UCI Cyclocross World Cup #2

A look at the “new” World Cup start grid

The 2019/20 World Cup returns to Waterloo, WI for round number two at the Trek CX Cup. This year, the UCI implemented new rules on how riders will be seeded in the start grid. Similar to mountain biking, the new rules use the World Cup standings to fill the first three rows (top 24 riders). Previously this was based on UCI ranking to fill the entire grid. After the first 24 riders are in the grid (assuming they’re all there), then riders will be seeded based on the UCI ranking.

For example: Mathieu van der Poel is the number one ranked rider in the world. But, because he has zero World Cup points, he would start 25th, putting him on the fourth row.

This rule did not apply to the first round of the World Cup, since no one had any World Cup points. We decided to take a look at some of the interesting cases where a rider either moved up, or moved back, in the grid based on how they did in Iowa City.

Elite Men

Moving Up

Eli Iserbyt was the winner on Saturday in more ways than one. His victory moves him up to the front row as he’s leading the World Cup. His current UCI ranking is ten, which would have put him on the second row. Now he gets to line up on the first row on Sunday.

Sidebar: we know not all nine riders in front of Iserbyt in the UCI rankings will be at Sunday’s race, but for simple math and effect we are assuming they would.

American Gage Hecht turned in a great performance in Iowa City finishing in 18th place. His UCI ranking is 28th, which would put him on the fourth row. The new rules put him squarely on the third row.

These one-row jumps may not seem that impressive (trust us they make a huge difference), so we will bring up Kevin Kuhn. The Swiss rider is ranked 83rd in the world. There’s roughly 50 riders on average at the world cup races (including Waterloo). That would put him on the seventh, and last, row. Instead, Kuhn will be on the third row thanks to his 19th place finish in Iowa City.

Moving Back

While plenty of riders found themselves moving up in the grid, a few riders are moving back as a result of sub-par performances in Iowa City. Spain’s Felipe Orts (12th in the world) will start on the fourth row due to finishing outside the top-24. Like Orts, Joris Nieuwenhuis (18th in the world) also finished outside the top-24 and will start on the fourth row.

Perhaps the most frustrating result of the first round of the World Cup was Corne van Kessel. Currently ranked eighth in the world, van Kessel had a front row start in Iowa City. He was unable to finish the race, giving him zero World Cup points. This will knock him back to the fourth row, leaving a bunch of traffic in front of him. As a regular top-ten rider he is not used to having so many people in front of him.

Elite Women

Moving Up

Like Iserbyt, Maghalie Rochette’s victory in Iowa City movers her up to the number one spot in the grid. She normally has a second row spot (as she did on Saturday), but that hasn’t slowed her down yet. With no one in her way, she’s even more dangerous.

Katerina Nash’s second place on Saturday moves her up two rows in the start grid. She is ranked 19th in the world, meaning she started on the third row this past weekend. In Waterloo, she will start on the front row. Like Nash, Caroline Mani put in a strong performance in Iowa City allowing her to start on the front row in Waterloo. In Iowa City, she started on the fourth row.

Moving Back?

Virtually none of the women who raced in Iowa City are moving back in the grid. Unlike the men’s field, there is a severe lack of European’s in the field. Most of the riders in the top-ten of the UCI rankings aren’t even in the US to race the first two rounds of the World Cup. Therefore, there are some extreme examples of riders moving up in the grid – Madigan Munro is ranked 113th and will have a second row start in Waterloo – that are anomalies. Once racing heads back to Europe, many of the riders currently in the top-ten of the UCI rankings will be racing the World Cups and will quickly accrue points.

The men’s field is obviously a little different as eight out of the top-ten riders in the UCI ranking are here battling for points. These men will then carry their points back to Europe and continue to get seeded higher in the grid. The bulk of the North American women now ranked in the top-24 of the World Cup will not travel back to Europe, hence the anomalies.

We really like the idea of having World Cup points matter even more by using them to seed riders in the starting grid. It will be interesting to see what effect this has over the course of a season. Perhaps, it will give riders who traveled to the US an advantage. Or, as we think is the case, after the first few World Cup races in Europe things will level back out and not make a huge difference. Only time will tell.

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