National championships to feature in WorldTour relegation fight

Flags at the 2022 Giro d'Italia teams presentation
Flags at the 2022 Giro d'Italia teams presentation (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

The National Road Championships have extra meaning in 2022, with teams fighting to remain in the WorldTour when the promotion/relegation system goes into effect for 2023. Teams are fighting to gain points for the WorldTour's 'sporting criteria' - only the best 18 teams from 2020-2022 who are applying for the three-year licence will meet the sporting criteria.

The winner of a road race national championship earns 100 points and 50 for the time trial. It doesn't sound like much, but in the June 21 rankings, BikeExchange-Jayco are effectively tied for 19th place in the 2020-2022 rankings with Lotto Soudal, while Israel-Premier Tech are still in 20th, 486 points behind.

Prospective WorldTour teams Uno-X and TotalEnergies have a long way to go to climb above the existing WorldTeams and the top ProTeams, Arkéa-Samsic and Alpecin-Fenix, so the main battle is between the lowest five-ranked WorldTeams.

The COVID-19 cases at the Tour de Suisse harmed some teams - Jumbo-Visma scored zero points in the past week of racing after pulling out of the race. Bahrain Victorious, who lost five riders, only racked up 20 points. It hurt BikeExchange-Jayco, too. They only started with six riders and lost three during the race, but Michael Matthews helped the team to a 90-point gain.

It wasn't enough to hold their position, however, because EF Education-EasyPost had a great race, nabbing 543 points in the week thanks to Neilson Powless' fourth place at Tour de Suisse, among other results. The American team climbed back into 17th and edged closer to Movistar (16th), who accumulated only 166 points this week.

Speaking of Movistar, their point gains have been low since the end of the Classics, they didn't make out well in the Giro d'Italia and now have slipped behind Cofidis in the rankings.

Israel-Premier Tech had a surge in points in the past month. Between Michael Woods' win in Route d'Occitanie and Jakob Fuglsang's Tour de Suisse podium, Israel-Premier Tech gained 546 points, second only to Bora-Hansgrohe this week, but remain in 20th largely due to 2020 being their debut year in the WorldTour and a poor spring this year due to illness and injuries. They're now within 500 points of Lotto Soudal and BikeExchange.

The margins are so slim that those 100 points for a national title will give this week's championship races an extra edge. BikeExchange are at a disadvantage as the majority of the riders are from either Australia or New Zealand and both nations had their championships in January.

EF Education-EasyPost are sending two riders to the US Pro Championships, Alex Howes and Sean Quinn. Lawson Craddock will compete there for BikeExchange.

Lotto Soudal have multiple cards to play in the Belgian championships but less so in other nations. The more multinational Israel-Premier Tech have ample options in other countries from Canada, Denmark, Switzerland, Austria, Latvia, and, of course, Israel.

National championship points go down to 15th for the road race, and 10th in the time trial, so expect there to be more intense racing than ever in this week's races. Only the top-10 scorers for each team count toward the rankings, but the national championships give riders a chance to pad their tally and help push their team up the rankings ladder.

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