The last two weeks of classics and the World Championships have clarified the situation in the relegation battle. Movistar, BikeExchange and EF have practically secured their WorldTour status, so now Cofidis and Arkéa, tied on points, seem to be the only teams within Lotto’s reach, although it will be a very difficult mission for the Belgians. On the other hand, Israel – Premier Tech has not found a miracle and will not be a WorldTour team in 2023 if the UCI does implement the relegation system.
The Past Two Weeks
Contrary to our expectations, Lotto’s gap to Cofidis has widened to 893 points after the last fortnight and the gap is greater than 1000 points from EF Education – Easypost. With only 8% of the 2022 points still to be distributed, it is even complicated for Lotto to score more than 1000 points in these last 3 weeks of the season. At least they have Caleb Ewan and Arnaud De Lie in good form, but both need to win or finish on the podium in all their remaining races, and supplement that with more points from Campenaerts, Kron or De Buyst. We must remember that Wellens is recovering from heart problems and Moniquet has recently suffered a hand injury.
With this situation, we have updated our predictive model, based on the expected calendars of each team at risk, their riders with scoring potential and 100,000 simulations. The model predicts Israel’s relegation with a 99.98% probability, while Lotto’s relegation probabilities have increased dramatically to 80.52%. Arkéa maintains an 11.49% chance of not being promoted, while Cofidis’ chances of relegation have been reduced to just 5.39%.
While Lotto and Cofidis will take part in almost every race until the end of the season, Arkéa will have a reduced calendar, which increases their chances of being left out of the top 18 teams. Their top 10 cyclists with the most points include Bouhanni, injured since April, and Quintana, pending his legal claim at the Tribunal Arbitral du Sport. Therefore, they cannot cover such an extensive calendar and, in addition, have also been turned down for several races in which they wanted to participate in the following weeks.
BikeExchange and EF have emerged triumphant from the last fortnight, especially thanks to the World Championships. Matthews’ bronze in the road race brought 400 points to BikeExchange, but the team added 170 more UCI points in the mixed relay thanks to the medals of Matthews, Durbridge and Sobrero as well as 275 more by Groenewegen back in Europe in minor races. Meanwhile, EF shone in the Italian classics with Chaves and Eiking, but also scored more than 400 points in Australia, with Bissegger’s fifth in the ITT (125 pts), his gold in the TTT (100 pts) and Bettiol’s eigth in the road race (150 pts).
Without riders in the World Championships, Cofidis also performed well above expectations, driven by Simone Consonni, winner of the Paris-Chauny (125 pts) and seventh in the Primus Classic (60 pts), and Guillaume Martin, ninth in the Giro della Toscana (25 pts) and third in the Coppa Sabatini (125 pts). The commitment of Guillaume Martin, who competed in the Italian classics only 3 days after racing in Canada, is remarkable. He has had a busy season since January and is expected to race the rest of the Italian classics and the Japan Cup.
At the other end of the spectrum is Israel, whose leaders Fuglsang, Woods and Nizzolo have continued to disappoint. The team scored only 113 points in the last fortnight, so they are virtually relegated and also with remote chances of getting wildcards for next season’s WorldTour calendar. Without guaranteed WorldTour racing, Fuglsang told Danish publication BT that he may break his contract with Israel, which runs until 2024.
“Yes, it could be. Or I could try to find something else. If we get relegated and I have to stay and ride smaller races and do the Tour of Rwanda, then I could say, ‘You know what, I’ve had a good career.’ But let’s see what happens”.
Crashes and illness have once again put the brakes on Lotto Soudal’s comeback, and time is running out for them. After finishing second in the Kampioenschap van Vlaanderen (85 pts), Ewan missed the GP d’Isbergues, the Omloop van het Houtland and Paris-Chauny due to illness. In addition, a crash at the end of the Primus Classic (1.Pro) dropped De Lie, favourite for the victory, losing 200 potential UCI points. And, unfortunately, the Pantani Memorial was cancelled due to extreme rain, where Kron could have made a top 10 for Lotto and Arkéa was not competing. Mathematically, they still have a chance of salvation, but they will need a significant amount of luck and one of Arkéa or Cofidis to crumble.
In Lotto’s biggest rival, Arkéa – Samsic, Frenchman Kévin Vauquelin has stood out, second in the Tour Luxembourg (165 pts), just seconds away from victory. At the age of 21 and as a neo-professional, Vauquelin has already brought 624 UCI points to the team, surely unexpected. The sprinters Hofstetter and Capiot have also scored 75 and 70 points respectively on the basis of top 10 finishes in the French and Belgian .1 classics, helping to stabilise the gap with the relegation zone.
In the interactive graphic below you can see which 10 riders contribute points for each team at risk, including TotalEnergies, which is in battle with Israel for the 2023 wildcards.. By clicking on the name of the team, a graph opens with the points of each rider of that particular team.
If Lotto’s likely relegation materializes, they will at least be assured of one of the two wildcards to the entire 2023 WorldTour calendar, distributed based on solely the 2022 ranking. Lotto’s situation will be the same as Alpecin’s the last two seasons, so relegation would not be too dramatic for the Belgian team. Also, with fast riders like Ewan and De Lie, it would be normal for Lotto to keep the wildcards for the following seasons as well.
The other wildcard is still in contention between TotalEnergies and Israel, with TotalEnergies holding a 979 UCI points advantage after Sagan’s seventh place in Wollongong. Although virtually relegated, Israel has to keep chasing points to try to overtake TotalEnergies in the 2022 ranking. If they fail to do so, they could be left out of the Giro, Tour and Vuelta in 2023, as they will depend on the decisions of the organisers, who only have 2 wildcards in their hands. The Giro and Vuelta will supposedly invite two of their national teams, while the Tour would invite B&B but would have another invitation available for a non-French team, as TotalEnergies would be guaranteed a spot on sporting merit. It is therefore likely that Israel will fight for the 2023 Tour invitation against Uno-X and Euskaltel-Euskadi, due to the start in Euskadi.
The Next 2 Weeks | 26 September – 9 October
After a few quiet days, the autumn classics action returns on Thursday the 29th. In total, we will have 14 races, with the Lombardia monument and 6 ProSeries classics that will distribute a lot of points. In the table below, you can see the teams at risk participating in each race, eliminating Movistar, virtually saved, and adding TotalEnergies, which will cover most of the remaining calendar in their dispute with Israel for the 2023 wildcards.
- CRO Race (2.1, 27/09 – 02/10)
- Coppa Agostoni (1.1, 29/09)
- Giro dell’Emilia (1.Pro, 01/10)
- Tour de Vendée (1.1, 02/10)
- Famenne Ardenne Classic (1.1, 02/10)
- Sparkassen Münsterland Giro (1.Pro, 03/10)
- Coppa Bernocchi (1.Pro, 03/10)
- Tre Valli Varesine (1.Pro, 04/10)
- Binche – Chimay – Binche (1.1, 04/10)
- Paris – Bourges (1.1, 06/10)
- Gran Piemonte (1.Pro, 06/10)
- Il Lombardia (1.UWT, 08/10)
- Paris – Tours (1.Pro, 09/10)
- Kempen Classic (1.1, 09/10)
As mentioned, Lotto will split Ewan and De Lie in the flat classics, although it’s not easy to complete the puzzle to maximise points. The Coppa Bernocchi (1.Pro) and Gran Piemonte (1.Pro) in Italy may also finish in a sprint, but Ewan is expected to ride the Sparkassen Münsterland Giro (1.Pro) and Paris – Bourges (1.1) on the same days, while De Lie would compete only in the Belgian and French races. Maybe De Buyst should cover those two Italian classics, even if De Lie would be without his best lead-out man. Also, the Paris – Tours with sterrato could suit Campenaerts and Gilbert well, in the last race of his professional career.
To resist Lotto’s push, Arkéa will rely on Barguil, Gesbert, Vauquelin for the Italian classics and Hofstetter, Capiot, McLay, Louvel and Swift for the French and Belgian classics. If they manage to be regularly in the top 10 of the races in which they participate, they will be able to keep Lotto behind. In any case, to be comfortable, Arkéa must come out of the Lombardia and Paris-Tours weekend with a wide lead (at least 400 points or so) over Lotto, as the Belgians will travel to Langkawi and Japan in the last week of the season, while Arkéa will supposedly not fly to Asia.
Cofidis will continue to exploit Guillaume Martin in the Italian classics, where Jesús Herrada will also join them. In addition, they will take advantage of having four sprinters (Coquard, Consonni, Walscheid and Allegaert) in their top 10 to spread them out covering all the classics in the next fortnight and sprinting with several riders at the same time. The French team will only miss the 2.1 CRO Race, which with six stages is not profitable in terms of points per race day.
BikeExchange and EF are practically saved, but it is possible that they need some more points to confirm their permanence. In that sense, BikeExchange will rely on Groenewegen’s consistency in the flat classics, while Simon Yates is expected to take part in the Italian classics. EF will take a very complete team in the Italian classics and, like Lotto and Cofidis, will travel to Langkawi and Japan in the last week of the season, so they should add several hundred points by the end of the season.
As for the dispute between TotalEnergies and Israel for the 2023 wildcards, Israel’s chances are that Teuns and Woods will be regularly on the podium in the Italian classics, including Lombardia, and that Nizzolo will regain his power in the sprints. In any case, Total should be able to defend their lead with riders capable of scoring points such as Boasson Hagen, Van Gestel, Simon or Turgis.
We will return with our next update on the 10th of October, after the conclusion of the Il Lombardia.
Editor’s Note: This article was prepared by Raúl Banqueri with contributions from the Editor, Patrick Broe. The cover artwork is by Louemans.