The UCI’s announcement on 2022 WorldTour licences spelled heartbreak to all those involved with Qhubeka NextHash, but was celebrated by Arkéa-Samsic, who will enjoy the freedom of the top-tier race calendar next season.
With Qhubeka NextHash refused a licence due to sponsorship shortfall, it was confirmed that the WorldTour will comprise just 18 teams in 2022, meaning more space at the biggest races for second-division ProTeams.
This year, Alpecin-Fenix enjoyed automatic invitations to all WorldTour races after finishing 2020 as the best ProTeam in the UCI’s World Ranking, a feat they have repeated once again this year. With one fewer WorldTour team, that privilege now extends to two ProTeams, the second-best on the 2021 ranking being Arkéa-Samsic.
The French team already had access to all WorldTour one-day races this year, but will now have their pick of the top-tier stage races on top, including the three Grand Tours. They have been regulars at the Tour de France since 2014 thanks to wildcard invitations but the likes of Nairo Quintana and Warren Barguil will now be able to think about the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España as well.
“How far we’ve come in the space of a few years! We’ve gradually been stepping up the ladder and are arriving at the cusp of the WorldTour in 2022,” said team manager Emmanuel Hubert.
“I am excited by the idea of the starting a new era for my riders and my staff. We have achieved this on sporting grounds - the only way, according to my vision of cycling.”
The team began as a Continental-level outfit in 2005, with the north-western French region of Bretagne carrying the name, alongside various co-sponsors, for the first decade. In 2011, the team joined the second-division ranks they currently occupy, and went on to make their Tour de France debut in 2014.
The team were title-sponsored by Fortuneo from 2016, with Samsic joining in 2018 at a time of great ambition that revolved around the major signing of Warren Barguil. They became Arkéa-Samsic from 2019 and signalled further intentions by signing former Giro and Vuelta champion Nairo Quintana in 2020, helping them establish themselves as one of the leading ProTeams.
“I have been able – with the precious support of my title sponsors, Arkéa and Samsic – to gradually build this group and get closer each year to the WorldTour teams, both statistically and in terms of the quality of the riders and staff," Hubert said. "We are going to continue to move forward, maintaining that line of progression.”
Quintana will be as excited as anyone by the news. Even last year he was indicating his desire to ride the Giro but a wildcard was not forthcoming. Now, the Colombian climber has the chance to return to the race he won in 2014, which will be even more tempting due to the scarcity of time trialling in the 2022 edition.
Likewise, Barguil will welcome the opportunity to ride two Grand Tours, while the team can target stage wins across all three with sprinters like Nacer Bouhanni and Dan McLay, and up-and-coming riders like Elie Gesbert and Connor Swift.
The team are in a luxurious position of having access to all races without the obligation to do any, but they don’t want to enjoy it for long, with Hubert voicing his desire to become a fully-fledged WorldTour member in 2023.
According to reforms agreed a couple of years ago, the WorldTour is set to drop back to 18 teams in 2023, potentially setting up an intense fight for ranking points next season if both Arkéa-Samsic and the current 18 teams apply along with any more ProTeams.
“The upcoming 2022 season will be at the same time a year of discovery and of performances required to be one of the 18 professional cycling teams selected to form the WorldTour in 2023,” said Hubert. “Our shared objective at Arkéa-Samsic is to establish ourselves at that level of competition for the long term.”
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