World Championships Road Race Qualification

Cycling has many season long stories and sub-plots if you know where to look. One of them is qualifying for the World Championships in September.Nations qualify via the UCI rankings and the more UCI points a nation’s riders have, the larger the team it can bring to support its contenders for the rainbow jersey.

Here’s a reminder of the qualifying rules for the men’s road race and a look at the current state of play before selection is made in less than a week’s time.

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 Saturday 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 2015 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 is the current UCI World Tour nations ranking:

As Saturday is the deadline the final GC of the Eneco Tour does not count, only the stage wins for which there are 6-4-2-1-1 points for the top five. Arithmetically there is a chance that Slovenia can overhaul the Czechs given several Slovenians start the Eneco Tour but Christmas will have to come early for Borut Božič and company.

Each nation in the top-10 of the table above can bring nine riders. Currently Spain, Colombia, Italy, France, Australia, Netherlands, Belgium have nine or more riders with a World Tour point to their name so all of these nations may nominate 14 names and start the road race with nine riders of their choosing.

Germany have eight riders with a World Tour ranking and Great Britain has seven but these nations still qualify nine riders because Germany and Britain are 13th and 14th respectively in the UCI Europe Tour rankings. This just entitles them to take extra riders because the top-14 nations on this circuit get an extra allowance.

The Czech Republic has only three riders with World Tour points and is 17th on the Europe Tour rankings, ie not in the top-14 to qualify for more, so it can only start six riders.

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 the Czech Republic have “only” Zdeněk Štybar, Leopold König and Roman Kreuzier in the World Tour rankings so the national selector has work to do to find more Czech mates to support Štybar.

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 (they actually sit higher than Australia in the current Oceania rankings).

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 2015 can have three starters
  • three riders in the individual classification of the UCI WorldTour classification on 15 August 2015 can have three starters
  • two riders in the individual classification of the UCI WorldTour classification on 15 August 2015 can have two starters
  • one rider in the individual classification of the UCI WorldTour classification on 15 August 2015 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 Poland qualify already and presumably Michał Kwiatkowksi starts.


Does it matter?
The rules above are dry stuff, a lot of conditional scenarios and confusing ranking systems. But it matters here because having a big team in the road race is very useful if a rider has ambitions to win. Last year the Polish team were visible for a lot of the race as they helped to contain moves and set up their leader Kwiatkowski. We saw the British team execute a plan to help Mark Cavendish win in 2011 and one part of “Project Rainbow” saw British riders being tasked with harvesting UCI points in order to boost Britain’s rankings so that the team could start with a full squad of riders in Copenhagen.

Not that every nation plans so carefully, for example there’s already rivalry among Belgians with Philippe Gilbert, Greg Van Avermaet and Tom Boonen competing for selection and leadership. Some teams hatch long term plans, others just pick some uninjured riders and pay for their flights in order to fill the quote.

The Course
The Richmond 2015 course features 16 laps of a 16.2km course with 108m of vertical gain per lap, some of which is over a rough cobbled climb, 13% for 100 metres. The rest of the course features big wide roads and many right-angle corners.

UCI Rankings
Since we’re on the topic of UCI rankings the governing body has a new website but still has the old rankings system where updates seem to be processed only periodically, leaving national selectors and bloggers alike to crank the rankings manually.

As ever 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 Czech example above it’s not enough to have a red hot pick for the race like Zdeněk Štybar, a depth of performance from compatriots is needed to give him a bigger team.

75 thoughts on “World Championships Road Race Qualification”

  1. I see the United States are currently 18th in the World Tour and 6th in the America Tour. How does that compare to recent years? Seems terrible and, if I follow the above correctly, as things stand they will only scrape in with three riders thanks to Tejay V-G and Andrew Talansky’s presence in the top 100 of the individual rankings.

    • Oh, that’s not quite right. Columbia qualify through the World Tour, so the USA is bumped up a place and qualifies for 3 riders as the 5th placed nation in the America Tour. Still doesn’t seem very impressive.

      • I think that USA will be allowed to race with 6 because of this from the UCI document:

        “If the nation responsible for organising the World Championship is qualified in the second
        rank of nations via the classification by nation for its continent, it may enter 9 riders with 6 to

        • Since when did speakers of one language get to impose the spellings of their countries on speakers of another language? I’ve never been near the Americas, but this doesn’t hold anywhere in Europe, so I’m not sure why it should apply in South America. So for the moment, I’m happy to spell it Columbia from Christopher Columbus not Colombia from Cristóbal Colón.

    • Our guys are so soft now and only excel at offering a litany of excuses and abandons. Also tough because even our best riders don’t you know, actually win bike races any more. Other than shitty domestic races with weak fields run on 6 lane highways. One little sickness and TvG folds like a house of cards.

      For Worlds, what does it matter none of our guys would feature in the finale anyway? I few laps in front of the home crowd then a DNF to drink beer with their bros like some cyclocross fans.

      • Nailed it. Only a few have the ability to hang in over the 4 hour mark because the US is a land of 75 minute crits and circuit races for 130k. The only chance the US has is cyclocross ten years from now, maybe.

        • The only chance the US has is cyclocross ten years from now, maybe.

          Hey now, let’s be fair to Jonathan Page who has been racing in Europe and doing well considering he’s a DIY elite like the other more dominant American cyclocrosser, Katie Compton.

          I would argue Americans are not “soft” as much as the lack of infrastructure required to attract and develop talented athletes in cycling. Most of the talent we have as Continental Pros are working jobs to ride a bike at an elite level. This is as much a UCI policy problem as it is a USACDF/USAC problem.

          • Crying the US blues:

            Lets not forget the The US women excel on the international RR circuit, and they should be commended for those efforts.

            Pro RRing will never see the popularity in the US as it does in Euro countries period! We will have to wait for the odd Lemond to surface once in a blue moon.

            I would love to see the US government allow precedes from a national lottery go to the benefit of youth cycling in the US. That would certainly help. Just as is done in the UK.

          • @Othersteve The US government has no business funding sports. If that means the US is never at the top of the board in cycling, so be it.

  2. Pez did a preview of the Richmond course recently. Seems uninspired. But my limited imagination has trouble picturing the parcours when it is fully dressed. Anyone have a first hand look yet?

    • US Collegiate road nationals in 2014 were on the Richmond worlds course (all but the 23rd street climb) as a test event. I got to race the course. It was awesome. Such a great venue, such a challenging course that could have so many different outcomes. The climbs are short, yes, but they are steep and all come in the last 5km. The last one tops out 500m from the finish.

      • What’s the point of doing 16 x laps though, almost 260 km ?
        That’s far too long surely, all it does is provide a dull first 10 x laps or so, with all the action at the latter part of the race…?
        It sounds a bit of a snooze fest ?

        • The laps allow for better spectator viewing and the distance will deaden the legs of many. Not as many riders have quite the same kick after 260 km. Point in case look at Sagan at the past couple of Milan-Sanremo finales. Fast man who had nothing left to contest a sprint finish. Those first few laps will appear easy on TV, but the riders will be going full gas from the start and burning domestiques.

          • Philippe Gilbert once said after some 200k race which he didn’t won that he needs that extra 40k in order to get rid of the other contenders.

        • What is more, if those extra 100 kms (which may usually mean 1500-2000 mts of vertical gain or more – didn’t see this year’s course, yet) are *available*, teams at least have the option to race them hard, if they wish – which changes a lot the finishing scenary, of course.
          Obviously enough, nobody can force them if they don’t have the interest or the strength, but if they have, well, you can even get some far-out spectacle. See Florence 2013. Regardless of altimetry, sometimes – see London Olympics.

  3. “Zdeněk Štybar, a depth of performance from compatriots is needed”

    Or on the other hand the Belgian problem – too many rock stars. Sure Vandenberg will ride for Boonen, would Debuscherre or Keukeliere do the same for a BMC rider? I guess personal friendships and team orders will play a role. I read Charlie Wegelius’s account of how he and Southam were instructed to ride for the Italians at the 2005 worlds – Mr Ring how common would you say team orders at the worlds still are?

  4. Presumably Degenkolb will ride for Germany? Course not quite right for Greipel or Kittel. What about GB? Swift?

    Re. Belgium, looks a bit more Boonen/GVA than Gilbert.

    Sagan nailed on for second place, of course… 😉

  5. Swift? Maybe plan B Kennaugh will get the nod for GB. Considering the engines like Luke Rowe and Stannard, super domestiques the Yates plus the world’s fastest waterboy in Cav – it should be a pretty formidable well drilled unit. Which probably means Valverde wins.

    • There is a video on the inter web somewhere where Cav is casing the parcour, I think it was after the Tour of California. Police escort and all sorts.

      Wouldn’t expect Cav to be doing recconaissance on the course if he didn’t initially think that he could win it.

      • Yup, saw in a print interview that that was when the video and reconnaissance took place. It was shot at 6.30am and he was massively embarrassed about the police escort, so much so that he sprinted through the busier sections of the course because he didn’t want residents being woken up because of “some knobhead on a bicycle”.

        He has a nice, if somewhat sweary, turn of phrase has Cav.

  6. So there is some point to the World Tour season then 😉

    I think that Australia could have a strong squad.
    Matthews looked in great nick back in Spring.
    I wonder if he can recover that form after his horrible TdF ?

    • But weird that it doesn’t take account of the last 12 months’ performance in the WT. The Eneco tour, Vuelta, Canadian races and Lombardy get passed over each year. If you’re going to use country rankings in a particular event, you might as well use the full rankings.

      (No idea whether it would make any difference, mind.)

  7. Convoluted system much? How would you explain all that to a casual fan? Its a nonsense. Just give each team 8 or 9 riders and race.

    • It is convoluted but which teams would you give 8-9 riders? Probably the traditional cycling countries but who else? There’s no point giving Slovakia 9 riders because they don’t have 9 good pros and the more places are given to filler riders making up each national quota the more you exclude entire nations. So if the system is complicated and leaves everyone scratching their heads…. it achieves a sensible outcome on the startline.

      • Yes, but why allow 8 – 9 riders?

        A 198 rider field, with 6 person teams, would yield 34 teams (or a 196 rider field could have 28 teams of 7). And if it were up to X riders, additional nations could enter, if teams didn’t have sufficient professionally licensed riders to enter.

        So the question is, how many nations have professional riders?

        • Convoluted as they are, I’m happy the rules allow for the minor countries to send riders. Unlike MLB’s “World Series” this is truly the WORLD cycling championships so all countries should be able to send riders. I find it kind of laughable that the USA gets only a few riders despite all the claptrap we hear from those who run USA Cycling. Seems like when doping on the scale of BigTex is no longer so much the case, the Yanks aren’t much of a presence? I’ll be at the roadside in Richmond as I was in Colorado Springs in ’86 and Hamilton in ’03. When this kind of thing happens in North America I sort of feel obligated to show up as it’s so rare. And to nobody’s surprise we’ll be cheering for the Italians though I don’t think they have a very good chance on this course. FORZA AZZURRI!!!

        • I agree with you TR. It’s not the fact that it tapers, which is sensible as Mr. INRNG explains, but the huge steps that seems odd.

          If this were a truly individual event, with every man for himself, then it would be quite fair as it is, because otherwise you would be penalising people higher in the UCI rankings by shrinking allocations. However, no-one is under the illusion that that’s the way in plays out so the reality is that if you are not in the top 10, you lose 30% of your allocation. Perhaps a lower starting point (8/7) and a smoother taper would be a bit fairer?

  8. Perfect for a post tdf comedown, a Worlds tease. The course looks hard for the sprinters and not really for the climbers, so those who thrive at Flanders? Sagan yes, maybe Thomas and the rest but also Mathews?

    Looking forward to the preview piece already but first, the Vuelta 🙂

    • Is the course more similar to RVV or Strade Bianche?
      Who would be your top 10 favorites

      Mine are

      Boonen, GVA, SVM, Sagan, Stybar
      Degenkolb, Tresptra, Kristoff, Cance
      Valverde, Boom, Thomas

      • You’ve compared it to de Ronde and Strada Bianchi plus it’s got a. 13% cobbled climb, and Cancellara isn’t in your list???

        He’s won de Ronde thrice, PRBX thrice, and Strada Bianchi once. He’s should always be in the mix on a parcour like this.

        I would personally be happy with a Spartacus win, or GVA would be popular too. He’s more eternal bridesmaid that Sagan.

          • The other Nick, it would be great to see Spartacus spend what is perhaps likely to be his last season next year in the rainbow bands. With black shorts. Ok, maybe a few pinstripes.

            And agree that Valverde and Purito are likely to mark each other out. Funny comment.

  9. Interesting that Cav had a look at the course. Some people are saying Kennaugh has a chance but Cav wasn’t far behind in the Nationals and had less help. Adam Yates, if he’s got the form of San Sebastian, would have a chance as well as G. Is there a battle for leadership in the GB squad? Or who is the leader? Has Brailsford said anything or are they keeping it a surprise this time?

    Incidentally, that Nationals race was one of the best I’ve seen this year and I’ve seen a lot and it’s been a decent year so far. If the Worlds is half as good it’ll be fun to watch.

    What about bringing back national teams for other races? After all, the TdF was run like that for many of its golden years.

    • Does Brailsford have a say anymore? He’s exclusively Team Sky now I believe, so not sure who runs this GB team (although Rod Elingworth has over the last few years I think).

      My guess is there isn’t a leadership battle at the moment, as the GB riders skills don’t tend to overlap – ie a course for Cav wouldn’t suit Froome clearly, and the ones which may overlap skills wise are still up and coming, so may not go for a leadership battle. I think the problem for GB this year will be that the course doesn’t strike me as suiting one of their riders automatically so they may spread resources and not have an obvious captain.

      I’m guessing Wiggins hasn’t got enough points this year to get into the squad of 14 (and my guess is he wouldn’t be in it even if he qualified).

      • Come the Worlds, its Brailsford Time again. And Ellingworth – who does all the actual hard yards on it. By agreement with Shane Sutton, British Cycling and Sky (the latter, as they’re both 100% paid by Sky).

        Wiggins has ruled himself out of defending his TT title this year as he’s now fully concentrating on the track – the Worlds falls in the middle of GB Track Nats and the kick off of the track season. Besides, you’d never see him in a team that had Froome in it again, anyway – see the 2014 Worlds for example.

          • Froome will… have a better palmares?
            Track victories are not the equal of Tour de France victories – especially ones where you only won because the better rider wasn’t allowed to race against you. Froome, ostentatiously, showed to all that he wasn’t allowed to race and that’s why Wiggins has been sulking ever since. Froome should have had the guts to go against team orders and try to beat Wiggins and the hand to ear moment was pathetic.

    • I’m sure it is nothing to do with Brailsford, it will be a Shane Sutton project ;-). I was interested to note that Team Sky have 8 riders in the top 100 but only 2 are Brits. I hope Alex Peters and TGH are taking note of that.

      • Alex Peters has signed a 2 year contract, not signed his life away.

        And TGH – well, he’s got a great head on his shoulders. He knows the way they operate. If he ends up getting an offer to turn pro with them and he accepts, I think it can be assumed he can make his own career decisions.

  10. With regards World Tour points do you need to ride for a WT team?

    Scanning the UCI WT rider list it appears that Steve Cummings does not appear but would his TdF win not have earn WT points? (I may have missed him no search function on the list obviously!)

    Where do his points count if not on the WT list?

    • Only World Tour teams feature in the rankings so presumably his TdF points don’t count for anything officially as points for the Europe Tour don’t cover WT races (as far as I can tell). Of course, the WT points are are still hugely valuable in the eyes of sponsors, as well as for salary negotiations and the riders’ “sporting value” which is used by the UCI when awarding of team licences.

      • That seems a little odd.

        Not that in this case it going to affect the numbers of GB riders but strange that what may be on best wins by a GB rider of the year doesn’t help qualify for the worlds.

        Same applies for Italy and Boem’s stage win at the Giro

        • It was one of the more sensible parts of the UCI’s proposed reforms to the season: a single rider ranking, taking account of results by all teams in all races. So Cumming’s TdF win would have counted, as would Stybar’s win in Strade Bianche.

  11. In the belgian team I believe more in gilbert’s possibilities than in boonen’s. I think he is having a strong year and will arrive in good shape in the end of the season. In turn, boonen is normally not that good in sep (except 2005 of course).

    • Really? Well, that’s one way to get a full team when you’re no longer one of the top cycling countries. Hope they get a decent kit, some of the “Uncle Sam” getups they’ve had in the past were embarrassingly ugly. Some need to learn just because you can sublimate it on there, it doesn’t mean you should.

          • Back-in-the-day of BigTex and Co. we had USA Cycling, etc. crowing about how the Yanks were a serious group and part of cycling’s elite. The population never entered into these claims, they just pointed out all the big names (most of ’em of course turned out to be doped up slaves to BigTex) the USA had vs other countries. And so many of the US multinational companies jumped into pro cycling in a big way to take advantage of the marketing opportunities. Now it’s all gone back to a more realistic situation and I hope those cheerleaders who looked the other way when it came to doping won’t be around too much longer as the money thrown at the sport dries up.

  12. Larry, the logical problem there is that regardless of the dope, we’ve not had a decent world’s team in nearly two decades of racing. Lance and Postal have nothing to do with that. Even at their doped up best, we had good gc riders and ok sprinters. Also, at the height of the Tex years, it’s not like the US team was the only dirty squad. Despite being somewhat in a dry year, there is actually a pretty decent crop of US talent coming up. It could be fairly argued that 2 riders not being injured due to race promoter failire (Phinney and Stetina), could reasonably make the difference between a decent year for the Us (9 riders earned), and a crap year (9 riders given). That said, we absolutely need to do better in reflection of our population size/cycling talent ratio. it’s absurd that nations the size of the Czech Republic knock out way more talent (road and mtb) than we can muster. Perhaps it has something to do with the attitude that any cyclist on a road is a nuisance or a target, instead of a fully legit road user…..

    • Agreed, due to attitudes in the U.S. towards cycling as a professional sport, the rank and file of up and coming U.S. professional cyclists pales in comparison to the assembly line churning out junior athletes in baseball, football (including soccer), basketball, hockey, and even golf. But that seems normal given the huge pay-off of professional contracts and prize money on offer if there is true talent there. And there lies the problem–the pool of naturally talented and athletically endowed will be siphoned off to these mainstream sports, so perhaps the Eddy Merkxx of Cleveland, or the Fabian Cancellera of Oswego, is wearing shoulder pads and a helmet (with a face mask) knocking out wide receivers in the NFL. Without knowing the actual figures, I would venture to guess that much less than half the pro peloton makes a six figure annual salary, with those making a seven figure salary countable on my two hands (or perhaps even one hand?). And given the financial uncertainties of pro cycling, who would want to choose it as a profession, unless it was better than other career options, such as farming or working in a manufacturing plant? Which, by the way, was the traditional rationale of riders ~50 years ago from Western Europe, but now such logic is found in Eastern Europe and former Soviet block nations. Which is the reason why so many good riders nowadays are coming out of that region, while the U.S. appears to be lacking quality riders. So, it all makes sense.

      • Agree,
        Our economic potential provides many avenues for gifted athletes to make great money .
        Unfortunately, our sport choices don’t include cycling as does Europe, for this truth we commiserate and hope for a few US kids who may rise on the occasion.

  13. “Germany have eight riders with a World Tour ranking and Great Britain has seven but these nations still qualify nine riders because Germany and Britain are 13th and 14th respectively in the UCI Europe Tour rankings. This just entitles them to take extra riders because the top-14 nations on this circuit get an extra allowance.”

    Now that the continental rankings as for 15 August have been published, it appears that Germany will indeed get 9 berths as they held their position from last month.

    Unfortunately, GB were overhauled by Belarus for that crucial 14th position at the last, so they will have to make do with 7 berths. They were allocated 9 berths for Ponferrada 2014, which is ironic given that they have already accrued more WorldTour points than last year (and may gain the maximum 5 berths for next year’s Olympic RR*).

    A couple more top-10s in the spring classics would have been enough for the maximum allocation – 3 riders from Sky alone (Wiggins/Stannard/Swift) have done so in previous seasons and all failed to do so this season. Also a pity that Dowsett had to pull out of the Tour de Pologne before the ITT, or that Cummings’ performances had no impact on WT rankings as he is now a Pro-Conti rider…

    [* Important for the Olympic ITT as well, since riders must come from the RR squad.]

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