UCI Publish Sporting Criteria

In my column in Issue 2 of 2r Magazine I looked at the options available for team licences with a view to bringing some more stability to the system. Whilst we can explore franchises and more, one of the cheapest and quickest solutions is to publish the UCI’s criteria for scoring riders and teams.

For years teams had been ranked on a secret system that few understood leading to a lot of head-scratching and confusion. Only last Thursday the UCI quietly published Annexe-2014/UCI/A-10… better known as the Sporting Value criteria.

It’s possible the UCI’s been reading 2r and reacted but I think it’s more likely this was going to happen anyway. It matters not, instead it’s a victory for transparency and good news for everyone. Why? Whether you are a fan, a professional cyclist or a journalist this system has been kept hidden from you.

Team owners and others were given the information but few others grasped the system. For example cyclo-cross champ Sven Nys said he wanted to lobby the UCI to make points earned in cyclo-cross races count… without knowing this was already in place. Amusingly Nys is one of the members of the UCI’s Athletes Commission and had been given the document. Even those briefed on the scheme didn’t know what was going on.

Amusingly in the recent online market research survey run by the UCI a question asks respondents to state if “I understand the ‘sporting evaluation’ the UCI uses to determine teams’ participation in the UCI WorldTour and the UCI Continental Circuits.” This is pro cycling’s Schleswig-Holstein Question:

The Schleswig-Holstein question is so complicated, only three men in Europe have ever understood it. One was Prince Albert, who is dead. The second was a German professor who became mad. I am the third and I have forgotten all about it.
– Lord Palmerston, British statesmen

Indeed so few respondents could reply “yes” to the UCI survey that you almost wonder if the question was inserted as a stealth test to measure the honesty of respondents?

So what’s the system all about?
As a reminder teams have to meet four criteria for a licence: sporting, admin, financial and ethical. The last three overlap a lot and are concerned with proper documentation, paperwork and conduct.

The sporting criteria are based on race results. Crucially it looks forward and measures a team based on the riders it has signed for the next year but, new for 2014, also awards extra points for teamwork in the past year.

How does it work?
It’s still confusing and you’d need a spreadsheet rather than the back of an envelope to work out the scores. Anyway, first riders win Sporting Value points for their position in the public rankings rather than their actual points.

As the tables show, riders receive Sporting Value points for their place in the table. Tables exist for the leaders of the UCI Africa, America, Asia and Oceania tours too, albeit with fewer points available. The same on an even smaller scale for U-23 riders. This changes the distribution of points to make a rider ranked 10th in the world as valuable, in Sporting Value terms, as the world number one. Rider agents say this creates a clear stepped system to rider pay, for example everything else being equal, a rider being 66th or 100th doesn’t matter but being 101st changes their salary.

However to smooth out annual variations the rider score’s from the past two years are taken together to create their actual score or Sporting Value.

Bonus time
With these scores in place we then add extra points of they win a stage in grand tour or stand on the final podium. The same again with riders who win other stage races and their stages, as well as one day races.

Other points to wins in the world championships too. The point here is to reward winners ahead of those riders who place consistently. Finally riders who excel elsewhere win 10 points for being a world or Olympic champion and three points for winning a World Cup round. So Sven Nys gets his wish but note three points for a World Cup equate to one stage win in this month’s Giro del Trentino or the Tour of Turkey.

Team Value
A team’s ranking is based on the addition of the 10 best riders on the team. This matters because a team can have up to 30 riders and only 10 need to count for the points. It means a loyal domestique who pulls all day on the front need not worry about having to win points. For sure having points increases their value but only if they’ve got a bag of them. Note the system has moved from 15 riders to 12 and now 10 for 2014.

New for 2014 is the concept where riders leaving a team leave a share of their points behind. I’ve added the red box above to illustrate this. A team adds up their 10 best riders plus, it seems, 20% of the sporting value score for any riders that leave to another team, subject to them having ridden with the team for at least the last two years. For example imagine, for argument’s sake, that at the end of this year we see Fabian Cancellara move to IAM Cycling. If this happens he’d leave 20% of his points to the Leopard team and take 80% to the Swiss team. The idea behind this is that a rider’s results are the function of the team around them, a reward for the training structures and staff support in place. Plus it could reduce cases of riders being blocked from racing once management learn they are leaving, as happened to Jacob Fuglsang but also to many others because a team still stands to gain, albeit marginally, from letting a rider continue to score points.

Collective Aspect
As the diagram shows there’s also a “collective score” from the season. As we often see riders give wheels when the leader punctures, set the tempo on climbs and display all sorts of other teamwork. In short an individual win is almost always the result of the team too. Given this the UCI awards a bonus for teams sitting high on the UCI team rankings as well as getting results in races as the tables below show:

Altogether the collective aspect is modest but it again rewards a team with extra points for wins obtained during the year.

Doping Penalty
One final mention from the criteria is that a rider returning from a full two year doping suspension will not see their points, placings or wins count for these scores. In other words they are deleted from the system here. This places a substantial penalty on hiring a returning rider, for example Alberto Contador might have won the Vuelta last year but he earns no points for Team Saxo-Tinkoff. This is controversial because it imposes a penalty on a rider returning from a ban that is above and beyond the two year ban set out by the WADA Code.

Barriers To Entry?
One observation here is the system offers incumbents rewards and places some mild barriers to entry against a new team. Imagine if you wanted to launch a team for 2014. Well you’d have to sign a bunch of riders with plenty of points because your new squad will score zero for collective points. Plus you will only get 80% of the score of new riders signed.

This works the other way too, rewarding teams that deliver consistent results even if they see star riders bought by other teams. For example FDJ or Garmin-Sharp risk seeing their best riders poached but they’ll still gain were riders to leave.

This isn’t a gripping read but hopefully it’s useful to set out because the World Tour is such an important concept. Even the riders with jobs and contracts at stake have found it hard to know what’s happening.

Just as the UCI has started publishing its financial report we can now we can congratulate it for publishing the Sporting Value criteria. The points system was originally kept secret so riders stuck to racing instead of hunting points but the absence of information let myths grow about riders needing points. Even members of the UCI’s own athlete’s commission were confused. Meanwhile leaked copies were doing the rounds and hardcore fans were running spreadsheets to second-guess the rankings.

If we’ve got transparency, it’s a great. The system is still complicated, unlike other sports, promotion and relation is based on both past performance and the future composition of the team. At least now everyone can see how it works.

38 thoughts on “UCI Publish Sporting Criteria”

    • No, nobody knows for sure. It was over ethical issues but there are competing ideas. Ethics is just conduct and politeness, the UCI’s definition includes paperwork and transparency so it could be a matter of documentation.

      The UCI hasn’t explained and we’re still waiting for the Court of Arbitration for Sport to issue it’s full ruling rather than the snap verdict.

  1. Well it looks like the UCI is doing a great job. I can’t find any big flaws. You could discuss about the amount of points for certain races or about variation, but all relevant variables seem to be in place.

  2. The difficult part of it however, is that the rankings on the UCI-website are NOT the ones to be used for the calculation of the Sportive Value. Because in the WT-ranking on the UCI-website, riders from Pro-Continental teams are not included, neither are the WT-riders included in the continental rankings… But in this system, they are to be included!

    So, in practice this makes it very hard (nearly impossible) to calculate the Sportive Value of a rider…

    • Yes, you have to take the rankings then convert these into sporting value scores via the document.

      Ideally the UCI could publish rankings and scores but this risks undermining the rankings so you can see why it doesn’t happen. At least now we can see the basis of the calculations explained.

      • So if I understand correctly, then suppose rider is 152th in UCI World Tour in 2 valid years and he changes team then he leaves 2 x 1 x 0,2 = 0,4 points and take 1,6 points to the new team?
        Do I follow it correctly?

      • Inrng: you say that you have to take the rankings and convert these into sporting value scores… But as I tried to explain, I think that’s not possible, because we don’t have the full rankings including all riders. (The rankings on UCI website don’t show riders of another “Tour” in the ranking, but they are to be included before calculating the sporting value scores… But we don’t know what other riders are to be included in the ranking, with how many points, etc!)

        Or am I wrong?

    • Bummer. Another human paraquat has decided to also take on the moniker of his dudeness. It was good while it lasted. I had the pleasure of being the singular “TheDude” on INRNG for over a year. Welcome to the fun.

      • Thanks Dude, digesting all these rules it seems logical for a team like Euskatel Euskadi or AG2R to send their best rosters to Europa Tour races and simply participate in Pro Tour races.
        Agree or not?

      • Sorry mate, didn’t mean to steal your nickname! Have just been using “the dude” for years already… Guess you also liked TBL, great movie! I’ll make it “the (fake) dude” from now on then!

        • Topic still hot, and it’s good. You have the point there. If you try to find Ciolek – he is not in WT Ranking and has 43points in Europe Ranking which is obviously not what he scored in M-S. Anyhow M-S would not figure as a race under Europe Tour. UCI still has to explain how to calculate cross-ranking achievements.

          • Take Ciolek. He wins the world tour ranking points for his score even if he does not show on the UCI table as he’s in a pro conti team. He also wins the bonus mentioned above, in this case 20 extra points. His team also wins 2 points on the collective rankings.

          • You’re confusing World Tour points with rider scores for Sporting Value.

            The accumulation of points and the published rankings on the UCI website are not the same thing used to score a rider and a team’s position for its Pro Team licence. There’s often a correlation but they’re not the same. Teams are ranked on a different measure called sporting value. Forget the UCI rankings.

          • Yes, Ciolek indeed scores points at MSR, and all other WT races where he would do so. But, the question is, how many WT ranking points does he have, and at what place in the WT-ranking does that put him? That’s what we need to know, before being able to calculate his sporting value points for his WT ranking… Right? So, I think it is still not possible to know what his sporting value would be.

          • I don’t think we should forget the UCI rankings… Because that’s the basis of calculating the sporting value points! For ex, a rider ranked 1st-10th in the WT ranking, gets 100 value points. With his win at MSR, you would think Ciolek being somewhere around top-10, but we don’t know, because he’s not mentioned in the ranking! So how to calculate his value points for this part of the calculation (of course we know he gets 20 win points, etc), which would be the biggest part of his value points?

        • Voila, UCI ranking points and Sporting Value points are strictly related
          It was me 🙂 Got a message to calm down and not posting too often but…

          Rider Score = sporting value + bonus point.
          And as far as we know Ciolek takes 20 bonus points for MSR, his Sporting Value points are not determined because his win is not reflected in any of the regular rankings.

          • Yes, Ciolek’s points won’t show up in the published rankings but he will have the points when the UCI does it’s scoring.

            It’s complicated and even if the document is published it still requires a cold towel, a spreadsheet and spare time to fix.

  3. I have to say that while it is complicated that would seem to be necessarily so to try and factor in so much. There seems to be good balance between stage and one day racers and some importance for the non-Grand Tours that must be needed to get a good calibre field. There is also a clear incentive to win with points for wins potentially accumulating to be worth more than those for a position in the World Rankings. I wonder slightly if the growing number of uphill finishes in stage races that necessarily involves the overall contenders rather than sprinters might skew things away from a whole team dedicated to a sprint finish even then. Interesting that you still get ten rider scores if an otherwise top ten leaves so you do want 12+ scorers for your team perhaps. Quite a lot to be said for a stable team that work with one another on longer term contracts, if only there were the security of sponsors money to provide such.

    Shame there is no official site to see these rankings, although knowing who will ride for who year-on-year would make upkeep very problematic.

  4. Finally a little clarity.
    One small fix could be that new teams get 100% sporting value of riders and their old teams still receive 20%. I know it totals 120% but this doesn’t matter partly because for a new team to get into the World Tour an old one would’ve had to have left. (And yes, the 20% from the old team may be more or less than the 20% new team – again this doesn’t matter).

  5. The problem I have with the points system is it devalues the worth of the domestiques. If a solid dom is looking for employment, but brings limited points, because his job is not to finish high, but to save himself for the next race. Employment opportunities become scarce.

    How about riders who consistently get into the breaks and attack only to be swallowed up time and again? Mostly they pedal home minutes after the peloton . How about guys chasing the KOM but usually lose out on the final climb ? Don’t they get rewarded for attacking or animating a race?

    I can see why many guys got overlooked this past season.

    Obviously the UCI is trying to find a way to rate teams and to justify their ex/inclusion to the WT, but this aspect leads to teams hiring riders with points and overlooking domestiques or attackers.

    • It’s fine for domestiques as a team can have 20 riders without points as only the top-10 count for the score. With the top-10 riders only it means even a rider can be valued for their work even if they have no points, as long as they set up their leaders to win.

      • There is now the inclusion of team points for podiums and stage wins which could certainly make the difference amongst the bottom end of the team rankings. That leaves the management to make the quite subjective decision as to which domestiques contribute more but they do have a value, possibly moreso as winning counts quite considerably more than a regular placing (quite possibly achievable without much help) and you will need help to win. Also, of course, as before, the leaders tend to have their own helpers that come to a team as almost part of a package deal. These are the opposite of the solo artists who make the TV screen but never a result, but then maybe several teams would like one or two of these too for sponsors TV time.

  6. If they’re going to prevent a rider from earning points AFTER a ban, it seems strange that there are no plans to deduct points from a team DURING the season in which a rider is found guilty. I believe this would be a huge deterrant and teams would be obliged to proactively root out dopers instead of the ‘whaddyagonnado eh?’ attitude that apparently prevails.

  7. Thanks for the walkthrough. It’s good to finally see some transparency and is a step in the right direction. Many more steps to be taken. Case in point mentioned above with Katusha being excluded without anyone knowing the specific reason why – still seems utterly ridiculous…

  8. Inrng, is this maybe why Leipheimer may not be getting a contract, drug penalty no last year points for new perspective team? not to mention the obvious other reasons. What about 2012 points for Garmin
    ( zabriski,CV, etc) does Garmin lose those points?


  9. agree Chrisman, but i think that happens in effect anyway, at least for the 2 year bans. the points count for the next 2 years after being earned, for the team on which the rider is riding those years – the year in which they’re earned has team rankings already decided and if the katusha affair has taught us anything its that you can’t go changing things around mid-season. if you’re banned for 2 years then you aren’t riding for anyone for 2 years so your points are effectively worthless.

    however if i understand it right, if you only get a short ban then you can be back in the peloton with points still in effect so this rule cancels those out. that’s all good but the particular way they’ve done it also has the effect of continuing the punishment after the end of the ban which is debatably unjust.

  10. In fairness, this is a good move by the UCI. And the system seems to be pretty fair as well. Nice to have something positive to say about the UCI!

  11. I’m glad to see that a team gets a 20% score from ex-riders now. I actually suggested a split of points between rider and team in the recent UCI online questionnaire (my suggestion was 50/50) and my reasoning was exactly that – cycling is a team sport and no rider wins on his own.
    I took the questionnaire after you made me aware of it – thanks INRING! Do you actually have any idea whether the UCI will publish / has published the results? I know it’s not very likely, but for the sake of a new transparency …

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