Another annual end-of-year project is reviewing how our PdC World Rankings performed, compared to some of the other markers. Personally, I enjoy this quite a bit. For starters, it gives me an opportunity to remind people that the UCI's version is a pale imitation of what a world ranking should be. By utilizing only the World Tour schedule of just 27 races (the PdC World Calendar has 27 races before April Fool's Day), the UCI's ranking system resembles less an assessment of the year's accomplishments than some sort of airline-style VIP club, where if you use their services over anyone else's you get a comfy chair and the odd free drink. I know, that's not a bad thing... but it doesn't make you an accomplished globetrotter.
Like an airline VIP club, the World Tour is nonetheless a pretty OK reflection of how the elite guys stack up against each other. Against the collective better judgment and the efforts of ASO, the UCI has positioned itself as the gate agent for the Tour de France. Make them happy and you get moved into First Class. Make them mad and... well, you might get past them regardless, but it won't be easy or pleasant. The result, of course, is that everyone would rather score UCI points and simplify their Tour entry prospects, so the World Tour races tend to draw the best of the best.
But continuing with this nearly deceased metaphor, those on the outside looking in get thoroughly jobbed. To the flip!
First, let's identify the ranking systems. Apart from us and the UCI, I am a longtime fan of Cycling Quotient, with the caveat that they calculate points for every race under the sun, and I am more interested in a more focused assessment. Still, CQ does their thing, and it's a good system to compare to. The last is CyclingFever, a website I frequent for a variety of reasons, hoping that someday I'll absorb something that enables me to win my own fantasy game. But I've never looked up their rankings. Til now.
[As far as I can tell, CyclingFever doesn't do a teams ranking. So let's start with the other three.]
|#||PdC World Ranking||pts||UCI Ranking||pts||CQRanking||pts|
|1||Leopard Trek||8921||Omega Pharma||1099||Sky||10540|
|3||HTC||7401||Leopard Trek||1024||Leopard Trek||9693|
|4||Omega Pharma||7328||HTC||886||Garmin Cervelo||9299|
|9||Saxo Sungard||5709||Saxo Sungard||696||Liquigas||7852|
A few observations...
- As I was typing up this table, the first thing that jumped out at me was no BMC in the Cafe World Ranking. Looking at the numbers, they were just off the table at 5356 points, thanks to a lack of scoring rides by 11 riders. Only four guys scored over 300 points: Cadel, Van Avermaet, Ballan and Phinney. [They ranked 12th in the CQR poll too.] Interestingly enough, Evans scored 100% of his PdC points in UCI World Tour races. When you're world champ and a Tour contender, you get to be selective. Same with Ballan, who scored in MSR, Paris-Roubaix, De Ronde and Strade Bianche. OK, that last one isn't UCI. Van Avermaet scored about 90% of his points in World Tour races too, and Phinney bagged all his points in UCI races: ENECO, the Vuelta, Worlds ITT and Romandie. This is either a fluke or an indication of the team's strategy of heavily emphasizing World Tour events over everything else -- which, I dunno, not having attended many BMC team strategy meetings. But for Belgian fans expecting Gilbert to come around for the Ronde van Belgie next year... we shall see.
- [Incidentally, to view a team's performance under the Cafe system, go to the VDS website, Riders tab and apply the team filter of your choice. Presto!]
- No matter how you slice it, Sky had an outstanding year. By all three accounts they dethroned Mighty HTC, either by a little or a lot. Unlike the UCI's selection of Omega Pharma-Lotto for the top slot, Sky did not rely on a mere handful of top performances; they got a slew of contributions from guys up and down the roster. No less than 10 riders scored over 300 points in the Cafe World Ranking, and 14 riders topped that threshold under the higher-scoring CQRanking system. Nineteen guys improved over last season. I guess you could quibble with the quality of their wins, with Vattenfalls and the Dauphine being the biggest headliners, along with two Tour de France stages by Boasson Hagen. But after an overhyped debut in 2010 they clearly came out fighting this year.
- Above the fold, I mentioned that the less elite teams get jobbed by the UCI. Well, Katusha, Vacansoleil, Rabobank and RadioShack all suffer a bit under the World Tour system, while BMC, Omega Pharma and the two Italian squads seem to benefit the most. Hm, perhaps the breakdown isn't along power lines (and I can officially set that metaphor free). But what then?
- Two Dutch teams, a Danish one, a Russian one... and no Italian teams in the Cafe World Rankings Top Ten? Clearly our system is out of whack.
|#||PdC World Ranking||pts||UCI Ranking||pts||CQRanking||pts||CyclingFever||pts|
|3||Joaquim Rodriguez||2334||Contador||471||Rodriguez||2028||JJ Rojas Gil||4903|
|5||Cadel Evans||1823||Scarponi||357||Voeckler||1744||Romain Feillu||4625|
|6||Mark Cavendish||1628||Tony Martin||349||Martin||1694||Edv Boasson Hagen||4376|
|7||Samuel Sanchez||1495||Sanchez||307||Sagan||1596||Marcel Kittel||4287|
|8||Michele Scarponi||1490||Wiggins||289||Sanchez||1576||Andre Greipel||4232|
|9||Bradley Wiggins||1486||Daniel Martin||286||Cavendish||1469||Contador||4039|
|10||Peter Sagan||1382||Frank Schleck||284||Scarponi||1437||Daniele Bennati||4002|
Not sure where to even start...
- Cycling Fever is obviously doing something very different here. My theory is that they give extra points for awesome!, which would explain Sagan's top ranking, though trust me, it's a tricky business. But the presence of so many sprinters, and the elevation of Romain Feillu over Alberto Contador, for example, suggests that they are perhaps placing a much greater premium on wins. Not so bad, really. And anyway, there is no right or wrong way to rank riders (except the UCI's, which is wrong). I'd love for one of the CF guys to stop by and explain it though.
- I guess if you had to try to describe how the Cafe system is distinct, you could point out that we value whatever Philippe Gilbert is doing a bit more than everyone else. Or that we're the only ones who think Fabian Cancellara was a top ten rider this year. I'd be proud to stand by whatever that says. And we obviously don't celebrate Tony Martin all that much. Der Panzerwagen was 21st in our poll. Does that make us a grand tour?
- JJ Rojas third in CF? Third? We had him 25th. THIRD?!?
- The other clear consensus after Gilbert is J-Rod, 3rd or 4th across the board. He's missing the signature win, but from a VDS perspective he's gold: consistent high placings in the grand tours AND classics -- and his Tour ambitions are next to nothing, which means you're likely to get another Giro/Vuelta double bonanza. Second safest pick, after Gilbert.