World Championships Road Race Qualification

Watching bike races in August feels like being in a seaside resort out of season because after the Tour everything feels slower, quieter, smaller. There’s also a lack of a story, riders are racing to win each day but it’s hard to judge their efforts against a wider criterion or a bigger upcoming goal. Even if the Vuelta might’s fast-approaching it’s hard to judge form levels and some riders aren’t racing before starting the third grand tour. But there’s one immediate event coming up and its qualification for the World Championships this week. Here’s a look at how various can qualify and which ones will send large squads to Spain.

Qualifying for the World Championships road race is a complicated task. Each nation is offered a quota of places and it’s up to the national team selectors to pick the individual riders to suit their goals. The quota is based on the UCI rankings due out on Friday and set out as a PDF on the UCI website. Here’s the summary:

  • The 10 first nations in UCI WorldTour classification by nation on 15 August 2014 may enter a long list of 14 riders and start nine riders on the day of the race, as long as all nine riders are classified on the UCI World Tour or continental rankings, eg Europe, Asia

So in short a selector from a large or well-ranked country can pick up to 14 riders and race nine on the day as long as they’re ranked somewhere. Here’s are the current standings and they seem unlikely to change substantially with the Eneco Tour sprints this week.

Each nation from Spain to Great Britain can have nine starter but it’s not certain… it depends on having nine riders listed the UCI World Tour rankings, otherwise it only qualifies for six riders. As of today Spain, France, Netherlands, Australia, Belgium, Germany all have nine or more riders on the World Tour rankings. Colombia and Great Britain have eight and Poland have three riders. So Columbia and Britain get eight riders while Poland gets the minimum quota of six.

Note how this means some nations can be ranked in the top thanks to one or two riders and so they struggle to fill the rest of the nine places. For example Poland have “only” Michał Kwiatkowski, Rafał Majka and Przemysław Niemiec in the World Tour rankings and the country’s high ranking is due to the first two meaning the national selector has work to do to find support riders. So Poland qualifies three riders but it can bring more based on their rankings in the UCI Europe tour. The same applies for other nations who can all top-up their quota if they are ranked high on the regional tours.

Now for those nations without a presence at all in the top-10 of the World Tour rankings which is then based on the national rankings in each regional tour.

Africa Tour 1st = 6 riders / 2nd, 3rd = 3 riders
America Tour 1st and 2nd = 6 riders / 3rd, 4th, 5th = 3 riders
Asia Tour 1st = 6 riders / 2nd, 3rd, 4th = 3 riders
Europe Tour 1st to 6th = 6 riders / 7th to 14th = 3 riders
Oceania Tour 1st = 3 riders

The allocations are “excluding the nations qualifying via the UCI WorldTour classification” so for example in Oceania, Australia qualify already so it’s New Zealand that can start three riders.

Each nation in the UCI WorldTour classification which has not otherwise qualified but has:

  • a rider among the first 100 in the individual classification of the UCI WorldTour classification on 15 August 2014 can have three starters
  • three riders in the individual classification of the UCI WorldTour classification on 15 August 2014 can have three starters
  • two riders in the individual classification of the UCI WorldTour classification on 15 August 2014 can have two starters
  • one rider in the individual classification of the UCI WorldTour classification on 15 August 2014 can have one starter

The come more rules where if an individual is well placed on each of the regional tours they too qualify their nation to start. Finally if the World Champion is not able to start via these rules he gets to start… but Portugal will qualify and so Rui Costa is likely to start.

Does it matter?
Yes, the rules above are pretty dry stuff but having a big team in the road race is very useful if a rider has ambitions to win. We saw the British team execute a plan to help Mark Cavendish win in 2011 and one part of “Project Rainbow” involved targeting qualification with riders aiming to bag UCI points in order to boost Britain’s rankings so that the team could start with a full squad of riders. Not that every nation does this, for example we can expect rivalry among several teams, perhaps Philippe Gilbert and Greg Van Avermaet on the Belgian squad for example. Indeed there’s a variety of approaches with some nations merely picking riders and paying for their flights while others hatch long term plans.

The Course
Ponferrada in Spain has a long circuit of 18km and two hills, one gradual drag and one sharp climb of 8% for one kilometre. With the distance of 250km it’ll be selective and probably too much for a pure sprinter. Having teams to control the race is a big help.

UCI Rankings
Since we’re on the topic of UCI rankings, why are these only updated periodically? National selectors and a few dedicated fans alike are left manipulating their own spreadsheets to calculate rankings while everyone else just has to wait. It shouldn’t be too hard to publish the rankings in real time rather than produce irregular updates to the various UCI rankings. Hopefully the mooted new website improves this.

It’s not something you can explain a few seconds or a tweet so hopefully the above helps set things out. In short it’s the national rankings in the World Tour that determine the biggest teams but countries need to have plenty of riders in the rankings to be sure of having a full squad. As set out in the Polish example above it’s not enough to have two riders around the top-10. Team work counts for plenty but it varies from nation to nation and ensures the Worlds is always a different event with varying tactical choices.

57 thoughts on “World Championships Road Race Qualification”

  1. Regarding Poland and its riders – it was a similar situation last year, when we also got 9 riders in WC thanks to Majka, Kwiatek and Niemiec’s performance. That doesn’t mean though that they are the only good ones – just to mention Bodnar (respected Sagan’s domestique), Huzarski (great break in 2013 WC, some nice breaks at GTs too) and Paterski (won Tour of Norway this year, last year approx 14th WC). It’s just WT points they are lacking 😉

    What’s more interesting, are the rules in Poland – following are qualified to participate in WC RR:
    1. NC RR
    2. NC ITT
    3. 3 highest positioned riders from WT ranks
    Other positions are chosen by the national selector, but he has to justify his choice, which then has to be accepted by the Road Racing Department, Training Department and Board of Polish cycling federation.

    I wonder how selectors of Italy, Spain, GB etc. would react if their choice had to be officialy accepted by some members of board of their cycling federations 😉

  2. thanks for this, interesting.

    One question (me being slow I think) – you say that the top countries can have nine riders, “as long as all nine riders are classified on the UCI World Tour”.

    And then you mention that “Poland have “only” Michał Kwiatkowski, Rafał Majka and Przemysław Niemiec in the World Tour rankings”.

    Does that mean they’ll only have 3 riders? Or is there a difference between ‘being classified on the UCI WT’ and ‘having a WT ranking’?

    Related – does GB have 9 riders in the WT rankings? Just wondered whether they might now struggle to come up with 9, too…

    Ta – TH

    • Does GB have 9 riders in the WT rankings? Well, not quite (or at least not today, but the ENECO tour has a time trial on Wednesday and Alex Dowsett is racing, so perhaps after that).

      But I think it’s World Tour or Continental, in which case undoubtedly more than nine. There are about a thousand riders on the Europe Tour rankings.

      • Although… do the world tour points for a stage get counted at the end of the stage, or at the end of the race that the stage is within? So potentially Dowsett could earn points for a top five finish on the 13th, becoming the ninth Brit with World Tour points, but if the points aren’t added until the end of the Eneco Tour on the 17th, this is two days after the deadline of the 15th… and it seems odd to have UCI’s deadline for points two days before the end of a UCI world tour event, but then this is the UCI we’re talking about!

  3. Have the rules changed since last year? Only IIRC the GB team qualified in the top ten, but because they only had 8 WT ranked riders they only got 8 spots (although they didn’t have to go to those 8 WT riders). There was certainly some combination of nation ranking and number of ranker riders at play – which again had an impact on Project Rainbow where they had to ensure not only their national ranking but also that sufficient GB riders had points.

  4. (Ah, you can ignore that – just realised the difference.

    And re my question – GB has at least 13 riders with WT teams, I think – Cav, Millar, Cummings, the Yates brothers, plus the 8 I think at Sky – Sir Wiggins, Froome, Edmondson, Kennaugh, Rowe, Stannard, Swift, and Thomas.

    So guess they’re picking 9 from those 13, if I’ve grasped correctly.

    Rather different to the choices facing those top 4…)

    • But only seven (Froome, Thomas, Swift, Cavendish, A Yates, Wiggins and Cummings on a quick look) are currently in the individual World Tour rankings so that only qualifies seven riders of the nine and GB would seem to be too low in the European Tour rankings to claim extra spots so that may be a GB team of seven (although Dowsett could add another place as Mike notes).

      There appears no restrictions of which riders you name for the squad or pick for the race which in extremis gives you a team without any of those in the WT ranking.

      • Eight with Andrew Fenn of OPQS on there too.

        Britain are currently 15th on the UCI Europe Tour but the table dates from 25 July. Blythe’s win in London could get them into the top-14 and allow an extra rider.

        • To take a tangent – how does the 24,000 for the sportive in the morning in London compare to participation levels in similar elsewhere?

          (Stannard and Rowe could also get top 5 on an Eneco stage in theory – just found live feed on their website when looking for start list 🙂 )

  5. You have to remember that riders to race WC can be ranked either in WorldTour or in Continental Tours, so countries like Poland, Great Britain and such ones shouldn’t have problems with filling their ranks.

  6. Ah, I’m still confused then, Przemek. So what exactly does it mean to be “classified on the UCI WorldTour”? That you are contracted to a WT or Continental Tour team? Or something different?

  7. Colombia is one of those other countries for whom WorldTour points only come from a select few: Quintana, Urán, Betancur, and Arredondo comprise 684 of Colombia’s 695 WT points. However, I don’t think the team manager will struggle to fill the other 5 spots. Anacona, Serpa, Duarte, Pantano, Chaves and Acevedo would be excellent support riders. They would miss key cogs from last year’s team, Sergio Henao and Atapuma, who are both out with injuries.

    Urán would definitely be the team leader there, based on past performances in one-day races. Betancur, if he somehow manages to get his act together, and Quintana would be the other protected riders. Very solid team.

  8. Good thing that the rules are simple. Easily understood by the dedicated followers of cycling that frequent this website so they should be a walk in the park to explain to the TV audience.

    • Simplicity is always desirable but it isn’t everything. Selection based on a single criterion or on a couple of criteria would likely create some unfair outcomes. The important thing is to give each country an opportunity at the Championships that is commensurate with its merit and that it has the potential to fulfill. Is the current system the best that can be? Probably not. There is a whole branch of applied mathematics dedicated to solving multicriteria and multiobjective problems, and what this research shows is that naive solutions to such problems are often quite off the mark, and optimal solutions are not, in general, simplistic.

    • It is complicated and if I was better at graphics I might have tried a flow chart approach instead of the text.

      But the complication has a sense, to ensure the Worlds field contains the top riders supported by proportionally-sized teams.

      Given the UCI makes big money from the Worlds one way to make more interest and explanation would be to have regular updates on who qualifies and the provisional standings. This way even the stage results of the Tour could be seen as consequential to the Worlds, a sneaky way to make people talk about the Worlds for longer.

      • Great idea – as you said in the text Project Rainbow describes how this play out over a season. Another thing to add to the list of “Make the UCI site vaguely useful and up with every other sensible website of the last 5 years”. I cannot cost a lot to do these small fixes.

        • I assume the UCI has lots of stake holders who want to give input to the design of the web site. It will probably be a horse designed by a committee.

  9. i still dont get the thing with the extra slots through europe tour. if for example italy, who can easily fill the 9 spots with their about 30 WT-ranked riders happen to be first in europe tour (hypothetically) as well, do they get six more slots and start with 15 riders?

    or if Gb with their 8 riders are (hypothetically again) 1st in europe tour can they only start 1 of the 6 extra starters, since the maximum riders you can start with a top-10 WT ranking is 9?

    • Actually, I think it’s explained very well in the text. At least I think I understood this:
      The selection question for the countries is:
      Are you in the Top10 in the world?
      Yes –>Then you can send a team up to 9 riders. The riders you can name must have points in the UCI WT or in one of the continental circuits.
      No –>The other above mentioned ten thousand possibilities come into play, one after another. Not together.
      (Please, say,I got it right)

      • Might have this wrong, but I think it is a bit different.

        top 10 you get a max of 9 starters – tick

        Do you have 9 riders with WT ranking.? No, only have 8. OK, you can only send 8 riders, but you are not limited to those 8 riders that are the ones with the WT ranking.

        But if you have a high enough placing in continental level, you can build that number back up to 9.

  10. What are the rules to classify for the WC Individual TT? Does a rider aiming for a good TT performance have to qualify for an entry as part of a country’s RR team?

    For example, GB might not neccesarily think Wiggins’ strengths are particularly suited for the RR, but he can only enter the TT if he is part of the RR squad of (currently) 8?

    • Assuming it’s currently valid, rule 9.2.017 says that each National Federation may enter 4 riders, of whom 2 may race. (So 2 plus 2 reserves.) Rule 9.2.009 suggests that Tony Martin is also entitled to take part, in addition to 2 other Germans. Apart from some rules about young riders, it otherwise seems to be up to the Federations, and there doesn’t seem to be a necessary link between the RR and TT.

  11. What happens with the likes of Roman Kreuziger, who is currently ineligible for selection by the Czech Republic as a “rider against whom an investigation was opened in relation to a fact which may cause a breach of the UCI Anti-Doping Rules”? In his particular case, his points don’t matter as the Czechs are outside the WT top 10, and rely on their European Tour standing to qualify. But what if Froome had a similar case against him? Would Britain lose his points and fall outside the top 10? Or would they be able to count his points, or even count him as one of their WT-ranked riders and get an extra place because of him, even though they weren’t allowed to select him?

    • It’s complicated. As you’ve seen the UCI has s a special clause for the World Championships which excludes “a rider against whom an investigation was opened in relation to a fact which may cause a breach of the UCI Anti-Doping Rules” when normally a rider might be able to continue, for example an A-sample positive for a specified substance. It’s this rule that stopped Tiernan-Locke racing the Worlds last year, we were fed the “tired” story but he was blocked by the UCI.

      With Kreuziger and others their points still count because they are innocent for now, only they cannot start the race. So they qualify and help qualify others but can’t start.

  12. Quote
    But the complication has a sense, to ensure the Worlds field contains the top riders supported by proportionally-sized teams.

    And then again there are the team loyalties( who pays your salary), to complicate things across national borders. Being part of a strong team and a strong nation has its advantages.

  13. Does anyone know what is the “Fictitious Ranking” that is shown on the rankings on the UCI’s website? It leads to a PDF file with a ranking of the teams in each of the geographic regions. What is it based on and what importance does it have?

  14. Top 10 (9) Europe (6/3) Africa (6/3) America (6/3) Asia (6/3) Oceania (3) Top 100 Riders (3) WT Riders (3/2/1) Africa Riders (2) America Riders (2) Asia Riders (2) Europe (2) Oceania (2)

    Spain Ukraine Morocco Venezuela Iran New Zealand Canada N/A N/A Ecuador N/A Sweden N/A
    France Russia Eritrea United States Kazakhstan Belarus Chile Serbia
    Itay Slovenia Algeria Brazil Japan Slovakia Greece
    Netherlands Denmark Costa Rica Korea (South) Lithuania Albania
    Colombia Austria Argentina Luxembourg Azerbaijan
    Australia Czech Republic South Africa Moldova
    Belgium Portugal
    Poland Switzerland
    Germany Norway
    Great Britain Ireland

  15. I applaud the man who came up with these rules. He is going to have an exciting period after August cut-off to count all numbers. When is a cut-off time for managers to announce long-list?

  16. The rules don’t make sense, they just make it easier for riders from traditional cycling nations to win. Why should someone born in a tiny eastern European country be penalized in his bids for a world championship?

    I think the RR and TTT are backwards. RR should be trade teams and TTT national teams.

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