Look, there's a rainbow! It's the time of the year that the best and most talented cyclist in the world swap their trade team jersey for the national colors. It's World Championships week! The peloton travelled to the Australian city of Wollongong, about 80 kilometers south of Sydney, to challenge for the gold medals in this years UCI World Championships. The tension is rising as we're getting closer to the most anticipated disciplines of the World Championships: the elite road races. Meanwhile, cycling fans around the world are drowned in a stream of race previews, betting odds and favourite picks by all cycling media, bookies and cycling influencers. Today we're adding some of our stats-based predictions to the list, focussing on the Men's Road Race.
First of all, let's take a look at the profile of the Men's Road Race at the World Championships.
The ProfileScore for this stage is 160.
The Men's Road Race has a Profile Score of 160, wich is comparable to a long and hilly classic or a moderate mountain stage in a stage race. To examine the World Championships competitors who are performing the best in these kind of races we are adding up the Pro Cycling Stats-points won by the World Championships-competitors in races with a profile score between 110 (when the races are not flat anymore) and 210 (when the races become overly mountainous for this comparison). Let's check out the results below:
Figure 1. Competitors with the the most PCS points in races with a profile score between 110 and 210 over the past 12 months.
|5||VAN AERT Wout|
Wow! Did you expect that? Slovenian superstar Tadej Pogačar is clearly outperforming all the others in this stat over the past year, mainly thanks to his World Tour stage victories in Montréal, the Tour de France (stage 7), Slovenia, Tirreno and UAE, wich were all between Profile score 130 and 190. It's safe to already asume that if the World Championships are going to be raced hard from start to finish, Tadej Pogačar is the one to watch.
Another interesting and maybe less expected name that pops up between some of the widely recognized favourites is Lorenzo Rota. The Italian rider of Intermarché - Wanty - Gobert Matériaux has had his best year of his career with plenty of top 5 placings in stage races and one day races across Europe. Keep an eye on him as a dark horse of a very strong Italian team.
Next, we're looking into the climbing that needs to be done in and around Wollongong. In total the Men's World Championship course counts 4.167 meters of climbing. That's a lot, but let's not forget it's spread out over almost 270 kilometers of racing. In the chart below we'll find out wich riders have the best track record in the climbing range of the World Championships. Who won the most Pro Cycling Stats-points in races within a range of 10% of the climbing that needs to be done in Australia over the past three years?
Figure 2. Competitors with the most PCS points in races with vertical meters between 3750 and 4584 over the past 36 months.
|3||VAN AERT Wout|
|14||HONORÉ Mikkel Frølich|
|16||VAN DER POEL Mathieu|
Again it is Tadej Pogačar topping the list. That may not be too much of a surprise as the Slovenian rider has done a lot of races in this altitude range as a GC-contender in stage races.
Another interesting name that's floating to the surface here is Bauke Mollema. The Dutch time trial champion has an impressive track record on hilly classics and hard stages in stage races. His impressive series of 10 consecutive top 10-finishes at the Donostia San Sebastian Klasikoa (wich is one of the races in the WorldTour that is the most similar to the World Championships course profile) is one of the reasons to put him amongst the favouritesfoor the rainbow jersey.
Also, Remco Evenepoel is in the higher echelons of the list again, like he was in the Profile points-accumulation. That means the Vuelta-winner is no doubt one of the medal contenders.
Then again: vertical meters on itself are not the only benchmark to determine the favourites for the rainbow jersey. Like we said earlier the 4.000+ altimeters are spread out over almost 270 kilometers. With mentioning the race distance we're talking about another key factor. Races over 200 kilometers are in a league of their own, with their own specialists, let alone a race of almost 270 (!) kilometer. Let's check out wich riders have accumulated the most Pro Cycling Stats points in races over 220 kilometer over the past three years.
Figure 3. Competitors with the most PCS points in races over 220 kilometre distance in the past 36 months.
|1||VAN AERT Wout|
|2||VAN DER POEL Mathieu|
|5||VAN BAARLE Dylan|
Now we're talking. This is where the specialist at long and hard races and monuments stand out. In terms of total Pro Cycling Stats-points won in races over 220 kilometer over the past three years there's one man a cut above the rest over the past three seasons. His name: Wout van Aert.
Wout van Aert participated in 17 races over 220 kilometers since the beginning of 2019 and won a total of 2537 PCS-points in them, averaging out at just over 149 points per 220km+ race. In the same time Mathieu van der Poel averages out a little over 119 PCS-points, Tadej Pogačar at 104,7 points and Julian Alaphilippe at 104,5. Speaking about long distance races Van Aert is the clear favourite for the Worlds, but he has to deal with a compatriot. Remco Evenepoel has raced a lot less long races over the past three years, but has won two 220km+ classics this year: Liège-Bastogne-Liège and Donostia San Sebastian Klasikoa.
Figure 4. Startlist quality of past editions.
What about the startlist quality? Compared to the last editions this years start list quality is a bit lower, but still amongst the highest of the season.
Figure 5. Startlist quality of Tour de France compared to selection of races.
|1||Tour de France (2022)|
|3||World Championships - Road Race (2022)|
|4||La Vuelta ciclista a España (2022)|
|6||Giro d'Italia (2022)|
|7||Ronde van Vlaanderen (2022)|
Figure 6. Competitors with most points in races with startlist quality above 750 in the past 36 months.
|2||VAN AERT Wout|
|4||VAN DER POEL Mathieu|
|9||VAN BAARLE Dylan|
As we're looking into the riders winning the most Pro Cycling Stats-points in races with a (very) high quality start list over the past three years its the same riders topping the list. Tadej Pogačar and Wout van Aert are leading the bunch by quite a big margin, wich will fixate all eyes on them in Wollongong.
Figure 7. What races or stages are most like World Championships ME - Road Race when compared on distance, vertical meters, profileScore and short/long climbs index?
Alright. Now for another insight into the favourites for the Wolrd Championship Road Race it may be interesting to take a look at the races and stages throughout the season that are most similar to the World Championship Road Race. We have compared all classics and stages at stage races with the World Championships Men's Road Race at distance, climbing, Profile score and climbing index and the climbing index. As a result, the races wich are the most similar to the Word Championships are listed below.
Liège-Bastogne-Liège seems the most similar race to the Men's Road Race at the World Championships with a comparable distance, vertical meters, profile score and climbing index. As we're looking at the results of the past three La Doyenne editions we see Tadej Pogačar with a third place in 2020 and the win in 2021 and Remco Evenepoel as this year's winner confirming their status as favourites for the World Championships. With reigning World Champion Julian Alaphilippe, second in 2021's LBL and only just recovered from his crash at La Vuelta and Wout van Aert, third this year, the same names are popping up at the front once again.
To make a better comparison on how the top riders perform in races similar to the World Championship Road Race we've added up their Pro Cycling Stats-points won in Strade Bianche, Amstel Gold Race, Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Donostia San Sebastian Klasikoa and Il Lombardia over the past three years.
Figure 8. Most career points in in the last 3 years.
|3||VAN AERT Wout||690|
|7||VAN DER POEL Mathieu||477|
|16||HONORÉ Mikkel Frølich||125|
Once again Tadej Pogačar appears to be the most consistent by far. With the other mentioned favourites Van Aert, (Mollema), Evenepoel and Van der Poel following on over 300 PCS-points (equal to more than one monument victory). This stat is another proof that Pogačar's chances on the rainbow jersey are not to be taken lightly AT ALL.
Another rider to keep an eye on is the experienced Dane Jakob Fuglsang, who's always a very strong contender and no doubt wants to secure some extra points for his trade team...
One more thing we wanted to check out is wich riders peak in the part of the season in wich the World Championships are held. Maybe this gives us some names to mark as outsiders for the podium. In the list below we've ranked the riders by the percentage of their total career Pro Cycling Stats-point total won in september and october.
Figure 9. Riders sorted by the share of career PCS points scored in September and October.
|#||Rider||Percentage of career points||Career points|
|7||MOLANO Juan Sebastián||38.3||1442|
|11||VAN DER HOORN Taco||35.2||1649|
Some names to consider here are:
Samuele Battistella. The U23 World Champion in Harrogate in 2019 already knows what it's like to win at the World Championships and has had a very strong Italian fall-season last year.
Matteo Trentin and Andrea Bagioli. The Italian team has plenty of cards to play. Cards that are in top shape.
Benoît Cosnefroy. One of the best one day specialist in the peloton and in great shape evidenced by his victory in Quebec two weeks ago.
Magnus Sheffield, Taco van der Hoorn and Remí Cavagna. Three riders accumulating a little over a third of their career total PCS-points in september and october. Don't lose them out of sight, because once they're gearing up, they're hard to follow.
To conclude we're looking into the teams of the riders most noticed as top favourites for the rainbow jersey.
Figure 10. The line-up for Belgium.
|BIB||Rider||Position PCS ranking||Quality score|
|0||VAN AERT Wout||2||50|
|0||VAN HOOYDONCK Nathan||501||1|
Figure 11. The top-25 results percentage in stages and races with a profile score above 150 for riders on Belgium in the last 3 years.
|2||VAN AERT Wout|
|7||VAN HOOYDONCK Nathan|
Figure 12. The line-up for Slovenia.
|BIB||Rider||Position PCS ranking||Quality score|
Figure 13. The top-25 results percentage in stages and races with a profile score above 150 for riders on Slovenia in the last 3 years.
Figure 14. The line-up for Netherlands.
|BIB||Rider||Position PCS ranking||Quality score|
|0||VAN DER POEL Mathieu||11||35|
|0||VAN BAARLE Dylan||30||20|
|0||VAN DER HOORN Taco||149||5|
Figure 15. The top-25 results percentage in stages and races with a profile score above 150 for riders on Netherlands in the last 3 years.
|4||VAN DER POEL Mathieu|
|6||VAN BAARLE Dylan|
|7||VAN DER HOORN Taco|
As a whole, the Belgian team has the highest startlist quality-score and with Wout van Aert and Remco Evenepoel in its squad Belgium has the best hand of cards to play. Previous editions proved that isn't always an advantage as multiple riders racing their own race. But if the Belgian coach can get all noses in the same direction thety will be extremely hard to beat. In any case, the Belgian team will be the team to beat in Wollongong.
With the Slovenian team things look a bit easier strategy wise. All attention will be on Tadej Pogačar, who not only is the leader in the PCS- and UCI-ranking but also is by far the most consistant rider at races with a profile score of 150 and above, achieving a top 25-result in 90% of the races with a profile score of 150 and aabove he participates in. Around him he has some of the strongest domestiques in the game.
For the Dutch team things are a bit more complicated again. If the World Championships become a very hard fought race from start to finish Bauke Mollema seem the best card to play. If not, Mathiau van der Poel will be their man to beat, but, and this may sound weird for one of the best riders of a generation, he still has something to prove on a course like this statisticwise.
With a race like this it is very hard to point out one top favourite. It's even hard to point out a category of riders tht's going to battle for the rainbow jersey. As you see in the pie chart below the there's almost as munch sprinters, climbers and one day specialists taking part in the World Championships. Who will draw the longest straw?
Figure 16. 24% of the competitors in World Championships ME - Road Race has sprinter as their primary specialty.
Overseeing all the statistics we went through in this article there are a few names constantly topping the lists. We can conclude that Tadej Pogačar, Wout van Aert, Remco Evenepoel, Mathieu van der Poel and Bauke Mollema are five of the top favourites according to the data of the last three years. Nothing new you would say, but now it's supported by data and less based on gut feeling only.
If we had to assign stars it would be:
***** Tadej Pogačar
**** Wout van Aert
*** Remco Evenepoel, Mathieu van der Poel
** Bauke Mollema, Julian Alaphilippe, Benoit Cosnefroy, Biniam Ghirmay, Michael Matthews
* The Italians
Oh, and watch out for Alexander Kristoff ;)
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