Team Sky’s co-sponsor IG Markets are going to launch a new rider ranking, the “IG Markets Pro Cycling Index” and it will attempt to reward panache ahead of anonymous consistency.
One of my pet hates is lists and rankings. Things like “Best film ever” or “top-10 dog breeds” can be pointless exercises and often used by newspaper editors to fill pages and generate debate, you can be sure people have opinions and, online, readers will leap to the comments section, thus generating more valuable clicks.
In cycling I find it hard to define the “best cyclist”. Is Alberto Contador better than Fabian Cancellara? Is Philippe Gilbert better than Ivan Basso? These questions are subjective and in trying to answer them we often reveal more about our preferences and biases than the riders’ abilities.
Road cycling is a broad sport where, within reason, various body types can have their chances on different terrain. As such mountain climbers co-exist alongside sprinters. Even within a subset speciality there is variety, for example time trial specialists Fabian Cancellara and Tony Martin; one doubles as a classics contender, the other aims for stage race success.
But a ranking system is still needed. It functions as a way of differentiating teams, one of several criteria for a ProTeam licence. It’s also a currency for riders, a measure of their worth. The UCI has its own ranking but I’ve never paid much attention to it. It seems biased – or is it my bias? – in that, for example a win in the Tour Down Under is worth 100 points but this is as much as fifth place in the Tour de France and third in the Giro d’Italia. Cameron Meyer not yet on a par with Jurgen Van Den Broeck or Vincenzo Nibali. More so when the TDU is six stages averaging 125km compared to three weeks.
Plus the UCI site is awkward, the rankings don’t contain a link to the explain basis of their calculation (it’s hidden inside a PDF document on the rules of the sport) and the fixed tabular format is restrictive.
By contrast I’ve long been a fan of the Cycling Quotient rankings where you can view rankings, rules and play with the impressive data with all sorts of subrankings. Indeed there’s a link on the right of this page, it’s a permanent reference to a database that’s very useful during the year. It’s not just me who uses this, Team Sky’s Dave Brailsford spends hours with Cycling Quotient as revealed by Cycle Sport Magazine.
Now as I’ve said IG Markets are on the verge of launching a new index. It will hopefully be more reflective of the relative values of riders and races. What’s more interesting is that the index is the product of commentators and ex-pros and is designed to reward memorable wins:
The Index is designed to reward moments of brilliance rather than months of consistency. Races are ranked on their prestige and their importance to cycling fans, with wins rewarded far more than placings. Bonuses are awarded for winning with panache or repeat victories. The index will be calculated on a rolling 12-month basis to reward the world’s best riders.
That sounds a lot more interesting. There’s nothing wrong with gradually plugging away but there’s the risk that the world’s top ranked rider on the UCI scheme ends up being someone who rides in the shadows rather than off the front.
Whilst the precise details of this new system are not yet public, it sounds like it has merit. The UCI doesn’t always take to well to “rival” ideas but I think there’s something to be gained by readjusting and perhaps embracing this new system. We’ll have to see what the IG Markets ranking brings but I welcome it.
My only regret is the name, “Pro Cycling Index” is understandably linked to the corporate name IG Index. But I yearn for the days of the Super Prestige Pernod which just sounds glamorous.
Once it’s live the index will be online at igmarkets.com/procyclingindex