Race Analysis: Fort William World Cup 2018

Jun 7, 2018 at 20:04
by Dom Wrapson  

The second round of the World Cup downhill series is wrapped up and it gave us a healthy dose of excitement and plenty of close racing. We saw the first Scot on a World Cup podium since Stu Thompson bagged a 4th at back at the Grouse Mountain, BC, race in 2003. Atop the men's podium was Frenchman Amaury Pierron for his first ever World Cup win, and Tahnee Seagrave returned to her victorious ways in the women's, making it four separate winners in the four elite races so far.

Let's look a little deeper at how they got there, and the weekend's other biggest winners and losers.

Sector Analysis

The Track

Imagery courtesy of Red Bull Media House and Google. Split guesstimates by me.

The splits at Fort Bill were very unevenly spaced, with sector 2 being twice as long as sector 1 – it was actually equivalent to the entire race at Lošinj – and each sector one quarter as long thereafter. Track length was clearly going to be a factor here, and perhaps play to the strengths of different riders to the last race. Here's a rough time breakdown of each sector:

Sector 1: 1m
Sector 2: 2m
Sector 3: 25s
Sector 4: 35s
Sector 5: 25s

Sector 1: 1m
Sector 2: 2m30s
Sector 3: 30s
Sector 4: 40s
Sector 5: 30s

Wood: Boards and Trees

The minute-long Sector 1 contains the inimitable boardwalks and technical Pin Ball section.

Angel Suarez didn't quite achieve his goal of winning the first split but he came close. He was beaten by only Luca Shaw, though by a decent margin. Sadly for both of them, despite their great opening sections, they finished 60th and 59th respectively.

Shaw was clearly on a tear up top, but his run was scuppered by a rear flat. Before that disaster, he was 0.8s ahead of 2nd place and put almost 1.5s in on eventual winner Pierron, who didn't have the best start but was possibly conserving energy for later in his race run.

Several other riders were possibly on the same conservation strategy and didn't look to have the strongest start, with Hart and Vergier down the order, and one notable omission from this top-20: eventual 4th place racer Reece Wilson.

In the women's field, right out the gate there's a clear difference between the top three, with the rest of the field 3 seconds back.

Of those, Katy Curd put in a strong sector for 4th here. Surprising to see Ravanel 5 seconds back in 10th at the split.

At twice the length as the already long sector before it, sector 2 had the greatest potential to gain or lose time. That certainly proved true with the largest time spread of the day and 3.5 seconds separating Amaury (split winner) and Taylor Vernon in 20th.

If you were going too hard up top then fatigue could start to set in. Perhaps Neko was correct that, in going for the win in sector 1, Angel would be too tired by the bottom of the course. Suarez says later in the video he was focusing on the exit, though, rather than it being fatigue or a lapse in concentration; plus his teammate Aaron Gwin, in a rare crash, went down at the exact same spot.

The aforementioned energy strategy looks to be paying off by this point, with the eventual top three only separated by Danny Hart and Reece Wilson, the latter of which started to make his move in the sector with a similar story for the split.

With Atherton and Nicole both going down around the woods, Tahnee put a big chunk of time in on the whole field in Sector 2. Ravenal had started to make a push at this point, whereas Curd's strong start was perhaps already taking its toll.

Hop, Skip and Jump

With 65-percent of the run behind them, riders had three short sectors to the finish. That's not to say there weren't time gains to be made; with an uphill after the woods and the flat-out motorway, there's still plenty of position switching to be done.

No change at sector 3 for the top two, but Hart only managing 15th opened the door for Brosnan to jump him and take 3rd, which he would hold to the finish.

Despite a crash and losing her chain out the gate, Rachel Atherton was right there in Sector 3, but Tahnee still reigned supreme. Ravanel had another good sector and holds her 5th place from Split 2. Save anything disastrous, Tahnee's 7 second lead at this point should be safe.

Sector 4 is where Brook Macdonald, with a "90-percent" healed collarbone, launched his attack, winning both this and the next sectors. Reece Wilson continued his flying run, putting up a 2nd here which bumped him from 6th to 4th for the split.

Gutierrez is a name we're used to seeing mentioned in sectors like this, and he's right there again, with 3rd here and 2nd in the next. Our top-three slip down the sector places here but only the time lost to Wilson matters, and they keep their grip on the top spots.

We start to see Gwin picking up some time again here as he tries to limit damage from his earlier crash in the woods.

Tracy Hannah had said she prefers the flat-out tracks to those slower janky technical ones. That shows here where she not only wins sector 4 but, more importantly, puts a chunk of time in to Ravanel who doesn't appear in the top-ten for the sector which is somewhat surprising given her EWS record. Hannah's powerful performance results in them trading places in the overall at the split and Tracey pinching that last podium spot. Note that this is the only sector Seagrave didn't win.

Amaury Pierron said that he liked the longer track and not having to ride flat out the whole way. That seemed to prove true by the consistency of his first four sectors, but by sector 5 he was "smoked" anyway and the legs could only manage a 26th placed time, losing over a second to the sector winner, Brook Macdonald. While Vergier and Brosnan were top-ten in sector 5 and took time out of Pierron, he had already done enough higher up to secure the win. Congratulations, Amaury!

Special mention here goes to Dakota Norton managing 10th for the sector, and going second fastest at the speed trap, without a chain! Goes to show what you can do with the ol' "pump n tuck".

Seagrave's domination continued by winning sector 5, while Hannah put in another strong result at the finish coming sector 2nd and cementing her podium spot ahead of Ravanel. Lacking a chain, it's perhaps no surprise Atherton doesn't feature in the top-ten for the sector, but she did enough to hold off Cabirou and keep 3rd place.

Position Tracking

Men's Rank by Sector:

The sector heatmap gives us a great visualization to backup what we just noted about Pierron's final sector.

Was Wilson perhaps a little too conservative in the top? If he pushed a little harder than 25th up top, perhaps he could have sat in that hot seat even longer?

Without a clear problem in sector 3, Bruni could have claimed a few more precious points after missing the first race.

Speaking of problems, Hatton, Atherton, and Greenland were all in the black and clearly struggling in the final sector.

Men's Rank By Split:

Just like Gwin in Lošinj, once Pierron captured the lead after sector 2 he held it right to the end. The difference this time around is Vergier did the same thing with 2nd, and Troy was only one sector off doing the same with 3rd. Amazing consistency throughout the race by the top three.

After a conservative start, then pushing right through to 3rd at split 2, Danny Hart lost one position per split after that, eventually ending up, surely disappointing for him, 6th and just off the podium.

Brook Macdonald looks to have been on a slow-burner starting off 33rd but jumping several places each split to eventually get 11th, just 5 weeks after breaking his collarbone in at the first round. What an animal.


Nothing much needs to be said about Tahnee here. Yes, both Atherton and Pompon got dirty jerseys, but that's racing. Seagrave won all but one sector and impressively took the lead from the start and stayed there. Pompon, Atherton, and Cabirou only shuffled around after sector 1, then stayed put for the rest of the race.

However, I think the most interesting thing here is that the top-ten was decided after sector 4, and in fact had only one position change after sector 3, with Tracy managing to bump Ravenel off the podium. Admittedly, this is contributed to by fewer racers - 16 compared to 60 men - but still an interesting pattern.

Spaghetti Chart

Charting it out, there was little movement at the sharp-end after split 2, with only Brosnan knocking Wilson down one spot.

Similarly very little movement at the top of the women's field.

Racer Performance


As suggested by @lRaphl after Round 1, let's look at how the racers stack up against their qualifying efforts.

This chart shows us 18 out of the top-20 racers improved on race day by varying amounts. Only Danny Hart and Finn Iles fell short of their qualifying, and we saw that worrying bobble from Iles right before the Hoofer that explains his marginal drop. Hart would have been confident coming in to this race after winning the national race here a few weeks before and his qualifier showed that, but he couldn't match that pace in his final run.

Vergier and Brosnan both had the most marginal of improvements on race day and shockingly similar times to qualis.

The top-20 riders have a mean -3.61s time improvement between quali and finals. Looking across all 60 finalists, the average is 2.01s slower, but that's largely attributed to Suarez's time and his crash. Removing his result, we end up -0.62s to the good, and dropping the slowest five times we get a huge jump to an average -3.06s improvement. So looks like the evidence generally backs up the racers' claims that they "have a little bit left for finals," save a mechanical and keeping it rubber side down, though most racers also said in interviews that the track will likely be a bit quicker thanks to the overnight rain adding a bit of grip.

Here's a clearer representation of how time deltas for the top-20 riders stack up, or check out all 60 racers

Expectedly, Rachel and Myriam's race times were down on qualifying due to their crashes. Most of the rest had improvements, with Curd markedly so.


While we know privateer Reece Wilson had the ride of his life, who else performed much higher than maybe expected? We can take a look using finishing position with both qualifying position and UCI ranking. Perhaps unsurprisingly Pierron is also right up there on the list, behind only Wilson and the return of Sam Dale.

With his rare crash, Gwin comes in right at the bottom. Unsurprising given he holds #1 UCI ranking, so finishing anything other than 1st will be damaging here. Technically, Maes appears below him here but that's purely because he doesn't have a UCI ranking, which means he should probably be right at the top.

Not surprising to see Ravanel at the value-end of this chart, while, despite coming second, Pompon suffers similarly to Gwin from holding the #1 rank.

Fantasy Value

Expectation? UCI Ranking? Sounds like the kinda thing that could be useful for your Fantasy Team. Well, look at that, we can see here who gave you the best bang for buck by plotting (UCI) points against $PB (Pinkbike Dollars).

The Rainbow Stripes are not proving good value for money this week. Hopefully that turns around soon!

Perfect Ride

Inspired again by Mark Shilton's blog, I wanted to look at how riders stacked up against a "perfect ride": the lowest time of the day by adding up each best sector.

I will be expanding this analysis as the season progresses.

Pierron lags about 3 seconds behind perfect.

Tahnee, though, with 4 sector wins is right on its tail!

Quick Fire Round

Speed Trap

No huge surprise with Gutierrez here, unlike Norton 2nd while chainless! Blenki's mid-air pedalling clearly paying off.

Like last time, being fastest at the trap doesn't mean you win...

... but it does give you a better chance.

The same is true for the women, though the chainless Atherton couldn't do what Norton did in the men's field.


A nation wins more points if they are represented by more racers. Though Australia really let their side down in the women's race

Commencal Factory took team-of-the-day honors with podiums in the men's and women's races. Meanwhile, privateers took home a chunk of the points from both fields, with Wilson making up the majority of the men's, and by the looks of it, some of those women deserve to be representing teams.


Like round 1, GBR and FRA entered lots of racers throughout the age range, and many of them qualified. Canada have a strong emerging youth. Meanwhile, Germany had a bad weekend.

Young winners in both men's and women's races, and age/experience less of a factor this time around.

Start Position

The later you start, the higher you place.

Everything here is available in a public GitHub repository with some notes on the process and instructions to run yourself: https://github.com/domwrap/mtbgeekstats. If spreadsheets are more your thing, all my collated CSV files are available to download from that repo.

Data Sources:

Analysis by Dominic Wrapson. You can follow and find Dominic on his Instagram and Twitter.


  • + 73
 This is incredible, so much interesting information!
  • + 51
 I'm an analyst for a living and a bike nerd by choice. I'm going to be here for a few hours.
  • + 13
 @zsandstorm haha, I just imagined you dimming the lights, lighting up a scented candle and putting some soft music on
  • + 2
 Can we get more graph please ?!
  • + 3
 @freerabbit: I don't think this should get any more graphic(s)..
  • + 1
 Another data analyst by trade (two decades) here: great job!

May I suggest putting all charts for one sex together because when I want to compare an athlete in adjacent charts, I don't have to scroll as far.
  • + 2
 @iamamodel: Yeah I was debating whether to do Men's and Women's separate, but then where would the intro to each track section go? I'll take a look for next time but will probably like to keep it consistent now.
  • + 15
 As if being able to explain what every single symbol in DHF 27.5x2.5WT TR Maxxgrip DD means wasn’t making you not shaggable enough...
  • + 6
 Ha! I know what those mean! Oh...
  • + 4
 Just the name alone doesn't contribute to shaggalabalabillity, I'm afraid. You'd need to get into the descriptions, real deep. How they rail, performance in the wet, volume and width, endurance, stick and slip performance, how the side knobs only add to the fun... If this doesn't work out, stick with Wet Screams and report back how it goes.
  • + 13
 Its funny when you hear some people say "data" and others say "data".
  • + 10
 At least they don't say jif
  • + 1
 Not funny when they say “this data”
  • + 11
 Bulldog got faster and faster till the bottom. I think that's inertia of mass
  • + 9
 The numbers don’t lie. I just wish I understood what they ment
  • + 7
 Goddamn. You keep putting out content like this and I'm going to have to get a Pinkbike tattoo which would be embarrassing.
  • + 4
 One might say this is ‘paralysis by analysis’ but I see it as ‘the more I know the more I need to know’. This is freaking awesome and I tip my hat off to you good sir. Please keep this up for the whole season and if time permits maybe an EWS version too.
  • + 2
 DH season for sure. I'd like to look at EWS too, but I start a new job next week (as an analyst, shocking) so will see how time goes and if I can just smoosh the EWS data in to the same model without too much effort.
  • + 2
 Hmm. I want to suggest an addition, but it's a bit of a double-edged sword. On the one hand, no stat means everything, and having it public/easily available/done for me is nice Razz . On the other hand, I could take the time to figure it out myself, and it could help others do better and push me down in comparison. Wink
  • + 1
 Go on...
  • + 1
 @Hwulex: Ok. Let's see if I can explain myself reasonably well... I love all of the info, this thing is amazing. That said, I think the player value stat is slightly misleading. Wait, not misleading, maybe "not as helpful as it could be" would be a better phrase. In other words, keep all this, it's awesome; I'd just like to suggest an addition. Seeing the players' Fantasy Value of points/cost is great, but the shortcoming I'm seeing is that excess money does us no good in most cases, because of the team limit of 6 members. I could pick a team with optimal "Fantasy Value" and get lots of bang for buck, but since I can't buy more racers with the excess money, I might not have as good of a team as if I had used that extra money for a more expensive purchase that nets me more points, but with less "value". I think it would be cool to combine this Fantasy Value with rankings/placement throughout the rounds, for an overall value for the best team... Something like a cost/point/average result, with a list of results for each racer? Perhaps? I don't know, I'm thinking out loud. I'm hoping that I sort of make sense. What do you guys think?
  • + 2
 @mtbikeaddict: I think the fantasy draft was the last thing this analysis was about. I agree with you on the excess monies left over for the bang for your buck comparison, but this whole article was about much more than points per dollar
  • + 1
 @bathman: I totally agree, and I very much enjoyed the other info and appreciated the effort put in. I just figured that as long as he was providing that stat about the League, maybe I could suggest a similar stat that may be more helpful. Smile
  • + 6
 Needs more graphs
  • + 4
 Didn't realise until this that Danny Hart and Luca Shaw both qualified faster than the winning time
  • + 2
 Yeah that was very interesting to me too. Proves Danny definitely had the pace, just gotta keep it together at the beeps, and really sad we didn't get to see Luca's full run. Same thing in the women's though, Atherton and Nicole both qualified faster than Seagrave's winning time.
  • + 1
 Suggestion: for the last set of charts, perhaps a second line that is 1:1, so we can see who finished better, equal, or worse than their starting position. The womens line of best fit is almost perfect.
  • + 1
 Good idea. Will look to add it for the next race..
  • + 3
 Nice work Dom! It's fascinating seeing it all laid out.
  • + 2
 This concept seems awefully similar to what Eliot Jackson has been doing this season...
  • + 1
 I hadn't seen that, very cool way to display the sectors. I wanted to do something similar to that but Pinkbike blogs so far as I know don't support embedding code so I went with static images, but this whole thing is an extension of Mark Shilton's work before who did it for several years dirtmountainbike.com/author/mrgeekstats
  • + 3
 Troy Bronson is so consistent! (not that this is new news)
  • + 1
 If only... he's had a couple years of having winning pace but crashing took away some truly spectacular time gaps he put into people. That's true of everyone but I think slightly more true for him
  • + 1
 "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics." - Benjamin Disraeli
  • + 2
 So the broken leg is going well @hwulex
  • + 1
 @jazzawil ha. Yeah great
  • + 2
 Great work again!! Also glad to see my suggestion added! Wink
  • + 2
 This is awesome, more of this please Pinkbike!
  • + 2
 Something tells me all WC teams are looking at this very seriously
  • + 3
 I'd like to think they do some of this already, but love to hear from them if they are finding what I'm creating useful, plus what else they might be interested in seeing.
  • + 1
 This is great info, our sport has progressed so far I have trouble comprehending it. That new grass fresh cutt turn out the gate looks like trouble.
  • + 1
 badass nerdy stats - lovin it!
  • + 1
 Noooooooooooo more graphs jesus
  • + 1
 Do you have the raw data for public use?
  • + 1
 Good stuff! You should throw the TWB(s) on Github too Wink
  • + 1
 No such files! This is all done with Seaborn and matplotlib in Python and Jupyter. I may if I have time put together a PowerBI for interactive analysis (I'm not familiar enough with Tableau yet), or more likely a blog elsewhere with interactive JavaScript charts. The source data files are all on GitHub though so feel free to knock something together, and even submit a pull request. Love to see what you come up with.
  • + 1
 @Hwulex: No kidding! It's been a few years since I've had to roll-my-own viz's.

First time I've even heard of Jupyter, thanks for that.

Tableau is easy-peasy.. think of it as 35 inch wheels for data visualization Wink
  • + 2
 @ReductiMat: Yeah PowerBI is basically the Microsoft take on Tableau so sure I'd pick it up quickly. It's on my list to try out soon actually.

35" you say? Guy rode past me on 3rd and Lonsdale on what looked like a 35" unicycle the other day commuting to work by the looks of his clothes. Not sure about that.... Big Grin
  • + 1
 May the Python be with you!!!
  • + 1
 Stat geeks unite
  • + 1
 This is awesome
  • + 1
 mmmm data
  • + 1
 Need Stuff!

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