Team Victory Rankings

Thursday, 3 April 2014


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.

Relegation battle
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.

Conclusion
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.

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{ 28 comments }

nevman April 3, 2014 at 5:30 pm

Masterclass in analysis.Hopefully there is still room for the plucky chancer to mislay his earpiece.

ShortsNL April 3, 2014 at 6:20 pm

Do you know who came up with the idea to give runner-ups in the GC’s so many points, and why?

For a GC such as the Tour I get the logic behind it, but for all these minor stage races… it just seems silly.

The Inner Ring April 3, 2014 at 6:28 pm

It’s the Professional Cycling Council who approved, so the UCI plus the teams in conjunction with others.

I tend to agree with you. In a shorter stage race on the World Tour the GC is often determined by one stage. No doubt this is important it means the GC reflects this one stage… and therefore the points can be dominated by the one performance.

gabriele April 4, 2014 at 1:15 am

I tend to agree, too, and even more so considering what Jerome says below.

However, we should also think about the fact that even if GC in a short stage race is *defined* by one stage, still you can lose a lot in many stages more; you generally need to ride on the front and be up to the required level in many occasions which aren’t finally mirrored by big differences in GC.

Besides, give a look to the Volta a Catalunya: the eighth placed Pozzovivo is the last rider of SEVEN to have kept a difference of less than 30″ from Joaquim Rodriguez (26″, in his case): he’s in rather good company, since the other six are the likes of Contador, Quintana, Froome, Van Garderen, Talansky… (plus, his own teammate, the quite promising Bardet).
Even if Mezgec’s hat-trick was notable, with the sprinters’ field we had on the road, it was a way more feasible task.

In this specific case (by chance, and not thanks to the points rule, obviously) I think that the 18-against-20-points is perfectly adequate :-)

James April 4, 2014 at 10:05 am

Not a bad point but the thing I mostly don’t like about it is that (and I think others said this here too) it can encourage more conservative riding and strategy. So protecting a 10th place GC rider from going to 12th place (or whatever) might be more valuable than giving a stage win a serious go. It is true that the points should reflect something about the difficulty of getting a good GC placing even if, for most fans, it is rather anonymous- nobody remembers who finished 7th…but in a big race that can be very hard to do. So there seem to be competing aspects here in the “sporting value.” But I tend to side with what would likely make the sport more exciting and less conservative.

gabriele April 4, 2014 at 11:58 am

@ James
Absolutely! And my first line about “what Jerome said” was just about that, he was one of the “others” you referred to.
As I said, I agree, I simply wanted to remark another possible angle.

Anyway, we shouldn’t forget another point: going for stages may mean (sometime) that a GC contenders is then forced to call himself out from top GC places fight (being more worn out and so). If that was to lead to less riders actually fighting for GC, part of the effect would be pretty much the same as people defending 7th place.

That said, generally speaking a share your (and Jerome’s and others’) view on the matter.

Bundle April 4, 2014 at 1:06 pm

Well, as a rule, to increase rewards for sprint victories also encourages controlled races.

othersteve April 3, 2014 at 6:28 pm

Thanks for the update,nice piece, timely as well

gabriele April 3, 2014 at 7:21 pm

Sorry if I’m insisting on this question, but I can’t see why the Sagan-Cannondale fact should deserve to be stressed with a specific “one-out-of-four” point of a bulleted list :-)
I understand the analysis ot the two top winning teams or the three top winning riders, but what does the Sagan information mean, there?
Given the kind of rider Sagan is, it’s nothing peculiar: in fact, all the top winning riders share a similar percentage of victories within their teams (Greipel 75%, Modolo 66,7%, just as Sagan, Valverde 60%).
Even in a team which is performing collectively well as is Ag2R, Betancur makes for 55,6% of victories (just one short of the magic two-out-of-three), or – let’s randomly see – Bouhanni has 60% in FDJ, Contador 75% in Saxo…
A fact is just a fact, but as Grice taught us stating a fact is never just stating a fact. Why does Sagan stand out?

The Inner Ring April 3, 2014 at 8:11 pm

Because he’s often isolated in race and also the team is very reliant on him for the whole season. Modolo’s not really Lampre’s Plan A rider, Greipel is essential to Lotto but they have others etc.

But things seem to be changing, Gatto’s suddenly in form and Bodnar did a great ride today.

gabriele April 3, 2014 at 9:57 pm

I suspected that the story went someway like that ;-)

Anyway, in La Panne, also Koren made a good time-trial.
As I observed, they were already performing well during Gand-Wevelgem, too. Liquigas was one of the teams with more men on the front in the last 10kms or such: before Greipel’s fall there were Sagan, Gatto, Longo Borghini, Marangoni and Bodnar (I didn’t get them all at first sight, thus I checked the finish list, now). And they even had to work.
During Sanremo, Sagan ended up quite isolated because they decided to ride super-hard: we debated about this strategy, but the fact is that the team ride strongly.
In Harelbeke, everyone was isolated, more or less. Other than Omega, no team had more than two riders among the 17 + 4 men who lead the race.
I’m convinced that on Sunday Sagan won’t find himself with many domestics in the last 40kms, but it’s to be seen how many teams will show up big numbers. Omega, BMC, Trek… but what about the other 14 WT teams? What is more, note that mine is “a feeling”, but the “facts” are… against me, until now, at least. I judge on experience and riders’ careers, on *names*, I’d say, but that may reveal unfair and, even worst… just wrong!

I really don’t think that the data we have here say anything about how a team will be able to support its leader (nor “has been able to”).
And that’s because of two reasons: first, since there’s no clear relation between team victories and their distribution over a number of very different races and how a team will perform in some other, maybe very specific, races. Second, because Cannondale data are so reduced, dull and common that they really say a little, in general: as you recognized, you can have very similar final data implying radically different situations.
Note that if Gatto had won had won as planned on Tuesday, we would be speaking of a… totally different picture, in numerical terms.
These numbers really don’t hint at anything, in Cannondale’s case and in many other teams’.

That said, I don’t want to look censorious :-)
I just wanted to suggest caution when analyzing data, it’s really easy to find in there what you’re convinced of. And, as I said, “Cannondale’s notable weakness” until now (2014 season) has been more a media leit-motiv, an *idée fixe* than a proven reality.
There’s plenty of races to substantiate those weakness claims, no reason to insist on them when they aren’t true… yet.

Colin April 4, 2014 at 1:24 am

I would tend to agree. The notion of an isolated Sagan seems to be one which is oft repeated, but I’m not convinced that he’s any more, or less isolated than other riders on other teams, particularly during the classics.

channel_zero April 4, 2014 at 4:07 am

Compared to OPQS, Sagan has been alone at the sharp end of the race in those last 40k or so in 2014. Which, frankly, makes his podiums even more impressive.

When OPQS sends someone on a suicide mission with <20K to go is when Sagan is the most impressive as it's up to him and one or two others on other teams to close the gap while the remaining OPQS riders tag along. Even then(!!!) Sagan is still on the podium. In this sense, Kwiatkowski has it a little easier than Sagan in the battle among young riders.

denominator April 4, 2014 at 11:04 am

We should distinguish the most part of the race where Sagan’s support is OK and the last dozen kilometers where he is often, though not always, alone. It will be interesting to see on Sunday, if Gatto (or Bodnar, Koren, DeMarchi …) manages to be there and help covering at least some premature attack(s). Though in that race it is rather Cancellara’s back wheel where a pretendent should stick when Fabian puts the hammer down. In that case no help from anybody is probable.
The results of the Cannodale’s other riders is another topic. No Basso, no Moser, little from Viviani so far. Different names come to the “second front”.
Now one big “if”. If Lefevre would not refuse young Sagan, what would have Peter achieved with such immense support that OPQS is capable to offer? Surely even more, some monument already on his palmare, but somehow the racing could become more predictable and less axciting.

gabriele April 4, 2014 at 1:04 pm

Comparing any team with OPQS is clearly a misleading benchmark.

Even so, I’m not so sure about the chances Sagan would have had to increase his victories if he *really* was in the *real* OPQS during the last two years.
(In fact, when I think about riders who have won Monuments specifically thanks to Lefevre’s team, in general the images of Pozzato and Devolder come to my mind… ;-)).
If we consider Sagan’s near-victories during the last two years, I feel that being in a stronger team – including OPQS – wouldn’t have helped so much, nor in Sanremo, nor in Flandres, nor in E3, nor in Amstel, nor in Strade Bianche, not even in Gent 2012 (Boonen would let him win?).
We may even argue that Sagan lost a couple of those races exactly BECAUSE he had strong teammates on the attack (Devolder effect… in Sanremo 2012 & Strade Bianche 2013, for example).
Besides, in 2013 Omega’s performance in all these races that Sagan “could have won” were really far from spectacular. Whereas, I feel that maybe we wouldn’t see strong performances from Peter in Tour de Suisse, Canadian races or Tirreno, mainly because of the way Lefevre *asks* his riders to peak form (but this is just guessing).

Reviewing Sagan’s results I suspect that all this question was raised mainly due to stages 2 and 3 of the last TdF: there was a lot of expectation on Sagan, and the team wasn’t quite adequate in supporting him. That kind of situation sticks to people’s mind.

Netserk April 3, 2014 at 9:55 pm

Last time I checked, Contador is 4 out of 4 for Tinkoff ;-)

Which I agree is more notable than Sagan, and he certainly is the team’s Plan A rider.

http://cqranking.com/men/asp/gen/team_palm.asp?year=2014&teamcode=TCS&podium=1

ExpatDadSG April 4, 2014 at 3:49 am

Well plan A is a little more than just Contador winning it’s also that Roman KREUZIGER top 10s :) But agree not sure if they have a plan B

noel April 4, 2014 at 9:33 am

Nico Roche is supposed to win the Vuelta this year isn’t he?

Netserk April 4, 2014 at 12:06 pm

Roche won’t race the Vuelta. He will do the Giro and the Tour.

ExpatDadSG April 4, 2014 at 3:45 am

I thought that he would be more than that and I think that the point really should be how “little” of the total he currently is. This is not a comment about issolation but just who gets the points as I have looked at that more in the past than # wins.

LM April 3, 2014 at 9:16 pm

Is there an entity that measures “media mentions” and “positive media mentions”? Those might be the most valuable numbers? If Rodriguez wins a tour, but the media talks more often (and positively) about Contador, is Contador the more valuable rider of the weekend? Is there anyone compiling that in a serious way?

James April 4, 2014 at 9:52 am

Something in this direction maybe: http://www.cyclingnews.com/news/vaughters-dollar-for-dollar-cycling-is-the-most-efficient-marketing-buy-out-there

I doubt there is any centralized person or organization that keeps track of this but I wouldn’t doubt that teams sometimes do keep track of things like this to prove their worth to sponsors.

The Inner Ring April 4, 2014 at 9:58 am

Yes some teams do this and the UCI, via the World Tour co-ordinator, also tracks this using the Repucom agency for the sport/World Tour as a whole.

Generally it shows massive exposure for a modest investment. For example Ag2r spend €10 million a year on the team but get publicity that would take €58 million to achieve if they tried to buy it via an ad campaign. It all sounds great but it’s like putting your savings in a Greek bond, the return is high but that’s because the risk is, sponsors are rightly worried about their image and a doping scandal can blow this out of the water.

Jerome April 4, 2014 at 12:36 am

I’ve always thought that reversing the points system and rewarding stage wins over gc would produce the ‘more exciting’ racing everyone seams to be after these days. That and putting TT at the start of the race rather than the end, force the climbers up the road knowing they will loose otherwise, rather than the mindset of I might hang on in the TT

ExpatDadSG April 4, 2014 at 3:54 am

Agree that it realy feels wrong when in 2013 for example Cav is the top sprinter coming in at 29th on the World Tour Ranking.

channel_zero April 4, 2014 at 4:09 am

Another excellent post. Thank you!

Scott April 4, 2014 at 11:25 am

That’s some difference between low-level GC positions and Stage wins in terms of points.

Presumably this is why Roche at AG2R was always committed to a forgettable top 15 place at the Tour, instead of hunting stages?

With the talk of changing team ranking points to just include those of their top 5 riders, are they changing the points allocations from races/stages as well?

Tulpen April 4, 2014 at 1:28 pm

Spearman rank in a cycling article, chapeau sir!

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