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The UCI’s complicated sporting value points system goes public

There are a few other intricacies to the way in which individual sporting value points are evaluated. As mentioned, they are compiled over a period of two years to smooth things out for riders that have suffered from injuries, or for those who had particularly good or bad seasons. The points of riders who are signed by October 20 count towards the team value for the following year, while the points from riders signed after that date do not. And as we’ll see below, riders that change teams take their points with them to the new team.

The collective sporting value, on the other hand, is “intended to express the contribution of the team in itself, including its management, to the riders’ performances.” Although this calculation is difficult and somewhat arbitrary, pages 9 and 10 of Annex A-10 nevertheless describe the way in which this figure is calculated.

In short, it is based upon final team classifications in key races, second- or third-place finishes, winning special jerseys (points, king of the mountains, etc.) in the grand tours, and points for various team time trials — all purported proxies for the strength of the team, rather than just the individual. The total of these points, when combined with the total of the individual sporting value points, represents the total team sporting value figure.

The sporting value calculation for 2014 (summarized in the chart above) is thus quite complicated. It is understandable when WorldTour coordinator Javier Barrio says, “The key word for us going forward is ‘simplicity.’”

The UCI also announced two key changes for 2014 in the way that the individual sporting value points will be evaluated. First, only the points of the top-10 riders on each team will be used when calculating the team value. This figure is down from the current level of 12 and from 15 a couple years ago.

Although it might in some ways force teams to search for even more points-rich leaders for the team, it should generally be a positive change because now only 10 out of the roughly 30 riders on each team will have to bring points to the table. One key concern about the overall system in the past has been its inherent tendency to under-value support riders and domestiques, who don’t usually pick up many points. With this change, the theory goes, teams can better focus and spend more time finding and hiring the best support riders to round out the diversity and depth of their teams.

Second, 20 percent of sporting value points held by a departing rider will now be left with the original team, representing one of the most controversial concerns with the overall system.

When riders take all, or most, of their points with them to the new team, there is the fundamental concern that teams are ranked based on who they have signed for the following year rather, than on how they performed in the current year. This is perhaps the most fundamental problem with the system, and with the absence of a salary cap like other professional sports have, it can obviously allow the richer teams in sport to buy up the most talented riders and thereby assure themselves a place in the WorldTour. (These concerns and ideas for how to improve the system will be addressed in an upcoming issue of Velo magazine.)

By leaving more points with the original team, which presumably tried to build itself around the departed rider, there will be less incentive for teams to try to “buy” points in order to better their position with respect to WorldTour selection. There should also be more incentive for teams to try to keep riders and maintain the stability of their rosters from year to year, which would help promote the team aspect of the sport.

The team sporting value is a complex calculation with a lot of moving parts. In the past, it has been complicated by the fact that the actual process by which individual and collective sporting value points were assessed has not been easily or publicly available. With the decision by the UCI to better articulate this process and to make the calculations more transparent, there will hopefully be less confusion and controversy around the overall sporting value calculation in the future. But there will still be plenty of discussion about how to improve the system moving forward.

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