Yep, it's that time of year, when one brave soul (me, this time) wades into the byzantine world of UCI point scoring to update you on something that actually matters: how many riders your worlds team will have. The UCI is set to finalize its rankings on August 15. If you think the Tour of Poland is unimportant, then you're not from France, Switzerland, Belgium, Slovakia, the US, Poland or the Czech Republic.
These are the nations who are flirting with reduced team representation at the upcoming World Championships in Tuscany, September 22-29. As of August 15, the top ten nations on the UCI points ranking all get full squads, provided they have enough qualified riders to fill out a squad. If you're Slovakia, Poland or the Czech Republic, maybe you don't actually care. If you're the US or Switzerland or France, you care. If you're Belgium, you care to unhealthy levels.
Currently the standings are:
- SPAIN, 1231 points
- GREAT BRITAIN, 964
- COLOMBIA, 950
- ITALY, 720
- AUSTRALIA, 607
- NETHERLANDS, 564
- FRANCE, 493
- SWITZERLAND, 434
- SLOVAKIA, 419
- BELGIUM, 412
- UNITED STATES, 394
- POLAND, 375
- CZECH REPUBLIC, 348
- IRELAND, 317
- SLOVENIA, 276
- GERMANY, 259
- PORTUGAL, 250
- DENMARK, 162
- NORWAY, 141
- ESTONIA, 7
And the schedule between now and August 15?
- Tour of Poland
That is all. Actually the ENECO Tour starts on the 12th, but I don't think they will count stages in the books on the 15th. How do I know this? From a glance at the UCI's horrible, horrible website, I see that Thor Hushovd currently has one UCI point to his name. That will change when Poland is finished, but apparently no sooner. This jibes with the UCI's practices of always reshuffling rankings once, after a race is completely done, rather than multiple times during the race. So yeah, a lot of people care about Poland.
How many points can you get in Poland? The final GC scale is 100-80-70-60-50-40-30-20-10-4. Stages are worth 6-4-2-1-1, and there do not appear to be UCI points for secondary jerseys.
A few observations as to how this is playing out:
- France is completely safe, with Christophe Riblon about to increase their totals. Switzerland is in a pretty comfy role. On the flip side, everyone from the Czech Republic on down can forget about full squads, if they even cared about such things.
- The battle is joyned among Belgium, Poland, the US and Slovakia. Poland is poised to move up, with Rafal Majka one second out of the 100-point position, and with Ion Izagirre needing to best him in the final time trial, and let's call that one a coin flip for now. Poland is only 37 points back, so Majka can slip to fifth and still get his country what it needs to bump Belgium.
- Belgium, on the other hand, has little hope of moving up unless it can score a stage win, or Ben Hermans, currently lying 13th and 56 seconds from the top ten, can do something special. But they're 7 points behind Slovakia, and Peter Sagan isn't here, so even if Poland passes them, Hermans can save Begium's bacon by coming in 9th.
- The US, meanwhile, has only Alex Howes sitting 12th at 49 seconds. With minimal crono history, he can't be expected to move into the points. However, Taylor Phinney is sitting on one stage win and will be a favorite in the crono. Twelve points leaves them six behind Belgium, meaning they still need another stage win tomorrow.
- Does Belgium care? Does the US? As the second-placed team in the UCI Americas Tour, the US will get six riders to start the road race, instead of 9. The US only has six qualified riders so far, so even if they move up, they can't use all nine spots. Belgium can, which will make it galling when they lose out to Poland (three qualified riders) and Slovakia (two). But no Belgian rider besides defending champion Philippe Gilbert, and maybe the suddenly exciting Jan Bakelants, stands to do much on the tough, hilly Italian circuit.
- Germany? Hey, if there's ever a course that favors sprinters, they'll have to do better than this. For now, I suppose it doesn't matter.
- Ireland will have one of the favorites in Dan Martin. So far, he'll only have Nico Roche for company.