We’re one quarter of the way through the cycling season already. 25% of the season’s racing days have been ridden. As we go into the peak classics season Omega Pharma-Quick Step and Giant-Shimano lead.
But as you’ll see below the win rate has almost no correlation to a team’s World Tour ranking, winning often doesn’t mean a team tops the rankings. Plus there’s the Pro Conti chart below.
- Michał Kwiatkowski is OPQS’s kopman for wins with five so far with Tom Boonen and Niki Terpstra on three each, Mark Cavendish has two
- Giant-Shimano’s wins are diverse with five from John Degenkolb, four from Luka Mezgec, three from Marcel Kittel, two from Tobias Ludvigsson and one from Tom Dumoulin
- Peter Sagan is four of Cannondale’s six wins
- Thanks to double stage wins in the Three Days of De Panne, Sacha Modolo has six this season, equal with Alejandro Valverde and André Greipel as the most prolific winner so far this season
Wins vs rankings
There’s a big difference between the win rate and the UCI rankings. Look the current UCI rankings below and you’ll see Giant-Shimano in 13th place despite all those wins.
It’s not just Giant-Shimano. If we check for correlation between the win ranking and the UCI rankings using Spearman’s ranking the ρ = 0.349. Or in English it means there’s very little correlation here between wins and rankings.
This isn’t a statistical quirk nor an accident. Winning a stage race outright carries so many more points than a stage win. Take the recent Volta a Catalunya where winning overall brought Joaquim Rodriguez 100 points, by contrast triple stage winner Luka Mezgec won 18 points (3 x 6pts). Rodriguez also won a stage and placed on others but the GC is the points bonanza. To illustrate the value of stage races further, a stealthy eighth place overall – Ag2r’s Domenico Pozzovivo, I had to look that up – meant 20 points. More than Mezgec’s triple.
Looking lower down the table Lotto-Belisol are having a rough time with injuries but it also means a lean haul of points and they will count on Jurgen Van den Broeck – dodgy knee right now – to come good in the Tour de France otherwise it’s risky relegation time.
But Europcar are the real stragglers. A late decision to enter the World Tour saw them assemble the minimum roster of 25 man and they’re short of riders for this Sunday’s Ronde. This isn’t to say they’re a bad team, as you’ll see below they operate on a budget far smaller than some of the second-tier Pro Conti teams. But it does mean relegation’s a constant concern and the hunt for points is also hitting the way they race, for example defending Cyril Gauthier’s sixth place in Paris-Nice rather than the usual wild gambles we associate with Thomas Voeckler’s green army.
UCI Pro Continental Teams
If the quality vs quantity arguments are obvious for the larger World Tour teams who need only win a big classic or grand tour to gain massive media exposure, such opportunities are elusive to the smaller squads: nobody can imagine a rider from outside the World Tour standing on the podium of a grand tour. So wins here and there matter. Indeed it’s not even quantity vs. quality given all 17 teams in the second tier have 32 wins between them, the same total as OPQS and Giant-Shimano. Two teams equals the whole second division.
Wanty-Gobert share the lead with five wins but that’s four wins in the Tropicale Amissa Bongo, early season momentum has stalled. Neri Sottoli are also on five wins with three thanks to Astana refugee Simone Ponzi. The team’s raison d’être is the Giro so all these wins now are a bonus but there are one or two tales of unpaid wages, let’s home the team keeps on the road. Meanwhile IAM Cycling have two wins but arguably win on quality thanks to Matteo Pelucchi’s World Tour win in Tirreno-Adriatico and Mathias Frank’s mountain stage win in the Criterium International.
L’Equipe had the ironic headline “Hey, Cofidis exists” the other day. The French team might have modest results but has a reported budget of €10 million a year, putting them in a bracket with Ag2r La Mondiale and Garmin-Sharp or 33% more than French team Europcar who spend a reported €6.5 million. Bad luck or bad management? Bad luck for sure in losing Rein Taaramäe to mononucleosis; management in that the team doesn’t have big sprinter, Adrien Petit was once the equal of Arnaud Démare, now with FDJ, but has yet to get a big result and Julien Simon’s more a specialist puncheur. Daniel Navarro is their man for the mountains and he’s good uphill but has been a domestique on other teams.
Vuelta wildcards: four Pro Conti teams have got invitations for the Vuelta: Caja Rural, Cofidis, IAM Cycling, MTN-Qhubeka. Each team was celebrating for obvious reasons but it’s an odd situation. As Charly Wegelius explained in Domestique, the Vuelta’s field is like “the crew of a pirate ship“, full of weary and unmotivated riders looking to redeem a season, “either riders didn’t want to be there or they were desperate to perform.” Our invitees clearly fall into the latter camp.
OPQS have had a great start to the season but it’s the next 10 days with the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix that matter most to the team. Giant-Shimano are firing on all fronts and set an example for other teams, like FDJ, who find it difficult to manage two sprinters.
But within the stats we see all the wins are great but don’t always bring big ranking points, instead it’s the overall classification of stage races that brings in the points and packing the top-10 by stealthy can reward a team with more points than multiple stage wins. This creates a tension between diverging interests, where winning for publicity and riding for points can be very different goals.