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Before the Storm: The 2017 Downhill World Cup Season in Numbers

Aug 23, 2017 at 11:07
by axel-vertman  
2017 has arguably been one of the most exciting downhill seasons in both the men's and women's fields. With the stakes are as high as ever coming into the final race of the season in Val di Sole, I thought it would be interesting to take a look back at the past six races, not analyzing each race in too much detail but rather unravel the drama unfolding. So I scraped the time sheets to see what would emerge. Whether you have followed the season closely or not, here is a chance to revisit or catch up. I will keep my comments to a minimum and let the graphics tell the story.

First, let’s briefly recapture the action of each race looking at both the qualification and the finals. There really is a lot of data involved and, for now, I will only be looking at the Elite Men category. In the first graphs, I have visualized the results of the top 20 finishers at each venue. The left panels are heat maps of the rankings as they proceed through the four split times. The first position is color coded dark blue, on the other end of the color scale, position 50 is dark red.

The 2017 Downhill World Cup Season in Numbers
  World Cup DH Round 1: Lourdes

The 2017 Downhill World Cup Season in Numbers
  World Cup DH Round 2: Fort William

The 2017 Downhill World Cup Season in Numbers
  World Cup DH Round 3: Leogang

The 2017 Downhill World Cup Season in Numbers
  World Cup DH Round 4: Vallnord

The 2017 Downhill World Cup Season in Numbers
  World Cup DH Round 5: Lenzerheide

The 2017 Downhill World Cup Season in Numbers
  World Cup DH Round 6: Mont-Sainte-Anne


The actual position is not really discernible since what is emphasized here is the change of ranking, i.e. the change of color. Note how roughly the top 5 riders consistently stay on top (consistently blue shades). In the top 10–20, it looks like a bad Split 1 can still be compensated in the race. Riders like Jack Moir or Mark Wallace seem to need some time to get into the race as their position at split 1 is often much worse than their final position.

The right part of the panels show the time differences relative to the smoking time. The scales for all races are identical. Note big time differences of almost 20 seconds in the top 20 rankings for the long races such as Fort William while the time differences are below 10 seconds for short tracks like Lenzerheide. Surprising, however, is that for the second longest track, Mont-Sainte-Anne, the time differences of the top 20 are within seven seconds, less than for the much shorter track of Lenzerheide.

What is also interesting is the general convex shape of the bars in the vertical direction. The time differences do not increase with a constant, linear slope. The slope seems to be steeper for the top 5 racers than for the ranks 10 to 20. An exception to this observation is the first race in Lourdes which was slightly interfered by rain in the finals and threw off the strong contenders. Mont Sainte Anne shows quite a linear increase of time differences only after the top four riders. So it looks like the top five or so guys really have something special in the bag. But one would definitely need to examine a lot more races for a better statistics to substantially infer anything about the performance density at the top. However, this observation seems to be accounted for, since if you look at the points allocation system shown below, the riders at the top really are un proportionally rewarded with points for the overall ranking. The nonlinear gaps in awarded points reflect the typical gaps in race times.

The 2017 Downhill World Cup Season in Numbers


Points Earned at Each Venue

So now, let’s look at the total points gained in each race by the top 20 riders. Shown here are bar charts of total points with separate contribution of qualification and finals distinguished by color.

The 2017 Downhill World Cup Season in Numbers
Points earned in Lourdes
The 2017 Downhill World Cup Season in Numbers
Points earned in Fort William

The 2017 Downhill World Cup Season in Numbers
Points earned in Leogang
The 2017 Downhill World Cup Season in Numbers
Points earned in Vallnord

The 2017 Downhill World Cup Season in Numbers
Points earned in Lenzerheide
The 2017 Downhill World Cup Season in Numbers
Points earned in Mont-Sainte-Anne

Note that in general, there is quite a good correlation between qualification and total points. The vertical ordering of bars is by total points, and the qualification points also generally increase with the final score. Some exceptions to this general observation are riders like Vergier (in Fort William) or Gwin (Lenzerheide).

The rain in Lourdes is identified by the fact that not many qualification points have been taken from the top 10 finishers. On the other hand, in Mont-Sainte-Anne, only the top seven finishers had points from qualification as well.


Points Accumulated Throughout the Season

Next look at how these points accumulated over the season. The respective bar charts show the cumulative sums of total points and contribution from qualification and finals after each race.

Minnaar clenched the first place in the overall after Fort William and hold onto the lead. But in Mont Sainte Anne, the gap has been closing down to less than 100 points between the top three riders to keep things exciting for the last race.

Considering the total of 250 points on the table in the final race and the fact that anything is possible in downhill racing, anything is still possible for the top three.

The 2017 Downhill World Cup Season in Numbers
Point standings after Lourdes
The 2017 Downhill World Cup Season in Numbers
Point standings after Fort William

The 2017 Downhill World Cup Season in Numbers
Point standings after Leogang
The 2017 Downhill World Cup Season in Numbers
Point standings after Vallnord

The 2017 Downhill World Cup Season in Numbers
Point standings after Lenzerheide
The 2017 Downhill World Cup Season in Numbers
Point standings after Mont-Sainte-Anne

Just looking at the separate contributions of qualifying and finals, see how Gwin, Minnaar, and Brosnan are all strong on both days of the race weekend. On the other hand, racers like Vergier or Shaw have been a little unlucky in the finals. The relative contribution of qualification points to their total is much higher than for example Moir, Wallace, Gutierrez or Lucas, who clinched more points come finals.

Finally, look at the season from each of the top 20 rider’s point of view.

The 2017 Downhill World Cup Season in Numbers

There really is a consistency within the top 10. Guys like Hart, Bruni, and Lucas have been ramping it up slowly over the season. Wallace and Gutierrez, for example, have unfortunately been losing a bit of ground lately. Does this help anything towards a prediction for Val di Sole? Well, it’s downhill, so no prediction from past data, may the best racer of the day win on an equal track for everyone. In any case, the top three guys will have to battle it out and expect anyone from the top 20 to throw themselves into the mix.

Respect to all the racers, and bring it on once again this weekend!



MENTIONS: @axel-vertman


Author Info:
axel-vertman avatar

Member since Apr 21, 2015
7 articles

36 Comments
  • 74 0
 Needs more bar graphs
  • 4 1
 Missed opportunity to get a view of the pyramids: goo.gl/images/WYaojP
  • 23 0
 Need more races
  • 5 0
 Now these are some proper geek stats gentlemen
  • 1 0
 no pie graphs? I love pie graphs!
  • 19 0
 I just want a clean race. What I mean is, no mechanicals for anybody, no crazy last minute weather changes during the race. This track is going to test people at their speeds. So may the best rider win.
  • 17 1
 So to translate: 29 inch wheels cant save everyone and Gwin is still the man to beat...
  • 4 2
 Whether contributed to his wheel size or not, Minaar is still the man to beat... A DQ at MSA for Minaar and Gwin still isnt #1.
  • 4 2
 @MCsession7: Gwin had a dsq in Lourdes
  • 5 0
 @mikefromdownthestreet: But Gwin won MSA, Minnaar did not win Lourdes...far from it.
  • 1 0
 @kabanosipyvo: Yeah but Gwin was about to smash Lenzerheider for a win but smashed his tire instead. He would be up if his tire held on another few secs. He deserved the win.
  • 11 0
 I'm guessing the rider with the shortest time wins... But very nice weiteup as well!
  • 10 0
 where is the line graph that shows the correlation between the amount of beers in eddie master's system and the probability he'll take his pants off?
  • 2 4
 The amount of beers in Eddie Masters body can be a rather unstable number
  • 9 1
 No pie charts.
6/10
  • 7 0
 I give your comment a 5/7
  • 9 3
 Hey, whoever was responsible for making those graphs: fantastic investigatory and graphic work. Thank you!
  • 6 1
 Tell a dog you've never met before this joke:

"What do you call a magic dog? -a Labracadabrador"

This has been working for me lately.
  • 2 0
 I find that its really interesting that although you can have a bad first split time and still end up in the top 20, there's rarely anyone who has amazing first three splits, and a bad fourth split. So it seems racers can take your time to work up to speed, but even if they start out high paced and have a bad last split, it's very unlikely they'll fall into the top 20. Possibly at this point a mistake means a fall or serious time as racers are tired and can't fix mistakes as efficiently or quickly.
  • 4 0
 There should be a 4:00 minimum for World Cup tracks. Sub 3:00 is too short of a course.
  • 4 0
 Agreed. Also Gwin seems to do better on shorter tracks with tighter taping. The guy really has a talent for dialing in "the line" better than anyone else when there isn't much variability. Throw in a longer track and/or more line choices and his dominance drops off. Just IMHO, of course, but the data look to support it.
  • 5 0
 don't really care if the course is 3,4 or 8 minutes long..i just want more races in a WC season..10 or more would be great..
  • 3 0
 @kabanosipyvo: Agree he definitely slays shorter tracks, but mt sainte anne in the rain w/those inside lines...????
  • 1 0
 @gemma8788: Yeah, I know. There are exceptions to every theory I guess. The rock gardens in MSA were taped narrower than in years past, that much we know from pics and footage. Also the tight times, especially for that long of a course, suggest there weren't many line options to choose from I think.
  • 1 0
 Nice work. Does the first split tend to be short (time-wise)? That would explain why it doesn't seem to matter as much. And yeah, the top handful are a whole 'nother level--people talk about how close the times are, and maybe that's true relative to back in the day, but it's not uncommon to have gaps of more than a second on the podium--that's not just down to 3/4" of wheel radius...
  • 3 0
 "the first race in Lourdes which was slightly interfered by rain..."
  • 2 0
 Geez, Im confused... I just want to know how many positions have to seperate the top 3 for each to win?
  • 3 0
 Thank you, but there is also a female WC.
  • 1 0
 Thanks very much for satisfying my nerd tendencies without having to go to any effort
  • 2 0
 Nerds
  • 1 0
 If you didn't win you suck plain and simple.
  • 1 1
 Zzzz zzz graphs. Another straight-to-comment-section post.
  • 2 1
 Why no women's analysis?
  • 5 0
 They used the annual bar chart budget on just the men sorry...
  • 1 0
 Jesus, holy graphs man







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