This brilliant Tour de France has left a very tight ranking in terms of the relegation battle, with 6 teams within a 1000 point margin, including Israel, Lotto, BikeExchange, Movistar, Cofidis and EF. Now we face the last third of the season with everything still to decide and a multitude of continental races in which the teams involved will have to race strategically to keep their WorldTour licence.
The Past 4 Weeks
Among the teams involved in the relegation battle, Arkéa, DSM, EF, BEX and Israel have completed a Tour de France above expectations, while Cofidis, Movistar and Lotto have struggled to get results and leave the Tour almost empty-handed. In the cases of Arkéa and DSM, they have practically secured the WorldTour licence for 2023-25 with the meritorious top 10 finishes of Quintana (455 UCI points in the Tour) and Bardet (350 points in the Tour), so we will surely stop considering them a team at risk in the next analysis.
Education First, BikeExchange and Israel have also completed a great Tour de France, with stage victories despite not getting any riders into the top 10 of the general classification. EF has excelled with Cort, Powless and Bettiol and especially leaves the feeling that the team is performing at a good level, enough to save their WorldTour status if this trend continues. BikeExchange has been able to build a gap of more than 400 points over the relegation zone thanks to the victories and podiums of Groenewegen and Matthews, while Israel remains just over 500 points from salvation but with a morale boost thanks to the historic stage victories of Clarke and Houle.
On the negative side, Movistar’s situation has worsened during the Tour with Enric Mas struggling on descents and then abandoning the race after contracting COVID-19. Mas entered the Tour de France under a lot of pressure to achieve a good result in the general classification and, after the Hautacam stage, he admitted that on the descents he has “an internal fear” that he struggles to overcome and hopes that it will be solved for La Vuelta. Meanwhile, the pressure in Spain is so great that a video has gone viral of a group of fans mocking the team’s possible relegation with a typical football chant.
Caleb Ewan has once again been disappointing for Lotto Soudal, leaving the Tour de France without a single point scored. Lotto-Soudal’s team however was not just designed around Ewan, leaving most of his lead-out train at home and bringing breakaway stage hunters to the Tour. However they were neither successful in the breakaways nor the sprints, ending as the lowest scoring team in the Tour de France. After the disappointments in the Giro and Tour, it is key for Ewan to recover physically and be useful in one-day races like Hamburg. For their part, Cofidis suffered from a points perspective with Guillaume Martin’s abandonment due to COVID-19 and did not achieve any top 5 in stages or outstanding positions in the general classification, although they did have enough visibility with Geschke’s mountain jersey, which he ended up losing on the Hautacam.
Whilst the Tour de France is hugely important for teams' sponsors, in terms of the relegation battle a mediocre Tour is not a terminal issue for Movistar or especially for Lotto and Cofidis, who can score many more UCI points in minor races. The Tour de France only distributes 5% of the UCI points in the whole season whilst there is still 36% of the season's UCI points to be distributed. In terms of UCI points, the Tour de France is equivalent to twenty 1.1 races or eleven 1.Pro races. Therefore, more points are awarded per day of competition in continental one-day races than in the Tour de France.
At this stage of the year, teams should already be looking at their top 10 riders with the most UCI points, which are the only ones that count towards the team ranking. Teams at risk of relegation should focus on scoring with those 10 riders or those close to the top 10. As every fortnight, we share this interactive graphic where you can see which 10 riders contribute points for each team at risk. By clicking on the name of the team, a graph opens with the points of each rider of that particular team.
We often explain that scoring consistently in the minor races is vital in the relegation battle. To understand it better, we want to share this graph with the distribution of UCI points throughout the 2022 season. As you can see, WorldTour races distribute less than half of the available points, while ProSeries races distribute 26% and class 1 races 24% of the total. Therefore, there are more UCI points at stake in the continental circuit than in the WorldTour.
Some teams concentrate more of their points in WorldTour races and others in races on the continental circuit. Among the teams involved in the relegation battle, it is clearly visible that this season those that have diversified their calendar the most (Arkéa, Cofidis and Lotto) have earned the most UCI points, while those that concentrate around 70% of their points in the WorldTour (EF, DSM and BikeExchange) have the lowest point totals. Thus, it seems obvious that the best strategy to gain UCI points among the teams at risk is to tackle an extensive calendar on the continental circuit, where the best riders in the world do not usually participate.
An interesting case is Lotto Soudal. In 2021, the Belgian team was not too concerned about the minor races and scored 60% of its points in WorldTour races. However this year, with a calendar adapted to the relegation battle, it has only scored 23% of its points in the top category of races and is having a much better season than in 2021 in terms of points and victories, even if its Tour de France has been disappointing.
After the Tour de France, Lotto Soudal and TotalEnergies remain in the lead in the fight for the 2023 WorldTour wildcards, although Israel has moved quite close to TotalEnergies.
For TotalEnergies, this end of season is just as stressful in the hunt for UCI points as it is for the teams involved in the relegation battle. Even if they do not know which two WorldTeams will be relegated, they need to keep scoring points to secure a WorldTour calendar in 2023, with the privilege of being able to discard races that do not interest them as Arkéa did with the Giro d'Italia this year. Peter Sagan's results at the WorldTour classics in Hamburg, Plouay, Quebec and Montreal will be key to securing those 2023 wildcards.
The Next 2 Weeks | 25 July - 8 August
The next fortnight will be very important in the fight for relegation, with 9 races and 2 of them of WorldTour category (the San Sebastián Klasikoa and the Tour de Pologne). The teams at risk will be looking for points with several of their best riders and we will see minor races with a high level startlist compared to previous seasons.
- Tour de Wallonie (2.Pro, 23/07 – 27/07) (Israel, Lotto, Movistar, Cofidis, EF, DSM)
- Prueba Villafranca - Ordiziako Klasika (1.1, 25/07) (Israel, BikeExchange, Movistar, EF)
- Vuelta a Castilla y León (2.1, 27/07 – 28/07) (Israel, BikeExchange, Movistar, EF)
- Donostia San Sebastián Klasikoa (1.UWT, 30/07) ALL
- Circuito de Getxo (1.1, 31/07) (Israel, Lotto, Movistar, Cofidis, EF)
- Tour de Pologne (2.UWT, 30/07 – 05/08) ALL
- Vuelta a Burgos (2.Pro, 02/08 – 06/08) (Israel, Movistar, EF)
- Sazka Tour (2.1, 04/08 – 07/08) (BikeExchange)
- Tour of Leuven - Memorial Jef Scherens (1.1, 07/08) (Israel, Lotto)
As for the teams in the relegation zone, Israel is the team taking part in the most races this fortnight, but Woods' COVID positive at the very end of the Tour de France will harm them if it forces him to miss the San Sebastián Klasikoa. Meanwhile, Lotto Soudal has Van Gils and Vanhoucke in the top 15 overall at the Tour de Wallonie and will rely on Andreas Kron in San Sebastián and especially on Tim Wellens (if he has recovered from the COVID) for the Tour de Pologne, a race he already won in 2016.
Movistar faces a key few weeks to score points, with an extensive calendar of races in Spain. Their star rider Alejandro Valverde was hit by a car a fortnight ago, but he will be able to score a lot of points between Vuelta a Castilla y León, San Sebastián and Vuelta a Burgos if he has recovered well. Iván García Cortina can also shine in the Spanish races, although the Asturian rider has said in the local press that missing out on the Tour was a huge disappointment and that the alternative calendar is not as motivating for him.
Also EF and BikeExchange will attend the Spanish races with some of their leaders: Esteban Chaves and Hugh Carthy in EF and Simon Yates and Lucas Hamilton in BikeExchange. In addition, BikeExchange has announced the renewals of Matthews until 2025 and Yates until 2024, and the commitment of team owner Gerry Ryan to continue until at least 2025. This good news will surely encourage the riders to perform at their best at the end of the season.
Finally, Guillaume Martin's satisfactory recovery from the covid is great news for Cofidis. The philosopher cyclist is already in the top 10 of the general classification of the Tour de Wallonie (alongside Jesús Herrada) and is capable of making another place of honour in San Sebastian, which would help the team to move away from the relegation zone.
Now that the Tour has concluded, we will return to our usual cadence of fortnightly articles updating you on the relegation battle. If you cannot wait that long, there is a tracker of the UCI points in the triennium and 2022 that is updated daily here.