Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Is Worlds a Sham?

In this week's Monday Musette I mentioned my shock over the fact that traditional cycling nations such as France and the Netherlands will have their numbers reduced in this year’s World Championship road race due to the fact that both nations will—as of August 15th—be outside of the Top-10 in the UCI’s World Rankings. Now, while I have indeed calmed down a bit, I still find the selection procedure less than perfect.

You can read the entire selection criteria here. In a nutshell, Worlds participation is based upon the UCI Nations Ranking. The Nations Ranking is calculated by adding-up the points earned by each country's respective riders’ in Pro Tour races (the sum of which constitutes their World Rankings). Cut-offs are then made after 10 and 6 nations, giving each of these nations 9 and 6 riders respectively in the road race. Let’s take a look at the ranking (with points) as of August 10th (and how it will remain on August 15th):

1. Spain 1334 pts.
2. Italy 910
3. Australia 710
4. Germany 661
5. Russia 590
6. Luxembourg 563
7. Belgium 505
8. Great Britain 462
9. Norway 414
10. USA 389

These 10 nations will get 9 starters in the road race. The next 6 countries in the ranking will each get 6 (it’s a bit convoluted as to why and how, but you can read about it here):

11. Netherlands 341 pts.
12. Czech Republic 321
13. France 301
14. Switzerland 253
15. Denmark 210
16. Belarus 111

Does this look right to you? At first glance it appears that several deserving nations will have riders excluded in favor of countries with an individual or two who might have over-achieved. At least that’s how I see it.

My solution? It’s really quite simple: throw-out the points from each nation’s highest rider.

Since the ranking is being used to judge the participation of a national team, then it should be used in a way that reflect a nation’s consistency, not as a reward for having one particularly good rider.

For example, how about Luxembourg and its 563 points? Are Andy Schleck’s 334 worthy of the entire nation getting 9 riders on the start line in Switzerland? Does Luxembourg even have 9 registered pros? Without Andy, Luxembourg would have 229 points on the Nations ranking—a much more logical number to me.

But let’s not stop there; let’s apply the “Pavé Test” to the entire Top-16.

Here’s how the ranking would look if we exclude the top point-getter from each nation:

1. Spain 807
2. Italy 708
3. Australia 491
4. Germany 429
5. Russia 372
6. Belgium 318
7. USA 239
8. Luxembourg 229
9. Norway 198
10. Netherlands 196

These nations would have 9 riders in the road race. Here are the next 6, each getting 6 riders in the event:

11. France 194
12. Great Britain 158
13. Denmark 128
14. Switzerland 105
15. Belarus 50
16. Ireland 16

The Biggest Winners?
1. In both systems, Italy and Spain are clearly heads and shoulders above the competition. The consistency and depth of their riders is clear. The same can be said for Australia, Germany, and Russia, all of whom held their spots in the ranking.

2. Also, the Netherlands jumped into the Top-10 under my system. Extend the deadline to after the Eneco Benelux Tour and perhaps they move even higher.

3. Ireland has to be happy to go from 3 to 6 riders as well. They’re lucky that Colombia is ahead of them in my new ranking and is therefore included since it qualifies under the UCI America Tour ranking.

4. And Belarus. Belarus.

The Biggest Losers?
1. The Czech Republic lost 310 points from Roman Kreuziger, dropping them from 9 to 3 riders.

2. Great Britain went from 9 to 6 riders with Mark Cavendish’s 304 points being excluded.

3. And France? Well, under both systems they get only 6 riders on the line. Désolé, mes amis!

A major factor creating a problem with the UCI’s method lies in the fact that it de-emphasizes one day races in favor of Grand Tours. Eliminating each country’s top point-getter seems to fix this. For example, under the new system, Spain earned the majority of its points via Alejandro Valverde as opposed to Alberto Contador. And why shouldn’t they? Is it fair to participation in a one day event on points earned by riders in Grand Tours? Should Andreas Kloden and his 232 points be the reason Germany gets 9 riders? No. Heinrich Haussler and his 217 points should. Under my system, the right riders from the right nations get rewarded for the results in the right races. Right?

Share your thoughts below...


  1. This seems kind of a backwards approach to me. Why not just change the points system away from the present where essentially the TDF champion can train in Mallorca alone all summer and then shoot to the number 1 spot immediately and erase the memory of the Spring classics?
    And no mention on the crazy situation of Kloden and Haussler in regards to the German team? How can the country be guaranteed nine riders when a) Kloden routinely gets snubbed for the team (do they really think Lang is the superior TT’ist?) and b) Haussler wishes he could just line up alongside O'Grady and Evans in the Aussie kit this year.
    My suggestion would be that the biggest point getter for a nation (Kloden here) gets an auto pass to ride for the team

  2. It will be interesting to see who else from Luxembourg other than the Schlecks and Kim Kirchen will be riding the Worlds. Maybe Benoît Joachim, but they will still need to find 5 more riders. Tough one. Maybe I can change nationality and get in the race!

  3. Seems like worlds should handi cap the the strongest teams. Italy and Spain will always work together, having 18 makes no sense to me, 12 seems fair.

    If Andy is part of Team Shack will U.S.A. work with Luxembourg?

  4. I just think that the strong teams shouldn't need a numerical advantage over the weaker teams. Every team should get 9 riders, and let the strong prove, as they do all season long, why they are the best.

  5. I think another problem with the system is that the number of riders a country gets is based on who could ride the Worlds for a team, not who actually will. For instance, in sort of recent years, Armstrong, Hincapie, Leipheimer and a few others have done much of the points accumulation to get the U.S. its Worlds start positions. But they don't actually ride Worlds, so instead of being the superpower team it theoretically is, the US fields a couple of other ProTour guys and 7 second and third tier riders. Meanwhile, countries like Italy with an embarrassment of riches have multi-classics winners (like Rebellin a few years ago) sitting on the bench. Frankly, I'm sort of inclined to think the Worlds should just be run with trade teams. Eight men, top 26 teams on UCI points, period.

  6. One mistake. The PT-ranking is only applied to the top ten nations. For the rest the Continental ranking is used.

    For instance Denmark will have three riders, not six, and Norway would have gotten three if they hadn't been top 10 in the PT-ranking.

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  8. You're correct! Apologies for the oversight. I'll take this into account and revisit Wednesday's post for Friday.

    Thanks everyone for your thoughts!


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