Peter Sagan pictured on his way to winning the green jersey… and an extra 120 UCI points. With team licences for 2020-2022 partially dependent on UCI rankings, points aren’t quite back in fashion but they’re bound to influence targets and tactics this season. What’s better, wining the Tour Down Under or placing fourth in the Giro or fifth in Tour de France? There’s no right or wrong answer but there is a correct reply if it’s down to UCI points. Win the GC on Sunday for the Tour Down Under and a rider will collect 500 UCI ranking points, more than a rider gets for fourth in the GC in the Giro or fifth in the Tour and a good reason among others why Richie Porte still targets the Tour Down Under. Here’s a closer look at the UCI rankings.
A closer look? Hopefully this helps because go the UCI’s website, find the road cycling section and then click on the rankings and you’ll find tables of various rankings but no explanation of how they are generated. Be prepared to scroll as this post has a lot of tables…
To rank the riders, first rank the races
How does victory in Het Nieuwsblad compare with a win at the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race or the Tour of California overall? You probably have a view. The UCI’s ranking certainly does and it says they’re all worth the same 300 points. The point here is a preference expressed by a UCI committee and in a nerdish way there’s probably an evening’s fun – of sorts – to be had ranking every race in terms of your preference.
But this blog post today isn’t about taste, it’s about the arithmetic and the cold, hard value of UCI points. You may not agree with the UCI’s attribution of points for certain results but they’re a fact. It’s this that counts and it’ll explain some tactics in the coming season. For example why is Richie Porte targeting the Tour Down Under again? Points are far from the only reason but they’re surely a factor for him and the team, they certainly were during his BMC days. Collect a win this January and that’s 500 points in the bag.
With this in mind here’s a walkthrough of the UCI rankings and how points are allocated. It feels useful to set this out because it’s not obvious on the UCI website, the rankings page doesn’t mention it and instead you have to go to the rules page and download the correct section of the UCI rules and then go to Chapter 10 to find the relevant bit. It’s a stretch to say it’s buried but it’s hardly at your fingertips in a few bullet points… so here goes:
- It’s called the UCI World rankings, all male riders are ranked
- There are obviously rankings for women but since this niche blog is mainly about the main men’s road races, we’ll cover the men’s rankings here
- It’s a rolling 52 week ranking
- There are also separate one day race rankings and stage race rankings
- If riders are tied on points they’re then ranked by wins and if still tied, by placings so there should be no riders on equal rnakings
- There’s a national ranking too and with the likes of France and Italy having over 50 riders each in the World Tour this is countered by the rankings being based on the first eight riders from each country
- Teams are ranked on the basis of their 10 best riders, the idea being that up to 20 riders need not worry about scoring points for themselves but can help their leaders achieve results and in turn score more points
Now onto the rankings tables themselves. The first table below shows the points on offer for all the World Tour races. As you can see the Tour de France is the prime event, then come the other two grand tours, then a mix of stage races and one day races and – cue outrage – a win in the GP Québec is deemed as valuable as winning Paris-Roubaix or the Tour Down Under is deemed superior to the Tour of the Basque Country. But save the boos and hisses, it is what it is. You can see points go down to 60th place. Note the final column on the right includes all the newly promoted World Tour events.
Next and you can see below how much winning a stage during a stage race is worth in points terms, again the same categories of races apply. For the sake of comparison, a stage win in the Tour de France nets you the same amount of points as placing fifth in, say, the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road race.
Next up there are points for winning a jersey in the grand tours as you can below, it’s worth the same as winning one stage along the way too. It’s only for the grand tours so winning the mountains jersey in the Dauphiné is pointless to coin a phrase and the white jersey competitions are excluded.
There are also points on offer for wearing a jersey each day too, here’s the breakdown below.
Next comes the points on offer from winning events outside the World Tour, so win a one day HC race like the Giro dell’Emilia and it’s the same as winning the overall for an HC stage race like the Tour of Oman and so on, and then fewer points down the Under-23 “U” races with the Tour de l’Avenir as the prime event and U23 Nations Cup races getting a premium too. Also below this table are the points on offer for stage wins and the table for wearing a jersey.
Next up is the table for the Continental Championships, for example the European Championships in Scotland in 2018 where Matteo Trentin won the men’s elite race. You make look on it as a bit of an odd event with a curious jersey but look and there’s 250 points for the winner which makes it valuable, enough to attract riders to take part but also as these continental confederations are part of the UCI’s structure, a way to ensure the UCI’s own events are valued too. And if there’s a team time trial then you can see the added table below too.
If the continental championships are related to the UCI’s structure, below is the table for the World Championships which is an event owned by the UCI, plus the Olympics on the road too. As you can see, the road race is valued at almost twice that of the time trial and with 600 points on offer the road worlds is the single most lucrative one day race on the calendar, a full 100 points than a Monument classic.
Lastly comes the new mixed relay time trial at the worlds. This event replaces the pro team time trial with a relay race ridden by a team of women and a team of men from each country and their combined time and the winners get 300 points each, whether they’re male or female and this raises the technical possibility of a good but not world beating men’s team getting 300 points each, more than second place in the solo TT event, because the women had a great ride (and vice versa).
2020: You may not care too much for the rankings, you may question the relative importance attributed to different races but the UCI is going to issue 18 World Tour licences for 2020 which will last through until the end of 2022 and if the budget and admin are in order then “sporting criteria” will apply teams will be ranked by their UCI points haul. It won’t just those scored in the coming year but the 2018 and 2017 seasons too. Still for any squad that’s having a tough year they’ll be anxiously aiming for UCI points and deploying tactics to this end, perhaps trying place two riders in the top-10 in one of the Canadian one day races rather than going for broke with the win. As things stand Paddy Bevin’s stage win, spell in the Ochre jersey and a high finish on GC, possibly the win outright, are certainly something enormous for CCC to bank in January.
You may not care for the rankings but others do and they’re racing or behind the wheel of a team car. So the rankings maybe near meaningless to fans – perhaps they’re meant to be, you need to root around on the UCI website, find the right PDF, scroll to the right chapter – but they matter to the teams. Anyway, all the tables are listed above so if you want to look up the points scale in the future just click back here.