in Artificial Intelligence, Image & Video Analysis

Winner of stage 16 of the 2020 Tour De FranceLennard Kämna, said that before becoming a pro, he had difficulty recognising his fellow cyclists, so much so that he lost races because he was joined in the breakaways by riders whose qualities he did not know.

In a competition in which often the only sure sign of recognition is a number on the back or on the bike, after all, even the good TV commentator distinguishes himself because, from other elements (the jersey, of course, but also the gait, the physicality, maybe some tics), he recognizes every single cyclist even in the most distant shots. Cycling is certainly a field in which technological innovation in image analysis can make the spectator’s experience more immersive or allow an easier “reading” of the race.

To pay a tribute to this strange edition of the Tour de France, however, we have chosen to justify those commentators and cyclists who sometimes mix riders up. Because yes, some cyclists look alike, at least at a first glance.

For this technological game, we have created an algorithm that identifies similarities in the facial features and applied it to the faces (still fresh, at the start in Nice) of the 176 protagonists of the 2020 Tour de France, as they appear on the official website of the race.

The algorithm recognizes the presence of a face. It extracts, through a neural network, about 70 facial landmarks that define the structure of eyes, mouth, eyebrows, nose and oval. This structure is used to generate a metric space that allows to calculate the distance for each pair of faces (with respect to their structure). In this space, by using a clustering algorithm iterated on graphs we were able to find clusters of similar faces.

Here are some curious similarities.

We are immediately comforted to see that the algorithm notes a certain similarity between the more famous Nairo Quintana and his brother Dayer (both riding for Arkea). To complete this modern family, arrive (and they are usually fast) Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal) and Primož Roglič (Jumbo). With them also the young Harold Tejada (Astana), another Colombian of very good prospects.

The Basque brothers Izagirre (Ion and Gorka, both in Astana) also end up in the same cluster. With them “the painter” Miguel Ángel López (Astana) the phenomenal Wout Van Aert (Jumbo) whose facial features are identified as quite similar to those of Kévin Réza (B&B).

Here is a cluster of similar faces ready to wring competitors’ necks in the mountains: Wout Poels and Pello Bilbao from Bahrain McLaren, Dries Devenyns from Deceuninck, strong climbers Domenico Pozzovivo (NTT) and Richard Carapaz (Ineos), also joined by Romain Sicard (Total).

Revelation Tadej Pogačar (UAE Emirates) may have a smiling brother in the EF team (the more experienced Jens Keukeleire).

Tim Declercq (Deceuninck) is instead an incognito CCC (here in the middle between Alessandro de MarchiMatteo Trentin and Jonas Koch).

A breakaway with Laporte and Perez from Cofidis, perhaps joined by Calmejane from Total, could prove to be a nightmare of recognisability.

And fortunately they have different physical structures and ways of riding: André Greipel (Israel), Michał Kwiatkowski (Ineos), Bryan Coquard (B&B), Alexis Vuillermoz (AG2R) and Niccolò Bonifazio from Total. Who is going to win the sprint?

Luis León Sánchez from Astana could well disguise himself as Daryl Impey or Luka Mezgec (Mitchelton).

Here instead is a cluster of mysterious looks in favour of the camera: the “philosopher” Guillaume Martin (Cofidis), Alexey Lutsenko from Astana, Steff Cras (Lotto Soudal) and Maxime Chevalier (B&B).

If the one above is a more winking cluster, this is more questioning. What would Remì Cavagna (Deceuninck), Tom Van Asbroeck (Israel) and Jan Hirt (CCC) want to know from us?

To avoid mistakes, Daniel Oss (Bora) lets his hair grow. The algorithm takes it away from him and a nice quartet is formed with Edward Theuns (Trek), Nicolas Roche (Sunweb) and the Norwegian Alexander Kristoff (UAE Emirates).

If they are in the breakaway, it is probably the good group. Enric Mas (Movistar), has to deal with former team-mate Kasper Asgreen (Deceunnick), Damiano Caruso (Bahrain) and the tough Richie Porte (Trek).

All photos belong to their rightful owners and are publicly available on the official website of the Tour De France.

No rider has been mistreated during this game. Vive le Tour!

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