Giro d’Italia: Stage 21

Final Giro post! First we have the final picture for the whole race:

and a higher quality version here. And then we have the breakdown by teams:

And the matching high quality version here. Finally, some higher quality graphs looking at some folks who competed in both this and last year’s Giro and who did particularly better or worse than last year.

Career Retrospective: Marianna Longa

More bad news for Italy. First Arianna Follis, now Marianna Longa is calling it quits as well. Her career has followed an interesting path, as you can tell from just glancing at her distance results:

Prior to 2005, Longa was a solid WC skier, but her best result was a 7th along with a handful of other top-20’s, mostly in classic races. She took a break during the 2005-2006 season coinciding with her pregnancy (and missing the Olympics in her home country!), and then returned in the 2006-2007 considerably faster, leading to four top tens, including one at World Championships.

Then she “retired” in the spring of 2007, only to return again late in the 2007-2008 season, once again even faster than before. Indeed, the subsequent season, 2008-2009 was hands down her best. Five of her nine podium finishes (all distance, including TdS) came in this season, and most of the rest came during this past season’s Tour de Ski.

The curiosities continue when you look at her distance results by technique: Read more

Arrivederci!

First Arianna Follis retires, and now we learn that Marianna Longa is heading out the door (again!). This strikes me as quite a blow to the Italian women’s team. Before I wrote this post, if you asked me to list some other top Italian women besides Follis and Longa off the top of my head, I’d probably have been able to name Magda Genuin, Antonella Confortella and maybe one or two others if I’d really thought about it.

Going back through some data, it does seem like the Italian women are really going to be struggling next year, particularly in putting together a relay team. I’ve put together some graphs of the remaining contenders, though I’m by no means an expert in up-and-coming Italian women, so I apologize if I’ve omitted someone important.

First we have some “older” ladies:

Genuin is a talented sprinter, with several WC level podiums and numerous top tens. She’s not a spectacular distance skier, though, as her best results just break the 50 FIS point level. Confortola is a stronger distance skier, but she’s only cracked the top ten four times in a WC level race, and 36 is fairly old for WC skiers. Also, her results have been trending in the wrong direction lately.

Then we have some folks in their mid to late twenties: Read more

Giro d’Italia: Rest Day 2

We’re through Stage 15 of the Giro, so here are some updated versions of the accompanying graphs. I made these “high quality” (i.e. PDFs) in case anyone wants to repost them elsewhere. Here’s the overall GC picture:

And then we have the same data broken down by team: Read more

Career Retrospective: Petra Majdic

What can you say about Petra Majdic? The Slovenian was delightfully hard to miss on the ski trails. Known as a classic sprint specialist, she was no slouch at distance events either:

From 2002 forward, that is some very consistent skiing, year in, year out. I realize that standardized percent behind the median skier may be a little hard for you to get a sense for, so here’s a different way of looking at it. Majdic’s median distance result from 2002 on was basically 11th. She slipped a bit in 2004 and 2005 (median of 17th in those seasons), but every other season her median was ~11th or better.

You might notice the sudden appearance of higher quality races beginning in 2006. My first thought was that this corresponded (roughly) with the start of the Tour de Ski, an event that Majdic has excelled at. Additionally, the unusual formats and smaller fields can sometimes produce unusually extreme differences compared to the median skier. But only 1/3 of those races below -1.5 after 2006 came from the Tour, so she probably stepped up her distance skiing generally. Note, though, that the presence of several much stronger results only slightly reduces her median results in any given season. I point this out only to remind once again about the difference between gauging performance based on someone’s best results versus their ‘average’ result.

That said, the Tour has been friendly to Majdic’s distance racing. Half of her distance podium results have come from Tour stages. And she surely is stronger in classic events: Read more

How To Win A Medal (Or Come Kinda Close)

Another interesting data-centric post appeared over at NCCSEF, and when it comes to data, I just can’t help myself but comment.

This time we’ve got some slides that seem to be trying to draw a relationship between WJC results and winning a medal at (I believe) the Vancouver Olympic Games. We’re only shown the (partial) results for six skiers, so I’m not sure what exactly the lesson is supposed to be.

We seem to be mixing sprint and distance results together as an indicator for future success. That seems strange to me, but I’m certainly not an expert in that sort of thing. We’ve also selected a curiously successful subset of Olympic medalists to examine. Absent is Pietro Piller Cottrer, who’s best (and only) result at WJC was 32nd (admittedly, a long time ago). Also missing is Aino-Kaisa Saarinen who’s WJC results were 15th and 23rd. How about Tobias Angerer (WJC: 18th, 26th, 28th)? On the other hand, we are shown Marcus Hellner, who’s WJC results were good but not spectacular: 15th and 21st.

The further information provided at the bottom regarding time to an athlete’s first podium also contains mostly skiers who achieved this feat fairly young, but then also two who did not (Gaillard and Rickardsson).

What am I to learn from this? That the right path is to podium at WJC (Northug), except when it isn’t (Bjørgen, Haag)? That the right path is to be successful early in your 20’s on the WC (Northug, Harvey), except when it isn’t (Gaillard, Rickardsson)?

When I read stuff like this, I’m left feeling mostly confused, like I’ve been presented a bunch of data, but that no one has gone to the trouble to transform this data into information. The reader is left alone, drifting in a sea of numbers, wondering what exactly was the author’s point.

I’m absolutely not going to argue with the idea that skiers who show considerable promise early on are more likely to develop into successful WC skiers. Indeed, I’m less interested in the nuts and bolts of what results mean at a given age than I am in effective and clear presentation of data.

I’ve written about connections between WJC results and medal on another occasion and I tried to emphasize the fact that when you look at all the data, there’s certainly a connection, but the different paths that skiers take toward success can vary so much that it’s difficult to create many useful generalizations just from the data.

But let’s revisit this idea with a few simple approaches and see if we can organize the data in a way that’s informative (and maybe interesting too!). First, I’m going to broaden the scope from medals to top ten results at either Olympics or World Championships. The problem with looking only at medalists is that there are just too few of them. Much can be learned by imitating a single good skier, but there’s always the danger that what worked for them only worked because of something unique about them, rather than having stumbled across some universal truth of skiing.

Let’s tackle the connection between WJC results and whether or not someone achieves a top ten result at the Olympics or World Championships. I fit a simple model (actually, not so simple; no OLS regressions here!) and plotted the model’s predictions for the probability of a top ten result at a major championship based on that athlete’s best result at WJC (sprint or distance): Read more

Giro d’Italia – Rest Day 1

It’s not skiing, I know, but I do like to entertain myself by making pretty graphs. So like last summer I’ll be doing some graphical displays for some big stage races. I won’t provide any discussion or analysis, just the graphs for you to enjoy, pass along or share as you please.

I do try to take requests, though, so if there’s a particular graph or analysis you’d like to see, let me know in the comments and I’ll do my best to oblige. Keep in mind, though, that I don’t have access to anything beyond the simple results from each stage.

Here’s a look at the whole field:

Each line is a single rider, and the times correspond to the overall, or GC, category after the completion of each stage. Lines heading down are the good riders, and vice versa. I included “results” for the neutralized Stage 4, so all those lines remain constant since nothing changed. (Indeed, I simply extended every line, even if that person did not continue past Stage 3.) A higher quality (PDF) version can be found here.

The following graph is roughly the same concept, but broken down by team (click for larger version): Read more

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