Richie Porte has just won the Tour Down Under and collects 500 UCI points, as many if he’d won Paris-Nice or the Tour de Suisse. A rankings system in pro cycling often seems pointless, it’s a synthetic means to compare stage racers, sprinters and others who often only compete indirectly with each other. But UCI points can be a currency and the quest for points is a tactical fact. So here’s a look at the points per race and more.
To rank the riders, first rank the races
500 points for winning the Tour Down Under, the same as the Tour de Suisse. Is this right? You probably have a view. 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. With this in mind here’s a walk-through 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 PDF 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 you can find them
- 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 rankings
- 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 so support riders who help to set up their leader don’t get direct rewards but the work can deliver for the team’s rankings
- In a team time trial the race or stage’s points are divided among the riders who finish the TTT.
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 a win in the GP Québec is deemed as valuable as winning Paris-Roubaix, or the Tour Down Under isn’t equal to the Tour of the Basque Country, it’s actually even higher rated. 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… as well as the absent Tour of California.
Next and you can see below how much winning a stage is worth in points terms, again the same categories of races apply. As you can see, the Tour de France commands a premium and a stage win in a grand tour is deemed equivalent to 12th place meaning it can be worth trying to win a stage but a tenth place overall is quietly more valuable. Similarly Porte winning the overall in the Tour Down Under is worth more all his stage wins on Willunga and by some way.
Next up there are points for winning a jersey outright 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 literally pointless and the white jersey competitions and other varieties 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 Pro Series race, the new label for HC races, like the Giro dell’Emilia and it’s the same as winning the overall for an Pro Series stage race like the Tour de Yorkshire 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 won by Elia Viviani. It’s not just a title and a distinctive jersey but there’s 250 points for the winner – double winning a Tour stage – 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 has replaced the pro team time trial with a relay race ridden by a team of women and a team of men from each country and the winners get 300 points each.
The value: You may not care too much for the rankings, you may question the relative importance attributed to different races but the UCI ranks teams and it matters. Last year Total Direct Energie won the right to start all the World Tour races they want by finishing as the top second tier team and Circus-Wanty Gobert have made this a goal for the year. It’s also an issue for the World Tour teams as if they don’t score enough points they can see their licence under review.
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 riders, team managers and agents. For fans, the media and others there’s an implicit ranking of races based on prestige, history and other more subtle factors and arguably these count for a lot more… but all the tables are listed above so if you want to look them up for reference during the season here they are.