WorldTour relegation pulse: Five teams battling to remain
Lotto Soudal and Israel-Premier Tech still in the 'relegation zone' but trending upward
The month of May saw several changes in the 2020-2022 UCI Team Rankings that will determine which 18 teams make next year's WorldTour, with BikeExchange-Jayco overtaking EF Education-EasyPost and pushing the American team to 18th the most notable change. Cyclingnews examines the trends in the rankings and looks ahead to the upcoming WorldTour races to see which teams can fight back.
In the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, it was Intermarché-Wanty Gobert Matériaux (then Circus-Wanty) and Israel Premier-Tech (then Israel Start-Up Nation) who were in the 'relegation zone' - the 19th and 20th places in the three-year rankings where teams will miss out on the WorldTour's 'sporting criteria'. In 2021, it was Cofidis and Lotto Soudal.
While Cofidis has clambered over the likes of BikeExchange-Jayco and EF Education-EasyPost, Lotto Soudal and Israel-Premier Tech remain locked in battle to get out of the basement.
Now that ProTeams Arkéa-Samsic and Alpecin-Fenix have out-performed so many of the WorldTeams and are almost a shoo-in, and WorldTour hopefuls Uno-X and TotalEnergies are so far behind it looks unlikely they will challenge. There are currently five teams most intensely playing cycling's game of musical chairs and we don't expect the rankings to solidify anytime soon.
The month of June will be critical, with the Critérium du Dauphiné and Tour de Suisse and a slew of Europe Tour and ProSeries races offering points toward the rankings. In July, it's all about the Tour de France. Unlike during the Giro d'Italia where teams like Arkéa-Samsic, who skipped the Giro, could score points elsewhere, the Tour excludes almost all but the lowest level races during its three weeks.
One crash, a case of COVID-19, or an unexpected Grand Tour podium could alter a team's fate in one day. Expect an intense period of racing this month and at the Tour de France as these five teams fight for their future.
Israel-Premier Tech - 20th
Coming into the season, Israel-Premier Tech looked far more secure in 16th, but their early season was heavily impacted by illness and injury. However, they have shown promise ahead of the critical pre-Tour de France block of racing, with Jakob Fuglsang and Michael Woods going one-two in the Mercan'Tour Classic Alpes-Maritimes on Tuesday. The race also saw Chris Froome notch up his best result since his devastating 2019 crash in the Criterium du Dauphiné.
Between the three riders, that was a handy 142 points in one day of racing. Now that Woods, Fuglsang and possibly Froome are in point-scoring form, their future in 2023 will rely heavily on those three riders and their performance at the upcoming WorldTour races.
Lotto Soudal - 19th
Lotto Soudal have steadily risen up the 2022-only rankings off the back of less prominent races like 4 Jours de Dunkerque, the Saudi Tour and top finishes in ProSeries and 1.1-ranked one-day races, which the UCI points scheme favours disproportionately.
Without a major GC prospect for the Dauphiné, Tour de Suisse and Tour de France, they'll be looking again to smaller races like the Brussels Classic, Ronde van Limburg and Baloise Belgium Tour with riders like Tim Wellens, Caleb Ewan and Victor Campenaerts while Philippe Gilbert and Thomas de Gendt hunt for stages in the Tour de Suisse.
Lotto Soudal also have good prospects for stage wins in the Tour de France with Ewan and Wellens, while De Gendt, winner of a stage in the Giro d'Italia, is not racing the Tour.
EF Education-EasyPost - 18th
During the Giro d'Italia, EF Education-EasyPost have fallen from what looked like a perfectly secure position of 12th at the end of 2021 to a very much less ideal 18th place.
The American squad's main misfortune has been the loss of top-scoring riders, like Sergio Higuita to Bora-Hansgrohe, while their acquisitions of Esteban Chavez and Mark Padun have yet to really pay off. Rigoberto Urán broke his collarbone in Tour de Romandie but will be a key rider along with Chavez and Padun in the next two months.
The trendlines might point to EF Education-EasyPost being overtaken by Lotto Soudal by the end of the Tour de France, but being set up with better prospects for Grand Tour GC, expect the American squad to turn that course to shift in the coming months.
BikeExchange-Jayco - 17th
At the start of the season, BikeExchange-Jayco were 14th in the three-year rankings but fell to 18th as Arkéa-Samsic, Intermarché-Wanty Gobert, and Cofidis climbed up the ranks. The Australian team were impacted by Simon Yates falling ill during the Volta a Catalunya after his fine second place in Paris-Nice, and undoubtedly had put all of their eggs into the Giro d'Italia basket with the Briton.
When Yates crashed on stage 4 and hurt his knee, the damage wasn't immediately apparent. But by the Blockhaus stage, it was clear his GC ambitions were over because of it. Although he rallied to win the stage to Turin, his abandon hurt the team's Giro points tally.
Yates is BikeExchange's sole GC hopeful and he'll come back to aim at the Tour de France, while Michael Matthews can nab some stages. But Yates needs to stop with the bad luck or the team could reverse their uphill trend.
Cofidis - 16th
Cofidis, who started the season in the relegation zone in 19th ahead of Lotto Soudal, climbed up to 16th by May, getting ahead of EF Education-EasyPost and BikeExchange-Jayco. Again, their progress has been partly due to stacking minor races. However, the signing of Ion Izagirre helped the team's GC ambitions. What looked like a tenuous future in the WorldTour now looks quite different for the French team.
They're not out of the woods yet, however. BikeExchange-Jayco made up ground and are less than 400 points behind, while EF Education-EasyPost are another 86 points in arrears. That's the difference of a fifth place overall in the Tour de France, or two stage wins and two days in the maglia rosa. The margins are still very tight.
The 'safe' teams
At the top of the rankings, there were some changes amongst the big-budget outfits in the past month. Ineos Grenadiers got ahead of Jumbo-Visma off the strength of Richard Carapaz's Giro d'Italia. The Ecuadorian might have lost the Giro to Jai Hindley (Bora-Hansgrohe) but he raked in 880 points - 680 for second place and 20 points for each day he led the race, among other results.
Jumbo-Visma, by contrast, lost their GC hopes with Tom Dumoulin's time loss on Mount Etna and subsequent abandon, garnering 300 points through Koen Bouwman's pair of stage wins and victory in the mountains classification. The entrance of Primož Roglič, Sepp Kuss, Wout van Aert and crew will undoubtedly keep their point tally rising.
Those two teams still lag slightly behind Quickstep-AlphaVinyl in the three-year standings. The Belgian outfit are mainly relying on strong performances in 2020 and 2021 for that lead, but it's been slipping this year due to injuries to riders like Julian Alaphilippe, the team's sour luck in the Classics and the loss of GC contender João Almeida to UAE Team Emirates. What started as a lead of almost 2600 points on Jumbo-Visma has evaporated to a thin 402 point advantage over Ineos.
Ineos, QuickStep, Jumbo-Visma and UAE Team Emirates are head and shoulders above the rest and can be considered the safest from relegation.
Further down, Bahrain Victorious and Bora-Hansgrohe represent the next-most solid candidates, with Alpecin-Fenix just behind, having confirmed their intention to seek WorldTeam status. Groupama-FDJ and Trek-Segafredo are next down the list and would have to fall a long way to become worried.
Teams to watch
The security wanes as we look down past Trek-Segafredo in ninth: Astana, AG2R Citroën, Movistar, Team DSM, Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux and Arkéa-Samsic are all within 2000 points of each other. Until Vincenzo Nibali's fourth place in the Giro, Astana Qazaqstan had struggled to gain points. AG2R Citroën briefly overtook Astana in the latest rankings but Nibali turned that around.
Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert climbed ahead of Arkéa-Samsic after Jan Hirt and Domenico Pozzovivo's top 10s overall in the Giro and Biniam Girmay's stage win. The team is by no means 'safe' but with possible Tour de France stage winners Alexander Kristoff, Quinten Hermans and the ever-attacking Taco van der Hoorn slated for the Tour in July, their position looks quite a bit better than it did in January.
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Laura Weislo has been with Cyclingnews since 2006 after making a switch from a career in science. As Managing Editor, she coordinates coverage for North American events and global news. As former elite-level road racer who dabbled in cyclo-cross and track, Laura has a passion for all three disciplines. When not working she likes to go camping and explore lesser traveled roads, paths and gravel tracks. Laura's specialises in covering doping, anti-doping, UCI governance and performing data analysis.
By Josh Ross