Home > cycling, Research, women's cycling > Guest blog: Peter van der Veen’s Olympic qualification update

Guest blog: Peter van der Veen’s Olympic qualification update

Back in November, Peter van der Veen, one of the best women’s cycling twitterers, and stalwart of Cycling Fever, explained the qualification system for the women’s road cycling in Rio 2016.  Here he updates the situation…


Today the qualification period for the women’s Rio Olympics road race ended, and everyone has been very curious about which countries gets to go and how many and which riders they will take. After my blog in late fall, I had a lot of fans, riders and even national coaches asking me for updates on the standings. This was because the rules are quite complex and the UCI was not very keen on providing regular updates. Below I will try to explain the rules of allocating the 67 places in the Olympic women’s road race and 25 places in the time trail. But first:

It is very important to know that I did this as a fan and so this is not close to official. Most of it was done by hand and it is possible that there are some errors in the standings. Also it is very likely a nation will turn down a spot and the UCI interprets the rules for reallocation differently than I have.

As you might know, there will be a Individual Time Trial (ITT) and a Road Race in Rio. Qualification goes by nation, meaning a nation gets a spot and can select the rider they want. So Linda Villumsen, who is the current world ITT champ could miss the Olympics if New Zealand selectors decide not to select her. This can be convenient in case of injuries, so they can appoint a different rider, or in a situation like Marianne Vos‘ who couldn’t contribute to The Netherlands spot on the ranking last year because of illness, but could get a spot on the road team in favour of one of the riders who scored a lot of points, for example Kirsten Wild.

The qualification rules for Rio are at times difficult to understand. First I will focus on the rules. The first one is every ITT rider also needs to ride the RR or at least be on the startlist, and this can be problematic for certain nations, but more on that later.

Qualification for the road race can be done in several ways

  1. Be Brazil and get automatically two spots as the host nation
  2. Be among the best 22 nations in UCI Nations ranking at 31 May 2016
  3. Be the best nation in the Continental Championship of Africa, America or Asi (not not Europe or Oceania) that has  not yet qualified by being among the 22 nations in UCI Nations ranking at 31 May 2016. If a nation has already qualified via the best nation ranking the spot will go to the best nation not yet qualified
  4. Be among the best 100 riders in UCI Rider ranking at 31 May 2016 and not yet qualified by means of the rules above.

In total, there are 67 spots in the RR, of which at least two go to Brazil, and another three to nations that qualify under 3. This leaves 62 spots to be distributed to the best 22 nations in this way:

  • Ranked 1-5 can send 4 riders
  • Ranked 6-13 can send 3 riders
  • Ranked 14-22 can send 2 riders

With no spaces left to distribute, one would ask what about nations qualified under rule 4? Those spots will be deducted from best 22 nations starting at ranked 22 going up, taking one spot from each nation. So if for example 6 nation qualify because they have a rider in the individual ranking and yet qualified under the first 3 rules. Nations ranked 22, 21, 20, 19, 18 & 17 will get a spot deducted.

Qualification Ranking at 31-05-2015 (starting at 01-06-2015)


Screen Shot 2016-05-31 at 19.12.03

Now If I look at the UCI ranking per rider (again see link below) I see Huang Ting Yang of Chinese Tapei (38th), Emilie Moberg of Norway (59th), Olena Pavlukhina of Azerbaijan (70th), Jutatip Maneephan of Thailand (73th), Martina Ritter from Austria (74th), Polona Batagelj of Slovenia (81th), Davia Tuslaite of Lithuania (86th), Antri Christoforou of Cyprus (87th), Shani Bloch of Israel (87th), Mayuko Hagiwara from Japan (92th) and Paola Muñoz of Chile (96th) are all in top 100. This means  11 nations have a earned the right on a RR spot.  It also mean 11 nations of the nation ranking have the number of spots they get reduced!
The Continental Championships were won by Korea (Asia), Namibia (Africa) and Cuba (Pan-America), but since Cuba and the next top nation Mexico are with the best 22 nations the spot for the American Continent went to Venezuela.

Thus if the UCI had to hand out spots based on my ranking these nations would get a starting rights:

Screen Shot 2016-05-31 at 19.14.37

Note that Brazil can’t have their number of spots reduced below 2 as host nation.

In the UCI Nations Ranking, the UCI points of the 5 best scoring riders of a nation are added to the nation total score. This helps nations like Belgium, Great Britain and South Afric,a who all depend on a few good riders, while a nation like Australia get punished in a way for having many sub top riders but none of them really standing out. For example: Chloe Hosking has 262 points as 6th best rider of Australia, Sweden’s 6th rider Ida Engren only has 3 points.

Another example is if Amy Pieters,  the 6th rider of The Netherlands who has 455 points, would change her nationality to, say, Icelandic, she would not only get Iceland one spot as she is among the 100th best riders but also put Iceland among the best 22 nations! In total there are both 12 Dutch and American riders in the individual top 100. So maybe it is even harder to go to the Olympics if you are from a big nation rather than from a small nation.

For the ITT, the first 10 spots could been earned in the last Worlds Championship in Richmond by finishing within the best 10 nations. Thus in Richmond, New Zealand, The Netherlands, Germany, Australia, United States, Belarus, Belgium, Russia, Czech Republic and Canada secured at least one spots at the Olympics ITT. The remaining 15 spots for the ITT will be distributed according to the UCI Ranking by Nations, so Netherland through Belarus.

However, as said earlier these, nations need to qualify first for the road race, and for the Czech Republic that is an issue.  Martina Sáblíková rode her nation to among the best 10 nations at worlds ITT on the clean ranking, but has not gathered enough points to get the Czechs among the best 22 nations, and neither she nor a countrywomen gather enough points to be among the best 100 riders. The ITT will then start with 24 instead of the maximum of 25 riders. Normally we won’t see her in Rio.  Also Russia have their spots reduced and can only enter one rider in the RR but they have 2 spots for the ITT. One of those spots will probably remain vacant.

However there is a rule that a RR rider can be replaced by a Track, BMX or MTB rider in case of illness or injury. But this won’t help Russia or Czech Republic as they don’t have a (second) rider to replace.

The final thing to consider when distributing the Olympic starting places, is what if a nation does not want to fill (all) their spots? If a nation qualified through rule 2, these spots will go to nations in the top 10 best nations of the Worlds ITT (in the current situation, the Czech Republic). If they qualified through rule 4 they will go to nations who lost places because of the Individual ranking (in the current situation Ukraine). If any spots remain unused after this a committee will decide where those spots go.

Again I want to remind you that this all very provisional and the UCI can decide differently. The UCI will provide a ranking on first of June of which nations have qualified and all Nations most confirm that they will use those spots by June 15th. UCI then goes on a holiday to decide in July what to do with any unused spot(s). On July 18 the final allocation of all spots will be announced.


UPDATE!  The official quotas are out now on the UCI website.  Peter was almost exactly right, except France only got 2 spots, and Colombia got 1…


Big thanks to Peter for this, and everything he does for women’s cycling.  You can ask him questions on twitter, and @ me in too!

  1. Edvid
    June 1, 2016 at 2:34 pm

    Interesting article. Despite the work needed to determine how the quotas are allocated, it’s still less of a headache than the men’s rankings for Rio as they depended on various tours instead of a unified ranking!!

    Also worth comparing how some nations earned their points. For example – the top riders of SWE/GBR (Johansson/Armitstead) boast individual tallies over twice that the top AUS rider (Garfoot). However (in comparison to AUS) their other top-5 riders generally did not accrue points tallies of significance, which is why the rankings turned out as they did.

    • Sarah Connolly
      June 1, 2016 at 2:37 pm

      Yeah, I’m British, and think it’s ridiculous that we get 3 riders off the back of 1 riders’ points! Then there’s Luxembourg and South Africa, with 2 riders from 1 riders’ points…. The biggest loser is of course the Netherlands, who are SO much better than the rest of the world – and let’s face it, the 5-8th best Dutch riders are still better than most Olympic squads! I’d back a squad of Lucinda Brand, Amy Pieters and Floortje Mackaij on this course, for example!

      • Edvid
        June 1, 2016 at 4:21 pm

        IMO it wouldn’t make sense to increase the ‘per NOC’ quota limit whilst the overall women’s road quota is as small as it is.

        Quality vs international diversity – quite the tug-of-war when it comes to the Summer Olympics.

      • Sarah Connolly
        June 1, 2016 at 11:07 pm

        I totally believe the number of riders is far, far too small, too – I think it made sense 20 years ago, but not in 2016. We need a sensible-sized peloton…

      • Edvid
        June 1, 2016 at 4:53 pm

        That reminds me – I had a look at the May 2012 rankings for reference. Vos – as a nation – would have been THIRD.

        That’s astonishing.

      • Sarah Connolly
        June 1, 2016 at 11:06 pm

        Yeah, it’s crazy how a single rider is so much more powerful than most whole countries!

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