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This is why the victory of Tobias Foss is so unexpected
18 September 2022, by Bert Lip
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Hardly anybody saw the victory of Tobias Foss in the World Championship Time Trial coming. In the PCS stars game, only 8 out of 960 players included him in their list. All eight of them gave him only 1 star. That rises the question, how unexpected was this victory? Let us find out by running the numbers on this.

Figure 1. Predictability by racetype as average percentage of players picking winner in PCS game since 2016 in WorldTour races.

  • 50.4
    50.4
    Classic
  • 62.5
    62.5
    GC
  • 46.3
    46.3
    Stage
  • 69.2
    69.2
    Time trial

Looking at figure 1 we see that time trials are best predictable when compared to the final GC, classics or stages on the WorldTour level. On average, 69.2% of the players had the winner on their team. For the World Championships, these numbers were higher ever since the game started in 2016.

Figure 2. How predictable were the past editions?

SeasonWinner% picking winner
2022 FOSS Tobias0.8
2021 GANNA Filippo97.9
2020 GANNA Filippo84.3
2019 DENNIS Rohan81.8
2018 DENNIS Rohan97.8
2017 DUMOULIN Tom99.0
2016 MARTIN Tony91.6

This chart really illustrates the unexpectedness of Tobias Foss winning the gold medal. The lowest percentage untill now was in 2019 when Rohan Dennis took the victory and 82% of players predicted he would win.

Figure 3. Most unpredictable time trials since 2016 on WorldTour level.

#YearRace% picking winner
12016 Giro d'Italia | Stage 15 (ITT)0.00
22021 Critérium du Dauphiné | Stage 4 (ITT)0.00
32017 Amgen Tour of California | Stage 6 (ITT)0.53
42019 Tour de Romandie | Prologue0.78
52022 World Championships ME - ITT0.83
62022 Tour de France | Stage 1 (ITT)1.13
72017 Tour de France | Stage 1 (ITT)1.60
82016 Giro d'Italia | Stage 9 (ITT)2.92
92017 Tour de Romandie | Prologue4.25
102019 Critérium du Dauphiné | Stage 4 (ITT)6.28
112022 Giro d'Italia | Stage 2 (ITT)6.54
122017 Tour de France | Stage 20 (ITT)7.37
132016 Paris - Nice | Prologue7.40
142019 Paris - Nice | Stage 5 (ITT)7.94
152019 Tour de Suisse | Stage 8 (ITT)10.04
162019 Tour de France | Stage 13 (ITT)14.08
172017 Paris - Nice | Stage 4 (ITT)16.24
182020 Paris - Nice | Stage 4 (ITT)16.34
192021 Tour de Suisse | Stage 7 (ITT)19.82
202019 Giro d'Italia | Stage 21 (ITT)20.48
212016 Tour de Romandie | Prologue21.16
222019 Itzulia Basque Country | Stage 1 (ITT)23.73
232021 Olympic Games - ITT25.02
242018 Tour de Romandie | Prologue34.49
252019 Tirreno-Adriatico | Stage 7 (ITT)36.45
262016 Olympic Games - ITT36.50
272019 BinckBank Tour | Stage 6 (ITT)37.91
282021 Tour de France | Stage 5 (ITT)40.27
292018 Paris - Nice | Stage 4 (ITT)45.52
302016 Tour de Romandie | Stage 3 (ITT)45.87
312021 Paris - Nice | Stage 3 (ITT)52.23
322017 Giro d'Italia | Stage 21 (ITT)54.93
332018 Tour de Romandie | Stage 3 (ITT)56.27
342018 Critérium du Dauphiné | Prologue57.38
352022 Tour de Romandie | Prologue64.07
362020 Tirreno-Adriatico | Stage 8 (ITT)69.04
372022 Tour de Pologne | Stage 6 (ITT)70.19
382018 Amgen Tour of California | Stage 4 (ITT)70.94
392016 Tour de Suisse | Stage 8 (ITT)72.02
402021 Benelux Tour | Stage 2 (ITT)72.02
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When sorted by most unpredictable winner since 2016, today's World Championship ranks 5th. The victory of Alexander Foliforov in the climbing time trial stage 15 of the Giro 1016 tops the list, when there was nobody thinking of him to assign a star. Also, nobody picked Alexey Lutsenko in the time trial of Criterium du Dauphine 2021.

Figure 4. Time trial preditability by racelevel.

RacelevelAverage winner picking percentage
Level 1
49.8
Pro
63.7
WorldTour
68.6

Another interesting fact is that the higher the level of racing, the more predictable the time trials are. In the previous chart we see that on level 1, only 50% of the winners were picked against 68.6% for the WorldTour. As the World Championships are the highest level of time trial racing, we would expect this race should be the most predictable. Despite all of this, Tobias Foss went against all the statistics and won anyway.