off the rails. Wanting into the souls of strangers just isn’t actually nice enterprise. At most, we are able to marvel, does the youthful Pogačar have a psychological edge on his older compatriot? As soon as once more, we’re left with a single knowledge level that tells a strong (sounding) story, that day in September 2020 the place Rogla’s goals had been left in tatters. Does Roglič actually really feel hung up on that day? Did three consecutive Vuelta victories reduce the sting? No thought. I think that if he exhibits up feeling actually good and makes it by means of week one with no crashes, the previous received’t weigh on him a lot if in any respect. He’ll simply journey his bike.
On the flip aspect, nonetheless, Pogačar is driving a wave of confidence that you could solely discover in individuals too younger and profitable to even know what disappointment is. When is the final time certainly one of his older rivals taught him a lesson about something? Okay, possibly Mathieu van der Poel taught him to not drag the Dutch star to the road in Oudenaarde, however that’s about as apparent as possibly not beginning a land warfare in Asia. Pogs has been flying excessive, daring anybody to attempt to take his crown, and additional cementing his temporary however unbelievable legacy within the course of. So nonetheless good Roglič could also be feeling about his probabilities, there’s no means he feels higher than Pogačar.
Sorry, that is the story of the tape, not prediction time. We’re just below three weeks away from the flag dropping, and there’s nonetheless time for proof gathering. Pogs is scheduled to journey the Tour of Slovenia, the place he’ll in all probability simply verify what we knew all alongside, although if not then issues will get relatively intriguing.
I do suppose this train is value shining a light-weight on all the explanations to imagine in Roglič. I agree that he shouldn’t be favored, however I can also completely see a nip-and-tuck race that tilts to Primo within the closing ITT, a scrumptious story of revenge served chilly AF. Or one million different issues can occur, and possibly one or two of them will in a means that creates sufficient separation for us to get a winner. Like a crosswinds occasion or one thing. Anyway, I think we are going to all be rooting for the rematch we didn’t get final yr, it ought to be one for the ages.