Tour De France stage 8 upset credits big data cycling

Frenchman Lilian Calmejane gave the partisan crowd in Les Rousses, France something to cheer about during Stage 8 of the 2017 Tour De France.

Calmejane is a rider for the Direct Energie team at this year’s event. The Direct Energie team qualified for a wildcard place in this year’s tour by race organiser Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) – to complete the 22-team peloton. 

The vast majority of the other teams competing in the Tour De France are from Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) WorldTeams; and each of these teams get automatic qualification. The all France rider team would be the equivalent of the CFL’s Hamilton Tiger Cats entering the NFL Super Bowl playoffs.

The last time a Direct Energie rider won a stage at the Tour De France was Sylvain Chavanel seven years ago. Defending Yellow Jersey champion Chris Froome of Team Sky still held on to lead. He placed No. 18.

Stage 8 started in Dole with 193 riders taking part. Riders from the Dimension Data team, Quick-Step Floors team, Direct Energie and Cannondale-Drapac team formed the lead pack. Many other teams join this group and then were left behind during the race, which has a grueling climb up the Jura mountains near Switzerland. The high point is at Col de la Joux approximately 1,035 metres where riders have to climb more than six KM with an average gradient of 4.6 per cent.

Stage 8 is consider to be a hilly section of the Tour De France and with 25 KM to go Calmejane made his break for the lead and with 17 KM to go he was by himself with only one cyclist, Robert Gesink of ProTeam LottoNL, trying to chase him down. By winning Calmejane captured the Polka Dot jersey as the stage winner. The Polka Dot jersey is given to the rider with the points during the mountains classification, which is the second most prized jersey after yellow. By wearing the Polka Dot jersey a rider is consider the “king of the mountains.”

What made Calmejane’s victory remarkable is that the budget for his Direct Energie team is the same as Froome salary at Team Sky (3 million English pounds). So how did they do it?

Take a look at this chart supplied by Dimension Data, the tour’s technology solution provider.

It looks like Calmejane made the most of the start of the climb by being 25 per cent faster than the rest of the pelaton. The Direct Energie team is known in cycling for being the MoneyBall team. Calmejane was averaging 20.70 KM per hour during his breakaway after the last climb.

Benoît Vittek, who is a data reporter covering the 2017 Tour De France for Dimension Data, said in his daily blog that “Calmejane dominated veterans like Gesink and Greg Van Avermaet (BMC team) in the last climb of the day: a punishing 11.7km climb (average gradient at 6.4 per cent), which he covered at an average of 20.70km/h. This was enough to hold off his breakaway rivals as well as the main bunch, where Froome easily maintained his General Classification lead.”


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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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