Or so says the UCI. CyclingNews has obtained a copy of the UCI's super-secret formula for determining team points, which it then uses to award automatic entries to the World Calendar... and in all likelihood the Tour de France. You may have already read the writeup, and perhaps you've even seen the graphic. Nice work Benson in including that. The UCI has never excelled in transparency even when trying, so the indecipherable nature of the graphic is no surprise. Still, a few juicy nuggets here:
- There are individual points and there are team points. Each team is ranked according to a collection of both individual points scored by the riders on your coming year's roster and team points accrued by the team. The individual points travel with the rider, so if he walks, so do his points. However, team points don't, or so I think. Not even the UCI could louse up that one. Wait, hang on...
- The individual points scale is here. Nothing new here. I can't find the team points info anywhere and am just cribbing from the CN piece.
- Victory in the Tour is worth 45 team points (as opposed to 200 individual points)... and victory in the Tour team competition is worth 40. Actually I like this, it's about time those team competitions came to mean something. I had a chat with a friend last week about why team competitions aren't a bigger deal given the endless quest to persuade outsiders that cycling is a team sport. Obviously the answer is that team riding has more to do with the earlier developments in the race than when your #s 2-9 guys cross the line. It would be a shame if the end result were to cause riders to spend less time servicing teammates and more time just riding for themselves. But that's not especially likely, and the fight for minor placings can only help create even more reasons to stay interested.
- As usual, the UCI relies heavily on its World Tour races, creating a complete farce where victory in the Tour of Beijing "race" is worth more than overall victory in a non-World Tour race like the Tour of Cali, or victory in the E3 Prijs Harelbeke. The World Calendar would be fine as a skimming-off-the-top setup where they only looked at Grand Tours and Monuments -- I guess -- but the UCI's globalisation project forces them to include Beijing, Poland and Eneco, which makes the exclusions look frightfully stupid. I know they can't broaden the calendar without overextending some teams or pissing off Flanders Classics, but the points system could be a bit more even.
- Oh, and that's team points; on the individual side, as far as I can tell, non-World Tour races are worth nothing. So what's the story, should teams try to win those races or not? Confused face.
- Teams are docked points if they don't have at least five riders scoring -- ten points per non-scoring rider. It will be interesting to see how this plays out. That's a lot of points if you were to get docked, and the message is you should have five guys racing to win, which is doable over the course of the season but the World Calendar is a pretty small portion of the season. Still, it may not matter: it's not even May 1 yet and 116 riders have already scored points -- an average of over five per 18 teams. Yeah, a lot of those guys aren't on one of the 18 teams, and then you've got HTC with their entire roster scoring. So undoubtedly several teams aren't scoring five-deep. But it's early. And hey, perhaps that requirement is why they created the Beijing Tour. Look for a big Carrots vs. Vacansoleil battle in China!
- Perverse incentives: do we want riders chasing points? I know, cycling shouldn't be everyone-gets-a-trophy at this level, but given the scourge of doping, it would be nice not to have people being put in a position of having to get a particular result right now in order to guarantee something as lucrative as a Tour de France start.
- I do disagree with CN on one point: I'm not so sure the richest teams will buy their rivals out of existence. You can theoretically buy Contador, Menchov, Basso and the Schlecks, but back in reality there is no way those guys would bite. It's likely that the 15th richest team might be able to buy its way into the Big Time over some of the poorer teams scrambling for the last spots. I don't know how to stop that, or whether there's even something to care about. But I feel pretty confident that among the richest 15 teams there will always be plenty of competition.
Any other thoughts? Observations? Corrections? I'm avoiding the subject of the other criteria the UCI supposedly uses; that's a bigger subject than I can swallow at the moment.