2013 Pro Cyclist Age and Nationality

Monday, 14 January 2013

Cedric Pineau

Think of a pro cyclist and who you think of? Alberto Contador, Philippe Gilbert or Mark Cavendish? Well they’re amongst the obvious picks. But if you wanted to pick the typical pro, think of a 27 year old Frenchman instead because that’s what the numbers say.

Having looked at the World Tour stats across 18 teams, now it’s time to take a broader view across all the 38 teams in the World Tour and the Pro Continental circuit plus to look at the differences between these two groups.

Overall there are currently 914 riders with an average age of 27.7 years. France just beats Italy as the largest supplier of professional cyclists but there are some surprising results from some countries, for example did you know Colombia has more pros than Britain or Denmark? Or that the US has more pros than Germany?

Oldest and youngest riders
Davide Rebellin is the peloton’s oldest pro. The Italian was born in August 1971 and now rides for Polish team CCC Polsat. At the other end, Andrei Strelkov of Team Novo Nordisk-Type 1 is the youngest registered rider. Such is the gulf in age between these two that Rebellin had already turned pro and was racking up results like a fifth place in the 1994 Amstel Gold Race before Strelkov was even born.

Oldest and youngest teams
The average pro is aged 27.7 years, an age shared by a few riders including Chris Froome, Mark Cavendish, Greg Van Avermaet and Tony Martin. I covered how Team Saxo-Tinkoff is the oldest team with an average age of over 30. Meanwhile Giro wildcard winners Bardiani Valvole-CSF Inox average under 24, so young that the team’s “veteran” rider is Stefano Pirazzi who is just 25. The Italian team are younger than Flemish development squad Topsport Vlaanderen and their 24.2 years.

National rankings
Pro cycling statistics
The chart shows each nation ranked by the number of pro cyclists. France is the biggest provider of pros, beating Italy by one rider. Belgium, Spain and the Netherlands come next. But note the presence next of Australia and the US. Colombia has several top pros with Sky, Movistar and Ag2r but also its own quasi-national team Colombia. Thanks to Rusvelo’s registration Russia gets a lot more pros but we are still missing Katusha for now. Note Britain has 19 pros but if cycling is flourishing there, it has fewer pros than Poland. And note the Netherlands has three World Tour teams which means a big demand for Dutchmen, so much so that of the 56 pros, only five ride for Pro Conti squads.

Off the chart, note Norway and Eritrea share six cyclists each. Clearly the likes of Boasson Hagen, Hushovd, Nordhaug count for more in the rankings but it shows the spread of the sport and as much as Norway provides quality, it’s a small nation for men’s road cycling. Similarly Slovakia has only four pros and two names: the Velits twins Martin and Peter and the Sagan brothers, Peter and Juraj. Four pros is the same sum as China. Peter Sagan alone outranks the entire Chinese nation for now.

Still for all the talk of globalisation the sport is firmly rooted in Europe with over three quarters of riders coming from Western and Central Europe, effectively the European Union nations plus Norway and Switzerland. The pie chart below shows each region:

European cycling nations

World Tour vs Pro Conti
The World Tour is older, riders average 28.2 years whilst Pro Conti riders average 26.3 but it’s hard to read much into this as the second division has several teams with a developmental vocation and therefore you’d expect a lower age.

The mix of nations is reasonably similar with 43 nations in the World Tour and 45 in the Pro Conti ranks. We are left with a few oddities: 12 Danes and 11 Kazakhs in the World Tour but not one in the second division.

Meet Cedric
If we had a pick an average rider it would be Cédric Pineau, pictured at the top. He is both 27.7 years old and French, in fact the only rider with this label. He is therefore, in a statistical sense, Mr Average. If it’s mean… it’s mean as in average and no more. Pineau is a valuable worker for his team and finished the Tour de France last summer, an above-average achievement.

Photo by Laurie Beylier.

  • Finally a quick word on methodology. These are the World Tour and Pro Continental riders. There are many professional cyclists earning a living at the third tier, known as “UCI Continental” but these ranks also include a lot of part-time riders and feeder teams so I’ve not counted them.
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{ 16 comments }

bikecellar January 14, 2013 at 6:51 pm

Portugal have a noticeably low count, but then they seem to have an altogether insular calendar of mini tours for continental/elite level. Perhaps the future will bring more Pro Continental or UCI Continental teams for Britain.

Michael Stechow January 14, 2013 at 7:03 pm

Mention should be made of Slovenia, which has a total population of only 2 million people, yet 8 in the Pro Tour and 3 more Pro Continental. [Slovakia, by comparison, has a population of around 5.5 million.]
We live just across the border, on the Croatian side, and bear witness to the massive enthusiasm and seriousness with which this small nation puts behind its competitive and recreational athletes. The financial crisis has hit hard, of course, but shops, teams, local clubs and touring groups still seem to be on the increase. There are many dedicated cycling lanes, as well as large signs on many roads warning drivers that they are sharing the road with cyclists. Is there a correlation between such measures and the number of elite-level cyclists?
Michael and Marijana Stechow

The Inner Ring January 15, 2013 at 11:05 am

An interesting question. The facilities aside, Slovenia has some great roads with good climbs and scenic villages in an Alpine setting. A little known country it’s one of Europe’s cycling secrets, a bit like Switzerland only even more confidential.

maximflyer January 14, 2013 at 7:18 pm

Spain seems to hit by crisis with only one pro conti team left. As I heard also there are less domestic races year by year. Tough challenge to build the next generation.

Brian January 14, 2013 at 7:37 pm

It will be interesting to see how the Old Guard will take on the growing numbers of riders and influence from outside of Western Europe. Especially with some of the stronghold countries being hit by economic woes, will other nations step in?

that guy January 15, 2013 at 2:56 am

You’re not quite doing a true average for location. If you wanted to find the average you’d average the coordinates of the peloton’s birth places then find the rider that lived closest to that point, though to be fair it’d probably be somewhere in the atlantic off the coast of europe.

The Inner Ring January 15, 2013 at 10:57 am

Hi, good point… but too complicated! For example where do you put an Australian living in Monaco, and even if you weighted the map towards Australia, do you need to adjust if they are from Perth or Sydney?

I’ve tried it before with a map of France and the French pros http://inrng.com/2011/01/where-to-the-french-riders-live/ but note how the middle of the map is almost empty.

qosno1 January 15, 2013 at 1:30 pm

It’d be far more complicated than doing it for france as rather than work with a flat co-ordinat system you’d need to work on a globe, unless you nominated a single point as the centre of the world. Does that make sense?

Cevenol January 15, 2013 at 5:32 am

I know this is not the topic at all here , sorry Mr Ring but on the LA front right now, it’s WOW!!!!! and !!!!

The Inner Ring January 15, 2013 at 11:03 am

I have to say the talk of chat shows and sofa confessions has not interested me at all. We know almost everything from the thousands of pages on the USADA website, to see him admit on TV feels like one of those celebrity moments, a choreographed performance.

But the talk of shortening the ban and giving UCI officials to WADA has wrenched the story away from celeb confessional back to pro cycling so I’ll take a look at this lunchtime.

Steve Crawford January 15, 2013 at 9:57 am

I’ve put the numbers up against the population of each country to highlight Michael’s point above. Here’s a pic of the graph: yfrog.com/nu75icjj

Michael Stechow January 15, 2013 at 10:42 am

Thanks, Steve! Until I saw your graph, I didn’t realize the extent of Belgium’s madness for cycling! However, in Belgium there is so much cycling history embedded in the culture, not to mention a large part of cycling’s overall economy, neither of which is found in Slovenia. Sadly, one of the first pro races of the yearly calendar around here has been cancelled for 2013, the Trofeo Zssdi that was organised by Slovenian sports associations in Italy.

The Inner Ring January 15, 2013 at 10:58 am

Thanks Steve, very interesting. I’ve edited your post to make the yfrog link work.

web site January 16, 2013 at 1:51 pm

We’re a group of volunteers and starting a new scheme in our community. Your web site provided us with helpful information to work on. You have performed an impressive job and our entire group might be thankful to you.

The Inner Ring January 18, 2013 at 6:46 pm

I seem to have inspired the Velofocus site to do a similar analysis with women’s cycling.

Take a look http://velofocus.com/2013/where-and-when-do-riders-come-from-2013/ and meet Simona Fraporti

Toadie January 21, 2013 at 11:02 pm

Magnus at http://ibanmayoblog.blogspot.com/ brought up an interesting stat concerning Basque riders, ie. there is no less than 35 of them between WorldTour & ProConti teams. That’s seven more than Russia & only three less than Germany or US. If to exclude Sicard (who holds a French passport), almost half of Spain’s pro riders are Basque! That’s a huge proportion considering region’s tiny population of 2,1 millions.

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