The 2022 Points Race

One big issue for half the men’s World Tour teams in 2022 is going to be winning UCI ranking points. Several squads are locked in a relegation contest with their World Tour status at stake, possibly their survival. It could even affect race tactics.

All races have UCI points and riders score points based on their finishing positions. If you need to know the points available per race, then see the UCI Points and Rankings Explainer post. Teams are then ranked on the basis of their 10 highest-scoring riders, this idea is this allows 20 other riders to work in support and set up their leaders to get results and score points.

So far, so normal. What’s different for 2022 is that at the end of next season all teams will be ranked and the best 18 teams will qualify for World Tour licences (as long as they meet the admin criteria and all that). Any World Team squads ranked 19th or lower face relegation to the lower Pro Team status.

Alpecin-Fenix and Arkea-Samsic are currently ranked inside the top-18 teams today so they’d get promoted and have World Tour licences for 2023, 2024 and 2025. This assumes they’ll apply and meet the criteria and so far we know Arkéa-Samsic are going for promotion but Alpecin-Fenix haven’t said anything on the record, so we can assume they want World Tour status, but cannot count on it until they reveal their preference.

Meanwhile Cofidis and Lotto-Soudal face relegation. But there’s all to ride for, a whole season to score points. And it’s close, Cofidis are only 62 points behind Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert; and if Caleb Ewan hadn’t crashed out of the 2021 Tour de France this year Lotto-Soudal would have scored more.

The likes of DSM, EF Education-Nippo, Ag2r Citroën, Bike Exchange, Movistar, Israel risk relegation but let’s stress risk relegation, rather than face relegation. Movistar and DSM are paying for their poor 2020 and 2021 seasons. The Spanish team’s loss of Miguel Angel Lopez also means they lose a big points winner for 2022 and the beef over his Vuelta exit cost them muchos puntos, if he’d only stayed in the race and finished third he’d have landed 575 points for the team, enough to leapfrog Bike Exchange. Now let’s not dunk on “Superman”, this just makes a handy example of how incidents have long term effects. Conceivably the status of a team could come down to a puncture, a Covid test, a crash, cramp even.

World Tour status is a big deal
It’s the golden ticket that guarantees a start in the Tour de France. Without it some sponsors might exercise exit clauses, although under the rules relegated teams can still get invited to all the big races next year. It’s nice to win races but for some teams it’s going to be essential to score points, a matter of survival.

So where to poach points? Anywhere, it doesn’t have to be winning, but that helps. Placing counts and anything is good, it doesn’t even have to be a top-10. Imagine a summit finish, a rider might want to hang with the leaders as far as possible but the risk is they blow to smithereens, better to ease up a touch and make a solid level effort to the line, passing those who cracked and this way harvest more points. Better if you’re a team manager of course but not exactly what fans crave. Also one day races pay way more than stages during a stage race, for example winning one early season Challenge Mallorca race brings more points than a Tour de France stage, again see all the UCI points tables for 2022 for all the detail. One day races and the overall in a stage race are the big points winners, stages during a stage race offer few points.

Indeed you might not care much for who finishes, say, 12th in the Tour de France but it brings 125 points, as much as winning a week-long 2.1 stage race or more than winning an actual Tour stage. So watch out teams nursing riders towards top-15 positions in World Tour stage races, it might look pathetic but they’ll have genuine incentives. Or look for riders sprinting for 14th place in a semi-classic, it’s not just for fun or pride, it could actually count and many a pre-race briefing or race radio reminder will say so. If you see a rider from a team in need of points in a small breakaway coming into the finish as the bunch bears down on them, there’s an added incentive to help the breakaway make it to the finish so they can salvage fifth place even if this costs them the sprint, while others from better off teams might know this and can save more energy for the sprint. Now it won’t be as obvious or prescriptive… but you can see the incentives at work here, right?

It’s not the stuff of dreams knowing teams are chasing points as much as wins but it’s something to watch out for. Think of it as a secondary story, while most eyes are on UAE, Jumbo-Visma and Ineos, the smaller teams still want to win races but have another contest with it.

Promotion isn’t automatic, a team has to meet all the usual admin, budget and ethical criteria to land a licence as well but these are normally within reach. And relegation can scare sponsors but the regulations allow for a softer landing with ejected World Tour squads likely to get invites to the big races.

74 thoughts on “The 2022 Points Race”

  1. An interesting post on an interesting topic, many thanks.
    I worry that the UCI point chase may be at odds with the real objective of the sponsors of second teams, who want the headlines and the replays during the news wrap-ups. For instance, that win by Taco Van der Hoorn was probably worth way more to Wanty than a dozen second places. Is the new strategy going to be to just play conservative, knowing that you have a good chance for a top 5, rather than risk it all and go for the win? That might work better for the math, but make the races more predictable and less exciting.

    Another issue is the way points are awarded; I understand it’s impossible to find a system that suits everyone perfectly, but the points ranking seems outlandish at times. I’d like to think it might help the UCI to generate interest outside Europe, by awarding big points in races elsewhere, but if the big stars won’t go because their teams don’t fear relegation, will it work? Maybe a meaningful individual ranking, like the CX world cup, would do more for this. I don’t think anyone who could possibly top the UCI individual rankings would make that a season objective.

    • Hasn’t the UCI made new and foreign races worth more points than traditionalists have considered reasonable, to induce teams to send top riders? I’m thinking of some of the races in the Middle East and the two Canadian one-day races, which generate a lot of points relative to their perceived value to (I think) both fans and riders.

      And I do think there are riders who really value topping the UCI individual rankings. I remember Froome complaining that the TdF GC win should be worth much more. He seemed frustrated that during the years that he was the dominant GC rider he ended up ranked near but not at the top.

    • Taco’s win was huge for the team, but so is being in the Tour de France and if we had 18 teams without them + four invitees, would they make the cut? Just asking the question must be the worry for them so they do orientate their racing to gathering points. Hopefully teams can do both but one of the points of the piece is to highlight the hidden incentives for relegation-risk teams to play it safe.

  2. “Total Direct Energies are 21st but too far behind for promotion, even if Peter Sagan has his best ever season it won’t be enough”

    They’ve basically just lumped on Sagan to secure Tour entry, haven’t they? Such an uninspiring team but they’ll get a wildcard now.

  3. “Heinie’s Folly” just got stupider. Didn’t we just see 18 teams duking it out for 18 WT slots or did I miss something? As has already been pointed out, a non-WT team with a big star will likely get a wild-card invite (and maybe appearance money) and just wait until it’s relegation time. Will the CAS be working overtime to adjudicate this mess?

    • I think you may have missed the fact that promotion/relegation is on a 3-year cycle. Teams have automatically renewed their places in the WT for the last 2 years, but this year is the end of the cycle so they have to compete for them.

      I would hope the rules are clear enough that CAS don’t have to get involved, but given the shenanigans with the F1 finale and the UEFA Champions League draw, never say never with sports administrators!

      • If a current WT team lands outside the top 18 on the three year ranking and really wants their spot they probably only need to threaten the UCI with CAS or the civil courts, and a 19th licence will be offered by the UCI to avoid a potentially precedent-setting loss at the courts.

        It worked for DD/Qhubeka two years ago.

        • It might well work again, but at least this time the UCI could say that teams have had 3 years’ notice of the rules, whereas last time, the season had already started when the changes were introduced.

      • Nick: I should have separated that second-to-last sentence. “Just wait until relegation time!” meant whenever it happens there will be all kinds of protests, CAS issues, etc. and maybe something like DaveRides points out from the past. While I can understand how this works in football where teams play against one team at a time, it makes no sense to me when each team plays against most of the other teams at each race. I can imagine some fiasco where a team gets more points to stave off relegation by having X racers in top spots than a team whose star wins a big race but the rest of the team finishes way down since they helped their leader win. I simply can’t imagine how this doesn’t end up having decisions made in courtrooms rather than on race courses. Leave that to F1!

        • The points scales already make it fairly difficult for a winner to be outscored by a combination of minor places, and near enough to impossible if the combination of minor places does not include a podium position.

          However, this could be further improved by awarding team points only for the highest position achieved by any of the team’s riders on a stage/race, with the sole exception of when a team manages to get multiple riders into the podium positions and should be duly rewarded.

          A domestique can afford to work a little bit harder for their team leader if they know there is no need to worry about saving something to sprint for a minor placing.

  4. It’s a great way of encouraging negative racing. I look forward to a rider being ordered not to go for a win as it would risk losing the points he’d get for coming third.

    As for the allocation of points… of course Montreal is worth the same as the Ronde.

  5. Total probably would have had a TdF wildcard anyway and Sagan with his clique won’t necessarily help team balance and solidarity. The oil money spent on Sagan’s entourage could have been invested in a number of promising young (French?) riders instead of a star, maybe with the best behind him. Maybe a better move for Bora than Total. Van Avermaet, Quintana, Viviani are more big budget names bought into French teams without ever quite giving the hoped-for results.

    In any case France has an array of good ProSeries races to which French PRO teams are guaranteed an invite, not to mention TdF, P-R, P-N, Dauphiné, Bretagne Classic… which reserve places for non-WT French teams. Sounds like a decent programme to me accesible to non-WT French teams.

    As an example victory in Tro Bro Léon probably meant more to Arkea-Samsic than a theoretical Eschborn-Frankfurt WT win.

    • I wonder if “team balance and solidarity” are even on the list of goals of the sponsors of TotalEnergies? It seems like the team has been solidly French, and ‘balanced’ (in the sense that none of their riders are capable of big wins) – how has that worked for them?

      And I see a lot of comments along the lines that TotalEnergies could have/should have invested in promising young French riders, but wouldn’t that be obvious to team management, too? They don’t appear interested in that, or maybe it’s not the easy option people make it out to be. Is there even a steady flow (or a sputtering flow) of French prodigies that TotalEnergies should and could tap into? I mean, they paid good money to get Terpstra a few years ago and that’s a much more dramatic example of poor return on investment than the three non-French riders you listed. Meanwhile, where are the French versions of Pogacar, Simmons, Kooij, etc? France seems to have lagged considerably in producing young stars, and those who do appear tend to go to higher budget teams.

      • Hard to make comparisons, but the French can’t complain too much when young talent is concerned.
        Gaudu, Lafay, Champoussin, Paret-Peintre, Madouas (Godon, even) are all more than promising and 25 or less.
        Nans Peters or Cosnefroy are just slightly older.
        Not as young as a 20-year old, yet let me also say that I’d be wary about so early a talent before it proves consistent, too (not speaking of Pogi, obviously – but which other country has or had a full Pogacar?), whereas the above are now more or less proven.
        You’re right in that the following generation looks slightly weaker for now (Toumire? Champion?) but for me it’s frankly too early to say, even more so with that 2020 strange season in-between.
        And you might also be right that none of the above is going to be the next Alaphilippe, probably not even the next Pinot or Bardet.
        Notwithstanding, I’d say you’re too harsh about the French current “young guns” situation, although you’re surely right in that all the above find a comfortable spot in AG2R, Groupama or Cofidis, hence why should they bother with Total Energies, Arkea or B&B?

        • Thanks for fleshing out the picture regarding young French talent in the men’s peloton. I absolutely agree with “I’d be wary about so early a talent before it proves consistent.” I think this is a big part of the fallacy of fans who decry signing aging but proven talent instead of gathering up a lot of young future stars. You almost never can tell who the future stars are, and most of the time those stars take years to steadily develop. It’s a long-term approach that takes patience and some luck.

          • This certainly has a lot to do with what the new guys are getting paid. IMHO the worst example of “signing aging but proven talent instead of gathering up a lot of young future stars. ” might be Israel Start-up Nation which so far should be renamed “Washed-up” as more and more it seems the last-chance-saloon for old guys just trying to stave off retirement. Can any team be doing worse in a budget vs results comparison? The guy bankrolling this team seems more like a “Canadian Donald Trump” every day. Is it really a WT cycling team… or something else?

      • @Kevin K:
        TotalEnergies is Rene Bernaudeau’s team, a solidly established DS but he’s always operated on a small budget AFAIK. They have relied for years on the Vendee-U trainees to feed into their main squad, but recently the talent has gone elsewhere. Groupama and AG2R have more professional development teams than in the past and those seem like safer bets for a promising 20-year-old looking to make his way into the elite. The fact that TotalEnergies is competing with two other major teams in Brittany probably also dilutes the talent.

        For the record, they had very poor showings in the Tour over the last years, and I doubt that they would have had an invite this year without recruiting Sagan, or some other new big name in their squad. I think that investment was about survival (or desperation?)

        • Thanks for the background on Bernaudeau. Inring also made the point that despite the team being in the TdF in recent years, there was a high likelihood that they wouldn’t be invited this time. I hadn’t realized an invite was so precarious, but the desperation of the team ties in with what I think is TotalEnergies’ desire (the sponsor, not the team) to get maximum positive publicity. So taking Sagan provides maximum benefits that to my eyes they couldn’t have gotten any other way – publicity throughout the cycling season, a rise in the stature of the team, a boost in their UCI points, and crucial invites to races they might have been excluded from otherwise (with the last point circling back to the first point in a virtuous circle).

    • The point in signing those big names is sometimes (surely in Arkea’s case) that although they underperform when compared to their best years or thinking about very top sceneries, they still bring home precisely that decent amount of points which now makes Arkea eligible for other big races and even for a possible future WT spot, if they fancy so.

      Speaking of Quintana, stage wins in Provence, Var or even Pa-Ni, plus victories or top-10s in respective GC, might not look huge, but they’re significant for the French public, especially with that 2020 decent field of competitors, and they are well valued in terms of UCI points.
      The latter is true for Vuelta a Asturias, even!, which scores slightly higher for Quintana than way more prestige-loaded and highly mediatic victories as taking the Galibier’s or Portet’s Tour stages… o__O
      Hell, a 4th place at GP Industria e artigianato comes close, too!

      You need those points & victories to be able to grant a chance at all to Alan Riou or Élie Gesbert, and perhaps also some international sceneries to compete in.

      Same goes for French (ex?) stars, by the way: Barguil might be underperforming big times, yet when he gets apparently modest placements in Belgium, the points flow in…

  6. If I ran a central Asian petro-chemical company or an Italian metal fabrication firm id prefer to put my money in a pro-conti team that had one big star with all the associated publicity, TdF entry and ego boosting it cones with.

    Much better investment in my mind than a struggling WT team with a roster I’d never heard of and the occasional Top 10 finish in the Tour of Turkey

  7. “Alpecin-Fenix and Arkea-Samsic are ranked inside the top-18 teams today so they’d get promoted and have World Tour licences for 2023, 2024 and 2025.”
    -Did anyone ask either of these teams if they changed their minds about not wanting WT status?

    Welcome to the age of presenteeist racing where teams (and their happy regional sponsors) are forced to go out of territory to race. Will we see more stupidities, like Euskaltel at the cobbled classics unwillingly taking a place that any other team would have made into a season highlight. Will teams deliberately cap their points tally to keep out of WT but still get all the wildcards they want.

    If the UCI just wants more money, can they not sort out a new way of getting it?

    • Arkéa definitely want WT status. As far as I can see Alpecin-Fenix management haven’t commented on this, but the system is such that they are expected to be promoted. Whether they can be forced remains to be seen, it doesn’t cost much more but does mean they have to do more overlapping races.

      But note it’s not much of a money machine for the UCI, the registration fees aren’t that big and there’s a lot of admin expense behind it. The WT vs PT difference is €80k vs €20k for the licence, €130k in anti-doping contribution vs €90k. So €210k vs €110k, notable but not game changing for the team or the UCI.

  8. Are the points staying with the team or the rider?

    The last time there were limited slots or competition between teams for a World Tour spot, the teams were somewhat randomly buying up riders at the end of the season just to have their points in order to qualify. It seems to me the points should stay with the team the rider was racing for at the time they were earned, not magically transfer to a different team if the rider changes teams.

  9. Your point about Miguel Angel Lopez and Movistar being near the relegation zone was interesting. Lopez quit and lost Movistar 575 points, yet that doesn’t account for the ’20 teammates who helped the star rider to achieve the results’. That seems totally unfair to the team.

  10. I don’t think TotalEnergies’ primary goal in bring Sagan et al. onto the team is UCI points, nor is it long-term development of the team, nor simply getting a Tour invite. The primary sponsor is in the midst of a major rebranding, at a time when multinational energy companies are frequently portrayed as evil in mainstream media. Sagan virtually guarantees hundreds of positive sports stories, all of which will have embedded and casual mention of TotalEnergies, and often feature images of Sagan in their new logo. They’re certain to especially get tons of coverage in the weeks leading up to the Tour, and every day during the Tour. That coverage will be first and foremost focused on one of the most popular riders in recent memory, but will all be associated with the sponsor. And Sagan will be the gift that keeps giving throughout the season, at dozens of other races. Already the teams appears to have gotten more notice than they’ve generated in many years.

    If Sagan is merely as competitive as he’s been in the last few years it’s still a huge win for the sponsor, and will provide a level of stature and publicity that no other rider they could reasonably have hired right now could have provided. Certainly it’s far far greater than the notice they would have generated by signing a handful of young French hopefuls who might, with great luck, generate results in several years and slowly become a fraction as popular as Sagan is now. And if Sagan wins some some give races, if he makes a credible run at another green jersey, if it’s animating races like PR, then it’s a publicity bonanza worth every cent they paid.

    And to the charge that TotalEnergies just hired Sagan to get entry into the Tour, when was the last time the team wasn’t invited? They don’t seem to need him just for that.

    • I’d go along with a lot of that. But note if Qhubeka had stayed in the World Tour, then there would be Alpecin-Fenix invited to the Tour de France automatically plus only two invites left. Arkéa-Samsic would be one for sure, who gets the last one? B&B had Franck Bonamour win the combativity prize, not much but Total Energies were invisible. So they had to do something, they can’t tell Total they’re not in the Tour. Then Sagan’s on the market, Specialized is willing to cover part of his salary and things started to slot into place.

      It’ll be interesting to see what happens next as Total Energies is a big company with fuel sales in many countries and also home and business energy sales in France, Belgium, Spain etc, cycling could be a good market for them if they can invest.

  11. Thanks for the post. I hope the points race for the team ranking will be disputed and interesting, but fear that WT licences will be decided by sponsors short-term strategies and court decisions.

    • I think it has its uses, it is a way of ejecting the weak teams and promoting the best ones, intrinsically Alpecin-Fenix should be in the top tier and we have views about which team should be demoted in return, Intermarché, Cofidis or even Lotto-Soudal or Israel. To borrow from Winston Churchill’s line about democracy, Using performance/points is the probably the worst way to do this… except for all the other methods we could imagine. Imagine if it was auctioned on price, or awarded on some arbitrary basis, or nothing happened at all and some weak teams could sit in the World Tour, ride the Tour, Giro etc but have weak teams, this protects against that. Plus doing it over three seasons is fair, smooths out problems from injuries or bad luck, and even gives teams a chance to recruit riders to help defend a position etc.

    • I haven’t said anything positive or negative about it because I’m not sure what would be a better system. There’s a perverse thing about any scoring system, be it in sports or economics or taxes or academics: as soon as you develop a ranking or measuring system, the system itself becomes the goal, rather than what the system is supposed to measure. For example, create grades and tests to measure learning, and students will work the system to get good grades with less effort, and schools will teach to the test.

      What I’d be interested in would be concrete examples of ways to change the system to create better racing. It seems to me that primarily marginal teams that are working the system to get necessary points, while most teams go for wins. It seems probable that under any system the marginal teams will be marginal, and have to work the system to survive. If a team has a decent number of good riders, but no great riders, it seems natural that they’d both emphasize getting several riders into the top 10. And among the best riders, there is always an incentive to not risk absolutely everything on a win, since once a rider goes into the red they can easily give up a podium finish for 30th place. That’s one of the cruel beauties of the sport – boldness is rewarded, but the penalty for gambling too boldly is to do the cycling equivalent of Icarus.

    • J Evans – That’s what annoys me. None of this is/was needed, WTF was wrong that “Heinie’s Folly” fixed? Unless the goal was to jack up costs and involve a bunch of lawyers/accountants to make pro cycling even more like FIFA or FOCA (now Liberty Media) when it comes to corruption and hypocrisy, I just don’t get it – the reasons presented when it debuted made little sense then and maybe even less now?

      • I dunno. I reckon that using a publicly available scoring system to decide which teams get to take part in the biggest races is less likely to be corrupt than having the race organisers decide in private without explaining their reasons.

        • Back-in-the-day those reasons were pretty obvious IMHO: Big teams with big stars, smaller teams with big stars and some local interest teams with or without big stars. Do you have some examples of corruption within that system?
          I remember in 1988 Jim Ochowicz of 7/Eleven telling us how the team demonstrated their worth in other races, including the Giro d’Italia then paid the $30K entrance fee and received entry for the team, hotels and meals, a couple of cars and some towels!
          “Heinie’s Folly” did nothing but jack up the costs to field a team that would be guaranteed entry and excluded teams of interest due to the small number of wild-card spots the organizer could use, whether it was LeTour or Paris-Roubaix. I wonder if the tiny, underfunded ADR/Agrigel team would have gotten into LeTour under WT rules in 1989? Their “star-rider” was a guy most thought was washed-up as I recall.

          • (1) I’m pretty sure that any team with the previous year’s green jersey winner and a fairly recent winner (and two-time podium finisher and multiple jersey winner) would receive a wild card to any GT.
            (2) I’m inclined to think that the costs of fielding any kind of team good or interesting enough to be given a wild card wouldn’t come down if suddenly the three-tier team system was abolished and race organisers were totally free to pick teams as they saw fit.

            Q1: When was the last time a recent green or yellow jersey winner left out of a GT (that he wanted to participate in) because his team didn’t get a wild card? Any other times that I should’ve remembered?
            Q2: When was the last time a team of great or genuine interest left out of a GT? I have had my preferences (like every other cycling fan) when it came down to the last wild card and choosing between two teams and there have been WT teams that I cannot imagine were of particular interest to the so called general fan who didn’t either support the team or didn’t happen to be a fan of a certain rider.

          • Eskerrik Asko –
            (2) Someone would have to crunch the pre and post WT team budget numbers and factor inflation – more work that I want to do. But I can’t imagine “Heinie’s Folly” with the requirements that WT teams show up to races they care nothing about (while other races they do care about are going on, meaning they need 2 X riders, mechanics, bikes, etc. to cover those) while teams that do care are left out did anything but jack up prices and restrict races to the richer teams.
            Q2 – please define “great or genuine interest”.
            I think about cobbled classics and local teams with specialists in this discipline left out so a WT team with nothing but stage racers/climbers can race when they don’t even want to, but the rules require them to show up. Or the Italian teams whose season is built around the Giro d’Italia who don’t get in because some cobbled classics specialist WT team is obligated to show up and does little but make up the numbers.
            I’d much rather have race organizers control who gets invites to their races than automatic entries to teams that show up only because the WT requirements mandate their appearance. Examples of how that works are pretty much how cycling worked (o didn’t, according to some)…until “Heinie’s Folly” was shoved down pro cycling’s throat. Nobody much liked it back then as I recall and I’d bet off-the-record opini0ns have not changed much. None of the “improvements” or “benefits” of the WT seem like either, IHMO.

          • Maximflyer: Astana was (as Larry could put it) one of the “Heinies folly” teams, it was not a case of ASO leaving a second-tier team boasting a previous winner among its riders without a wild card.
            PS I still wonder how ASO managed it, UCI probably was powerless but if Astana had taken it to CAS I’m not sure that the decision would’ve been against the team.

          • I haven’t done the homework or crunched the numbers, but I did look at the races Alpecin-Fenix did and the races it could choose not to do and: (1) the team did about as many races, one-day or week-long stage races, as the “Heinie’s folly” teams, (2) it did all three GTs, (3) it did two races going on at the same time on regular basis and therefore no doubt required a similar amount of both human and other resources, from riders to mechanics to team cars to flight tickets, and (4) there were five “obligatory” races it chose not to do: two stage races in Spain, one in Switzerland, and two one-day races, one in Spain and one in France.

            If you need a deeper definition than I gave for “great and genuine interest” I don’t think you can be helped there. Of course there are Italian and Spanish fans who are interested in the one or at most two teams that could do the Giro or the Vuelta without being totally out of place, but I doubt whether anyone else would be particularly delighted to see a “Heinie’s folly” team dropped – for the simple reason that even the worst “Heinie’s folly” team is more interesting to the general, i.e. not local, cycling fan and has more interesting riders and is able to contribute to the race in a more interesting fashion than the best second-tier team left without a wild card.

            I probably have a poor memory but when you talk about teams specialized in certain kind of races that are obliged to show up in completely wrong kind of races and fail to show any interest in racing to get some kind of result or to be a factor in the race at all, the only text book example I can think of is Euskaltel and the cobbled classics. In my opinion the “Heinie’s folly” teams have generally been quite multi-faceted, certainly much better suited to one kind of race than the other, but still not without riders who do well enough in the races that aren’t the team’s known specialty.
            Opinions differ and your critical eye is possibly keener and your judgment no doubt harsher in these matters than mine.

          • @Eskerrick @maximflyer – ASO and RCS pulled all their races from the ProTour in 2007-10 and ran them as uncategorised races. They were therefore not obliged to invite all the ProTour teams.

            RCS infamously attempted to play games with Astana in 2008 by not inviting them until the week before the race, only for Contador to dominate the race.

      • One of the things the federation was trying to do was wrest control of the team selection away from the organizer. Given the relatively weak role the federation plays when it isn’t violating its own rules for whatever purpose, this was the best Hein could get done.

        One thing not mentioned is the amount of race fixing that already happens will get much, much worse. Before anyone cries fowl, Hein Verbruggen’s campaign to be elected to lead the UCI included less race fixing. Turns out there was plenty of race fixing done by the UCI under his leadership,

        Today, there’s no proof race fixing was ever addressed, post-Verbruggen.

          • How about every post Tour kermesse where the winner of the Tour de France wins, every year.

            An ancient one: Olympic champion Alexandre Vinokourov of Kazakhstan bribed Russian Alexandre Kolobnev to win the 2010 Liege-Bastogne-Liege race. Armstrong fixed a series of races in the US to defraud the insurer who put up the money. Let’s face it, USA Cycling had to be intimately involved in that fraud.

            The temptation to sell a podium spot is tremendous, and hasn’t gone away. It’s a fundamental problem of having multiple teams in one race.

        • Let’s not forget this points system (at least as far as I know based on this:
          awards a rider winning Tour Down Under the same points as the man who wins one of the 5 monuments. If that isn’t f__ked up, I don’t know what is.
          Arguments that French race organizers might favor French teams/riders or that Italians would favor their own is valid, but IMHO that’s part of the point – THEY know who might be very keen on doing something at their race vs a team there only because of a WT mandate based on this screwed-up point system. “Heinie’s Folly” should be sent to the same place ol’ Heinie himself is….the graveyard.

  12. @Eskerrik Asko
    Well, I remember Pantani and Cipollini being left out of the Tour in early 2000s (as soon as 2001 I think). Not a point against what you defend, partly the other way around, but, yes, big stars were left out because ASO was asked it by another competitor or because they hadn’t liked the Tour being abandoned midway through. And there are more examples. Transparence can be better.

  13. I never was a great fan of the World Tour as it was started by good ol’ Hein, neither of that Chinese rumpfism which came along with it.
    That said, and surely not by virtue of the WT alone, two good things slowly happened in the while: cycling indeed went more global when athletes’ origin country is concerned; plus, the Giro broke its ultranationalistic spell which brought it at its lowest points of participation quality ever during Armstrong’s years. WT wasn’t the only reason, probably not even the main one, yet it probably played a positive role.
    What still *did not* really happen is a globalisation of races. Several promising experiments far from Europe (not necessarily WT) were shut down, including nice ones (ToC, Oman…), along with the dullest cases we’d prefer not to be remembered about. The only extra-European WT race which eventually survived in 2021 was UAE Tour, and with TDU out for 2022, too, it’s to be seen if the Canadian races and the Chinese phantom one will be able to raise again this quite minimum standard.
    One could blame covid, but it’s not just that. Few of the new WT races in other continents actually looked hugely promising – but for a prep race status, of course – whereas the most interesting evolutions in terms of top races during the last decade or so came from Europe itself, namely in Strade Bianche, in Tirreno-Adriatico shift of perspective and in the new Gent-Wevelgem format and calendar.
    One step down, the Canadian races provided quality racing, while both Tour de Pologne and Eneco/BinckBanck (needs a serious name) gradually grew.
    It’s a pity that more prominence struggles to be given to areas which are actual cycling hotbeds like Colombia, or specific areas in Africa and Asia. Far from easy.
    By the way, Chinese races in WWT were quite more interesting than men’s – as they were other Chinese races which weren’t ever taken into account for WT status (Quinghai Lake).

    • Very much a minor point, but the Eneco (2005-2016) / BinckBank (2017-2020) Tour did get a new name this year. It is now known as Benelux Tour – at least until there is a new title sponsor – which is, of course, slightly misleading (and hugely amusing to some of us) because the race has never visited Luxembourg during its seventeen year of existence.

      • When I first saw the name change to Beneux Tour I was excited because I’d just finished an excellent hiking trip in Luxembourg (and also because it’s a much more legit name than Eneco/BinckBank!). Imagine my confusion when I went on to look up the stage routes to see if they were visiting anywhere near the places I’d just been hiking. Perhaps the ‘Low Lands Tour’ or ‘Tour of the Low Countries’ would be better?

    • You make some interesting points here but IMHO those “BigTex” years at the Giro were just fine. Does La Corsa Rosa HAVE to be Le Grand Boucle, only in Italy? Does the cast of characters have to be the same? Maybe it’s just me but I’m OK with some nationalism in a NATIONAL tour whether it’s French, Italian, Swiss or Spanish. I would hate for pro cycling to become like tennis(?) with the same cast of characters seemingly showing up at each venue every time.
      As to races on other continents (aka globalization) I remember going to see Gianni Bugno and Claudio Chiappucci in Montreal and think it was far earlier than “Heinie’s Folly” not-to-mention the old Coors Classic when Hinault and LeMond were there in 1986 or the World’s later that same year. The more I think about it I believe Verbruggen’s scheme was more a Chinese money-grab than anything else…one that’s now withered away along with the rest of the pipe-dreams of vast fortunes to be made with sporting events in China. Remember it wasn’t that long ago a Chinese entity was going to buy LeTour!

      • No, it’s not just you. I think I can safely say we are all happy, glad and delighted to see a large number of (and all the best) Italian racers in the Giro and Spanish in the Vuelta. We are also quite okay with one or two Italian/Spanish teams that are very much borderline entries when viewed solely on their own merits, but that still play their part during the race by sending their riders day in, day out on the early breakaways and by giving us at least the possibility of a never heard in an underdog team winning or podiuming a stage.
        But that’s two at the most – at least until the best national teams left out are…I hesitate to say good enough but I don’t think I can avoid it…good enough to see their inclusion as worthy of leaving out the worst or the least interested WT team.

        Besides, if the point is increasing the number of national second-tier teams by one, the obvious and the simplest solution is to decrease the number of first-tier teams by one – and not to abolish the entire system which does have its benefits (and I would argue more benefits than drawbacks).
        But I must admit this obvious and simple solution is easier said than done 🙂

        • “Besides, if the point is increasing the number of national second-tier teams by one” isn’t my point. I don’t see any positives in the entire scheme when compared to how things were before. Other than the Chinese money-grab angle I wrote about earlier I don’t see a) what was wrong b) how it was fixed by Verbruggen’s folly.

      • The Giro has normally got enough of its own identity to be able to avoid becoming a different version of the Tour, even without needing to renounce to some of the best cyclists around in order to do so.
        Plus, nobody ever said that the cast must be the same, for the simple reason that… the cast *won’t* be the same anyway, as it’s quite hard to take part in both with the required level of performance. Besides, most athletes in cycling are able to perform at their best level only for 8-10 seasons at most, which in itself generates a turnover which greatly prevents much repetition in startlines and final top-10s. Exceptions are well-known and often (not always) depend on pharmapolitical factors rather than on sporting aspects.

        Think Giro 2017, for example. A very good edition with 3 absolute generational top GT contenders making the podium. Was that any similar to any Tour, despite having a significant number of ITT kms as the Tour once used to do? To me, it looked quite a different race all the same. 2018 was another good example: an easier route, more akin than it was desirable to what the TdF had been doing in 2016 or 2017 (in relative terms, of course). Yet, was the race really that similar? I could go on with Giro 2015, 2016…: international podia which frankly didn’t harm at all the race, nor did they make it any similar to the Tour.
        Perhaps, the main cases of actual “Tourification” I can recall were in a sense 2006 (courtesy of your beloved Basso against too national a field of top contenders), 2008 (more of the same but Contador as the top rider) and 2009 (nonetheless, a decent race). Maybe that really depended on the fact that the system was at its very beginning and actually going through a disfunctional phase of conflict. We already had a diminished share of Italian riders when compared to previous years, but most foreign contenders and teams – with 2-3 exceptions at most – weren’t actually *that* interested – or prepared – to face the Italian race.
        Since 2005, the number of Italian riders at the Giro has kept more or less stable around some 50-60 athletes over some 180 participants, largely the most represented nation, of course. The 2nd most represented country on the table changes quite much (Australia, Spain, France, Russia, Netherlands…) but since 2012 it never had more than 20 athletes, often sitting closer to 15.
        Seems quite fine to me, that is, I feel no need to go back to the 90-100 Italian athletes as it was the case between late 90s and early 2000s. Note that during the first half of the 90s that number had stayed lower, around the 70-80 mark!

        However, and luckily enough, nowadays the 3 GTs, despite some undeniable underlying homologation process which should indeed be countered, are in themselves still quite different from each other – which is great for cycling.
        And I prefer to have at least *some* of those top riders testing themselves through the three very different races – in different years, of course (or not) – rather than seen them exclusively focussing on the TdF. That’s true both for GC and stage wins.

        As for global races, I think we just agree. Cycling races, if anything, probably went… *less global*. And that’s a long term process, too, as cycling was abandoned or slightly declined in some extra-European countries where it enjoyed very early interest.

        But if you read carefully the above, I was speaking of a different kind of globalisation, equally or more important, that is, *the nationality of participants*. Figures show beyond any doubt that:
        1) it started happening when Verbrugge was still moving from Mars to pedals, as soon as the early 80s. Verbrugge’s presence in cycling, globalisation, commercial success, TVs were all facet of a single intertwined phenomenon. It went up fast during the 80s, the we had some way quieter years.
        2) The Pro Tour (later WT) was probably important to ramp up again the process which had stopped (albeit not going back) during the 90s and well into the 2000s, little to no change was happening. The Pro Tour shook things up and numbers grew again, even more so with the WT.

        • Are the recent Giro performances of NTT/Qhubeka Assos another example in support of the current system? Based on their success the last few years, I could see them not getting invites. The team seemed to be dissolving before our very eyes, a process that has indeed played out. Yet they managed three stage victories this year, which was completely unexpected, as was Ben O’Conner’s the year before. And yes, I know that Nizzolo’s Italian and European championships in 2020 pretty much guaranteed the team’s invite in 2021, but my larger point is that even the weakest of WT teams seems more capable of making an impact in a GT than the typical non-WT team.

          • The ‘typical’ impact of an Italian second division team at the Giro usually involves an unbelievable stage win and a farcical doping bust.

            The original Qhubeka team (MTN-Qhubeka) was quite interesting as it was one of just two Pro Continental teams so far to have been awarded wildcard entries to all three grand tours while in the PCT division. It was quite unique among all pro teams of having a compelling story which was why race organisers in all countries were keen to have them race. Sponsors loved them too, they had global megacorps like Samsung competing for jersey space as minor sponsors.

            If Doug Ryder had not traded away that success story to turn it into Dimension Data, arguably the most bland top division team of the PT/WT era, the team would surely still be going strong today in the second division and still getting numerous invites to major races.

  14. Re: GT teams, WT vs. wild cards.
    The former nowadays bring higher absolute quality, no doubt, and all-around one. Even if especially at the beginning of the WT they often tended to bring void teams when not interested, now the commitment has become little by little quite much higher. Heck, even Movistar is trying (with little to no success) to build up sort of a Classics squad – while Lefevere is tackling some GCs (with a little more success… though not that much when weighed against talent).

    The Giro startlist hugely benefitted from such a situation from any POV: in recent years we often saw a field which was comparable or better than the TdF’s both in GC terms and as for specialists like sprinters, sometimes. Better stage hunters also showed up more frequently. Just have a look at the stage winner list in Armstrong’s year against those in the 2010s, with a significant progression in-between.


    Wild cards take care of the spirited underdog role. To start with, they grant that a breakaway is under way even in the gloomiest sprint fest. “Serious” WT riders don’t usually take such attempts seriously, not even at the TdF, imagine at the Giro or at the Vuelta. And the rarer and rarer victories they bring home tend to bring special brightness to the day. Think Madrazo at the Vuelta or Fortunato at the Giro. Truth is that although their top isn’t as good as the best athletes of the WT (or even the mediocre ones), they dig deeper than the latter when the success isn’t a realistic option – and cycling still needs people who ride against chances, be it only to force the peloton to keep a decent pace.

    Banality of the day – a decent balance of the two factors is what works better. If anything, question can be raised about the supposed responsibility for a GT to support its national cycling scene offering a showcase for teams with little to no other option to “sell” anything to their sponsors, given the growing polarisation of resources within cycling. But I think that the core of this specific problem lies elsewhere, and although GT organisers might spare a thought on the subject (as they do), the need to deal with it belongs elsewhere.

    • Your banality makes some sense to me. A slightly smaller WT of say 15-16 would seem to work. The best performing teams would have certainty about TdF participation, but organisers would also have scope to invite several local 2nd tier teams. They may even be able to go back to giving automatic places for the winners of the French or Italian domestic cups.

  15. Sir INRNG,
    Without You I would not know about this and it’s specifics. Done very well, Thanks.
    IN the past there have been changes made in different sorts to reduce doping. Is this potentially going backward from concepts created to reduce doping?

  16. No argument “The Pro Tour shook things up” but we disagree on whether that was good or bad as I’m not sure what the benefits of an increase in the “Average number of nationalities per 5 years scoring PCS points.” actually are. What has that done for the sport? More sponsorship, more interest, better races, or just an increase in an otherwise meaningless statistic?

    • It means that riders from more and more nationalities are having a competitive impact in the sport.
      The fact that the total numer is increasing means that the sport is actually becoming more inclusive and competitive from a nationality POV, that is, it’s not just that you have a passing wave of great Danish or Colombian or New Zealand (or whatever) riders, then it implodes and the country disappears from the sport. I mean, that can surely happen, but a steady growth in total number implies that there’s an actual expansion going on and it gets consolidated.

      Top cyclists come from a vaster range of countries. Which, to me, is a value in itself.

      Obviously, much of what you name above comes along, as it can easily be seen by TV data provided, for example, by RCS for the Giro.

      Among many other things, like the fact that athletic quality in a sport, alongside with other variables, is granted greatly by the extension of the base of people practising and competing. Once a sport is “mature” in its hotbeds, the base can be extended mainly by including other countries.

      • I fear we may be in an endless “cause and effect” debate. You like to attribute “the sport is actually becoming more inclusive and competitive” to something Verbruggen and Co, did while I look back at riders such as Kelly, LeMond, Anderson, Bauer, Piasecki, Konyshev, etc. who joined the top ranks before Verbruggen was even president of the UCI. Riders like Evans, Hesjedal, Kwiatkowski, etc. could have been inspired and found their way into the top ranks via inspiration from those predecessors rather than any cause/effect of Verbruggen’s so-called globalization scheme. If his scheme actually did anything for globalization one would think there would now be a sizeable number of top-ranked CHINESE (or other Asian) racers…but at present they’re few and far-between, let alone at the top of the sport.

        • As I clearly stressed above, it’s obvious that in cycling during the 80s a process of internationalisation was greatly accelerated before Verbrugge & C could play any decisive role; if anything, they came into the sport within the very framework of that process.
          It wasn’t the first of such phenomena, either, although at first internationalisation in cycling was more about riders from different countries – each with its already existing cycling scene – mixing up in each other’s national races little by little, more or less from the 20s on.
          In that sense, there’s no doubt that pioneering and inspirational figures are paramount: they can even appear as outsiders, out of pure chance or thereabout, then they draw other athletes “in their slipstream”.
          That said, the time pattern which can be discerned by the above reported stats would suggest that PT/WT had a clear impact while your idea doesn’t really explain it.
          Your observation about the possible presence of Chinese athletes doesn’t take into account that UCI policies go well beyond placing a race in the calendar (which is something, no doubt). For example, think about the Worlds, UCI’s primary asset. The closest China got to road cycling Worlds until now is this:

          Or… the Urban Cycling Worlds in Chengdu.
          Heck, Hungary, Venezuela, Japan, Portugal or Qatar all have had their Road Cycling Worlds 😛
          Obviously, that’s a symptom more than anything else. Yet, it mirrors a more general attitude within the institution, which implies other aspects, too (rider development programmes etc.)
          Besides, my impression is that until now Chinese interest in UCI cycling has been local, related to specific persons or companies. However, things might change… when a country puts faith in competitive cycling development, they tend to start with track. Well, Chinese look they’ve been doing their homework in this discipline, recently!

          However, let me stress that I’m far from being favourable to the attempts of strained globalisation and forced commodification of cycling out of hasty greed, which were clearly behind much of Verbrugge’s perspectives on the sport. Come on, it’s Hein Verbrugge we’re speaking of! Keirin money, Lance money, it’s not like the man wasn’t after the money above anything else. And, of course, the idea that to become “sustainable” something must acquire a bigger and bigger monetary dimension is among the most distorted ever.
          Yet, I don’t see much contradiction between denouncing those aspects and acknowledging that some positive effect actually happened along the way.
          As I said, at the end of the day the Giro surely gained *a lot* from this whole story (quite the contrary if we speak of Italian cycling, which isn’t the same as the Giro, of course; but I suspect that the institutions ruling Italian cycling are much more to blame rather than the WT as such).

  17. “As I said, at the end of the day the Giro surely gained *a lot* from this whole story (quite the contrary if we speak of Italian cycling, which isn’t the same as the Giro, of course; but I suspect that the institutions ruling Italian cycling are much more to blame rather than the WT as such).”
    Again we’re going to disagree as I don’t see a lot of benefits to the Giro that one could attribute to “Heinie’s Folly” either, though RCS has had it’s issues for sure with Zomegnan’s ousting, Aquarone’s short reign followed by the (IMHO hapless) overseeing by Vegni and Co. I hope rumors about someone like Davide Cassani coming in to take over turn out to be true!

    • I feel that once again you tend to see things in black & white.
      On this same blog I’ve blamed Vegni for the serious fiascoes of the shortened or cancelled races, especially in case of slightly unpleasant weather 😉 – but one must concede that since when he was placed in charge the Giro has collected a series of memorable editions one after the other 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 were just *outstanding* and also 2014, 2019 and 2021 were frankly very good. 2020 was peculiar, but far from boring and, despite the lack of big names, the last week was a thriller played out among impressive sceneries. The subject of these great Giros recently surfaced in the recent inrng post about what makes a great GT. Pure chance? I struggle to remember the Giro continuously averaging such a high quality during nearly a decade. Vegni has always been good in what was his previous role, arranging routes, and indeed the Giro has been bordering course perfection a number of times during Vegni’s management – which was a significant element for this successful age.

      That said, given the decline in Italian cycling due to “interior matters”, I see as good news the mere fact that we don’t now have half of the startlist made up by Italian riders as in the early 2000s… 30% is decent enough. That was a direct consequence of Heinie’s folly, and – as I explained above – after a handful of transition editions, it started to pay huge dividends with more and more top talent flowing in. Surely, it was partly the result of Zomegnan’s work, but it’s easy to see that Zom alone wasn’t enough since it wasn’t until the PT became WT he hadn’t been much able to bring home more than 1-2 top international athletes.
      Eventually, Italian stars went from facing the menace of Sandy Casar, El Bufalo Gutiérrez, Honchar, McGee, Rujano, Garate and… the newbie Andy Schleck as the only significant name; to dealing, in a couple of years time, with Contador, Menchov, Sastre, Vinokourov, Evans, Purito Rodríguez, Porte, Leipheimer, Kruijswijk etc. etc.. That’s been great for the Giro, given that, as I pointed above, the race didn’t lose its identity at all in the while.

      • Sorry, I don’t consider the Giri you celebrate improvements. The low point for me was BigTom’s classic “Defend in the mountains, mow ’em down in the chrono” victory. As I wrote before, I don’t want the TdF held on an Italian stage with the same cast of characters, I want La Corsa Rosa! I remember a guy named LeMond along with a guy named Fignon racing it before “Heinie’s Folly” came along to “improve” things, so I can’t really accept that Verbruggen did anything but jack up costs and let doping rage out-of-control, leaving pro cycling in it’s current sad state: where the only sponsors seem to be corrupt governments, the bike biz and cycling-mad oligarchs/plutocrats. IMHO that’s his legacy…can we leave it there?

        • For me it’s fine if we leave it there, but this comment of yours prevents me from doing so before I’ve asked you:
          Do you really believe that the corrupt governments, the bike biz and cycling-mad oligarchs/plutocrats wouldn’t have entered or if you wish moved in and taken over without “Heinie’s Folly”?! Do you really believe we’d still have nice little teams sponsored by household appliances or cycling mad businessmen with modestly-sized companies without any other motive than to support an essentially local/national cycling team?

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