Just over a year ago it was worth highlighting the looming relegation race for 2022. It felt like a significant story and the further the season went on the more the more frantic it got. Now a fresh promotion/relegation cycle begins over the next three seasons things for the men’s World Tour and things seem less urgent, the thing to note is that the rules have changed.
Things will be hectic on other fronts though as several men’s teams are hunting for automatic invitations to the Tour de France. Also the Women’s World Tour licences for the next three years are being decided at the end of this season and so the women’s peloton faces the same promotion/relegation as the men did last season.
Same system, new rulesPromotion and relegation works on a three year basis where the annual UCI points haul for a team is added together to compile a three year ranking. This time it’s points from 2023, 2024 and 2025 will be combined.
There are changes for this new three year cycle: more points and more riders. For more points – the full tables are available in “UCI Points and Rankings Tables” – the summary is that the three grand tours, the five monuments and the world championships now offer more points. For more riders, while points would go to the top-5 on a grand tour stage, now it’s down to 15th; also the previous ranking of teams was based on their ten best riders. Now it’s the top-20 scorers whose points are counted.
Overall these changes a probably a sensible move, it corrects the imbalance where winning a small 1.1 race brought more points than a Tour de France stage. But it makes the Tour and other big races even more important: is this entrenching their dominance or just reflecting it? And a team with a deep roster where the 15th or 20th rider might have some points will be even more ahead than a smaller team with a handful of scorers. The upshot is a “rich get richer” scenario, for example winning the Tour de France, with the stage victories and other results along the way, should deliver roughly an extra thousand points this year.
What now?A year go the line from many teams was “we’re not worried about points, we will just race the best we can and the points will follow“, only the more the season went on the more you could spot the panic among team managers; at one point the Israel-PremierTech team owner Sylvan Adams even threatened to sue the UCI and launch a rival Tour de France.
First we should note these rankings don’t really concern the top teams. Given the big races get even more lucrative, the likes of Jumbo-Visma, UAE, Ineos, Bora-hansgrohe, Bahrain and Quickstep won’t be too bothered as they stand to collect even more points. The stress is for other teams who could be sucked into the relegation battle.
Now teams are acutely aware of the need to get points but begin the new cycle with purpose instead of panic, they’ll aim to score where they can. We might see the likes of EF Education and Jayco-Al Ula entering some races they might have overlooked before but now can hope to score; for Arkéa-Samsic the challenge is going to be having to attend all the World Tour races while also sending riders out to score in smaller races.
It’s human nature to see a long deadline as something that doesn’t require immediate attention so while some teams ease back it could create space for a team to hustle for points this year while rivals sit back. But after a frantic season it can also make sense not to stress riders in the first team briefing of the year.
There’s a moving target here. While a football team in a league knows how many rivals it has to beat to go up or avoid going down’ or a cyclist in an elimination race knows they just have to avoid being last across the line, here things are not so clear cut. Promotion/relegation is based on being in the top-18 teams so the scenario depends on the number of ProTeams keen for promotion and how they fare. Lotto-Dstny, Israel-PremierTech both want to get back to the World Tour, Total Energies is ambitious, Uno-X keen too. New team Q36.5 has big backers who are only a signing or two away from a World Tour bid, plus keep an eye on Human Powered Health which has ambitions too.
One year cycle, a big deal tooPromotion and relegation is three year thing, but if a Pro Team team finishes first or second in the second tier team rankings it will qualify for an automatic start in the major races next year, something Total Energies and Lotto-Dstny enjoy this year. This is a big deal as while a team like Israel-PremierTech will always hope for an invitation, the certainty is much better, a team gets to pick the calendar it wants. So while teams lay the foundations for a World Tour licence in 2026 this year, the likes of Israel, Lotto, Uno-X and Total Energies are going to be scrapping to finish first or second among the ProTeams this year, this is a contest to watch from time to time as it should be close.
Women’s World Tour teamsThere’s also promotion and relegation for the Women’s World Tour. There are 15 teams in the World Tour and if a 16th team applies then they will all be ranked on the basis of two years, namely 2022 and 2023 and the best 15 make the cut. Now we don’t yet know if a team from the second tier is applying but we can assume the likes of AG-Soudal and Ceratizit will. So there is a promotion/relegation battle in the women’s peloton which will be decided during the year and it settles licences for 2024-2026 included. For each team their best eight riders count for points. It’ll be frantic for some team managers but the reduced women’s calendar compared to the men (there are only five 1.Pro one day races for women compared to 33 for the men, three women’s 2.Pro stage races and eight 2.1 stage races) means there’s less chance to go shopping for points and to arbitrage the calendar.