Analysis: Sohrabi, Txurruka highlight UCI points system’s unintended consequences

  • By Mark Johnson
  • Published Oct. 19, 2012
  • Updated Oct. 30, 2014 at 10:17 AM EDT
Mehdi Sohrabi is one and done with Lotto-Belisol after winning two Asia Tour overall titles. Photo: Graham Watson |

Courting points

At the time, Lotto was candid about the fact that Sohrabi’s 329 Asia Tour points were a significant attraction. (When a rider switches teams, his points from the previous two years go with him to his new team.) Lotto was not alone. Two other points hungry teams — Ag2r La Mondiale and Geox — courted Sohrabi.

While there is not a one-to-one correlation between the points a team has amassed at the end of the season and its sporting value, total team points are a heavy factor in a calculus that also factors ethical, financial, and administrative criteria. Each year, the UCI grants the top 15 teams in terms of sporting value automatic WorldTour licenses. The other three licenses are granted at the UCI’s discretion. Thanks in part to Sohrabi’s points infusion, Lotto kept its standing in the top division.

However, the 2011 races where Sohrabi piled up his points did not feature the level of competition found in Europe. In 2011, he won three stage races: the International Azerbijan Tour, Jelahah Malaysia, the Kerman Tour (40 points each), plus the Iranian national championship and stage 7 of China’s Tour of Qinghai Lake (20 points each).

Lacking European experience, Sohrabi delivered neither points nor results this year and will leave the team at the close of the season. Lotto manager Marc Sergeant admitted that the jump to the WorldTour was “too ambitious” for the Iranian.

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Mark Johnson

Mark Johnson

Writer-photographer Mark Johnson's work has been published in titles including VeloNews in the United States, Cycling Weekly in the UK, Vélo in France, and Ride Cycling Review in Australia as well as general-interest publications including The Wall Street Journal and the San Diego Union-Tribune. His book on the Garmin pro team, Argyle Armada, was published by VeloPress in 2012. A Cat. 2 road cyclist, Mark has bicycled across the United States twice and completed an Ironman triathlon. He graduated from UC San Diego and has a Ph.D. in English literature from Boston University. His other passion is surfing, which he does frequently from his home in Del Mar, California. Follow him on Twitter @ironstringmark.

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