The World Tour promotion and relegation topic ought to be simple with the top-18 teams on the rankings making the cut… but it turns out to be a lot more complicated. For starters there are no official rankings, the rules are spread across disparate few paragraphs inside a 200 page PDF tucked away on the UCI website and more, no wonder people are confused.
I get regular comments about the promotion relegation system in the comments, by email and over on Twitter and if some are asking, a lot more must be wondering. With this in mind, here’s some of the frequently asked questions and a go at the answers.
Why promotion and relegation?
So teams in the top tier of cycling, the World Tour – strictly speaking the “WorldTeams” – equate to the top teams. The flipside is under-performers can get demoted, but only every three year process.
Yes, this is not an annual event. It’s measured over the 2020, 2021 and 2022 seasons, and the next promotion and relegation cycle will be 2023-2025.
Why three years?
Promotion and relegation are a big deal, it’s more than an administrative label. Being in the top tier means an automatic invitation to the Tour de France, the golden ticket. But it also means the obligation to ride all the World Tour races and to have a roster capable of this, this can’t happen from one season to the next. Also measuring things over three seasons helps back a trend over an anomaly, there are ways to make amends for a rotten year or a star rider sustaining a big injury.
Weren’t 2020 and 2021 hit by the pandemic?
Of course, there wasn’t a full season and even this year’s seen riders stopped. But there weren’t any loud objections to this system before it was introduced, nor during the disrupted 2020 season. So it’s hard to argue against it now, although teams in trouble still could.
What are the rankings based on?
Teams are ranked on the basis of their ten best riders across three separate seasons. So you take a team’s ten best points scorers as measured by the UCI rankings points they scored from the 2020 season and add up all their points to get the team’s total for 2020. Then you look up a team’s best ten from 2021 and get their points. Likewise from 2022. Add these three numbers up to get a team’s total. Then rank the teams, like you can see this week’s version of this in the chart above. Everything else being equal, the top-18 make the World Tour, while any WorldTeams ranked 19th or below are relegated.
Everything else being equal?
Well teams among the top-18 that aren’t in the World Tour have to apply for promotion, it’s not automatic, and the paperwork had to go early this year. But we know both Alpecin-Deceuninck and Arkéa-Samsic have said they want to be promoted and currently they have sufficient UCI ranking points. So now it’s down to them meeting the admin and financial criteria set by the UCI but as they’re existing, stable teams this is probably a formality. But there’s also the possibility of a current WorldTeam deciding to stop, or their sponsorship drying up all of a sudden, like Qhubeka vanished at the end of 2021, although currently this is theoretical rather than likely.
Why ten riders?
The idea is it allows the other 20 riders can work and help set up results, a worker can pull in the wind or give a spare wheel without a second thought about points. It’s likely that that most team’s 25th best rider has no or almost no points anyway. It might also help balance things a touch between big and modest budget teams as wealthy team’s 11th rider, 12th rider and so on could have more points. Ten is a useful cut-off, go in the other direction to five and it would make a team’s fortunes very reliant on a handful of stars.
Do points follow riders if they change teams?
No, and twice over. First if a rider moves teams over the winter their points are back at zero for the start of each season. There are exceptions like the Worlds but normally it’s all about points being earned while riding for the team. Second if they have a mid-season transfer the rules (2.10.014, screengrabbed above) state points earned during the first part of the season stay with the first team and it’s back to zero with the second team. So currently Dylan Teuns has zero points for Israel-PremierTech.
Points to zero?
Yes. It’s reset at the start of the season. Now you might want to know how many points a rider has at the moment and look at the UCI’s Individual World Rankings and see their points tally. But that particular individual ranking is compiled on a rolling 52 week basis and can include points they won with a different squad last season. The team rankings are based on each season’s count.
Where’s the data?
Well the UCI website has a rankings section which is updated weekly every Tuesday morning. Click on the team rankings and you can click through to see a team’s 10 best riders.
But the actual promotion and relegation rankings aren’t published by the UCI. Why? Maybe the UCI and teams probably didn’t want a running commentary of which teams are at risk. So every Tuesday this blog grabs the UCI’s latest data and puts it into a spreadsheet and the standings are published here.
How do riders and teams win points?
By winning and placing. It’s a big topic in itself and so all set out in a separate blog post from earlier this year, have scroll around.
Riders can also lose points if they’re fined so remember you might see a result and add the points but unless you can get the race jury’s report as well it’s hard to keep track of all the points with precision.
I saw the points tables, why is the points scale biased to one day races?
It is if you compare winning a one day race to winning a stage in a grand tour, winning a 1.Pro race like, say, this week’s Circuit Franco-Belge brings 200 points compared to 120 for a Tour de France stage win and obviously a Tour stage win is much more hard fought, the field is more dense and watched by more, it’s just so much more prestigious. But then if you upped the value of Tour stage win to, say 300 points, then you’d have to bump up the value of the overall win even more, no otherwise a sprinter with three stages and a coupe of wins would be higher ranked than the overall winner. In doing this you’d end with our original 1.Pro race being left even more in the shadows of a big race. In a way the points scale just hasn’t mattered much, people – including team managers with wage bills – judge a rider’s value by the big races they’ve won or could win. Likewise while there are no historical rankings to compare Eddy Merckx with Bernard Hinault, when people compare, say, Bradley Wiggins with Cadel Evans or Fabian Cancellara with Tom Boonen, it’s the wins and placings that counts, nobody ever looks at their UCI points haul. Points and rankings just haven’t mattered until now.
Is relegation that bad?
It’s relegation, not termination. But teams, sponsors and riders all like the World Tour concept because it guarantees them a start in the major races, especially the Tour de France. A relegated team might still make the start but just the risk that it won’t be there can be costly. Sponsors and their marketing budgets want visibility, not risk. Riders will be harder to recruit if the team isn’t going to race as much: why sign for a team if it might not ride the Tour de France, might only do one grand tour a year or get fewer invites to other races? Plus some riders have contracts with small print saying they can leave if the team is out of the World Tour, which means valuable riders can leave while those who are worth less on the market than their contract are incentivised to stay on the books as a liability. Relegation can mean different things to different teams, the Belgian state lottery might still commit to a project; an Israeli billionaire funding his own team may still love the challenge of building up and so on but these are questions to confront later.
What about the wildcard invites?
Relegated teams are out of the World Tour but can still be invited to the top races. There’s two parts to this. First, the two highest rated ProTeams of this season get automatic invites to the grand tours next year. Crucially any relegated WorldTeam becomes a ProTeam all of a sudden for these purposes and if they are among the best two ProTeams on the 2022 rankings they’ll get an automatic invite to the Tour de France. It’s why, as of today, Lotto-Soudal could be relegated and invited but Israel would be relegated but not invited, as on a synthetic ProTeam ranking, Lotto-Soudal are first and TotalEnergies are second.
Which leaves the second part, the two real wildcard invites remaining, this is down to the organisers and a relegated team can still hope to ride the Tour de France if their roster is exciting but there’s a matrix of decisions here, is the relegated team that exciting, does the race organiser want more local riders and by now a relegated team is faced with a lot of risk, riders could be leaving which means the team less of a prospect.
I’d never heard of this points and relegation system, why is this a big deal now?
Human nature? The three year system has been a fact for several years but it’s only with the two seasons done that it made sense to monitor the contest. It wasn’t a priority before, one team manager even thought it was settled last year, only his team’s now fighting to avoid relegation.
Will teams be relegated in 2023?
Normally not as next year is the first year of the 2023-2025 three year cycle. All teams want to win and place all the time of course but a wise team will think about ways to score next year so they’re not panicking come 2025.
So who’s going to get relegated?
It’s too soon to know. Lotto-Soudal and Israel-PremierTech are 19th and 20th on the rankings now but there are many races to come over the next two months, up to and including the Tour of Langkawi in October. Time is running out for Israel though but sport can always supply surprises.
You haven’t answered the thing I need to know
If you have more questions, ask in the comments and the best ones can get incorporated into the post above for future reference.