Relegation watch gets a new twist with Tour de France wildcard limitations

ALCUDIA SPAIN JANUARY 26 Reto Hollenstein of Switzerland Guy Sagiv of Ireland Tom Van Asbroeck of Belgium Alastair Mackellar of Australia Riley Pickrell of Canada Roi Weinberg of Israel Itamar Einhorn of Israel and Team IsraelPremier Tech prior to the 32nd Challenge Ciclista Mallorca 2023 Trofeo Ses Salines Alcdia a 1586km one day race from Ses Salines to Por DAlcdia ChallengeMallorca on January 26 2023 in Alcudia Spain Photo by Dario BelingheriGetty Images
Israel-Premier Tech moved down to ProTeam status in 2023 but were extended wildcard invitations to all three Grand Tours (Image credit: Dario Belingheri/Getty Images)

Teams have a new concern when it comes to gaining UCI points: a new rule that limits wildcard invitations that Grand Tours such as the Tour de France can extend to the top 50 teams on the UCI World Rankings.

This season was the first year that teams were relegated from the WorldTour for dropping outside the top 18 in the three-year Team Rankings. Lotto-Dstny and Israel-Premier Tech dropped down to ProTeam status involuntarily, while Alpecin-Deceuninck and Arkéa-Samsic were elevated to the WorldTour.

In 2024, Grand Tour organisers can only select from the top 50 teams, and in 2025 the range shrinks to the top 40, finally settling on the top 30 teams in 2026.

The Grand Tours are required to invite all WorldTour teams and the two top ProTeams of the previous year's World Ranking. Those teams were Lotto-Dstny and TotalEnergies, but Israel-Premier Tech were extended wildcard invitations to all three Grand Tours. UCI rules do not require Grand Tour organisers to invite demoted teams, but other WorldTour stage races are obliged to include those teams in the year following their demotion.

The new rule will stop races like the Vuelta a España from favouring low-ranked domestic teams. Burgos-BH were 62nd in the 2022 rankings and earned a wildcard ahead of other higher-ranked teams like Uno-X. Caja Rural-Seguros-RGA were 32nd and also won an invitation to the Spanish Grand Tour.

A new rule also covers teams who have newly gained a ProTeam licence. The ranking of new teams will be calculated on the points scored by the best 20 riders. This is in contrast to the point calculations for existing teams whose points are calculated on riders who were on the team in the previous season. Riders points do not transfer along with them to new teams.

The rules do not appear to account for double counting of a rider who might transfer from an existing WorldTeam or ProTeam to a new ProTeam.

With these new rules, every point will count not just for teams aiming for the WorldTour in the next three-year cycle but for any team with Grand Tour ambitions.

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Laura Weislo
Managing Editor

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.