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Charting the Best (And Worst) WorldTour Men’s Teams

The brief pause that is pro cycling’s off-season is the best time to crunch the men’s statistical rankings and data to examine key competitive trends of the past few years. As we discussed in an earlier piece, this exercise can reveal unconventional insights into the sport; more broadly evaluated over a period of time, it may also suggest important lessons regarding the drivers of success and failure in managing pro teams. Below, we dig into all the numbers to look at who has improved the most, who has fallen off, and what can we predict for the future. WorldTour Victories First, let’s look back at the figures for the number of WorldTour wins by each team for the last five seasons, where some interesting trends immediately begin to emerge. The spaghetti-like Chart 1 (above) of total team wins over the past five years is cluttered and confusing, but we show it to demonstrate that the...

Are There Any Limits to What Mathieu Van Der Poel Can Achieve?

Cycling fans everywhere groaned. Dutch cycling fans, in particular, were very disappointed; some Dutch cycling journalists cursed out loud. The Netherlands had not been so close to a rainbow jersey for 35 years, when Joop Zoetemelk took victory at Giavera di Montello in 1985. Mathieu van der Poel had started the world championships in Yorkshire as a top favorite. And he fulfilled that role with grandeur, taking the initiative to create a decisive breakaway for himself – and he seemed headed for almost certain victory. When the bell rang for that last circuit in Harrogate, most of us thought that “now there is nothing that can go wrong.“ But alas, only a few hundred meters later van der Poel blew up, and any chance of victory evaporated in just a few seconds. What happened? We don’t really know. Maybe he hadn’t eaten enough, and he just bonked. Maybe he was over-confident – too...

Love Him or Hate Him, Valverde Is the Best Male Rider of the Post-Armstrong Era

There are few riders in professional cycling more successful – or more divisive – than Movistar’s Alejandro Valverde Belmonte. First showing up as an amateur racer in 1989 at the age of nine, the Spanish rider turned pro in 2002, and came of age during cycling’s infamous EPO era. In 2005, he joined the Illes Balears-Banesto team, the organization he has remained with for fifteen years – a remarkable tenure with one team given the transfer-happy nature of pro cycling today. Snagged in the 2006 Operacion Puerto doping dragnet, Valverde quietly served a two-year suspension in 2010 and 2011, but has since come back with a vengeance. Over the course of his career, Valverde has racked up a total of 127 race wins, overall victory at the Vuelta, eight additional grand tour podiums, four Liege-Bastogne-Liege victories, five wins at Fleche Wallone, eleven podiums in the Spanish national...

The 2020 Tour De France Will Be Won in the ITT, Not the Climbs

The route for the 2020 Tour de France was recently unveiled. The initial takeaways seemed to be that it is a time trial-light affair that will tend to suit the pure climbers, and that its multiple mountain stages will somehow offer bite-sized, endless entertainment for the short-attention-span millennial audience. A closer look suggests that it probably won’t be that simple. The general consensus is that 2020 will be one for the climbers, as the race features a large number of mountain stages with a healthy dose of summit finishes, just one 36-kilometer individual time trial, and only a handful of stages for the sprinters. Also, as in 2019, there will be time bonuses at the finish and on select penultimate climbs. These characteristics seem likely to combine to create a race that will favor riders who can climb with the best, who can handle technical descents, and who can make...

How Well Do You Know the 2019 UCI Points Rankings?

The men’s WorldTour bike racing season is almost over, and so it’s time to take a look at the formal grading system which most fans routinely ignore all the rest of the year: the UCI points ranking. But first, a quick pop quiz for all those who consider themselves to be avid followers or students of pro cycling (answers below): Can you name the only WorldTour team with two riders in the top-10 of the men’s UCI rider points ranking? No surprise that rising superstars Primož Roglič and Julian Alaphilippe rank number 1 and 2. But, who do you think ranks third amongst the top riders – right in front of Tour de France phenom Egan Bernal, crafty veteran Alejandro Valverde (himself a multiple times winner of the points ranking) and veteran hard man Greg van Avermaet? Where do you think Team Ineos, the team with the largest budget, and a roster so stacked with talent that many thought they...

It’s Time to Rethink the Men’s Under-23 Category

Mikkel Bjerg of Denmark won the U23 time trial championships for the third year in a row on Tuesday at the UCI World Championships in Yorkshire, England. This achievement is unparalleled in the espoirs ranks — no other male rider has even won consecutive titles in the category. Bjerg appears to be on a trajectory to the sport’s top, and recently signed a multi-year deal to race with UAE-Team Emirates. But assessing his strength against the world’s other top riders between the ages of 18 and 22 is easier said than done. After all, many of the best riders of Bjerg’s generation decided to race in the elite individual time trial. Bjerg is just three months younger than Tadej Pogačar, who recently finished third at the Vuelta a España. Bjerg is older than 19-year-old Remco Evenepoel, who was the runner-up in the elite men’s individual time trial world championships on Wednesday. Egan...