Each year the qualification criteria for riding the World Championships varies but the idea is that countries with a higher ranking have the right to send larger teams to the race. For example Spain tops the UCI’s World Tour ranking and it can start nine riders to the men’s elite road race. This is true for all of the top-10 ranked countries, so long as each country has nine riders with World Tour ranking points. The top-10 are picked at the end of the week but today they stand as Spain, Italy, Australia, Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, Britain, Netherlands, USA and France.
But another clause says that teams have to have nine riders with ranking points and both Britain and Luxembourg fall foul here. Britain has eight riders with World Tour points, meaning it can have eight riders in Denmark; Luxembourg has only two with the Schleck brothers but another sub-clause says Luxembourg must start six riders.
The rest of the selection criteria are fiendish to understand, a series of paragraphs relating to annex rankings and conditional situations. The lead nation within the UCI’s Africa Tour can have six riders, the second nation can start five. That’s Morocco and Eritrea. It’s similar for the Asia and America rankings. But there are all sorts of what-ifs so I’m awaiting the confirmation from the UCI due next Monday.
The Eneco Tour on now is the last chance for nations to get ranking points. It could matter since Switzerland is only a few points away from France’s top-10 position. But riders are unlikely to try bids for national glory because they’re on duty for their employer. Besides, the Swiss Federation was hesitant about sending riders to Geelong in Australia last year because the quota to bring riders was proving expensive, and not many riders were available to support Fabian Cancellara.
Whilst cycling is an individual sport, having a bigger team is a real advantage for the Worlds. For sure some teams are not homogeneous, for example Luxembourg is supposed to field six riders but it remains to be seen if the Schlecks will even ride and most will struggle to name other riders from the Duchy. Above all the 2011 route is relatively flat and it will suit a sprinter and therefore organised chases and then sprint trains for the closing moments.
But whilst countries can take a certain number of riders to Denmark… several riders will not want to go; for some the course is not suitable and for others it comes late in the season. So this is about the number who can go rather than identifying the individuals who will actually go.