ProTeam Victory Rankings

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.

40 thoughts on “ProTeam Victory Rankings”

  1. Thanks for the posting! Luca Mozzato believes B&B Hotels will exist in one form another next year, but we’ll wait and see. Drone Hopper are supposed to be going to Continental level, and Total Energies not doing the Giro makes sense if they’re looking for WT points already next year (Sagan to concentrate on one day races?)

    • Mozzato said that but I’m less sure, so is Pineau too. They might €5 million from B&B in sponsorship but other funding has dried up and so the team’s fate is going to be decided this week, there’s probably not enough money left to pay all the riders, staff and cover expenses for a year. Mozzato’s probably one of the riders other teams have their eye on at the moment as a late recruitment option.

  2. A few teams have almost unlimited budgets while Savio and Pineau can’t find the dough to keep a second-string team going. Perhaps it’s time for some controls on how much a team can spend unless we want the rich to always be getting richer…

      • Moreover, it’s not clear how limiting the budget of the biggest teams causes these pipsqueak teams to find sponsors. I understand how emotionally it seems unfair, like it’s somehow a zero-sum game, but it’s not a zero-sum game. And while some might find it morally grotesque for certain teams to be well-heeled while others struggle to justify the investment of potential sponsors, it seems like it’s always been this way to some extent.

  3. Doesn’t Savio really keep the team going by selling contracts of his hottest riders like those mentioned above?
    Plus he’s also said to take fees from some riders from wealthier backgrounds who effectively pay to be on the team.

    I really thought Uno-X would have a better season than they did. Maybe there is a lot to be said for bio-security.

    • While I can’t say for sure I believe the company logos that make Savio’s team’s jersey look like a newspaper require payment so no, I don’t think his team survives on transfer fees. If that was the case why would he be moving down with the loss of DroneHopper’s money? English-language websites love to demonize Savio for some reason. I don’t believe he’s rich or getting rich from running his cycling team, despite what some might claim.

      • It really doesn’t matter which part of a patchwork budger goes missing. When the budget has never been bigger than to make ends meet, it doesn’t take a huge drop in sponsorship money or transfer fees to spell the end of the team at ProTeam level.
        Personally I think Gianni Savio’s team is the one I’m saddest to see go away. It doesn’t make me at all happy to say something along the lines “I told you the Drone Hopper thing would end this way”. I’m pretty sure Savio knew it quite probably would, but what alternative did he have then?

        PS I’m not sure a budget cap for WorldTeams and/or ProTeams would bring more or better (as in bringing in more euros) sponsors to strugging ProTeams or Conti teams. The problems road cycling faces with all those nice mid-size sponsors missing from the picture are quite probably deeper (and are possibly caused by other sports attracting them away from cycling), I would be inclined to believe.

          • I leave it to you to stand behind your charaterisation of Gianni Savio as a shyster, but I must ask who has been lionizing him here?
            I, for one, don’t give a fart about the various team managers who have become larger than life persons. Sure, I know who they are and how they are usually described in the cycling media or seen by typial cycling fans, but I’m more interested in the teams and the riders.
            And like I said, it’s Gianni Savio’s team that I’m sad to go away from ProTeam level. It’s not his dapper and stylish or whatever presence that I will miss.

            PS Isn’t everyone rather tired with all these anonymous one-liners. Everyone loves a witty and funny one-liner that makes a point or gives a new perspective, but…

          • “Isn’t everyone rather tired with all these anonymous one-liners. Everyone loves a witty and funny one-liner that makes a point or gives a new perspective, but…”
            I couldn’t have put it any better!

        • I ignore/scroll past comments/posts from Anon Y. Mous so didn’t even know about this one until you guys pointed it out. I’ve written this probably too many times but I can’t be bothered to care or respond to what anyone thinks who lacks the guts to put his/her name on them.
          I really wonder why so many here hide behind various monikers in the first place rather than use their real name? What are you afraid of?

  4. Seems hard to run a team at this level if you are not French/Italian/Spanish or Belgian, invites can’t be easy. Say I wanted to start an Irish team, I reckon it would be twice as hard.

    • I agree, it’s hard already for the likes of Uno-X. Next year new teams like Tudor and Q36.5 won’t have it easy either. They need to make themselves “must have” teams where an organiser feels like they need to pick them but this isn’t easy, it means a big budget and possibly paying a World Tour class rider more than they’d earn in the World Tour (“ride for us, we need you but can’t guarantee what races you ride”).

      Will look at this more closely soon.

    • Sean Kelly couldn’t keep his own team going after An Post pulled out, despite good results from his fairly young team and the interest and publicity Kelly’s own fame always brought to the team.

      Aqua Blue didn’t last long either, but that’s a different story.

  5. Interesting article and look forward to the forthcoming piece. It seems to be a bit of transition time in terms of your identity as a second tier team. World Tour teams seem to be identifying talent and picking up riders at a younger age, which leaves the ProTeam development role to be now more about those who were missed or are late-developers. If you aren’t one of those above with aspirations and means to move up then where does that leave you?

    • Agree, once upon a time riders would do well in these second tier teams and join the World Tour. But it’s much less the case this time, the big teams recruit riders younger. It’s got to the point where some riders and agents are very wary of a neo-pro contract with a ProTeam for fear if they start here it will be hard to get out to a World Tour team.

        • I think you answer your own question. One reason neopros and their agents don’t want to sign with Savio is that he will be in control of where they go, and will take money out of their pockets to allow them to move up. A WT team that’s willing to pay a bunch of money to Savio to get a talented youngster would be just as willing to pay that money directly to the rider. One one level, if I can be crass for a moment, Savio seems little more than a pimp in the cycling world. What is he doing for these riders that they can’t do for themselves?

  6. When I read these sorts of articles I always wonder what’s wrong with the business model of pro cycling. It seems like the only way to ensure long-term stability is to have a single ultra-rich person or entity who will pay the bills without any regard for what they get in return. But then you look at Tinkoff and realize that as soon as the big sponsor loses interest, there goes the team. I have no answer to the problem, but I just wonder if there is some way to build more support within the overall organization so we don’t have this yearly question of which teams will simply dissolve.

    • Perhaps it’s just different than say European football where teams do indeed survive keeping the same name, essentially related to some city, and maybe even (not always) the same societary structure, but property and management do change a lot.

      In cycling you’ve also got some long lasting projects, and several times they’ve also kept the same management or (real) ownership for a decent time. FDJ is now a quarter of a century old, not bad, and Movistar is over 40-year old already. Neither depend on any sugardaddy, and Unzué’s sponsors always were private, commercial ones, and quite long lasting, too, a decade or more each (with a single exception in Illes Balears). Same for Quickstep, which, albeit “only” 20 year-old, clearly inherited the structures of two very specific projects in Mapei and Domo, which would bring us back to mid-90s, when Cofidis was also founded (speaking of long lasting sponsors…). By the way, some would consider that Cofidis is actually the continuation of Guimard’s project which was rooted back into the late 70s, nearly half a century ago. Speaking of long-lasting sponsors and mythical TMs, AG2R is in since the late 90s, Lavenu from the beginning of the decade, so his structure has been in the sport for 30 years now. Again, no sugardaddies here and no public money, either.
      This last addendum is to lastly present two formations which – as FDJ, and indirectly INEOS/Sky, too – both enjoyed money from their national lotteries, that is, the teams we presently know as Lotto Soudal (sadly no WT for them as we know too well on this website, but it’s surely not for lack of sponsorship) and Jumbo Visma. Both are closing to 40 years of activity in cycling.

      It’s safe to say that in 2022 WT some 7 teams out of 18, that is about 40% of WT teams, were long lasting projects which kept a very similar structures through three, four of five decades of the sport.

      Now, if we consider the role played by the TDF in cycling, especially both at the very beginning of the sport and after WWII; and if we further consider that it was only in 1962 that trade teams were brought back at the TDF after more than 30 years; then, one could argue that the history of the growing commercial nature of cycling is only about 60 year old. Of course, as inrng says, it was always about selling things, but it was sort of a self-referential world, like newspaper organising races to write about and sell more newspapers, or cycling brands. Politics played a huge role (and public money is still paramount for cycling). Even if you don’t look at the TDF, the first sponsorship which wasn’t cycling related was Nivea in 1955 – an idea by Fiorenzo Magni to extend is career, the great intuition of a man who’d become a successful businessman once retired from the sport.

      So, if we look at the history of commercial sponsorships in cycling, we must say that some current structures – nearly 40% of the very top layer of the sport – were able to take advantage of such an environment, more or less dybamically, in order to stay essentially the same for the second half of it, or longer. Steady enough. Fondo riders.

      Bora, Trek, Ineos, Bike Exchange were born at the beginning of the 10s, so are all older than a decade now, and only Bike Exchange had financial issues. The only one which could be called a sugardaddy project.
      Astana, Bora, EF and DSM are even older, they are from the mid-00s and are closing to the couple of decades of activity. Astana and EF are the only two projects which happened to struggle with money issues, although because of very different reasons, and Astana is the only national vanity project among them.

      So, all in all, the whole talk about instability is because we have 3 new team, 3 nationalistic personalistic projects by the way, which still didn’t prove if they can last more than a decade (of course, one could even say that UAE follows up on Lampre’s step). The only one among them which actually looks at risk is the one which from scratch probably made less sense, at least if one looks at them in the perspective of sport management. Maybe because they didn’t trade in many pre-existing “blocks” as UAE did.

      Of course, we’re supposedly speaking ProTeams here, not pro teams, but reading Other Craig’s post I think he was speaking of top teams, or teams in general.
      However, Savio’s been going on in the sport since the early 90s, now more than 30 years, and the Reverberi are in since the early 80s at least, that is 40 years.

      For sure, some teams do actually fold, and sponsors do come and go. Sometimes, when times are dire in world economy, cycling struggles. But that’s because from some POVs (not others) it’s a very dynamic environment. Very capitalistic, in a sense. What we can say, is that the sport offers a decent percentage of lasting success stories, that is, it’s far from impossible to keep a structure going for a very very long within this model; of course, those who can’t adapt or are the by-product of a very specific moment in time end up being shut.
      And, just as capitalism, one could hint at a couple of flaws, if anything: heavy depending on public money, in this case only for some if we speak of teams, but quite generally if we look at the whole picture, especially those externalities which are easily overlooked; and, now quite specifically in the case of teams, that familistic, tribal, personal nature which, especially in 19th to 20th century capitalism, often meant that a business was related to a very specific personal or family culture, and when it went lost or diluted through time, the business model started struggling. Then corporations started to be a different beast, but they need a dimension which is well beyond a cycling team (luckily IMHO).

      • This is a great post. There is a lot of criticism of the “model” and much anxiety about its longevity and direction, often the result of a narrow view of what is desirable, but (and I’m not sure Gabrielle is with me on this) I am comfortable with the Schumpeterian creative destruction that’s always been a part of it. I don’t think teams need to last forever and I don’t think there needs to be only one way of running a team. I don’t think other sports offer a better alternative. I think it’s brilliant right now (as a sport) and I’m not actually worried about the future.

        • I like a lot that very dynamic aspect, too, it makes for a deep repository of stories which do tangle in the oh so rich history of this sport. I start to be worried only when it becomes too destructive for too many people, but, surprise surprise, that can happen, or not, irrespective of the general economic conditions of the sport, at least when evaluated in quantitative terms.

      • “And, just as capitalism, one could hint at a couple of flaws, if anything:”
        Sadly, “cowboy capitalism” (unregulated or with just hints at the idea) just makes the rich richer and the poor…well…you know. Kind of like the seemingly unlimited budget WT cycling teams vs Gianni Savio. Just as with capitalism in-general there needs to be some rules.
        Why shouldn’t something be done to prevent the “cowboys” in cycling from dominating the entire thing? Seems right now one of ’em, that fracking guy is waving some fat stax around trying the “Can’t beat ’em? Buy ’em!” strategy to shore up his team’s chances at Le Beeg Shew. Makes me wonder what happened to all the crowing from the people who run his team about “marginal gains” and how their program develops winners. Now it seems they just wanna buy ’em already manufactured….elsewhere.

        • I pretty much agree, Larry – in the sentence you quote there was a pinch of irony of course. The focus of my reply was rather on shifting the perspective to which I was, well, answering.

          • Sorry, I guess I missed that? I’d been reading a bunch of “capitalism gone mad” articles about Theranos, FTX and of course Elon Musk..all of which got my Marxist dander up.

          • I thought that irony was rather manifest – as manifest as it can reasonably get while still being irony, or in this case even a step further – given that for me nobody in his or her right mind (unless it’s too right a mind of sort) could seriously believe that in the case of capitalism it has only got “a couple of flaws, if anything”. Guess I must be biased by some Marxist left-overs, too.

          • “…all of which got my Marxist dander up.”

            Ah, yeah, Marx. Now there was a guy who knew how to run a cycling team, amiright?! And his brilliance on economic matters, too! I mean, look at all the wealthy, happy, and progressive countries that embraced Marxism and prospered. Why, there’s too many to count!

      • Very nice post to debunk an idea often heard on this blog’s comments.
        In France, we are lucky to have some very solid structures – mainly, I guess, thanks to the Tour. Spain have Movistar, Belgium have some old teams too. I would like at least one old italian team, I think it would be only fair (but fairness has very little to do with reality). But there the cycling pyramid, formation teams, seems to be very stable and very competitive (I think about Colpack or Zalf in particular), and Italian riders manage to get engaged in teams all around the world. Do you think italian cycling suffers from lacking a big old World Tour team ? That some more youngsters could become professional ? In France it’s almost the contrary : it seems we almost have too many teams, even in Conti, and I’m pretty sure some of our professional riders can only be pros in France. But it would be stupid to complain about it. I started to have a passion for cycling in the beginning of the years 2000, when all french cycling was pretty broken, and the only result we could expect in the big races was a 12th place by Laurent Brochard, so I’m rather happy about how it went for us.

        • If you read or googletranslate Italian, I’d suggest having a look at the cicloweb forum where they got a thread on the crisis of Italian cycling. It looks like Italian male pro cycling will need to face hard times… and not just by pure chance, it’s rather about decades of poor management by an autocracy of sort – consequences, quite typically, hit hard afterwards, even destruction needs some time to fully deploy its extent, so for long people weren’t held as accountable as they should, also because they shielded themselves behind “results”, which on turn were of course the fruit of previous decades.

          • I sometimes get the impression that some people underestimate how much you need both business & cycling experience in your team.

            Some teams set up by former riders/DS lack a proper business structure and/or don’t know how to find sponsors, how to point out business opportunities to possible sponsors, how to set up a reserve buffer in good times so that you can survive unexpected bad luck, etc.

            And then there are teams from people/companies who seem to think that spending money will automatically bring results.

      • Being known by your sponsor does tend to obscure continuity in team structure, ethos, working practices, etc. Kind of like thinking Team Viewer, Chevrolet, AON, and Carlsberg are/were teams that play/ed at Old Trafford, or Northern Rock, Wonga, and what is it now — Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on the Tyne? — at St James Park. (Then we would have the problem of the Emirates — the red ones or the blue ones? Or the red and black ones?) Football can distinguish between AC Milan and Internazionale, Boca Jrs and River Plate, Arsenal/Palace/Chelsea/Fulham… so maybe team names would be a better way to go than sponsor names for cycling. But it’s probably too late for that.

  7. “Do you think italian cycling suffers from lacking a big old World Tour team ?” Duh. I guess you first have to define what an “ITALIAN big old World Tour team” is. While the money men are UAE petro-sheiks, Saronni’s team has some deep roots. It seems big Italian sports teams (and plenty of others) will take sponsorshop money from any/everyone. Juventus plays with JEEP on the jersey which, though owned by the sort-of Italian Stellantis group, isn’t exactly Italian, while some other “Italian” teams have DIGITAL BITS on theirs which I don’t even know what that is.
    Lot’s of talk periodically about an “Italian” team with “Italian” sponsors from various people, but so far it’s just talk. I think more than a team Italy needs a big star now that Nibali has hung up his wheels…but those don’t grow on trees whether the trees are in Italy, Belgium or Slovenia.

    • Yes it’s true, some teams, even not officially italian, have more or less an italian structure (Astana also). And the diaspora of italian DS helps too to make the young italian cyclists come.

      • Astana’s an anomaly IMHO since it seems every time the thing gets on what I’d call a even Italian keel Vino steps in to stir things up…and not for the better. But since the thing was invented to provide a place for him, the Italians are stuck with him, no matter how much they might not like it. I remember a few video interviews with Martinelli where you could almost see the steam coming out of his ears and I’d think, “He’s done. He’s outta there!” but as I type this he’s still there, not to mention Nibali decided he wanted to end his career there, for better or worse.

    • The “Jeep” sponsorship of Juventus only started after the Agnelli family holding that majority-owns Juventus bought Chrysler (which includes the Jeep brand) and merged it with its own Fiat automobile group to create FCA. FCA wanted to launch “Jeep” as its SUV brand in Europe, so that sponsorship deal made some sense. And basically they were just moving money between two of their own companies.

      Also, now that they merged Fiat-Chrysler with the French Peugeot group and formed Stellaris, where they are only a minority shareholder, I am not sure the Jeep brand sponsorship will be renewed?

  8. Glad my comment prodded Gabriele to offer such an extensive and knowledgeable response. Definitely thought-provoking, as were others, but pointing out the semi-stability of a relatively small number of teams doesn’t actually refute my point. You’re saying that in already cycling-mad cultures you can have several teams that last for several decades, but what does that mean for places and teams outside Belgium, France, Spain and (maybe?) Italy.
    I will admit that I’m biased as an American who has watched our cycling (road at least) infrastructure collapse in the past ten years. Also, seeing the relatively small number of opportunities for riders to make decent money, it makes the professional road cycling ranks look like a very small club indeed. I guess what I would like to see is something more akin to the football pyramids that exist all over Europe and in many other places, where many players not at the top of the sport have the opportunity to do their thing without putting their bodies at risk for a pittance in terms of salary. But maybe there just isn’t enough interest (read: money) in cycling to support a larger overall structure, and we will just have to rely on smart individuals to keep the sport afloat.

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