Belgian Pro Continental team Wanty-Groupe Gobert have finished first in the UCI Europe Tour for the third year in a row.
With no promotion or relegation system between 'leagues' in cycling, the team will remain at Pro Continental level in 2019.
However, the recently announced UCI reforms have revealed that the second-tier continental competitions will be replaced in 2020 by a new, international UCI ProSeries, disputed between ProTeams – the new name for Pro Continental squads.
The top two finishers in that competition will automatically qualify for the following year's Grand Tours – the Giro d'Italia, the Tour de France and the Vuelta a España.
That means that the Grand Tour organisers will have a reduced number of so-called 'wildcard' invitations to hand out, which often go to teams of the same nationality as the Grand Tour, and so the new system will reward ability that much more.
Wanty chief executive Benoit Soenen recognises that the changes will be beneficial to high-level smaller teams like Wanty-Groupe Gobert.
"For our team and our company, this third consecutive success in the UCI Europe Tour is something to be really proud of. We made a goal of it," he said.
"This result is promising for the future, especially in the context of the UCI reform, which will be implemented in 2020. This reform will motivate teams with our status to continue to battle."
Wanty-Groupe Gobert have received wildcards to the past two editions of the Tour de France, which provides teams with a huge shopwindow in which to display their sponsors' names and logos, but the new system for 2020 will ensure that at least the best two non-WorldTour teams are selected for the world's best three-week races.
The team has enjoyed a hugely successful 2018 season en route to their third UCI Europe Tour title, and wins have included a stage and the overall title for up-and-coming French star Guillaume Martin at the Circuit Cycliste Sarthe-Pays de la Loire, two stage wins and the overall classification for Italian Andrea Pasqualon at the Tour de Luxembourg, and a stage win at the Tour de Wallonie for Norwegian Odd Christian Eiking.
In all, the team won 13 UCI-level races this season.
"We are very proud of our new overall victory in the UCI Europe Tour team classification," said team general manager Jean-François Bourlart on the team's website.
"Winning this overall ranking for the third consecutive year once again proves that WGG is the most regular team of the 'second division'. With our 14 wildcards for WorldTour races in 2018, we've also shown that the organisers trust us and that they appreciate our offensive way of racing."
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