2013 World Tour Points Analysis

Monday, 17 December 2012

UCI World Tour

The chart shows the number of race days in the UCI World Tour for each month of 2013. We might thing April is the biggest month of the spring campaign but March has racing. March is not just a busy month but a vital one for it is also the biggest month of the year when it comes to UCI points, and by a long way.

Similarly we might take July to be the highpoint of the cycling season but it turns out there are more ranking points to collect in September.

Whilst we follow cycling for excitement instead of arithmetic, analysing the numbers helps assess the incentives and structures within the sport. In the first part of a statistical analysis of the 2013 UCI World Tour here is a look at the distribution of race days and points.

What are the key races? Which months of the year count the most? The answers and more are below.

Definition
The UCI World Tour is in the spotlight here. This is the prime calendar rather than not every race on the pro programme. The season starts with the Tour Down Under and ends with the Tour of Beijing. I’ve excluded the Tour of Hangzhou as it is still a provisional item.

Calendar Analysis
First let’s run through the calendar. Between 22 January and 20 October there are 154 days of racing.

  • The Giro, Tour and Vuelta add up to 63 days in total (subtracting the rest days) or 40% of the total number of race days
  • A further 77 days are taken up with other stage races like the Tour Down Under, the Tour of Catalonia, the Dauphiné, ENECO Tour and more making a total of 140 days of stage racing for 2013, some 91% of the calendar
  • The remaining 9% of the calendar is made up of 14 one day races with the five monuments but others like the Clasica San Sebastian, Vattenfall Cyclassics and the GP Cycliste de Québec
  • March is the busiest month of the year. Paris-Nice and Tirreno-Adriatico overlap and bring 15 days to which we add the week-long Tour of Catalonia. Then we have relatively early appearance of the spring classics with the E3, Gent-Wevelgem and Tour Flanders combining to beat July with the Tour de France, Clasica San Sebastian and the start of the Tour of Poland

UCI World Tour

For me the chart is counter-intuitive as April often feels like one of the busiest times of year with the classics but it is a calm month for the World Tour. Yes there are other races but the World Tour events and their points count for plenty.

Points distribution
Having looked at the spread of races over the year, what about the points available during the year? To explain there are points for the overall winner of a stage race but also for the top-20 overall in a grand tour and the top-10 on other stage races plus the  top-5 on each stage get points. If you want to geek out the full points scale is set out on the calendar page.

Arithmetic assumption
There’s a total of 16,664 points available during the year here but don’t count it down to the last one as team time trials don’t count for individual rankings and without knowing the programme for every race, I’ve assumed each stage is a normal stage. But this only affects the numbers well to the right of the decimal place when looking at the percentages. Also new for 2013 the team time trial at the world championships will come with points 1,220 points across the top 10 teams so what is lost by removing the TTT stages from stage races in the year might come back with the worlds.

With this in mind here is the count available per month.

World Tour points

  • March is massive. It accounts for 20% of all UCI World Tour points available
  • Combined with April the spring campaign is essential for a team, these two months provide over a third of the season’s World Tour points
  • By contrast teams hoping to “save” their season with a strong showing in September and October are running out of options with just 20% of the year’s points available. A team with its back to the wall in the rankings and worried about ejection from the World Tour will find it hard to escape
  • June might feel like an exciting time of year with the big names in peak form after the Giro and before the Tour but with only the Dauphiné and the Tour de Suisse there’s just 1,250 points available or 8% of the season’s total. Only January and October fare worse and given the Dauphiné and Switzerland overlap the points available for an in-form rider in June is low.

With stage races I’ve put recorded overall points in the month they are awarded but the points per stage are added to each month’s count. For example with the Vuelta all the points for the overall classification go in September’s column but the points from the eight stages in August are awarded to August.

As well as the spread of points per month, what about the races themselves? If we can see when a lot of points are available, where can they be won?

  • If March is massive note spring campaign does not mean spring classics. There are 1,700 points across Paris-Nice, Tirreno-Adriatico and the Tour of Catalonia compared to 1,556 for Milan-Sanremo, the E3 Prijs Vlaanderen, Gent-Wevelgem and the Tour of Flanders
  • The Tour de France is the single biggest points festival with 2082 points available across the GC and stages or 12% of the season’s total
  • If the grand tours make up 40% of the race days, they account for 32% of the season’s points

Note winning races and winning points are not always the same thing. Earlier this year Omega Pharma – Quickstep topped the victory rankings but sat in 13th spot on the UCI team rankings. Teams can place several riders high in a race and score more points than the winner.

A cuddly lion and 200 points

Conclusion
Having scanned the season as a whole I wanted to focus on the big races that make up the World Tour calendar. Points matter but they’re not everything. If July doesn’t have as many points as March it has the ultimate prize in the Tour de France. Yet a numerical take helps us look at the hidden incentives, especially for teams and riders unsure where to target their efforts.

I’ve underestimated the importance of March although even dicing the calendar into 30 day segments is arbitrary. But the combination of stage races and one day races makes this a vital month. Teams who succeed in the spring can take the rest of the year with reduced stress. French teams in particular might find June and July vital for their sponsors but they’ll be nervous in front of the UCI’s licence commission at the end of the year if they don’t collect points right from the start.

In part two later this week I’ll look at how different types of riders and teams can exploit the World Tour calendar and its points system

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{ 19 comments }

Kieran December 17, 2012 at 2:30 pm

Seems plenty of room for expansion in the winter months by going south of the equator (South America, Southern Africa?) you can miss the northern winter weather.

Guy H December 17, 2012 at 3:24 pm

Never realised that March was that important either, but for a team early season form at these races can be huge for the rest of the year. I imagine Sky picked up a fair few at this point in 2012.

hiddenwheel December 17, 2012 at 6:07 pm

Interesting. I’d be curious to see how this balances out when taking into account that it is impossible for a team to win all the points available. For example, no team can monopolize ALL the GC points in a grand tour, but, in theory, a team could sweep the top nine, sweep the points in each stage, etc. What are the total points available to a team by month when bounded by team size? That objective number may shed a bit of light into team priorities. (Of course, no team could ever dominate like this realistically, but that’s beside the point).

Also, with 10 months of racing, there should be, roughly, 1666 points each month. September and October, when taken together, offer nearly that balance, so there is a fair number of points available to “save” a season, methinks.

The Inner Ring December 17, 2012 at 7:02 pm

Thanks and these points will get followed up in Part 2 of the points analysis later this week.

Skippy December 17, 2012 at 6:59 pm

Amazed so few points are available to the ” Tour Down Under “, when@Gaudryt gets going as Pres. of UCI , that will change ! TDU will in the next years draw more Racers & teams keen on the early start for their Pro World Status .
Watched Aljazeera ” Peddling a lie ” , where they showed Mid East Race location race crashes . Wonder how much Dr F. had to pay to get on the program ? phat decided to avoid ” foot in mouth ” once he realised the direction the program was taking and declined second visit . Had hoped he would sink himself

The Inner Ring December 17, 2012 at 7:04 pm

The TDU gets as many points as races like the Dauphiné or Tour de Suisse which are long. And the winner gets as many points as the winner of a monument like Paris-Roubaix.

But I don’t want to make it a case of the relative sum of points for each race. Given it is what it is, how can we view the season and what scenarios are there for teams?

bikecellar December 17, 2012 at 7:17 pm

Very interesting, what suprises me is that 91%.

Ronan December 17, 2012 at 7:48 pm

Looks like there’s a pretty clear gap for some races in February. With riders already in firm for oz and out of Europe, it would be a financial and logistics opportunity for more races in Asia or elsewhere.

The Inner Ring December 17, 2012 at 8:00 pm

True but it’s not an easy slot. Too cold in Europe. But it’s cold in China and Japan and rainy in parts of South-East Asia too. It could be that Qatar or Oman gets bumped up but Qatar doesn’t offer the interest given its pan-flat geography and if Oman has the landscape and mountains, it might not have the budget/inclination for more. Maybe South America?

Anonymous December 17, 2012 at 8:53 pm

Brazil, Colombia and Mexico? Of there’s sponsors, there’s a way! That’s the UCI motto.

Tad Cheswick December 18, 2012 at 12:55 pm

Easy solution for the month of February – move the Amgen Tour of California back to that slot and upgrade it to WorldTour status (as the race organizers want). Then it can stop competing in the shadow of the Giro as well.

Steve December 17, 2012 at 11:10 pm

Lets not try and lose perspective.

I am a hockey fan, and the expansion of the NHL has done little to promote the quality of NHL
hockey. Expansions in cities with no business other then wades of cash, has done plenty to dilute the quality of that league. That is a large part of the current “lockout” which is currently frozen the NHL season.

I don’t mean to digress, but lets not lose sight of qualitative over quantitative analysis of the top ranks of the pro peleton. I want to see epic cycling with the best racing in a few “historically” significant events. I don’t need to try and analysis why Garmin or so and so, choose to ride the “Tour of Mexico” vs tour of Antarctica and sent ABC instead of XYZ .

That is why we have development teams and juniors, and we need to support and follow those venues. I don’t wish to burn out our ProTour teams by flying all over the world for a few “ride a few laps and pick up appearance dollars” to race on all continents.

The Inner Ring December 18, 2012 at 8:45 am

I think most people will share your opinion. But we are where we are and so we need to look at the (hidden) incentives on the calendar. All the points in the world can’t compete with the thrill of a good stage of the Tour de France or the Ronde van Vlaanderen… but they can explain how teams race through much of the year.

tv_vt December 17, 2012 at 11:21 pm

Speaking of the February lull, I’m a bit surprised that the Tour of California switched from that month to May. But weather was the main issue, I suppose.

The Inner Ring December 18, 2012 at 8:46 am

Yes, the cold weather did not help. Plus the race does not want to go up to the World Tour in part because it could no longer invite so many US teams, it would have to take the World Tour 18 plus four wildcards. Having local riders is essential for building the race.

PCutter December 18, 2012 at 12:45 am

Cycling IQ has also been busy with Excel and the UCI points/days stats with some interesting insights on the Asian tour – I fear far too many organisations (and companies) overly concentrate on China growth at the expense of the rest of Asia. There are many large markets in Asia beyond China and ignoring country’s like Japan with a traditional and deep link to cycling seems short sighted but somewhat typical of the China focussed view of Asia from much of rest of the world.

http://cyclingiq.com/2012/12/13/the-asiatour-formula-method-or-madness/

Bundle December 18, 2012 at 7:18 pm

Top-10 placings in one-week tours are extremely overrated pointwise.

The Inner Ring December 18, 2012 at 9:06 pm

Yes or no, it explains why people who can make the top-10 or top-20 in a grand tour get well paid even if they rarely win. Think Roche, Brajkovic or Zubeldia.

noel December 19, 2012 at 5:50 pm

I definitely think an ‘off season’ is a good thing for everyone. It recharges the batteries of the pros and means that the spring races are eagerly anticipated by fans. I totally agree with Steve – less is more.

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