The 2022 season is set to be characterised by a race for ranking points and a battle of survival between a number of men's teams as they fight for the 18 places in the 2023-2025 WorldTour.
Arkéa-Samsic appears especially well-placed in the UCI team rankings and are expected to fight with Cofidis, Lotto Soudal, Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux and even Movistar for the golden ticket to the 2023-2025 WorldTour.
Even EF Education-EasyPost, BikeExchange-Jayco and Team DSM will no doubt be carefully watching their points tally during 2022 so they do not drop into the relegation zone. Even one extra win in a minor one-day race could make the difference between WorldTour survival and relegation.
Cofidis and Lotto Soudal appear most at risk and will no doubt battle with Arkéa-Samsic for points and WorldTour survival rather than focus fully on victories. This could turn some races into carefully calculated battles rather than true sporting contests. This is the underlying context of the 2022 season.
Uno-X and TotalEnergies have said they will aim for WorldTour status but in truth would need a massive points haul (a doubling of the points they have scored in the last three years) to fight for a place. Peter Sagan might ensure TotalEnergies earns invitations to the Tour de France, the Classics and other races in 2022 but even he can't score 5,000 points in a season.
Arkéa-Samsic have a far more realistic shot at WorldTour status after carefully scoring points in recent years. If the French team finishes above their rivals in the top 18 of the three-year ranking (2020, 2021 and 2022) and satisfies the other WorldTour registration criteria, then one of the existing teams will be relegated.
The relegated teams could even disappear from the sport if sponsors and riders activate release clauses in their contracts. Most North American sports have a protected franchise structure but European race organisers have fought to protect sporting merit, knowing it weakens the teams.
Many people expect Alpecin-Fenix to step up to WorldTour level in 2023 but Cyclingnews understands they may again try to play the system and stay at ProTeam level for 2023 and beyond.
Thanks to Mathieu van der Poel, Jasper Philipsen, Tim Merlier and other riders, the Belgian team has topped the ProTeam rankings for the last two seasons and secured invitations to all the 2022 WorldTour races, including the three Grand Tours.
Despite Van der Poel's back problems, Alpecin-Fenix appear confident they can top the ProTeam rankings again in 2022 and be allowed to pick which 2023 WorldTour races they ride, without the obligation to ride the full WorldTour calendar, and without the need of a budget to cover the costs of WorldTour status. Strangely, the other teams have not tried to stop Alpecin-Fenix from playing the system and the UCI seems unlikely to apply moral persuasion.
The deadline for the initial 2023 WorldTour applications was December 31, 2021. Only existing WorldTour and ProTeams can apply. The UCI has not revealed which teams have shown their intent. Cyclingnews understands the current 18 teams are likely to have all applied, along with Arkéa-Samsic, Uno-X and TotalEnergies.
Alpecin-Fenix refused to tell Cyclingnews if they had applied and hid behind a sponsor announcement from October.
"Together with Alpecin and our other trusted partners, we've shown it's possible to run a successful cycling team without having one of the WorldTour licences. Our joint journey will continue for at least four more years," team manager Philip Roodhooft said.
"In the coming years, the team will continue its activities in road cycling, MTB and CX and at the same time bolster its recent entry into gravel and esports."
Understanding the points rankings
The 18 places in the 2023-2025 WorldTour are decided on ethical, financial, administrative and organisational criteria but it is the sporting criteria, the three-year ranking for 2020-2022, that opens the door to the sport's front echelon for the years ahead.
The UCI does not publish the three-year ranking and several experts and statisticians have tried to calculate the points totals. Teams are given regular updates from the UCI and Cyclingnews has secured the official points totals issued on October 12 after Il Lombardia.
The ranking includes the points scored by each team's 10 best-ranked riders in 2020 and 2021 and shows who is in the relegation zone or fighting for promotion from ProTeam level.
QiuickStep-AphaVinyl top the official ranking seen by Cyclingnews, with 25,367.37 points. Jumbo-Visma is second with 22,833.67 points and Ineos Grenadiers are third with 22,516.99 points.
The points scores in the WorldTour relegation zone are much lower and much closer, indicating just how much of a fight for points can be expected during the 2022 season between Arkéa-Samsic, Cofidis, Lotto Soudal, Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert-Matériaux and Movistar.
All the teams in the relegation zone will be carefully studying the points offered in the different kinds of races and planning how they will fight for their tally.
The Grand Tour overall classifications and WorldTour one-day races offer significantly better points than stages in races, including the Tour de France.
The winner of the Tour de France scores 1,000 points, with a sliding scale down to 75 points for 16th place. The winners of the biggest WorldTour one-day and WorldTour stage races score 500 points, with even tenth place scoring 85 points. In comparison, a difficult to come by Tour de France stage win awards 120 points.
The smaller ProSeries and 1.1 category races offer even more value for the effort, arguably better than stage wins.
Seventh place at the Bretagne Classic and the E3 Saxo Bank Classic also awards 120 points. Winning a ProSeries one-day race such as the European opener the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana, Trofeo Laigueglia, the Tro Bro Leon or the Arctic Race of Norway award 200 points. Winning even a 1.1 categorised race such as one of the Challenge Mallorca races, Paris-Camembert or the Coppa Agostoni awards 125.
The teams know the points awarded, and have already shaped their 2022 rosters accordingly by signing points scorers for their ten riders that make up the ranking. They will race tactically to ensure their score as many points as possible. Winning may become secondary.
For their promotional campaign, Arkéa-Samsic have Nairo Quintana and Warren Barguil and have signed the consistent points scorer Hugo Hofstetter.
BikeExchange-Jayco wisely signed Dylan Groenewegen from Jumbo-Visma and will count on him winning some one-day races as well as WorldTour sprints. AG2R Citroën will be hoping Ben O'Connor can repeat his fourth place Tour de France finish in other stage races and that Greg Van Avermaet, Bob Jungels and Oliver Naesen return to their best form.
Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert want Alexander Kristoff to help them score more points in the Classics and WorldTour sprints 2022, while Giacomo Nizzolo's move to Israel-Premier Tech follows a similar strategy. The Italian won the European title in 2021 and was second in Gent-Wevelgem.
Team DSM have lost Michael Storer, Jai Hindley and Tiesj Benoot and will rely on Romain Bardet in Grand Tours and stage races along with their latest crop of young talent.
Cofidis lost Christophe Laporte and Elia Viviani. They have their points from 2020 and 2021 and will be hoping Bryan Coquard, Guillaume Martin and new signing Ion Izaguirre can score enough points in 2022 to avoid relegation.
Cyclingnews understands that Cofidis were chasing points in 2021 even if team manager Cédric Vasseur played down such a strategy for 2022.
"I don't want us to enter into a mathematical game. I refuse to ask my riders to start races just to take points. I ask that they ride to win, that way no questions to be asked," he recently told l'Equipe.
Lotto Soudal are already feeling the pressure and team manager John Lelangue is more open about his points strategy, knowing his team faces an uphill battle for WorldTour survival.
Lotto Soudal have Caleb Ewan, Victor Campenaerts and Florian Vermeersch but are starting the 2022 season in 20th place in the ranking. They also set to lose sponsor Soudal to rival Patrick Lefevere in 2023.
"We will be heading to every race next year as if it were the last of the season. We have to score," Lelangue said, according to Nieuwsblad.
"Due to Covid-19, 2020 was a special year and last season we were especially unlucky with Caleb Ewan suffering with injuries and crashes at the Giro and the Tour."
"I'm not afraid. With all the reinforcements I think we can score points everywhere. If we have a 'normal season' like in 2019, then things will run smoothly. There is no need to panic."
Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription
Try your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
Thank you for signing up to Cycling News. You will receive a verification email shortly.
There was a problem. Please refresh the page and try again.