The relegation battle continues to be exciting, although the range of teams with a high chance of relegation is narrowing. After Arensman’s podium finish at the Tour de Pologne, DSM is no longer considered a team at risk, while BikeExchange is in an increasingly comfortable situation after an incredible summer. Israel Premier-tech remain in a delicate position in sporting terms, but have pulled off a coup in the offices with the mid-season transfer of Dylan Teuns.
Want to stay safe on public WiFi or change your virtual location? Surfshark VPN has you covered. Go to https://surfshark.deals/ROUGE for 83% off a Surfshark VPN and 3 extra months free using code ROUGE.
The Past Two Weeks
In the last fortnight, BikeExchange has overtaken Movistar, Cofidis and EF to move more than 1000 points clear of the relegation zone, when just before the Tour de France they were tied with Lotto. This has meant that Lotto and Israel have moved further away from salvation, with Movistar seeming to be the most accessible rival for them.
The official transfer window opened on 1 August and both Israel and EF Education have taken advantage. Dylan Teuns, winner of this year’s Flèche Wallonne and originally under contract with Bahrain-Victorious for the remainder of the year, appears to be targeting the Vuelta a España and the Italian Classics at the end of the season for his new team. If Israel want to increase their chance of escaping relegation or overcoming TotalEnergies in the 2022 ranking, it would be better for the Belgian puncheur (who performs best in the cold and wet weather) to skip the hot Vuelta a Espana and attend races like Arctic Race of Norway, Deutschland Tour and Tour of Britain.
Meanwhile, EF has added youngsters Andrea Piccolo and Jefferson Cepeda from Drone Hopper – Androni. It is curious that both teams had already reached the limit of riders in the team (31) and had to prematurely terminate the contracts of Savig (Israel) and Morton and Howes (EF) to make room for the new riders. Piccolo in particular should be able to immediately contribute in the profitable Italian semi-classics to end the year.
The signings do not carry over their existing points from the 2022 season, and their accounts are reset when they sign a new contract, so neither Israel nor EF will score points immediately. Only the top 10 riders of the team at the end of the season count for the team ranking, so Dylan Teuns will first have to enter Israel’s top 10 to start scoring useful points for the team. However, with just a couple of decent results, Teuns should be able to finish in the top 10 in Israel (currently 10th is Goldstein with 123 UCI points) and be key to the team’s salvation. For example, last season Girmay joined Intermarché in August from Delko and finished the season fourth in the team with more than 600 UCI points.
On the sporting side, BikeExchange was undoubtedly the winning team of the fortnight. We have noted on many occasions that BikeExchange relies heavily on Simon Yates, Matthews and Groenewegen. Therefore, it was key that Yates was up to the task in the post-Tour de France Basque races, with the Briton able to score 404 vital UCI points that moves BikeExchange away from the relegation zone with his victories in Ordizia and Castilla y León. These points accumulated by Yates across just five days were over double his points haul in the Giro d’Italia where he won two stages. In addition, the middle class of the team has also responded very well with Dion Smith’s second place in Ordizia, Sobrero’s fourth place in the general classification of the Tour de Pologne and Colleoni’s third place in the Sazka Tour. All of them were already in the team’s top 10, so almost all of BikeExchange’s UCI points have been useful.
Paradoxically, Movistar has missed out on the Spanish calendar and continues to complicate its situation, with Alejandro Valverde not back to 100% after being hit by a car a month ago and Ivan Sosa not even able to crack the top 10 in GC in Vuelta a Burgos, a race he has won twice before. Combined with Enric Mas’ confidence issues, Movistar is in a perilous position for a team that lacks squad depth. Their best results this fortnight have been sixth places (40 UCI points each) for Pedrero and Aranburu in Ordizia and Getxo respectively.
The main concern for Movistar must be that the Spanish continental calendar has already finished and yet there are still 12 continental races in Belgium and another 12 in France, which are supposedly better suited to rival teams. In the graph below, you can see how the vast majority of points on the continental circuit are split between France, Belgium, Italy and Spain, which is a logistical problem for non-European teams like Israel, BikeExchange and EF. And, in reality, Movistar is also at a disadvantage with respect to the French and Belgian teams, as the Spanish continental calendar distributes approximately half as many UCI points as the French and Belgian calendars.
It is precisely the Belgian calendar that has once again supported Lotto Soudal this fortnight, with Campenaerts’ victory in the Tour of Leuven (125 points) and Van Gils’ seventh place in the Tour de Wallonie (60 points). Their star rider Arnaud De Lie was also able to win a stage in Wallonie, but had to abandon after a heavy crash and then was not 100% in Leuven. Fortunately for Lotto, he did not suffer any injuries, as De Lie has contributed 29% of the team’s points and his performance until the end of the season will be decisive for salvation or maintaining their 2023 Wildcard status.
EF has maintained its gap to the relegation zone thanks to the Spanish calendar, where Guerreiro and Urán have led the way. Guerreiro retained his pre-Tour shape to take sixth at the Vuelta a Burgos, while Urán sprinted in San Sebastian for a valuable top 10. However, Shaw’s 70 points for sixth in Wallonie and Caicedo’s 60 points for fourth in Castilla y Leon do not count for the time being, as they do not reside in the team’s top 10.
Cofidis and Israel have been the two teams that have scored the least points this fortnight and both teams have cause for concern regarding their ability to target points for the rest of the year. In Cofidis there is a big difference in points between their 10 scoring riders and the rest, which forces them to focus on scoring points with those riders. The problem is that some riders like Martin, Thomas, Geschke or Izagirre have had a very busy season to date, with more than 60 days of competition, and they could suffer at the end of the season.
On the other hand, in Israel the wrong riders are scoring points, such as the 80 points obtained by Biermans between Castilla y León and the Tour of Leuven whilst not residing in their top 10. Their star riders also all have question marks over their final three months of the year. Nizzolo was a DNF in Leuven on the weekend after showing good shape in Castilla y León, Jakob Fuglsang had to abandon the Tour de France with a fractured rib and Mike Woods tested positive for COVID-19 after Stage 20 in Rocamadour. Whilst the presence of Woods was instrumental in the stage victory of Hugo Houle, Fuglsang and Woods scored a meagre 25 UCI points across a combined 35 extremely difficult race days at the Tour de France.
In the interactive graphic below 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.
Lotto Soudal and TotalEnergies remain in the lead in the race for the 2023 WorldTour invitations, for which only the 2022 ranking is taken into account. This is the worst possible situation for Israel – Premier Tech, who, as it currently stands, would be relegated without guaranteed wildcards to the best stage races in 2023.
If Israel pushes Movistar into the relegation zone, the Spanish team would not be assured of wildcards either, as they currently have accumulated fewer UCI points in 2022 than Lotto Soudal and TotalEnergies.
The Next 2 Weeks | 8 August – 21 August
This fortnight the cycling action continues with 11 races, including the European Championships, with a rather flat profile, and the Bemer Cyclassics WorldTour in Hamburg. In addition, La Vuelta will start at the end of next week with 3 stages in the Netherlands.
- Volta a Portugal em Bicicleta (2.1, 04/08 – 15/08) NONE
- Tour de l’Ain (2.1, 09/08 – 11/08) (Lotto, Movistar, Cofidis, EF)
- Eurométropole Tour (1.Pro, 10/08) (Israel, Lotto, Cofidis)
- Arctic Race of Norway (2.Pro, 11/08 – 14/08) (Israel, Cofidis, BikeExchange)
- La Polynormande (1.1, 14/08) (Lotto, Cofidis)
- RR Road European Championships (CC, 14/08)
- ITT Road European Championships (CC, 17/08)
- Tour du Limousin (2.1, 16/08 – 19/08) (Lotto, Movistar, Cofidis)
- Tour of Denmark (2.Pro, 16/08 – 20/08) (Israel, EF)
- BEMER Cyclassics (1.UWT, 21/08) ALL
- Schaal Sels Merksem (1.1, 21/08) (Lotto)
The European Championships road race awards 250 points to the winner, while the ITT only awards 70 points. Even though they are raced by national teams, the riders score points for their commercial team. However, there will not be many riders from the teams at risk with a chance. Nizzolo (Israel), Coquard (Cofidis) and Garcia Cortina (Movistar) are contenders in the road race, while Bissegger (EF) and Sobrero (BikeExchange) will be among the ITT favourites.
Lotto Soudal needs a boost from Arnaud de Lie to get closer to salvation. The provisional startlist has Merlier attending the suitable European Championships instead of the young Belgian, however he will take part in the Eurométropole Tour, La Polynormande and the Schaal Sels. Moreover, Caleb Ewan should be one of the favourites in Hamburg, which offers huge points as a WorldTour one-day race, where Nizzolo (Israel) and Groenewegen (BikeExchange) are also supposed to take part.
Movistar had the Volta a Portugal on its original calendar, but changed it to the Tour de l’Ain and the Tour du Limousin, where they can earn more UCI points with far fewer days of racing and fatigue. Apparently, Sosa will be the leader in the mountainous Tour de l’Ain, while Aranburu will try to win the Tour du Limousin. In those French races, Guillaume Martin will also be leading Cofidis, which needs to take advantage of its national calendar.
The Arctic Race of Norway, won by Ben Hermans in 2021, presents a huge opportunity for Israel, with both relegation rivals Lotto-Soudal and Movistar not taking the start at the four day .Pro race. With no time trial and multiple punchy stages, it is a race that a team with Teuns, Woods and Fuglsang could theoretically have locked out the GC podium, scoring 500 points in the process and leapfrogging Lotto-Soudal and TotalEnergies (in the 2022 ranking).
However the key word is theoretically. Teuns might not attend and, as mentioned above, there are question marks over Woods and Fuglsang’s present condition and even without sickness or injury, their performance peak was unlikely to have been designed around the Arctic Race anyway. Israel will have to hope that newly extended Simon Clarke can carry his form from the Tour de France whilst if BikeExchange’s Nick Schultz is able to repeat his level on the Peyragudes stage of the Tour, he will likely finish on the podium.
We will return with our next update on the 22nd of August, the travel day from the Netherlands to the north of Spain during La Vuelta. The next two weeks will be hugely important in the relegation battle, so if you want daily updates, check out our daily tracker here.
Editor’s Note: This article was prepared by Raúl Banqueri with contributions from the Editor, Patrick Broe.