Having looked at the WorldTeam victory rankings last week, now to look at pro cycling’s confusingly labelled second tier of teams, the ProTeams*.
Spot the team that belongs in the World Tour. Alpecin-Deceuninck had 34 wins, 13 of them in World Tour races, which would put them fifth among the WorldTeams. There’s a density here too with 34 second places and 20 third places, and all in a season when Mathieu van der Poel misfired, at least measured relative to his abilities and expectations.
Total Energies are next with 15 wins. Peter Sagan was the big signing and a big flop with only two wins. Team management though will say his presence made others pull up their socks, certainly the team won more than they did in the previous two seasons combined and as many World Tour wins in 2022 as they did between 2017 and 2021 combined, with stage wins in Paris-Nice and the Dauphiné, plus Peter Sagan’s Tour de Suisse sprint win showed he can still do it. They scored plenty of points too, Anthony Turgis was second in Milan-Sanremo. Overall this feel like a team that might not have its place in the World Tour but it makes for a dependable invitation. There are questions what happens once Sagan’s contract is up.
Arkéa-Samsic has twelve wins and as we know, lot of points which enabled them to get into the World Tour for 2023. As this is a retrospective on the season we can leave worries about how they’ll fare next year for another day. Their most prolific winner was Nairo Quintana, something they might want to forget after his Tramadol tribulations. The team had relatively few wins compared to the 22 second places and 26 third places. Most than most teams they clocked the importance of placing riders in results to harvest points and exploited the dense French calendar to get a lot of places.
Uno-X are in fourth place. They had a good start to the season but have been hit by some injuries and bad luck at times. The Norwegian team is able to tap into the pipeline of talent that comes out of Norway although Jumbo-Visma is busy here too. They make for a likeable team that’s capable of delivering on many invites but a grand tour invite is a way away, as a Norwegian team there’s no home card to play and they’re not yet a “must have” team either.
Drone Hopper-Androni are hoping to race on as a Conti team, a pro-am cycling outfit. As cautioned here, Drone Hopper was always a curious sponsor given it’s a Spanish start-up involved in high payload multi-rotor drones with a turn-over of about €2 million, not exactly a consumer brand with a marketing budget to tap into cycling’s audience demographics. On the bright side it kept the team going for an extra year. The team though has broken the mold, it’s been an Italian squad that’s existed for and because of the Giro but it’s attracted a lot of riders. While many promising U23s are wary of turning pro with a ProTeam for fear that they’ll never make the World Tour, Gianni Savio’s team has functioned differently and allowed many riders outside of the traditional talent detection paths to come and race in Europe and go on to bigger teams, think Egan Bernal, Ivan Sosa and Natnael Tesfatsion, plus it’s also exported its share of Italians into the World Tour, think Alessandro De Marchi, Davide Ballerini or Fausto Masnada.
B&B are in danger of going the way of Drone Hopper with team manager Jérome Pineau telling newspapers in France he’s got five potential sponsors all due to reply by the end of the month but if none of them do, then the team won’t survive. Now five sounds like plenty to choose between but none have signed up and the sums they’ll commit aren’t clear. It’s a whole separate topic but on the subject of wins, they had just three this year.
Caja Rural-Seguros RGA are the first of what we could call the national ProTeams, these are ones kept going by the ecosystem of a home grand tour. In Spain we see Caja Rural, Burgos BH, Euskaltel-Euskadi and Kern Pharma racing largely in the hope of being invited to their home grand tour, in Italy the same for Bardiani-CSF, Drone Hopper-Androni and Eolo-Kometa. Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise and Bingoal-Pauwels Sauces do the same in Belgium where obviously there’s no grand tour but where March and April are the equivalent with a string of televised races, a grote ronde. Total Energies, Arkéa-Samsic and B&B Hotels are similar in France although the first two teams have have bigger ambitions and a wider calendar but arguably this is structural too as these teams have been able to get a start at the Tour de France and so establish themselves.
In each case here the teams are chasing grand tour invites as these deliver a lot of media coverage in return. But it’s not been easy as there are few places left for the organisers to attribute. Caja Rural had to sit out the Vuelta this year. This congestion is going to get bigger next year with new ProTeams like Q36.5, Tudor and Corratec plus Israel-PremierTech and Lotto-Dstny being added post relegation.
- * Jumbo-Visma is a professional cycling team, a pro team. But it is not a ProTeam, this is the label given to the second tier of cycling teams in this piece. As labels go ProTeam is confusing as it ought to be unambiguous rather than confusing, the kind of thing that makes sense if said aloud rather than relying on an audience to read the difference between pro team and ProTeam. Anyway, the more substantive point is that they’re all professional teams with a minimum wage for riders, various employment protections, a bank guarantee lodged with the UCI and so on but unlike the World Tour, no guarantee of riding any races.
In a coming piece we’ll look at this tricky situation for 2023 and beyond and how teams in this second tier can operate as they chase a spot in the world tour at the end of the next three year cycle.