Applied Maps

From 2014 to 1987

One of the key reasons for running this live R&D project was to reveal our prototyping process. Very often when we start a project we don’t have a clearly defined endpoint. Instead, we construct our process around learning through prototyping, and don’t pretend to have all the answers on day one.

Our work with EDF is a very good example of this. We took an opportunity, that of a London 2012 sponsor having live smart meters in key venues, and moulded a project around that opportunity. What resulted was Visi, a new commercial energy dashboard for EDF.

Key stages

For our Mapping The Climbs project we initially set out to create an overall route guide that focused on the mountain stages, to act as a pre-race companion. We focused on the mountains since (along with the cobbled stage 5 and stage 20’s time-trial) they were most likely to determine the overall winner. The mountains also provided the most interesting terrain for 3D modelling in WebGL.

We knew most of the action was likely to occur on the final climb of the day (shown above in red), probably in the last 5-10km, but we didn’t appreciate how the scale of the climbs would relate to attacks and time-splits. Significant events were occurring at intervals of a few hundred meters, within stages well over 100km in length, so a high level of tracking and fidelity was required to map the key points of the race onto the terrain.

Real-time 3D map

After prototyping using historical data, such as physiological data from 2012, we soon realised that live data was going to be where we wanted to focus our efforts. Creating a real-time 3d map of the race had never been done before, and it gave us the impetus to build in live event commentary, auto-refresh, and replay flythroughs, none of which we’d planned to build at the start.

We also realised visualising time splits of different riders and groups would be interesting, so we evolved our single event markers into multiple trackers for key riders on the stage; stage 18 opposite shows Vincenzo Nibali’s lead over Thibaut Pinot’s group and Alejandro Valverde on the approach to the finish at Hautacam.

Delgado v Roche 1987

One of the catalysts for my initial interest in cycling, was stage 21 of the 1987 event to the ski resort of La Plagne, an epic day in the history of the sport. Irish time trial specialist Stephen Roche had lost the yellow jersey to Spanish climber Pedro Delgado, and needed to finish within 30 seconds of the Spaniard to stand a realistic chance of winning the race in the time trial on stage 24. At one stage on the final 18.5km climb, Roche was over 1’30” down and losing the race, but staged a dramatic off-camera comeback in last 4.5km (unseen by the commentary team), appearing in the background just before the finish line having clawed back all but four seconds of the deficit. Roche went on to win the race by just forty seconds.

We made estimates of the time split at different points on the climb from the archived TV coverage, and first hand accounts from Roche, interpolating the intermediate times. Roche ended up winning the race by finishing within 44” of Delgado on stage 21, which according to our map, occurred at around 3km to the finish, a mere 0.07% of the overall race distance of 4,321km.

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