Thursday, August 1, 2013

Attractivity Classification: Tour of Poland Beta-Fail

It's a general principle in cycling that riders, or teams, shouldn't be punished for riding faster. Cycling's a fairly simple sport: faster = better. Or at least it has been until the 2013 Tour of Poland.

Today's stage was the first one where it really rose to people's attention. Here's the CyclingNews results. The "attractivity" ranking is the sum of points for intermediate sprints and KOM points. Riders are ranked on these points, with first place getting a 30 second deduction, second place a 20 second deduction, and third a 10 second deduction from overall time. Ties are resolved optimistically: if two riders tie for first, they each get 30 seconds, they don't share the points for 1st and 2nd (which would be 25 seconds each), which would make more sense.

But that aside, the use of the daily ranking to assign points makes for some non-obvious strategies. Consider the case where rider A ahead in GC. Rider B is 29 seconds down on GC. Rider C, teammate of rider B, is out of GC contention. There's two sprints in the stage, worth 3, 2, and 1 point for the top 3 places, and no KOM's. Rider Z is also out of GC contention.

First sprint goes as follows:

rider B: 3 points
rider C: 2 points
rider X: 1 points

Then comes the second and final sprint. Rider C gets in a break with two other riders, Y and Z, both teamates of rider A and neither in GC contention, while rider B, C's teammate, is in the main pack with rider A. Rider B needs to win the attractivity ranking to take the GC lead (assuming he isn't able to finish with a time gap on rider A). But his teammate, rider C, is in the breakaway, and if rider C finishes first or second in this sprint, he will relegate rider B to at best 2nd place. So rider C needs to finish third in this sprint. However, riders Y and Z want him to finish 1st or 2nd to preserve their teammate's GC lead. So the result is the three riders in the break go into a track stand on the sprint line until they are overtaken by the pack.

This is an extreme example, but it highlights how the new rule, by virtual of its complexity, can result in bizarre tactical scenarios. Really, the UCI has better things to do than to turn stage racing into a mutant points race, and if the problem I described wasn't as obvious to them as it was to me, then the UCI needs new management. But in the least, this attractivity ranking needs to go.

1 comment:

Paul said...

"bizarre tactical scenarios" is exactly what I want. It's better than dope to win or lame breakaway-catch-sprint races.