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Who's Number Two?

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No matter how you slice it, CSC comes up as everyone's best team of 2007. But there are a few metrics out there for team success, and from positions 2-20 they disagree with each other more often than not. My fave, Cycling Quotient, uses a complicated points system at all sanctioned races, raising or lowering the scores depending on the race's significance, and assigning points for high placings rather than just wins. The UCI Pro Tour does something very similar, but limits its scoring to Pro Tour races. Then there's Cycle Sport America (CSA), which tallies win totals (and podium placings to break ties) in stage races and one-day races, and raw win totals. From there they assign rankings in each category, add them together, and presto! rankings. For comparison, here are the results:

CSC:

  • CQ: 1
  • UCI: 1
  • CSA: 1
This is going to run a bit long, so I'll continue... on the flip


Don't worry, there's some analysis at the end...

Caisse d'Epargne:

  • CQ: 2
  • UCI: 3
  • CSA: 3t
Liquigas:
  • CQ: 3
  • UCI: 2
  • CSA: 6
Quick Step:
  • CQ: 4
  • UCI: 5
  • CSA: 2
Preg-Lotto:
  • CQ: 5
  • UCI: 9
  • CSA: 11
Discovery:
  • CQ: 6
  • UCI: 7t
  • CSA: 9
Rabobank:
  • CQ: 7
  • UCI: 7t
  • CSA: 3t
Lampre:
  • CQ: 8
  • UCI: 10
  • CSA: 5
Saunier Duval:
  • CQ: 9
  • UCI: 6
  • CSA: 7
T-Mobile:
  • CQ: 10
  • UCI: 13
  • CSA: 8
Gerolsteiner:
  • CQ: 11
  • UCI: 14
  • CSA: 13t
Milram:
  • CQ: 12
  • UCI: 18
  • CSA: 12
AG2R:
  • CQ: 13
  • UCI: 4
  • CSA: 10
Credit Ag:
  • CQ: 14
  • UCI: 15
  • CSA: 18
Unibet:
  • CQ: 15
  • UCI: 20
  • CSA: 16
Bouygues Telecom:
  • CQ: 16
  • UCI: 16
  • CSA: 15
Cofidis:
  • CQ: 17
  • UCI: 17
  • CSA: 17
Euskaltel:
  • CQ: 18
  • UCI: 11
  • CSA: 20
Francais des Jeux:
  • CQ: 19
  • UCI: 19
  • CSA: 19
Astana:
  • CQ: 20
  • UCI: 12
  • CSA: 13t
So what do these numbers mean? Let's break it down:
  • First off, I'm not sure how to translate this, but the French teams are almost comically consistent. AG2R had a disproportionate number of its results come from the Pro Tour (mainly the Dauphine), but Credit Ag is a consensus mediocrity, and Bouygues, Cofidis and FdJ rank in the bottom quarter by every metric known to mankind.
  • Now let's compare metrics, starting with CQ and the UCI. Both use vaguely similar scoring systems, just in different races. Those significantly favored by the UCI include AG2R (by nine places), Astana (by 8) and Euskaltel (by 7). To these teams' credit, the Pro Tour is the cream of the calendar (in theory), and their sponsors can't be unhappy with such an emphasis. OTOH, AG2R's presence makes me wonder if the Pro Tour is too small a sample size. (Astana are a complete outlier, having shut down for a month and having no "home calendar" to speak of. Also, they cheated.)
  • Continuing with the CQ vs. UCI rankings, Cycling Quotient elevated a few teams, though the discrepancies aren't large. Milram is favored by six ranking spots, followed by Unibet (5 places), Lotto (by 4) and the two German teams (by 3). Honestly, I don't know what to make of the results. I'd have expected teams with greater domestic commitments to show up here, since CQ adds in all the non-Pro Tour races. But the Italian teams had modest variations and the Spanish teams, if anything, did better in the UCI. Perhaps Milram drove up their totals in the Italian domestic scene. Certainly Lotto scored some home wins, along with McEwen's Australian success.
  • As for Cycle Sport, there's no sense comparing them to the UCI, since they use a different metric AND different races. Compare, then, CSA and CQ: same races, different scoring. Cycle Sport rates significantly upward the following: Astana (+7 spots), Rabobank (+4), and Lampre and AG2R (+3). On the flipside, CSA down-rates the following: Lotto (-6 spots), Credit Agricole (-4), Discovery (-3), and Liquigas (-3). As noted above, CQ hates Astana... but one would think that CSA's reliance on wins alone means that they're upranking teams who didn't feed off non-winning high placings. Discovery, Lotto and Credit Agricole are all teams which raced admirably but didn't always get the breakthroughs they expected this year, compared to Rabo and Lampre who rely on sprinters to pad the raw win totals. But another flaw in the CSA system is that all wins are tallied equally, so the downrated squads may be those winning quality but not quantity. Certainly Discovery scored a single point for its Tour win under the CSA system, while feasting heavily on CQ points with two podium spots at the year's preeminent race. Liquigas scored a grand tour and a monument, and also got little love in return from Cycle Sport.

My take is that the Cycle Sport system suffers from being too flat and rating a stage win in the Vuelta a Burgos equally with winning the Tour of Flanders. But! A system based entirely on wins is justifiable. The UCI rankings are probably the worst indicators, given the smaller sampling and the inconsistent quality of the races it scores. As I've mentioned before, I like Cycling Quotient's use of points from domestic races as well, since in the world of Cycling such things really do matter to sponsors and teams, if not fans 6,000 miles away. So here's my final ranking:

  1. Cycling Quotient
  2. Cycle Sport
  3. UCI