Tour de France – Top 10 Time Analysis 1998-2014

This is part of my project to analyse the Grand Tours by looking at the times of the top ten riders in relation to the race leader. This produces some rather lovely graphs which show an interesting picture of the race, showing the time gaps between riders at different stages, the rate of gain they were making at different stages and when they overtook other riders etc.

The graphs should be fairly self explanatory, but I’ve hopefully added enough comment to explain any issues with them. There will undoubtedly be mistakes somewhere, but I’ll sort them out if they’re spotted.

I’ve put all the Giro time graphs on the same scale so that comparison over time can be carried out, as this allows you to see if races were particularly close compared to others or if there was more movement between riders.

Click the image to expand it
Click the image to expand it

The four segment represent four different things:

TOP LEFT: This shows the time from the leader of each rider who would end up being in the top ten at the end of the race. It is worth noting that there will be times when none of these riders were leading the race.
BOTTOM LEFT: This shows the position on the General Classification of each rider after the stage.
TOP RIGHT: This shows the time from the leader of the three riders who would finish on the podium. The scale is adjusted to make their duel clearer.
BOTTOM RIGHT: These images are pictures of each stage win by a rider who would finish in the top 10.

It should be noted that these are all taken on the results of the race at the time, rather then after the endless (and pointless in some cases) revisions. So people like Floyd Landis are down as winning the 2006 Tour etc.

First of course, it’s always good to open with some stats…


In the 17 editions between 1998 and 2014, there have been nine different winners from six different countries:
Marco Pantani (ITA) 1998
Lance Armstrong (USA) 1999-2005
Floyd Landis (USA) 2006
Alberto Contador (ESP) 2007, 2009-2010
Carlos Sastre (ESP) 2008
Cadel Evans (AUS) 2011
Bradley Wiggins (GBR) 2012
Chris Froome (GBR) 2013
Vincenzo Nibali (ITA) 2014

Although of course according to the official records, that number is a revised nine from  a different six countries, as it would add two different winners:
Oscar Pereiro (ESP) 2006
Andy Schleck (LUX) 2010
…as Armstrong would be expunged.,


A few teams have monopolised the yellow jersey, with the following having won all 17 titles:
US Postal/Discovery Channel – 8 wins
Astana – 3 wins
Team Sky – 2 wins
CSC-Saxobank/SaxoBank – 1/2 wins
Phonak, Mercatore Uno, BMC,  (plus Caisse d’Epargne) – 1 win

…and as a result, one brand of bike has a hold over the period

Trek – 9 wins (Armstrong 99-05, Contador 07, 09)
Specialized – 2 wins (Contador/Schleck 10, Nibali 14)
Pinarello – 2/3 wins (Wiggins 12, Froome 13, Pereiro 06)
BMC – 1/2 wins (Evans 11, Landis 06)
Cervelo – 1 wins (Sastre 08)
Bianchi – 1 win (Pantani 98)

Also, 84 riders have managed to secure a top ten place at the Tour, taking part in a combine 484 Tours between them (averaging 5.76, or 6, Tours each) in that period. Interestingly, of those 484 starts, there were 83 withdrawals (17.15%), 2 instances of being outside the time limit, and 2 rides disqualified during the race.


Above is a bit of a “graph” of that, with the positions of just the top 10s on the right, and every position they managed in the period on the left.

So, on with the Tours…

1998 Tour de France


Pitting the reigning Giro winner against the reigning Tour winner should have made for a special Tour, and it did, albeit not for entirely the right reasons. In between the well documented drug scandals, a duel between Ullrich and Pantani broke out, with the latter notably almost not bothered in the first week, trailing some 60-70 positions behind the other top 10 contenders until leaping up on the individual TT won by Ullrich (in places anyway – he lost alot of time. Pantani then however took plenty back at Plateau de Beille, putting 1:40 into Ullrich, although it meant he still lay 3 minutes behind the German. However, the graph shows how impressive his Galibier inspired attack to Les Deux Alpes was, pulling him from 3 minutes behind to 6 minutes ahead – more then enough to hold off former World TT champ Ullrich. Ullrich himself overhauled Bobby Julich in that final TT to put himself in second – a position he had already held once, and would achieve another 3 times.

1999 Tour de France


1999 was the “Tour of Renewal” after the 1998 debacle, and was dominated by Lance Armstrong, with three time trial stage wins as well as a mountain finish. Zulle and Escartin had a bit of a duel over second, but in a Tour dominated by time trials, Zulle eventually won out in that respect.

2000 Tour de France


This graph shows the rarest of things – Armstrong cracking. Not by much, admittedly, but the movement of pretty much all the contenders back towards him on stage 16 is pretty clear. It was only about a minute and a half however, which was nothing in the context of his rather large lead. This was meant to be the Tour where Armstrong would falter as big names like Ullrich returned to take him on, but it never transpired. There was a fairly entertaining struggle for 3rd place between Beloki and Heras, with Moreau almost crashing the party in the TT.

2001 Tour de France


The year of the big breakaway, with men like Andrei Kivilev and Francois Simon benefitting hugely from a 36 minute advantage granted to the breakaway that put Stuart O’Grady in yellow and gave Kivilev a 13 minute advantage over Lance Armstrong. This was fairly quickly eroded, with Armstrong back in the lead by stage 14, just 6 stages later, and from there no one of danger gained any time on him again as he tricked his opponents at Alpe d’Huez and was generally dominant. He was the only rider in the top 10 to win stages, taking 4. Kivilev would have been dissapointed not to be able to stay on the podium perhaps, and was pipped to 3rd by Beloki.

2002 Tour de France


Not a particularly exciting Tour, the graph shows the shape of dominance, with everyone essentially just dropping further and further behind Armstrong. Santiago Botero did crash the party with a couple of stage wins, but otherwise this was a pretty by the numbers Armstrong triumph.

2003 Tour de France


The Tour’s first centenary (based on 100 years, rather than 100 editions – this was the 90th edition of the race) was a cracker of a race, which is surprisingly when you look at the graph, considering Armstrong was ahead of all his rivals from stage 4 (1 was a prologue) and kept the lead from stage 8 onwards. The large drop of for many riders at stage 4 is due to the monster 69km TTT which US Postal won, and the dip on the 7th road stage is due to Richard Virenque breaking away to hold the lead for one day. By the time of the mountains, it really is a three way duel between Armstrong, Ullrich and Vinokourov, with the podium spread over just 18 seconds at one point. Armstrong eventually took a stage and  held on to win by 61 seconds at the death, despite a cross country adventure and a couple of crashes. This race is also notable for the fact that 6 different men from the top 10 all won a stage, the most decisive arguably being that of Tyler Hamilton, whose lines gradient after his stage win suggest he would have stayed 2 places further down had he not made his very long solo move to Bayonne. Hamilton, despite admitting blood doping throughout his career, has oddly not been stripped of this stage win, whilst others such as Leipheimer, Hincapie and of course Armstrong have all been stripped of theirs.

2004 Tour de France


For arguably Lance Armstrong’s most dominant Tour, the graphs show it was surprisingly close until the final week. The “U” shape is due to Thomas Voeckler’s 10 day escapade in the yellow jersey, which wasn’t relinquished until stage 16, by which point Armstrong had begun his run of three consecutive stage wins, bookended with a first and a fifth in impressive style. This Tour also marks the only occasion Jan Ullrich rode the Tour but didn’t finish on the podium, and was also the last Tour where riders could remove their helmets on the final climb.

2005 Tour de France


Lance Armstrong’s (at the time) final tour and final triumph was probably his easiest – there is a notable gap between him and the rest after just the opening time trial (during which he overtook Jan Ullrich) and nobody aside from Michael Rasmussen, who was on King of the Mountains duty, every really gained time on him. Rasmussen’s awful final TT is shown in all its glory, as is the roller coaster attacking display of Oscar Pereiro. The duel for 5th between Vinokourov and Leipheimer, decided on the Champs Elysees, also looks impressive, but this was really a victory lap of France for Armstrong, in yellow for 15 days and getting his token stage win. It looked like such a beautiful ride into the sunset…

2006 Tour de France


2006 is one of those Tours that seems to be characterised as one we all have to ignore, because it lost the key favorites before the race (the top 5 from the previous year didnt start) and then the winner tested positive as well. It was and still is a fascinating story however, particularly due to the two massive “V” shapes in the graph – one for Oscar Pereiro and one for Landis. Pereiro lost 28 odd minutes and fell to 47th at 28:31, before Landis decided he’d like to give up the jersey a couple of says later, and decided, for reasons we’ll probably never know, that a man who had been 10th the two previous years whilst riding hyper aggressively, was a wise choice as a candidate to supposedly just take the jersey on vacation. Pereiro thus got 29:57 over the pack (who in a strict interpretation of the rules should all have been eliminated) and assumed a 1:29 lead over Landis. The American’s decision looked to have been vindicated when he pipped back ahead of Pereiro after Alpe d’Huez to lead by 10 seconds, before losing 8 minutes to the Spaniard and droping out of the top 10 altogether. We all know what happenned after that, so its perhaps more interesting to note that Carlos Sastre was the man actually making up the ground in the final week – only the final TT denied him the podium. Still, the 2006 Tour became an 18 month odyssey, with Pereiro eventually handed the title after almost been given it by Landis in the first place thanks to the half hour gift.

2007 Tour de France


A confusing graph given none of the GC contenders take the yellow jersey until the 18th stage, but this was because Rabobank’s  Michael Rasmussen held the lead for a long while, and as Contador’s dip on stage 17 shows, he had increased his lead to an essentially unassailable margin over the men who would eventually finish on the podium. This was actually a jolly entertaining Tour, and it produced the closest podium ever (although the joys of revisionism mean Leipheimer is now DQed, leaving Sastre 4th at 4 minutes) The graph also doesnt include Vinokourov and Kloden, who played large parts until the team left in the wake of Vino’s positive tests.

2008 Tour de France


This is the only Grand Tour in the last 17 years where only one man in the top 10 won a stage, although that was the overall winner Carlos Sastre, and he did do it in classic style by winning the Alpe d’Huez stage – a beautifully efficient and romantic way of triumphing at the tour. This was also the first Tour to do away with time bonuses, and the organisers were rewarded with a race where the top three where always within two minutes of one another. Carlos Sastre didn’t really emerge as a favourite in the first two weeks, with the graph showing six GC contenders ahead of him in the first week, before the second week focused on the 1 second difference between Sastre’s CSC team mate Frank Schleck and Silence Lotto’s Cadel Evans. Sastre however poached time on the stage to Parto Nevoso and then took his Tour winning move on the Alpe, giving himself enough of a buffer to triumph. This Tour is also notable for some huge drop offs due to bad days, such as that by Kim Kirchen on stage 16, having led the race ealier in, and by Christian Vandevelde and Alejandro Valverde.

2009 Tour de France


The 2009 Tour has been underrated as a race, mainly because it is now seemingly a crime to give favour to anything featuring Lance Armstrong, but the graph demonstrates that the intrigue and drama was more because of the political infighting within Astana then any particular sporting excitement. Essentially, the GC doesn’t change at all for two weeks until the riders got to Verbier, and those two weeks basically just say Armstrong and Contador trying to get on top of one another by a couple of extra seconds. The final week shoes how close Armstong was to losing his 3rd place, although only once after the opening couple of days did he fall out of the podium spots. Frank Schleck and Bradley Wiggins are also very close, with the Brit almost losing 4th on the Ventoux. However, this shouldn’t detract from Contador’s performance, losing no time to anyone aside from one day (the infamous crosswind stage) and turning in a dominant performance.

2010 Tour de France


Andy Schleck is now the official winner of this race, and arguably the moral one anyway, depending on how you see the Chaingate incident. This graph basically shows that there were two duels going on at the race – one for the victory between Schleck and Contador, and one for third between Sanchez and Menchov. Both basically track each other across the graph, although unfortunately for Sanchez he got hammered in the final TT (though given Menchov has now been Dqed, he’s technically 2nd despite finishing 4th…) This Tour was all about the Schleck/Contador duopolu, and this graph basically shows the pair way above the rest in that regard. Noteworthy is Chris Horner’s ride to 10th, mainly built on a big breakway gain, as well as Ryder Hesjedal’s 8th based on a grand first week and gradual time loss. Both would go on to win grand tours in the next three years.

2011 Tour de France


One of the more entertaining Tours, the graph is fairly unique as it is a “breakaway” graph that almost fails, given Voeckler is very close to the podium. It also demonstrates the almost immaculate performance of Cadel Evans, just hovering off the lead and only snatching it on the penultimate day after slowly creeping up and poaching the Schleck brothers in the time trial. Alberto Contador’s track is also featured, which makes for an observation on how close he was to Andy Schleck before dropping away on the Galibier stage.It also shows that Thomas Voeckler lost time in the TT at the same rate as the Schlecks, and that his undoing was certainly the Alpe d’Huez stage where he got caught in no mans land.

2012 Tour de France


Not a hugely exciting Tour to watch or indeed in Graphical form, it basically shows that the GC was set with half the race to go, bar one or two crushingly bad days from Cadel Evans. The podium graph also demonstrates that aside from one tiny gain on one stage, Wiggins gained all his time on his rivals in the three TT’s rather than the mountains. It also helps recall that Froome lost almost 2 minutes to a puncture in the first week, so would have been considerably closer if that had not occured. Other then that, the lines basically only show bad days causing changes in GC rather than attacks.

2013 Tour de France


The 100th edition of the race was rather entertaining, even if it had been won pretty early on when Froome stormed off on Ax-3 Domaines. Still, there was a jolly entertaining battle for the podium after that, with the Belkin duo of Mollema and Ten Dam (who fell out of the top 10) occupying the podium for a whilst whilst Romain Kreuziger and Alberto Contador follow essentially identical paths as they battled to hold off the podium challenge of Quintana and Rodriguez, ultimately failing on the penultimate day of the race. Also of note is Daniel Navaro of Cofidis’ roller coaster battle to 9th, losing and gaining big chunks of time every other day in the last week. The graph also suggests that Froome had perhaps peaked in the middle week, and was tiring by the end of the race, as riders were beginning to come back at him. However, this is exaggerated by the upward turn at the last stage, caused by Froome choosing to roll over the line with his team for a photo op rather than finish in the pack.

2014 Tour de France


The 2014 Tour may be unfortunately be remembered for the loss of Froome and Contador rather then the dominance of Nibali (who could have quite contently rode around, but chose to assert his dominance, and that’s after defeating Contador and Froome in Sheffield and then hammering them on the cobbles). The Graph thus shows a very dominant profile by Nibali, who only didn’t wear the jersey on two days of the race, but the battle for the podium is very entertaining, with Valverde and Pinot trading blows whilst Peraud pushes his way into the 2nd place at the death. Indeed, ignoring 1st place made this Tour very interesting, and gave us a close finish as Bardet and Van Garderen ended up separated by just 2 seconds. The bad day of Van Garderen is noticeable, and the track afterwards suggest that he could possibly have been in the mix for the podium without it.

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