Mathieu van der Poel will have his pick of the Grand Tours and Classics in 2021 after his Alpecin-Fenix team earned automatic invitations to all WorldTour events thanks to finishing this season as the best-ranked ProTeam, the UCI announced on Wednesday.
Alpecin-Fenix finished 12th overall in the World Rankings this season, thanks in large part to Van der Poel's victories in the Tour of Flanders - where he beat Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) in a nail-biting sprint - and stages of Tirreno-Adriatico and the BinckBank Tour.
Arkéa-Samsic will be invited to all one-day races as second-ranked ProTeam. The Licence Commission also registered 19 ProTeams including newcomers Eolo-Kometa and Kern Pharma.
The UCI confirmed the 19 teams that will compete in the 2021 WorldTour with Qhubeka Assos keeping their spot after losing title sponsor NTT, and Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux joining after taking over the place of the now-defunct CCC Team.
After a COVID-19-shortened season, and numerous teams facing budget shortfalls and salary cuts, the UCI thanked all of cycling's stakeholders for "concerted efforts" to "keep professional cycling at the highest level despite the difficult circumstances."
NTT Pro Cycling's future was in doubt well into November until Assos stepped in to support the South African squad, which will continue to promote the bicycle charity Qhubeka.
The uncertainty meant that the team lost many of their marquee riders, with Michael Valgren, Edvald Boasson Hagen and Ben O'Connor among 19 riders leaving.
Team principal Doug Ryder snapped up 17 riders in the late transfer market, with Fabio Aru being given a lifeline after several years of struggle with UAE Team Emirates, Sergio Henao moving across from the same team, Robert Power from Sunweb and Simon Clarke from EF Pro Cycling part of the new influx.
The team kept Italian and European champion Giacomo Nizzolo and Domenico Pozzovivo, with Nic Dlamini and Reinardt Janse van Rensburg the only remaining Africans remaining.
Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux, who raced as Circus-Wanty-Gobert this season, picked up Louis Meintjes from NTT and kept Jan Hirt, Jonas Koch and Georg Zimmerman from the CCC Team, adding Rein Taaramäe (Total Direct Energie), Lorenzo Rota (Vini Zabù-KTM) and Baptiste Planckaert (Bingoal-Wallonie Bruxelles) ahead of their inaugural WorldTour season.
Want You Cycling announced it would take over the CCC Team's parent company Continuum Sports in September after the Polish-backed team's sponsor suffered financial problems brought on during the coronavirus pandemic.
CCC Team were one of several teams forced to cut rider and staff salaries during the March to July race stoppage, and the UCI expressed relief that all of the top WorldTeams and ProTeams could be registered for 2021.
"The UCI welcomes these figures which bear witness to the concerted efforts made by teams and riders in this period to keep professional cycling at the highest level despite the difficult circumstances, economic in particular. The UCI thanks all implicated stakeholders," the press release stated.
The strangely-worded press release listed 11 teams as having gone through the full review under UCI regulations, while eight teams - Astana, Bahrain Victorious, GreenEdge, Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert, Israel Start-Up Nation, Team DSM, EF Education-Nippo and Qhubeka Assos - were registered by the Licence Commission "after hearing teams that had not been able to be registered directly by the UCI."
Three ProTeams - B&B Hotels, Delko and Arkéa-Samsic - also were registered by the Licence Commission, while all the other existing teams and newcomers Eolo-Kometa and Kern Pharma went through the full review. The only missing team was Riwal Cycling, who dropped down to the Continental level.
2021 UCI WorldTeams
- AG2R Citroen Team
- Astana – Premier Tech
- Bahrain Victorious
- Bora – Hansgrohe
- Deceuninck – Quick-step
- EF Education – Nippo
- GreenEdge Cycling (formerly Mitchelton-Scott)
- Groupama – FDJ
- Ineos Grenadiers
- Intermarché – Wanty – Gobert Matériaux (taking over CCC Team's licence)
- Israel Start-up Nation
- Lotto Soudal
- Movistar Team
- Team DSM (formerly Team Sunweb)
- Team Qhubeka Assos
- Trek – Segafredo
- UAE Team Emirates
- Androni Giocattoli – Sidermec
- B&B Hotels p/b KTM
- Bardiani CSF Faizane’
- Bingoal WB
- Caja Rural-Seguros RGA
- Eolo-Kometa Cycling Team (new)
- Equipo Kern Pharma (new)
- Euskaltel – Euskadi
- Rally Cycling
- Sport Vlaanderen – Baloise
- Team Arkea – Samsic
- Team Novo Nordisk
- Total Direct Energie
- Uno – X Pro Cycling Team
- Vini Zabu' Brado KTM
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