What You Can Get Away With » Tour de France 2012: Take a break

After the peloton took a bonus rest day on Friday, it seems they decided to do the same yesterday as well. After some frantic early attacking – so frantic that Edvald Boasson Hagen and Bernie Eisel were trying to calm the pack down because of the chaos at the front – a break got away, and after a bit of chasing from Lotto-Belisol, they were allowed to go clear for the win. That was also because of the nature of yesterday’s stage – while there were only a few categorised climbs, there was over 2000m of ascent in it, which isn’t conducive to a fast hard chase and setting up the sprinters.

And so, Pierrick Fedrigo got to pick up France’s fourth stage win of the Tour, which means that they’re now tied with the UK as the nation with the most stage wins this year. Behind them, there’s three each for Slovakia (Sagan) and Germany (Greipel) and one each for Switzerland (Cancellara) and Spain (Sanchez).

In terms of the team performance at this point, there’s an interesting chart at the Inner Ring showing the amounts of prize money won by each team. Unsurprisingly, Sky are top with Liquigas-Cannondale second, Europcar third and then all the way down to Movistar in last place. Of course, that chart will change a lot over the next week, especially when the big prize money from the end of the race is added in, though it does give a good indication of which teams have and haven’t been successful on this Tour.

More important to the teams isn’t the prize money itself but the world ranking points that come along with results. These points go towards their ranking in the UCI World Tour, and while there is a rivalry between the teams and riders to come top in that, for the smaller teams, it’s more important to not come bottom. There’s no explicit relegation from the top tier of the World Tour down to the next level (Professional Continental), but performance is one of the criteria by which the UCI judge whether a team is allowed to stay as a ProTeam on the World Tour. The eighteen teams with that status are guaranteed invites to the World Tour events, and promoters and race sponsors want to know that they’re getting the best. If a team’s not performing at the right level – or don’t have the riders to compete at that level in the upcoming season – then they can be dropped.

World Tour points are also important to the national cycling federations, as the national rankings determine how many riders you can enter in events like the Olympics and the World Championships. A key part of British Cycling’s strategy last year was getting British riders scoring points in World Tour events to ensure that they could enter a team of 8 to support Cavendish.

That’s another reason why doing well on the Grand Tours can be the key to a whole season – there are points available to the first five riders on every stage, as well as points to the top 20 overall finishers. A good Tour means you can rocket up the table, and a rider who’s managed to pick himself up a few points can negotiate himself a much better contract in years to come. As an example, FDJ-BigMat have just 79 points so far this year. Thibaut Pinot’s stage win and second place is already worth 30 points to them, and if he carries on to Paris in 10th place, he’ll earn another 50, meaning he’ll have earned as much in one race as the rest of the team managed all season.

Which, of course, is what some of them might be doing this rest day. While the big guns like Wiggins and Sagan aren’t going to be going anywhere, there’ll be a lot of teams looking to build up their rosters for next year, be it Saxo-Tinkoff trying to ensure they have enough points to keep the UCI happy or a Professional Continental team like Europcar looking to get enough ranked riders to move up to join the big boys of world cycling.

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2 comments untill now

  1. Interesting stuff – was only vaguely aware of some of this detail. Wouldn’t have had Europcar down as a second division team based in their tour performance.

  2. Back when they were Bouygues Telecom, they were a ProTeam, but slipped down a level – and almost went bust before Europcar stepped in as sponsor at the start of last season. Their strategy is basically to throw everything at the Tour and other big French races they get invited to, but you rarely see them in races outside of France. I think they want to get back up to the top level, but they would have to expand to do that – once you’re there you have to compete in all the World Tour events, which includes being able to concurrently enter teams in France and Poland, as they’ve been doing this week.