Predicting Tour de France 2014

eric goffDr. John Eric Goff, professor of physics, with the help of Chad Hobson’17, is once again predicting the winning times for each stage of the Tour de France, which begins July 5 in Leeds, England and ends July 27 in Paris.

The 101st Tour de France is made up of 21 stages and covers a distance of 3,656 kilometers. Using physics, Dr. Goff and Chad will predict the optimal time each stage should take.

Author of Gold Medal Physics: The Science of Sports, Dr. Goff is providing commentary on his blog, where you can follow their predictions, which will be posted the day before each stage.

Chad, a physics major and math minor from Lynchburg, received a Virginia Foundation for Independent Colleges (VFIC) Undergraduate Science Research Fellowship Award to help Dr. Goff continue with his work. Under Dr. Goff’s guidance, Chad will develop an empirically determined continuous power model for a typical elite Tour de France cyclist.

“We have to go through and map out every stage into right triangles and analyze how much time it takes to get through them,” Chad said. “It’s lots and lots of work … but it’s great to see the background of things I’ve been interested in for years.”

An LC soccer player, Chad said he has grown up as a sports enthusiast. “Every year my family has watched the Tour de France,” he said. “Both my parents were triathletes.”

Chad said he hasn’t learned anything that will change the way he plays soccer, however. “Mentally it’s a fast-paced game.”

This is the seventh year Dr. Goff has predicted winning times for the Tour de France. During the last three years, he said the predictions came pretty close. “If there’s a crash or it’s raining, that’s always a good explanation of why we might be a little bit off,” he said, noting that one year a strong tailwind significantly reduced the cyclists’ times.

Dr. Goff, who is working on a textbook on the physics of sports, has presented at international conferences on the physics of sports and is often sought by the media to explain how athletes are physically able to do what they do.