Academic journal article International Journal of Sport Finance

Performance Evaluation of Tour De France Cycling Teams Using Data Envelopment Analysis

Academic journal article International Journal of Sport Finance

Performance Evaluation of Tour De France Cycling Teams Using Data Envelopment Analysis

Article excerpt


This paper uses a robust (order-m) DEA approach to evaluate the efficiency of Tour de France cycling teams. Since there are multiple ways this event can be successful for a cycling team, we take it that managers face strategic input decisions regarding team and rider characteristics. Specifically, we distinguish between ranking teams, sprint teams, and mixed teams, and compute for each team an efficiency score as due to the team's performance relative to similarly classified teams and an efficiency score that is the consequence of the team type. We find that ranking teams are generally more efficient than other types of cycling teams.

Keywords: data envelopment analysis, Tour de France, cycling, team types, performance evaluation, robust order-m

(ProQuest: ... denotes formulae omitted.)


The Tour de France is the most important cycling race in the world. The three-week race captures the interest of millions of cycling fans every day and gets worldwide media coverage. This significant exposure renders the Tour de France the primary season goal for most top cycling teams and motivates managers to line up their best riders. In fact, Tour de France success sometimes makes all the difference for a continued sponsorship of a professional cycling team. An analysis of the performance of Tour de France cycling teams therefore clearly is appropriate.

Performance studies of professional road cycling are, however, still rare in the economics of sports literature. This is partly due to two distinguishing features of cycling that make such analyzes less straightforward. First, cycling is a sport in which one individual receives the glory of team production. It is "Bradley Wiggins" who appears on the roll of honour of the 2012 Tour de France, not "Sky Professional Cycling Team." Still, it would have been impossible for Wiggins to win without the support of a strong team. Second, there are many prizes to be won in a multistage race like the Tour de France. Evidently, not all cycling teams are able to win the prestigious overall time classification, but they can still strive for important secondary prizes. This will have an impact on their team selection. Hence, an appropriate performance analysis should account both for the multiple ways of being successful in the Tour as well as for the different goals that cycling teams may have in that respect.

Our focus on teams is one obvious way in which this paper differs from the small body of literature that has addressed professional road cycling performance before. Prinz (2005) and Torgler (2007) do use team data, but only as explanatory variables for individual performances. Both Sterken (2005) and Cherchye and Vermeulen (2006) entirely abstract from team importance in their analysis. Note that team efficiency analyzes are rather common in the sports economics literature, especially for popular European and American team sports. We refer, for instance, to the papers on soccer by Haas (2003), Espitia-Escuer and Garcia-Cebrian (2004) and Pestana Barros and Leach (2006). Cooper, Ruiz, and Sirvent (2009) and Rimler, Song, and Yi (2010) analyze efficiency in basketball, while baseball and American football team efficiency is addressed by Hadley, Poitras, Ruggiero, and Knowles (2000), Einolf (2004), and Collier, Johnson, and Ruggiero (2011).

The multiple-prize nature of the Tour de France is not taken up by Sterken (2005) and Torgler (2007), who focus on the overall classification only. Both Prinz (2005), by using total prize money, and Cherchye and Vermeulen (2006), by aggregating information from different rankings into one ranking, do embed the multiple prizes context into the analyses. Still, by focusing on individuals, their assessments neglect an important real element of strategic positioning that is largely at a team manager's discretion.

In this paper, we thus broaden the scope of earlier analyses, which focused on individual performance, used a single output statistic, and abstracted from ex ante diversity of team aspirations. …

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