Following complaints from numerous teams about the WorldTour’s promotion and relegation system, the UCI has published new regulations with significant changes. The rule amendment has been published less than a month before the start of the new 2023-2025 triennium, whose cumulative ranking will determine which 18 teams will be part of the WorldTour in 2026-2028.
In summary, there have been three important changes, which will be discussed in more detail below:
- The UCI points scale gives much more importance to Grand Tours and Monuments, as well as to stages in WorldTour stage races.
- The UCI World Ranking for teams, both annually and across the triennium, will take into account the 20 best riders of each team, instead of 10 as at present.
- Teams relegated by the sporting criterion will have automatic invitations in 2023 for the entire UCI WorldTour, except for the Grand Tours. In practice, this allows Israel – Premier Tech to receive automatic invitations to all one week WorldTour stage races, even though they did not qualify for them under the rules in force during the 2020-22 triennium.
UCI Points Allocation
The UCI has revolutionised the scoring system for the next three years (2023-2025), with the objective of incentivising the best riders to participate in the most important races. To this end, they have multiplied by a factor of 1.6x the points allocated to the Monuments and the Road Race of the World Championships and Olympic Games. The points in the general classification of the Grand Tours and the ITT of the World Championships and Olympic Games have also been multiplied by a factor of 1.3x.
However, the most impactful change is the value of stages in Grand Tours and the rest of the WorldTour stage races. Whereas before only the top 5 in a Grand Tour stage and the top 3 in the rest of the WorldTour stages were awarded points, in 2023 the top 15 in a Grand Tour stage and the top 10 in the rest of the WorldTour stages will be awarded points. In addition, a much higher value will be given on places of honour in the stages. For example, in 2022 an individual stage in the Tour distributed a total of 240 UCI points, whereas in 2023 it will distribute 935 UCI points, a 290% increase.
In the following image, you can see the new scoring system, with the new Monuments category, differentiated from the rest of the classics. We recommend you to download it in high resolution from here.
Based on the calendar contested in 2022, this change in the scoring system means that there are 28% more UCI points at stake (308,903 vs. 241,027). But as the scoring of the continental circuit races has virtually remained the same (except for a slight increase in points for the ProSeries stages), this smaller calendar will see its importance reduced. Whereas under the previous scoring system the continental calendar shared half of the available UCI points, in 2023 it will share 40%.
As we can see in the graph, the most important races (Grand Tour, Monuments and Worlds) will now have a much higher weight (36% vs 23%). This was a demand from many WorldTeams and even fans, although it will hurt teams that do not have automatic access to those races, like Uno-X. The new scoring system will also benefit ProTeams that have wildcards for WorldTour races in 2023 (such as Lotto, Total and Israel) over those that do not (Uno-X and the rest), as they will be more likely to keep the invitations season after season with immediate access to the most profitable races.
Also the weight of the classics (except for the Monuments) is reduced in favour of stages in stage races. In 2022, all teams at risk of relegation added a large number of minor classics to their calendar, but from 2023 they will have to look for more places of honour in WorldTour stages. The forgotten riders of the previous points system, breakaway stage hunting specialists and consistent stage race sprinters, are suddenly much more valuable under the new scoring system. For example, Hugh Carthy targeted breakaway stages in the second-half of the Giro d’Italia 2022, placing fourth on the stages to Cogne and Lavarone, earning him a paltry 24 UCI points.
Under the new system, Carthy would have scored 160 points across both stages, a 567% increase. In the bunch sprints, Alberto Dainese scored 108 points across the three weeks of Il Giro 2022, but in 2023 he would have scored 370 points for his victory and five top 10 placements.
While most of the changes are logical, the UCI has left the door open to some schedule ‘optimisation’. For example, Continental Championships outside Europe still award 250 points to the winner of the road race (more than a stage of the Tour) and National Championships (some with a very low sporting level) still award 100 points to the winner of the road race.
20 Riders Count per Team
From 2023, the UCI World Team Ranking, used for the relegation battle ranking and to hand out automatic wildcards annually, will take into account the top 20 riders per team instead of the top 10. According to the UCI, this “will help to reduce the pressure currently imposed on only a limited number of riders, which can lead to a number of negative consequences (risks of injury, excessive number of race days, temptation to doping, etc.)”.
To better understand the impact of the new measure, the following graph shows how the 2020-2022 ranking would have changed if the top 20 riders had been taken into account. Lotto Soudal and Israel – Premier Tech would have been relegated anyway, although Israel would have been much closer to salvation.
The teams most dependent on their leaders (Jumbo, Alpecin, Movistar or BikeExchange) would have added the least percentage of points. ProTeams with shorter squads or without 20 riders capable to score points, such as Uno-X, Bingoal or Q36.5, will also be disadvantaged in 2023. Teams such as Quickstep or UAE Team Emirates, with large race programs and a deep pool of riders capable of scoring points, should be advantaged by this change.
The Israel Rule
The latest and perhaps most unexpected change is the UCI’s decision to “gift” Israel with invitations to all one week WorldTour stage races in 2023. It is worth remembering that Israel Premier Tech finished third in the ranking that awarded the 2023 wildcards and had therefore only won the wildcards to the one day WorldTour races on sporting merit. The UCI has clarified that the measure is temporary only for 2023, “coming as it does after three years of significant upheaval due to the global pandemic.”
This emergency measure by the UCI has surely calmed down Israel – Premier Tech owner Sylvan Adams after the millionaire threatened to sue the UCI for the implementation of the relegation system. Israel are also a favourite for the Giro and Tour discretionary organiser wildcards, so they will not feel the effects of the relegation as much, with the Vuelta being the only major race they will likely be absent from in 2023. The extra invitation for Israel takes a wildcard away from the organisers of one week WorldTour races and hurts again modest teams like Uno-X, Q36.5 or Kern Pharma.
The only constant about the UCI points and relegation system is that it is always changing, this time at very short notice. In imperfect systems there will always be winners and losers from structural changes such as these, with teams like UNO-X surely aggrieved by new regulations that make their path to WorldTour promotion more difficult. However if the changes function as intended, there may be some positives for the fans, with teams like Lotto-DSTNY now incentivised to send superstar Arnaud de Lie to more major stage races rather than entirely focussing on a local calendar.