It’s not really the start of sports season if an analyst doesn’t produce projections, so I’ve whipped up some basic points projections for the cycling World Tour and Pro Tour teams.
A few points on methodology:
- I’ve used the PCS Points from ProCyclingStats.com at the rider-level to build these.
- I’ve built a very basic model for projecting points which only knows what a rider did the previous season, how old they are (age matters!), and whether their team is at World Tour or not. Only riders competing in the following year on a World Tour or Pro Tour (and ProConti for past years) level were modelled. Obviously what happened in 2019 and 2020 is relevant, but I will leave a more advanced model to next season.
- All riders with a Pro Tour or World Tour contract as of start of this January were predicted for 2022, with their projected points aggregated to determine the collective points projections for each team.
- That’s it. I did nothing to account for 2021 injuries, changes in how riders would be deployed across races, and any #gainz which may have occurred over the off-season. This is certainly wrong as many riders who missed large chunks of 2021 will race full schedules in 2022 (Caleb Ewan, Remco Evenepoel, etc.) and we’re already seeing injuries to riders like Mathieu Van Der Poel which will affect points earned in 2022.
Rider Level Projections
A model which just considers the previous year’s performance + age and level of team will tend to produce projections which closely match the rankings from the previous year. The same top five from 2021 is projected to be the top five in 2022, while young stars like Remco Evenepoel (17th in 2021 to 11th in 2022) and Ethan Hayter (26th in 2021 to 17th in 2022) are projected to improve their ranking. Older riders are projected to decline with Alejandro Valverde (12th to 37th) and Mark Cavendish (22nd to 32nd) being the sharpest expected declines.
Above graph describes how riders tend to retain points from year 1 to year 2. Peak age riders tend to regress about 20% or said another way they retain about 80% of their points the next year. Riders who score highest number of points tend to regress more in year 2, while those scoring closer to zero point in year 1 regress less. Younger riders tend to hold onto their points the most (though even highest point riders here tend to regress more). Older riders fall off significantly with a rider scoring 1000 points in year 1 at age 35 retaining more like 70% of their points in year 2.
However, these rider projections are fairly dumb; a projection system which ignores Mark Cavendish doing nothing for four seasons before resurrecting his career is probably not going to make great specific projections for riders. Where I hope the projections do well is at the aggregate team-level where the errors of predicting 25-30 individual riders can cancel each other out.
Team Level Projections
Based on individual rider projections/performances, I created three different team totals: 1) 2021 points earned by the team, 2) the 2021 points earned by the riders employed for 2022, and 3) the projected 2022 points earned by the riders employed for 2022. This way I can calculate who hired the best new riders vs who lost the best riders vs who has riders most primed to improve or decline. Delta due to rider development shows how riders are expected to earn points differently in 2022 vs 2021 due to age or regression. Delta due to Transfers shows how teams added either better or worse riders based on 2021 points. Eg, EF Education hired better riders based on 2021, while Lotto Soudal hired worse riders. However, Lotto is expected to improve due to age in 2022.
Of the 18 World Tour teams, I see EF Education improving the most versus 2021 – primarily due to transfers. They signed four top 200 riders in my PCS Points projections (equivalent to a ~top 10 rider on the average team) including Esteban Chaves (projected as their 2nd best rider in 2022). They have only lost three riders who signed with a Pro Tour or World Tour team – headlined by Sergio Higuita (103rd best rider in 2021).
BORA-Hansgrohe is another who looks set to improve significantly due to incoming transfers. They signed the 26th, 29th, 86th, and 88th best riders in my 2022 projections with Sam Bennett hoping to return to his ‘best sprinter in the world’ form. They also added the aforementioned Higuita and Aleksandr Vlasov. BORA loses two strong riders in Peter Sagan and Pascal Ackermann, but they should come out ahead on aggregate.
Lotto-Soudal and Team DSM should improve primarily from internal development of younger riders. DSM is by far the youngest team in the World Tour but has a lot of the early 20s riders who tend to increase significantly. DSM do have to deal with significant losses due to transfers as they were the hardest hit team in percentage terms. Lotto also has a lot of younger riders and do not have any significant regression candidates as their top scoring rider in 2021 was Tim Wellens at only 65th in PCS Points. Caleb Ewan will also presumably have a healthier season (21st and 11th in 2019-20 PCS Points).
My model also projects Quick Step to not lead the World Tour in PCS Points in 2022 (falling just short of UAE Team Emirates by 200 points). They have led in total points accumulated every year since 2013, but the model sees significant riders lost (Joao Almeida in particular ranked 5th in 2021) and significant decline from its current crop of riders (Cavendish in particular). However, the model doesn’t know Quick Step basically got half a season each out of two very promising young riders in Remco Evenepoel and Fabio Jakobsen. My bet is the Belgians manage to pull off their tenth straight #1 ranking by the end of the year.
Among Pro Tour teams, three teams stood out in 2021: Alpecin Fenix out-earned twelve World Tour teams, while Arkea Samsic and Team TotalEnergies earned points like the weakest World Tour squads. The projections see modest regression for both Alpecin and Arkea driven by regression for their top performers and not particularly strong transfers. Team TotalEnergies added Peter Sagan – once the best rider in the world – and should be improved by 30% due to their quality of transfers, but they also are a quite old team which means their gains will probably be more modest in the end.
Among others, Kern Pharma is a very young team which should improve due to aging of their riders. They also signed Hector Carretero from Movistar World Tour team who would’ve ranked third on their team in points in 2021. Along with that, they lose only a single rider from 2021.
Uno-X is a team which the projections aren’t particularly high on, but which may be able to improve in ways the models are ignorant of. They are adding Tobias and Anders Halland Johannsen – two elite U23 riders who finished 1st/2nd (Tobias) and 7th/8th (Anders) in the two major U23 races in France and Italy. The U23 points scales on PCS are probably underweighted relative to the difficulty of those races so the Johannsen’s are better positioned to earn points. Not accounting for new opportunities / lesser opportunities for transferred riders is another blind-spot of my model.