Contador must fend off Valverde for WorldTour overall

WorldTour ranking comes down to the wire in Il Lombardia, Tour of Beijing

The UCI WorldTour may be nearing its end for the 2014 season, but the outcome of the overall individual rankings is still very much undecided. Current leader Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) has only a 14-point lead over challenger Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) with two races left: Il Lombardia and the Tour of Beijing.

Contador normally ends his season after his last Grand Tour, but after a mid-race crash knocked him out of the Tour de France, he won the Vuelta a España and is now extending his season through Lombardy and the Tour of Beijing with the objective of fending off Valverde's challenge to his WorldTour crown.

“Everybody likes to be number one by the end of the year. But I’m already very happy with leading the individual rankings right now, especially after failing to get any points at the Tour (de France),” Contador said.

“But we have to keep in mind that I have very strong rivals, especially Alejandro Valverde, who’s very good at maintaining a strong shape during the season. He will be very difficult to beat.”

Movistar has not confirmed whether or not Valverde will race in Beijing, but he will take part in Il Lombardia on Sunday.

The points available for Lombardia and the overall classification in Beijing are the same: 100 points to the winner, 80 for second place, and 70, 60, 50, 40, 30, 20, 10 and 4 for the rest of the top 10. For the individual stages in Beijing there are but 6 points for the winner and 4, 2, 1 and 1 point for second, third, fourth and fifth, respectively.

Neither rider has much of a record when it comes to the two races: Valverde has raced Lombardia but once in the past decade, but came second to Joaquim Rodriguez last year. Contador dropped out of the race in 2013, and his only other result was a ninth place back in 2012. Neither Spaniard has competed in the Tour of Beijing.

Valverde has the better record in one-day races, and accumulated many of his points this year through the Classics, fourth place in the Amstel Gold Race (40 points), a win in Flèche Wallonne (80), second place in Liège - Bastogne - Liège (80) and the Clasica San Sebastian victory (80) in addition to his 120 points from his fourth place in the Tour de France and 144 for third in the Vuelta.

Contador, on the other hand, scored every point he's earned this year in stage races: in addition to his Vuelta victory, worth 212 points including the stage results, he scored 110 points while winning the Vuelta a Pais Vasco, 89 for coming 2nd in the Critérium du Dauphiné, 86 for second in the Volta a Catalunya and 112 with his overall Tirreno-Adriatico victory.

Should Valverde fail to overtake Contador in the rankings, he can take comfort in the fact that his Movistar team has a virtual lock on the team rankings, and Spain has an unassailable lead in the nations' ranking.

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