The WorldTour rankings are the closest professional cycling gets to having a league system. 27 events, from the Tour Down Under in January to Il Lombardia in October, yield points that quantify who is the best rider over the course of the year.
It’s not a perfect system by any means and it’s poorly publicised by the UCI, but as we reach the mid-point of the season – Sunday’s Liege-Bastogne-Liege was the 13th of the 27 WorldTour races – and transition from the spring classics to the grand tours, I’m going to spend the next five days looking at how the current top five have achieved their positions.
So let’s start with the current top-ranked rider, Movistar’s Alejandro Valverde.
WorldTour races: 4.
Points: 338 (98 in stage races, 240 in one-day races).
- Volta a Catalunya: 2nd overall, three stage wins (98 pts).
- Amstel Gold Race: 2nd (60 pts).
- Fleche Wallonne: 1st (80 pts).
- Liege-Bastogne-Liege: 1st (100 pts).
Last year’s top-ranked rider is off to a flying start, with his current total of 338 points already nearly half of the 686 with which he won the title last year, with the three grand tours (which effectively carry double points) still to come.
240 of his points came during the eight days of Ardennes Week, winning two Fleche Wallonne and Liege-Bastogne-Liege and finishing second in the Amstel Gold Race, with only world champion Michal Kwiatkowski denying him the clean sweep of the Ardennes classics last completed by Philippe Gilbert in 2011.
As well as being one of the world’s best grand tour riders, Valverde is a super-consistent performer in hilly one-day classics – he’s strong, tactically astute and has the support of one of the best teams in the business in Movistar – with a run of seven consecutive top-four finishes in the Ardennes dating back to Liege in 2013 and including three victories. In that time he’s also won and been runner-up at the Clasica San Sebastian, been runner-up twice at Il Lombardia and finished on the podium twice each at the World Championships road race and Strade Bianche.
His one other WorldTour race so far this season was last month’s Volta a Catalunya, where he finished second on GC to Richie Porte and won three stages.
Valverde will be taking May off and may lose top spot to Porte after the Giro d’Italia, but he’ll be back in June to tackle the Criterium du Dauphine before racing both the Tour de France and the Vuelta a Espana, where he will expect to score heavily.
Form and fitness permitting, expect him to be right up there in the final rankings again in October.
Tomorrow: Richie Porte.