One of my favourite aspects of the Tour de France (or any big race for that matter), is seeing the racer profiles as they ride… We can check up on somebody like Jens Voight, and see how hard he’s working and how far he’s going into the red. A number of teams are putting their performance data online as well… Garmin Slipstream (now Garmin Transitions) is an obvious example. Seeing some Heinrich Haussler’s race data is pretty interesting.

But a couple weeks ago when I ran across this article detailing one of my favorite bloggers race experience, thing that caught my eye was not the recounting of the epic Otway Odyssey (though that was great too), but rather how one of his buddies had simply taken checkpoint splits from a number of their friends and plotted them both against each other and some of the race leaders. Two things struck me:

  1. It’s pretty fun and interesting to compare your performance to your buddies, and makes for great conversation
  2. It’s pretty inspiring (or demoralizing, depending on how you look at it) to compare your efforts to those at the top of the sport

It got me thinking that with many cyclists being somewhat obsessed with collecting data (regardless of if they do anything useful with it), and almost every racer sporting something equivalent to a Garmin device, it will only be a matter of time before a device manufacturer like Garmin or an community-activity aggregator like Dailymile is going to allow race organizers to offer “competitive race data” as an offering within races.

To me this sounds awesome… You get a real-time run down of your performance, and are able to either compare it to you buddies for shits and giggles, or do an in-depth comparison to other racers. Two benefits immediately come to mind:

  • Focussed feedback – It could potentially help you targets which particular parts of your arsenal need the most work (ie. stamina strenth, technical skills, climbing, etc.). You might think your climbing needs work, but really working on your horrendous starts might make the most difference to your race results.
  • Fun factor – Rehashing races and jive-talkin’ your buddies is half the fun of racing (yes, I just said jive-talkin’), this could take it to the next level ;-)

I can really only think of one downside, but I guess it depends how you look at it:

  • Publicizing your weaknesses – This could be a bad thing, since a lot of times in a race you’re trying to mitigate weaknesses, not provide your competitors an open book on how to beat you, but it could also act as motivation to get your arse in gear to improve those weaknesses.

I know not all the data is going to be uniformly comparable (ie. heart rates are going to vary wildly between racers), but you could still gleam nuggets out of those sorts of things (like recovery time).

They have this sort of comparison at a professional level, why not at an amateur level? What do you think? Given enough time, is this a natural evolution, or a hideous bastardization of the mano-a-mano nature that sport should pay homage to?