Right before Christmas the UCI announced a new points system which will be in effect from 2023. It will change how many teams target races, especially Grand Tours, where points for individual stages have been increased significantly. Whilst we explained last week how the new points are distributed, in this article we will analyse which riders might gain the most from this adjusted system.
In a nutshell, the Grand Tours, Monuments, World Championships, Olympic Games and WorldTour Stage Race individual stages have become way more valuable than before, with their increased market share in 2023 depicted below.
The biggest difference is in the Grand Tour stages. Each Tour de France stage will offer 910 UCI points (excluding the 25 points offered for wearing the leader’s jersey), while the old system only provided 215 points for just the first five placements. A huge increase as now finishers from 6th to 15th place are also rewarded with points.
Wout van Aert
If more points are being dished out at the most prestigious races then it makes sense that the most consistent riders at WorldTour level will see increased points totals. From that pool of riders, one of the biggest recipients of a UCI points boost might be Jumbo-Visma’s Wout van Aert, despite only racing in 48 race days in 2022. With Van Aert’s sprint, time trial and climbing, he was able to finish in the top three riders in eight Tour de France stages as well as in the top three riders in six out of eight Paris-Nice stages. In the Monuments and World Championships, Van Aert’s major targets, the points have increased by a factor of 1.6x. In contrast, the points for the General Classification in Grand Tours have only increased by a factor of 1.3x, whilst Van Aert appears to have shelved any GC ambition for the time being, solely targeting stages and classics in 2022.
2022 UCI points with the old vs new system: 4565 vs 6305 (+1740 points, +38,1%)
Fred Wright might be the ideal beneficiary of the new UCI points system, despite not having won a professional race. The increases in the new system are relatively larger for placements in the top 3 or top 10 in stage races, rather than winning, which rewards versatile riders like Wright who can compete in breakaways on almost all Grand Tour parcours. In the Vuelta 2022 Wright finished in the top 10 in seven stages, earning only 144 points whereas in 2023 he would have earned 695 points (a 383% increase).
2022 UCI points with the old vs new system: 435 vs 1339 (+904, +207,8%)
Are you noticing a theme yet? As with Wright and Van Aert, Pedersen is also capable of climbing extremely well for a sprinter. The new system rewards versatile riders like him who can survive hard stages or uphill finishes as he proved in the Vuelta Stage 16, which finished up Tomares (the stage where Primož Roglič crashed out). Pedersen also finished in the Top 10 in two Monuments in 2022 as well as often finishing in 2nd and 3rd place in Grand Tour or WorldTour level stages from the breakaway or a flat bunch sprint. Similarly to Pedersen, Jasper Philipsen can survive harder stages and the full three weeks of a Grand Tour, with his six stage podium placements in Le Tour 2021 earning him only 225 points compared to 780 points in 2023.
2022 UCI points with the old vs new system: 1778 vs 3154 (1376, +77,4%)
Biniam is not an elite pure bunch sprinter but he proved in the Giro d’Italia that he can at least finish in the Top 5 in stages designed for the Sam Bennett / Fabio Jakobsen type riders. He can also target breakaways, survive hard climbs and compete from small bunch sprints as he did in Napoli and Jesi. He earned 168 points from the Giro but with the new system it would have been 590 as Biniam finished 2x 4th and 2x 5th in other stages, despite leaving early after injuring his eye in the infamous cork incident. However, as you can see below, this increase in Giro points accounts for the vast majority of Biniam’s overall points difference between the new systems, as the majority of the rest of his schedule involved non-Monument WorldTour classics, which have had their points allocation largely unchanged.
2022 UCI points with the old vs new system: 1900 vs 2425 (525, +27,6%)
The consistent breakaway specialists might see the biggest relative increase in their points. Kämna in 2022 was the best breakaway rider in the world, winning breakaways in Vuelta a Andalucia, Tour of the Alps and Giro d’Italia. In the Tour de France, Kämna was the best from the breakaway on the Super Planche des Belles Filles stage but at the final kilometre Pogačar and Vingegaard caught the German. In the coming stages Kämna was the favourite to win from each breakaway but in the end it was a curse as everyone worked against him on Megeve, knowing he was the strongest rider. With the old system Kämna earned only 15 points in the Tour for holding on to fourth in the Super Planche des Belles Filles stage and 100 points in the Giro for winning on Etna. With the new system he would have earned from stages 160 points in the Tour and 350 in the Giro – almost five times more points.
2022 UCI points with the old vs new system: 435 vs 835 (400, +92,0%)
This may seem an odd inclusion on this list because Almeida is a GC rider and the points for GC only increased in Grand Tours, however Almeida consistently finishes in the Top 10 in stages without winning them. Riders who consistently finish at the fringes of the top 5 in Grand Tour stages might actually receive a larger relative increase in points from these changes compared to habitual winners. In the 2022 Giro Almeida earned a combined four points for finishing fifth up Blockhaus and his nine other top 15 placements. With the new system it would have been 265 points – 66 times more points from stages alone. The same pattern occurred in the Vuelta, where Almeida earned just 12.5 points from a multitude of top 15 placements compared to 209.5 points under the new system. Other GC riders, such as Enric Mas, who lack a strong sprint but are extremely strong throughout a Grand Tour, will also benefit from the changes.
2022 UCI points with the old vs new system: 1252,5 vs 1887,5 (+635, +50,7%)
Ethan Hayter is another versatile rider that can finish Top 5 in time-trials, bunch sprints, uphill sprints and potentially from breakaways. However in 2022 he would not have gained many more points under the new system as he only competed in one Monument and half of La Vuelta. If Hayter gets a free role on INEOS in a Grand Tour like Richard Carapaz in the 2022 Vuelta, he is capable of scoring many points for finishing Top 5 from breakaways.
2022 UCI points with the old vs new system: 1203 vs 1526,25 (+323,25, +26,9%)
General classification riders with world class punch will be heavily rewarded under the new system for their consistent placements on punchy finishes or in small groups on mountain stages. Roglič, alongside compatriot Tadej Pogačar, has been the archetype of such a rider for the last few years, achieving over 100 WorldTour Stage top 15s since 2019.
2022 UCI points with the old vs new system: 1660.5 vs 2362.5 (+702, +42.3%)
Sagan in recent years has been far from his best, but he can still perform well enough to place in the top 10 in big races, finishing seventh in the World Championships Road Race, winning a Tour de Suisse stage and finishing five times in the top six in Tour de France stages. If Sagan can stay healthy and hit reasonable form next year he should massively help TotalEnergies in their fight for a Wild Card for 2024 and promotion in 2026. For maximising his points haul, the French outfit should send Sagan to all Spring Monuments (except for Liege), the first half of the Giro d’Italia and the entirety of the Tour de France. When Sagan was at his peak from 2011 to 2018 he would have gained many extra points under the new system as he usually finished in the top five in many races/stages like Van Aert does today.
2022 UCI points with the old vs new system: 468 vs 918 (+450, +96,2%)
Pogačar is the rider who would have earned the most extra points from the UCI changes given his 2022 results. The Slovenian superstar can practically do everything at an elite level in every race on the calendar and always targets the profitable Monuments and Tour de France. With a lead-out, he could even consistently finish in the top 10 in Tour de France sprint stages if he cared to try, like he showed in Stage 19 to Cahors where he finished fifth behind Laporte.
In 2022 he earned a monstrous 5171 points despite skipping Liege-Bastogne-Liege and not riding a second Grand Tour. Under the new system he would have scored 7261 points, an extra 2090 points owing to 1285 from Tour de France alone and 805 from other races such as Lombardia. With a close to perfect season in 2023, it is possible that Pogacar might earn over 9000 points if he does two Grand Tours and four Monuments.
2022 UCI points with the old vs new system: 5171 vs 7261 (+2090, +40.4%)
The new system will benefit the top teams like UAE Emirates and Jumbo-Visma who perform across multiple Monuments and Grand Tours with their top riders. The second tier of versatile sprinters, such as Michael Matthews, Fred Wright and Peter Sagan should see the biggest relative gains as they are rewarded better for top 10 placements in WorldTour racing. Consistent breakaway specialists like Lennard Kämna will also be more valuable for points rather than just wins.
For teams like Lotto-DSTNY, who need to focus on points in 2023 to secure their 2024 automatic wildcards, this means that sending Arnaud de Lie to a race program laden with 1.Pro and 1.1 races will not be as profitable as it was in 2022, with second in a Vuelta or Giro stage providing more points than winning a 1.1 race. For a sprinter of his calibre, placing consistently in the top three in Vuelta sprints should not present too much of a challenge, and is potentially more profitable for points (and better for sponsors) than attending three or four 1.1 races during the same period. If indeed we do see De Lie at his first Grand Tour in 2023, it will likely be an intended consequence of these changes which incentivise teams to send their best riders to the biggest races.