The Dynamic of Bicycle Finals: A Theoretical and Empirical Analysis of Slipstreaming
IÖB Discussion Paper No. 4/09
23 Pages Posted: 25 Jan 2010
Date Written: October 1, 2009
The finals of bicycle races have certain peculiarities compared to other sports. The leading group in a bicycle race rides comparatively slowly up to a few meters before the finishing line, until one of the competitors tries to shake off his opponents. Only then do all riders perform to the limit. This raises the question of who takes the thankless early lead and why. The rider who is in front just before the final sprint is seldom the one who wins in the end. By means of the relevant physics it can be shown theoretically that on the one hand the better rider will always be able to win the race and, more surprisingly on the other hand, the better rider will definitely be the rider in the slipstream. These findings are confirmed empirically by means of several logistic regressions. 49 final sprints of road races between two up to seven professional racing cyclists with varying performance potentials were analyzed concerning the order of the riders at the beginning of the final sprint and the final outcome of the race. Subsequently, possibilities for further research and implications for sport economics are described.
Keywords: Competition, Cycling, Physics, Slipstream, Sports, Tournament
JEL Classification: L83, C72, C61, C93, C25
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