Nairo Quintana’s disqualification from the Tour de France 2022 has further twisted the course of the already exciting relegation battle. After taking it for granted that Arkéa would be promoted to the WorldTour, the French team has been dragged back into contention. With 26% of the 2022 points still to be distributed, we have six teams within a 1000 point margin, although Lotto and Israel are respectively 600 and 1000 points away from safety.
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The Past Two Weeks
As you can see in the graph, Arkéa has fallen almost to the level of Cofidis after losing the 455 points that Nairo Quintana scored in the Tour de France between his sixth place on GC and his second place on the Granon stage. Quintana has decided to appeal his disqualification and so will not be participating in La Vuelta, costing Arkéa even more points. Whilst Quintana’s appeal with the Court of Arbitration for Sport will likely be lodged this week, the resolution of his case may not occur until 2023.
This presents a huge problem for the UCI in how they manage Arkéa’s WorldTour application if they fall into the relegation zone without Quintana’s 455 Tour de France points. If CAS was to rule in Quintana’s favour in 2023, his Tour de France results and accompanying points would be reinstated, but by then the determination of the 18 WorldTour licences will already have been made by the UCI. Waiting to determine the licences of all 18 teams until the Quintana case is resolved at some point in 2023 also does not seem be a viable solution. The UCI and Arkéa will be hoping that even without Quintana’s 455 points, Arkéa do not descend into the relegation zone – however there is still much of the season to come.
Although they still have a margin of almost 1000 points, Arkéa also have a complicated situation in sporting terms as Bouhanni is still injured and Dan McLay is participating in La Vuelta rather than the profitable Autumn semi-classics. They will need the best version of fast riders like Hofstetter, Capiot or Louvel in those races, of which there are a good number in France and Belgium, where they can make the most of their qualities. In addition, Quintana has stated that he will be back in competition before the end of the season and can be useful in the Italian classics. If the team performs as expected, Arkéa should be promoted to the WorldTour, whatever happens with Quintana’s case.
In the last fortnight, Cofidis have been the king of continental races, thanks to the tireless Guillaume Martin, who won the Tour de l’Ain and finished in the top 10 at La Polynormande and the Tour de Limousin, earning 232 UCI points in total. The team also shone in the Arctic Race of Norway, with stage wins for Zingle and Lafay and both in the top 5 overall, although their approach in the final stage of the race left a lot to be desired from a non-points perspective.
For the moment, Cofidis does not benefit from the 110 points that Lafay received in Norway, but the French climber is just 11 UCI points away from entering the team’s top 10 and could be useful at the end of the season if he continues in good shape.
Movistar also tasted victory with Pedrero in the Tour de l’Ain (a stage and fifth overall) and Aranburu in the Tour de Limousin (a stage and overall), two races in which Movistar had not originally planned to participate. In addition to the 220 UCI points scored between them, it is especially a morale booster for the team. After Aranburu’s victory, Movistar asked its fans on social media to “believe in this team”, trying to reverse the tense atmosphere of the previous weeks as the cloud of potential relegation loomed large. In Hamburg, Kanter and García Cortina’s double top 15 also brought them 112 points, in a classic where Lotto and Israel were expected to close the gap to the Spanish team.
In Hamburg, Lotto was saddened by another crash of Caleb Ewan, as well as the loss of Steff Cras in La Vuelta, the man destined to contest the general classification. The Belgian team stays alive thanks to the continental calendar, led by De Lie and Campenaerts. “El Toro” De Lie won again at the Schaal Sels (125 pts) and finished 6th at Circuit Franco-Belge (70 pts) and La Polynormande (40 pts), while Campenaerts contributed another 125 points with his podium finish at Circuit Franco-Belge. So far this season, De Lie is the eighth highest UCI points scorer in the world, close to overtaking Kristoff and Van der Poel.
Israel’s leaders have continued with the bad luck that has plagued them throughout the season. Nizzolo crashed at the Circuit Franco-Belge, which prevented him from taking part in the European Championships and from standing out in Hamburg. Woods abandoned the Vuelta after a crash before it left the Netherlands, although he suffers no fractures. At least the team made good use of its participation in the Arctic Race of Norway, scoring 195 points between Houle’s podium finish and Hagen’s top 10. Another man who is scoring consistently is Belgian Jenthe Biermans, who has entered the top 10 of Israel scoring 81 points with top places at Circuit Franco-Belge, La Polynormande and the Hamburg classic.
Finally, EF and BikeExchange have moved closer to the relegation zone this fortnight. EF did not benefit from Stefan Bissegger’s European ITT title, as the Swiss is surprisingly not in EF’s top 10. Therefore, the maximum contribution for EF has come from Magnus Cort, with the 90 UCI points from his top 5 at the Tour of Denmark. As for BikeExchange, Groenewegen did not hold up in the peloton in Hamburg and, although he won a stage in Norway, he finished the fortnight with only 28 UCI points. The positive surprise came with Mezgec, who finished 13th in Hamburg (40 pts) and sixth in the European Championships Road Race (90 pts), scoring for the commercial team despite having raced representing Slovenia.
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.
Bugs and Sanctions
As we have explained many times, the scoring system is quite complex – see our full explanation article here. It is not as easy as in other sports where only wins or draws are added up, and this leads to errors in the ranking that could even alter the relegation battle if not corrected. For example, Elia Viviani in 2021 scored 813 UCI points for Cofidis, but the UCI database added 810.
Another problem is incorrect rankings from the races, an issue often reported on Twitter by Pro Cycling Stats. A change of bike between teammates can mean that they appear in the incorrect position in the official classification, due to the change in transponder of the riders. These errors are usually corrected for the top places, but sometimes the official rankings remain wrong forever.
The sanctions with UCI points are also a challenging issue. There is no official website where all sanctions can be consulted and most races do not make the jury’s communiqués public. The Twitter account @ElComisarioCicl tries to compile and explain the penalties of the most important races, but even so, it takes a lot of work to find them, as he explained to us for this article. In addition, the UCI usually adds the sanctions in its database quite late or even forgets them. For example, there is an unapplied sanction of 25 UCI points for Iván Sosa (Movistar) for “disposing of waste outside of litter zones” on stage 16 of the Giro. As there is no transparency about the sanctions, it is impossible to know if the sanction has been removed or forgotten.
In short, if at the end of the season there is a minimal difference in UCI points between the 18th and the 19th team, the UCI must carefully review all sanctions, rankings and totals before taking a decision as far-reaching as withdrawing a team’s WorldTour licence. Before doing so, it would probably be appropriate to have the final 2020-22 points ranking independently audited by one of the major accounting firms, as the final ranking will most certainly be closely scrutinised by the affected teams.
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. It is remarkable how Total continues to score at the same pace as the WorldTeams, thanks to the contributions of Van Gestel, Simon and Turgis in minor races in France and Belgium.
If Movistar, who currently sit around 600 points clear of the relegation zone, were to be relegated from the WorldTour without guaranteed invitations to the Grand Tours, it would not only be dramatic for them, but also for the other four Spanish ProTeams. In that case, in La Vuelta 2023 there would only be two wildcards available for five Spanish teams, so three of them would not be able to race their goal of the season, as has happened this year with Caja Rural.
The Next 3 Weeks | 22 August – 11 September
During La Vuelta, the alternative calendar will be more important than La Vuelta itself in terms of UCI points, even with the cancellation of the Benelux Tour. The next three WT classics alone (in Plouay, Québec and Montréal) distribute almost the same UCI points as the entire Vuelta. In addition, there will be nine continental races on which some teams have also set their attention.
- La Vuelta ciclista a España (2.UWT, 19/08 – 11/09) ALL
- Egmont Cycling Race (1.1, 23/08) Israel, Lotto, Cofidis, BikeExchange, Arkéa
- Druivenkoers – Overijse (1.1, 24/08) Israel, Lotto, Cofidis, BikeExchange, Arkéa
- Tour Poitou – Charentes (2.1, 23/08 – 26/08) Cofidis, Arkéa
- Deutschland Tour (2.Pro, 24/08 – 28/08) Israel, Lotto, Movistar, EF
- Bretagne Classic – Ouest-France (1.UWT, 28/08) ALL
- Maryland Cycling Classic (1.Pro, 04/09) Israel, EF, BikeExchange
- Tour du Doubs (1.1, 04/09) Lotto, Cofidis, Arkéa
- Tour of Britain (2.Pro, 04/09 – 11.09) Israel, Movistar
- Turul Romaniei (2.1, 06/09 – 11/09) NONE
- Grand Prix Cycliste de Québec (1.UWT, 09/09) ALL
- Grand Prix Cycliste de Montréal (1.UWT, 11/09) ALL
- GP de Fourmies (1.Pro, 11/09) Lotto, EF, Cofidis, Arkéa
Cleverly, Movistar has not taken its best possible team to La Vuelta, but has reserved the likes of Aranburu, Cortina, Kanter, Jorgenson and Pedrero for the alternative calendar. In any case, La Vuelta will be key for Movistar, BikeExchange and EF, as they have leaders such as Mas, Valverde (Movistar), Simon Yates (BikeExchange) or Carthy, Urán and Chaves (EF), all of them contenders for the general classification. On the other hand, Israel, Lotto, Cofidis and Arkéa will have few opportunities to score points in Spain and will have to focus on the alternative calendar.
Being almost 1000 points away from salvation, it is not very understandable that Israel has taken Bevin, Impey and Einhorn to La Vuelta to chase stages, as only the first five riders of each stage score points. All three are fast riders who could score more points in a classics calendar or, for Bevin and Impey, fight for top 10 in GC at races such as the Tour of Britain. Meanwhile, new signing Dylan Teuns (perhaps on our advice) did not start the Vuelta and will take part in the Tour of Britain, while Fuglsang will lead in the Deutschland Tour and the Canadian classics, alongside Nizzolo. Between crashes and sub-optimal decisions, Israel is running out of time to escape the relegation zone.
The Canadian classics, which score like the Monuments, will be the most important events on the alternative calendar, but stars such as Van Aert and Pogacar will also be there. The Sunday before, the Maryland Classic (1.Pro) will take place in the United States, about 1,000 kilometres from Quebec. Taking advantage of the trip, EF, Israel and BikeExchange have signed up for the American race, where it will be much relatively easier to score points than in Canada.
Anyway, it seems that no team at risk will participate in the Turul Romaniei (2.1) looking for “cheap” points. Although there are 6 days of competition, there will be no WorldTeams and only two ProTeams. Signing up at the last minute would be a good option for BikeExchange, which will not race the Tour of Britain, and could win in Romania with Schultz, Colleoni or Sobrero. It would also be a good comeback race for Nairo Quintana if Arkéa were to sign up.
We will return with our next update on the the 12th of September, after the conclusion of La Vuelta. The next three weeks are perhaps the most important remaining in the relegation battle, with some teams’ fates surely decided before the Italian classics even begin.
Editor’s Note: This article was prepared by Raúl Banqueri with contributions from the Editor, Patrick Broe. The cover artwork is by Louemans.