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What is the UCI WorldTour and where does Prudential RideLondon fit into it?

For the third year in a row, both the professional races at Prudential RideLondon are part of the UCI WorldTour – the highest level of bike racing on the globe. The men’s race, the Prudential RideLondon Classic, became part of the UCI WorldTour in 2017, a year after the women’s race, the Prudential RideLondon Classique, became part of the UCI WorldTour.

But what is the UCI WorldTour, who rides in it and where does Prudential RideLondon fit into it?

Here we try to give you some answers.

WHAT IS THE UCI WORLDTOUR?

As we mentioned, the UCI WorldTour is the highest level of cycling in the world, outside of the Olympics and World Championships. Think of it like the Formula 1 of cycling. It is the highest tier for teams and riders to compete in on a continuous basis throughout the year. And like F1, the tour takes place in countries across the world. Races include stage races such as the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia, Vuelta a Espana plus one-day classics such as the Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix and, since 2017, the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey Classic.

The UCI WorldTour specifically refers to the men’s racing while the UCI Women’s WorldTour is the female equivalent.

SO WHEN DOES IT START?

It already has – well for the men at least. The first two races of the year for the men took place in Australia in January. The men’s Tour Down Under is a six-day stage race which was won this year- for the second year in a row - by South Africa’s Daryl Impey who rides for the Australian team, Mitchelton-Scott. Italy’s Elia Viviani (Deceuninck-Quick Step) then won the first UCI WorldTour One Day race of the year, the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race.

The women have to wait until March for their UCI Women’s WorldTour season to begin with the iconic Italian one-day race Strade Bianchi. You can click here to see the men’s UCI WorldTour calendar here and click here for the women’s UCI Women’s WorldTour schedule.

SO, THE WOMEN AND MEN DO NOT HAVE THE SAME CALENDAR?

No, the UCI Women’s WorldTour is growing but it is still smaller than the men’s calendar. The women have 25 races while the men have 37.

WHO RACES IN THE UCI WORLDTOUR?

For the men, there are 18 UCI WorldTour teams who have squads of up to 29 riders. These are the teams that are, if we compare cycling to football, in the Premier League. They all get invites to every UCI WorldTour race. Teams include the British squad Team Sky. Race organisers also have Wildcard spots they can hand out to a limited amount of teams from outside the top tier (the next two levels in cycling are UCI ProContinental and UCI Continental) or national teams.

For the women it is slightly different, the teams are not split into divisions but are ranked by the UCI. Race organisers make their selection based on the team rankings.

SO, THERE IS A RANKING SYSTEM FOR TEAMS, IS THERE ONE FOR RIDERS, TOO?

Sort of. It is not a ranking system specifically for the UCI WorldTour instead riders can collect points in any UCI-accredited event which then get put towards a UCI world ranking.

Confused? Don’t worry, you are not the only one, it is not the easiest of ranking systems to get your head around.

Basically, the higher the race is ranked, the more points are available. So the biggest points haul is on offer at the the Tour de France, where the overall winner wins 1,000 points and there are points available for stage winners.

Prudential RideLondon-Surrey Classic has 300 points available to the winner with a descending level of points available all the way down to 60th place.

Points are tallied up from races throughout the season with the rider on top of the leaderboard after the final race the winner.

Last year, Spain’s world champion Alejandro Valverde, who rides for Movistar, topped the men’s rankings while Annemiek van Vleuten (Mitchelton-Scott) was the women’s overall winner.

SO WHERE DOES PRUDENTIAL RIDELONDON FIT INTO THE CALENDAR?

For both the men and women, Prudential RideLondon gives a rare opportunity for sprinters to win a UCI WorldTour race.

On the men’s side there are arguably four realistic races that can be won by an out-and-out sprinter: Gent-Wevelgem, Prudential RideLondon-Surrey Classic, EuroEyes Cyclassics in Hamburg and the GP Ouest-France.

Sprinters like the 2018 Prudential RideLondon-Surrey Classic champion Pascal Ackermann (Bora-Hansgrohe), Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data), Elia Viviani (Deceuninck – Quick Step) and Dylan Groenewegen (Team Jumbo-Visma) among those likely to target these set of races.

Similarly, chances to win a WorldTour race for sprinters in the women’s peloton are not plentiful with the Ronde van Drenthe, Ghent-Wevelgem and GP de Plouay the only other one-day races that suit a fast finisher.

IF IT’S LIKELY TO BE THE SPRINTERS DOMINATING PRUDENTIAL RIDELONDON AGAIN THIS YEAR, WHO SHOULD I BE KEEPING TABS ON THROUGHOUT THE YEAR?

For the men, the names mentioned above – Ackermann, Cavendish, Viviani and Groenewegen – are all worth looking out for. Viviani has already won a stage at the Tour Down Under this year and the title at the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race. Other names to look out for on the men’s side are Marcel Kittel (Team Katusha-Alpecin), Fernando Gaviria (UAE Team Emirates) plus multiple world champion Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe).

On the women’s side, reigning champion Kirsten Wild (WNT-Rotor Pro Cycling) is still one of the fastest sprinters around. Other names who you can expect to be in the mix by the time the Prudential RideLondon Classique comes around are: Coryn Rivera (Team Sunweb), Marianne Vos (CCC-Liv), Jolien d’Hoore (Boels Dolmans), Chloe Hosking (Ale Cippolini) and British sisters Hannah and Alice Barnes (Canyon-SRAM).

OK, I THINK I’VE GOT IT. SO, HOW DO I FOLLOW THE UCI WORLDTOUR AHEAD OF PRUDENTIAL RIDELONDON?

Most of the UCI WorldTour races are screened on British Eurosport. Alternatively you can keep up-to-date by following @UCI_cycling on Twitter.