Mark Cavendish surprised many last week in winning his first stage race in his career. The Ster ZLM Tour is a four-day stage race in Holland that is ranked Tier 3 in the Pro Cycling Index alongside races like the Tour of Qatar and Tour of Britain. Even more surprisingly Cavendish did so without winning a stage of the race. Instead he finished in the top three on three occasions and kept in the front groups when the race split up.
Cavendish has spent this week down playing Tour de France expectations in the British media. He told attendees at the Nolan Partners Sport Industry Breakfast club that his training has changed a lot so that he can be competitive at the Olympic road race. As a result he has lost four kilos from his race weight and says that he “will not be as successful in the Tour de France as I have been in the past.” With his points from the ZLM Tour Cavendish has climbed to third in the world and is just 14 points behind second placed Tom Boonen.
The Tour de Suisse (Tier 1) was the biggest race of note taking place last week. Rui Costa powered to the early mountain top finish in Verbier on stage two and took the leaders jersey. He clung onto the jersey until the end of the race despite attacks from Frank Schleck and Robert Gesink. Costa has climbed 15 places to 18th spot for his first appearance in the top 20. Costa is now the highest ranked Portuguese and Movistar rider.
Frank Schleck had a strong week at the Tour de Suisse - as well as finishing second overall he finished in the top ten on three different stages. He has moved up eight spots to 12th in the Index. Schleck with now turn his attention to the Tour de France, which he will ride without his brother for the first time since 2007. Sliding down the Index was the winner of the 2011 Tour de Suisse, Levi Leipheimer. The American rode strongly to finish third in the race but still dropped 12 places in the Index to 35th.
There was a huge amount of racing taking place last week so many may have missed what happened at the Route du Sud. This four-day French stage race is listed as Tier 3 on the Index. It has an illustrious list of previous winners including Levi Leipheimer, Michael Rogers, Thomas Voeckler and Daniel Martin. This year’s race was decided on an epic stage three which went over the Tourmalet and the Spandelles. It was on this final climb where Nairo Quintana put in his decisive attack and left all in his wake.
Quintana won that stage by over minute and took the overall in the race by 48 seconds from Frenchmen Hubert Dupont. These performances have propelled both riders higher in the Index. Quintana is having a stellar first year at a UCI ProTeam. He won a stage at the Criterium du Dauphine, the overall classification at the Vuelta a Murcia and now also at the Route du Sud. The win in the later has moved him 90 places up the Index to 63rd. It remains to be seen if Quintana will be picked in Movistar’s Tour de France team.
Dupont’s performance at the Route du Sud was his best result this season. He has spent much of 2012 supporting his teammates in races - in particular the Giro d’Italia, where he rode for John Gadret but still managed to finish 16th overall himself. Dupont is this week’s highest new entry into the top 200 in 116th place.
Despite not racing last week Bradley Wiggins also moved up a spot to fourth. This was because Philippe Gilbert lost more points from 2011. This time it was the 414 points he gained after winning the Ster ZLM Tour last year.
National Championships preview
This week there is a lull in racing until the weekend, when the national championships for most European nations take place. There are eight national championships listed in the Index. In Tier 3 there is Spain, Italy, Belgium and Germany and in Tier 4 there is Switzerland, France, Great Britain and the Netherlands.
The tiering of the national championships was decided at the end of last season. The top five nations in the overall country rankings in the Index were put into Tier 3 and the countries ranked 6th to 10th were put into Tier 4.
The top five in the Index features two current national champions in Bradley Wiggins and Philippe Gilbert. Gilbert will be defending his title while Wiggins will not as he is still fine tuning his condition ahead of his assault on the Tour de France. The Italian championships will see Giovanni Visconti (122nd) try and win the title for the third year in a row and his fourth in total.
About the IG Markets Index
The IG Pro Cycling Index is a 12 month rolling ranking system designed to answer the question “Who is the best cyclist in the world?” We teamed up with sports data experts Opta to create a comprehensive cycling ranking system that was based on an entirely new formula. We source results from the 120 top international road races throughout the season. Races are ranked by our expert panel, based on their prestige and their importance to cycling fans and put into four tiers in three different categories.
The IG Pro Cycling Index has a number of features that make it unique: Races are tiered depending on history, importance and calibre of field rather than UCI Class. So winning the Tour of Beijing will not give you the same points as winning Paris-Nice or the Dauphiné. Wins carry much greater weight and are rewarded more than placings. Bonus points are awarded for multiple victories in the top races, winning the most prestigious stages at the Grand Tours or winning multiple classics.