MADRID (VN) — Chris Froome (Sky) is throwing the towel in on his 2013 season despite being tantalizingly close to the WorldTour’s No. 1 ranking.
The Tour de France winner pulled the plug on his season late last week, citing fatigue and back pain. He skipped Sunday’s Giro di Lombardia, and will not race at the season-closing Tour of Beijing, thus all but gifting the world No. 1 ranking to Spanish rider Joaquim Rodríguez (Katusha).
“Not the way I wanted to end the season, but my body had other ideas,” Froome wrote on Twitter. “Looking forward to some R&R, and a [ice cream] or two.”
Froome was leading the WorldTour ranking until Rodríguez catapulted ahead of him with his victory Sunday in the Giro di Lombardia. The Spaniard now leads Froome by just 20 points, 607 to 587.
Froome was expecting to start both Lombardia and the Tour of Beijing, but decided to end his highly successful season after suffering with back pain during the world championships in Italy last month.
With Froome staying home and the others within reach of the WorldTour title, such as third-place rider Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), with 540 points, and Peter Sagan (Cannondale), fourth with 491 points, skipping the Chinese tour, Rodríguez will win his third WorldTour title in four years. The three titles match Paolo Bettini’s record mark in the top points series in men’s elite road racing (Bettini won the World Cup three times).
With the title in the bag, Rodríguez is also skipping out on the five-day Beijing tour, which clicks into gear Friday.
Since its inception in 2009, the WorldTour ranking has combined points taken in the major one-day races and grand tours. Rodríguez won in 2010 and 2012, with Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff) winning in 2009, and Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing) taking the crown in 2011.
Many have criticized the new points system, however, with complaints over its focus on grand tour riders at the expense of successful stage hunters and some claiming that it does not truly reflect success across the entire racing season.
Many look to the cqranking.com website as a measuring stick of a rider’s true ranking. The site, based in the Netherlands, promotes itself as the “non-official successor of the UCI ranking, which disappeared when the ProTour was announced in 2005.”
The UCI ditched its traditional ranking, based on the cumulative results in all UCI-sanctioned events over the past 12 months, when it introduced its controversial ProTour calendar in 2005. That morphed into the WorldTour in 2009, but the old ranking system, calibrated by cqranking.com, still draws many advocates.
Looking at the latest ranking on the site, Froome would end the season ranked No. 1 in the world, just 12 points ahead of Vincenzo Nibali (Astana). Sagan is third, and Rodríguez, who officially ends the season ranked No. 1 in the world, rates only in fifth.
In contrast, Nibali ranks only fifth in the WorldTour list. Also, under the old ranking system, star sprinter Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) slots into sixth, but doesn’t even punch into the top 25 in the WorldTour ranking.
New UCI president Brian Cookson has suggested that the ranking system and points will be under review as he takes over the helm of cycling’s world governing body.
Rodríguez, meanwhile, said winning the WorldTour ranking as well as Lombardia for the second straight year does not take away from the sting of losing the world championship.
In an interview with Spanish daily ABC, Rodríguez said he’s ending his season with mixed feelings.
“I know that a lot of people in Spain are looking at our medals, the silver and bronze, as a big achievement, but that doesn’t count for me,” Rodríguez told ABC. “We should have won gold and silver. I refuse to settle for anything less than that. It’s like as if you’re winning [a soccer match] 4-0, and they beat you in the final minutes.”
One can only hope that Rodríguez has a nice contract incentive for his WorldTour victory to take some edge off the disappointment of the worlds. Gilbert earned an extra 500,000 euros in 2011 when he won the title.