2014 Rider Ranking Analysis: A Data-driven Approach

Last week, VeloHuman published an article focused on the breakout stars of the 2014 season, continuing a tradition begun in 2013. Just as was the case last year, much of that analysis came out of a data-driven approach: VH charted rider performance differentials from last season to this one by looking at the points riders accumulated in that timeframe according to both Cycling Quotient and WorldTour Rankings and comparing the difference from one year to the next. Such an analysis makes it easy to see the most dramatic shifts in performance across the professional peloton. Providing a bit of data visualization and also the raw data itself proved a popular decision last year, allowing readers to draw their own conclusions about the ups and downs of the season, so VH decided to provide those tools again this year! Without further ado, the 50 biggest CQ points swings (for riders who were active this season—Mauro Santambrogio, suspended for the year, was left out of the graphic) between 2013 and 2014:

Click here to view the full-size, single image version.

Just a few of the highlights that jump out from the graphic: injuries obviously played a huge role in 2014. Back problems, heart problems, broken wrists, broken collarbones, and broken ribs accounted for much of the red in the Top 50. For some riders, however, the dropoff in performance could not readily be attributed to a fracture or other ailment. Peter Sagan stood on two Monument podiums and won a Tour de France stage in 2013; he didn’t make a single Monument Top 3 and he went winless in the Tour this year. He still finished 2014 ranked 9th overall in CQ Points, but instead of progressing, as may have been expected of the still young star, Sagan seemed to stagnate. Alberto Contador, on the other hand, overcame injury to soar this season. He may have missed out on Tour results but he dominated the one-weekers of the early season, taking victory in Tirreno-Adriatico and Pais Vasco and 2nd in Catalunya and the Dauphine, and then came back with a vengeance in the Vuelta.

The red bar to the left of Vincenzo Nibali’s name may come as a surprise, but it shouldn’t; these are season-long rankings that take into account performances across the racing calendar. Nibali probably wouldn’t give up his season for the world, and a victory in the Tour de France makes it easy to ignore the entire rest of the year, but the Italian stage racing star plainly underwhelmed in the contests leading into the 2014 Tour, and did not put in many race days after Paris.

Heralded rising stars like Michal Kwiatkowski, Tom Van Asbroeck, Fabio Aru, and Tom Dumoulin soared up the various popular rider ranking systems this season and that is reflected here, but a few of the breakout performances you may have missed are shown as well: Pete Kennaugh made statements in several Continental Tour races, and with the powerful support of Team Sky he should continue to develop. Jerome Baugnies of Wanty – Groupe Gobert has been a consistent performer in lower level races across the past few months. Niccolo Bonifazio, who just turned 21 last month, has taken big results at home in Italy and abroad; he just won three stages and the Points Classification, as well as taking 2nd overall, in the Tour of Hainan, a fine way to close out his first full season as a pro.

The data visualization above offers some highlights from this season’s year-over-year rider ranking data but there is plenty more information to be gleaned from the raw numbers. If you are handy with data manipulation, you can draw conclusions of your own: click here to download the 2013–2014 data for the Top 500 riders of the season (on the CQ Ranking scale). Inside, you’ll find identifying biographical data (name, team, country, and birthdate) and CQ Ranking and WorldTour data from 2013 and 2014 along with the differentials across both seasons, so that you can filter and sort to your heart’s content as you make your own analysis. Keep in mind that Cycling Quotient’s ranking system and the WorldTour ranking system are different and favor different things—the CQ Ranking values Continental level results, for instance, while the WorldTour rankings do not. In fact, non-WorldTour riders do not score WT points at all even if they get results in WT races, which is why WorldTour ranking data doesn’t exist for plenty of names on the list. Both systems have their advantages, and ultimately, the sport’s biggest names score highly on both scales anyway.

Feel free to share your thoughts here in the comments or on Twitter @VeloHuman!

-Dane Cash

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