The latest UCI rankings are out. Here’s the top-25:
First, the Court or Arbitration is expected to send Valverde into sporting exile so this should be the last time his name appears. Philippe Gilbert, an outspoken supporter of anti-doping measures will then be the number one rider in the world. Obvious symbolism there.
Let’s look at the rankings. Chris Horner is ninth? No he’s not. Cycling Quotient puts him at 36th. Similarly, Roger Hammond is ranked as the world’s 22nd best rider. Eh? The man they call le Pitbull in France is a good classics specialists… but is he really that good? The table says yes but Cycling Quotient ranks him as 70th. Hammond’s a nice guy, I’ve chatted to him at smaller races and he’s very approachable. But amongst the top-25 riders in the world? Hmmm
If you think the rankings are questionable, remember that they will form the basis of team entry into the Tour de France and many other races for 2011. The top-17 or 18 teams will gain automatic entry into the Tour. Right now that means a ride for Italian teams Androni and Acqua & Sapone but leaves the ProTour’s Milram and Ag2r scratching for wildcards. Plus Sky are dangling in 16th place; you’d expect them to win points in July but if Wiggins gets ill or crashes… then they will be opening the chequebook and Hammond will be worth his weight in gold.
Points: be careful what you wish for
Finally note that this points-based qualification will see a return to the system in place in the 1990s when a rider’s points tally became crucial. This altered some races, a rider would accept a top-10 position rather than try an all-or-nothing move to win a race; once a breakaway went clear some teams would not chase if they had a rider capable of winning even a few points; conversely some riders chased down team mates to win points for themselves. All because points could be converted into a better contract. Apparently one former Credit Agricole rider was so good at grabbing points to help his team keep up in the rankings that he was nicknamed Le Braqueur, the robber.
You can see the full rankings online here.