The 2023 Points Race

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 rules
Promotion 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 too
Promotion 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 teams
There’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.

41 thoughts on “The 2023 Points Race”

  1. Thanks for the post! Vaughters has already said that EF Education will be sending men to more races to get points and Israel PT will, I guess, be doing the same (going from Adams reaction to being relegated). Caleb Ewan could also find himself a busy man.
    As with English soccer, the teams with the biggest budgets will not have to worry about relegation. The new points system reinforces that.
    The Proteams that get the Grand tours invites might well see it as a chance to get extra points vis a vis the other Proteams, but there is also the chance of 3 weeks of racing for next to nothing. The pressure on them to get into the breakaway on certain days will certainly be more.

    • The extra points for the big races is interesting for the smaller teams that get the invites as they have a chance to score more points, but only if they can get on terms with the big teams in a grand tour which is going to be harder. There are obvious incentives to perform well in a big race for its own sake for the likes of Uno-X, Total, Israel, Lotto but at times these teams might want to hold back some riders for lesser races where they can score big by winning or placing. To some extent we’re seeing this already with Lotto and Total saying “no thanks” to a Giro invitation.

      • In case of the TdF the extra exposure for & extra money from the sponsors might be enough to compensate for the lack of actual points gained.

        In the past VRT/Sporza refused to pay for the whole RCS package, which includes a lot of races that aren’t as interesting for people in Flanders, which means they lost access to the Giro live broadcasts too (Eurosport has those), so it’s a lot less interesting for (Belgian) sponsors. Maybe something about that will change now that Remco rides the Giro, but we’ll have to see…

  2. And here I was thinking the points battle was a 3 year rolling thing which would be 2021, 2022 and 2023, thanks for clearing it up. Does make me wonder how the relegated teams feel about being stuck out of the World Tour for 3 years, makes those automatic invite slots very important.

    • Yes these teams have two goals, to score big to qualify for next year but also to keep on going and possibly hire in more riders so they have a shot at promotion at the end of the next three seasons.

  3. Another potential revenue stream for ASO and RCS is they can sell wildcard spots in their Grand Tours to the rich benefactors of relegated teams. The increased point totals makes them more valuable.

    • The UCI wouldn’t let it happen* and the amount raised wouldn’t be so big, even for the Tour. We can sort of see the cost involved here as the teams that currently compete for a Tour invite do it by building up roster of riders/points and this is worth at least €5-10 million a year, ie if you want to get a Tour invite you need to have this kind of team budget, if you don’t mind resting in July then €2-5 million will get a decent team.

      * but we’ve seen sponsors of teams sponsor some races by the same organiser and coincidentally their team gets an invite. So it sort of happens but on a small scale.

    • But as was pointed out above, teams are turning down invites to a Grand Tour (which makes one wonder what the team’s sponsors think of it) because of the points system.

      • I would imagine the sponsors won’t mind, it’s only the Giro, you know, and both teams will gain more publicity and TV time by racing in their home markets and doing well rather than just participating.

        Besides, it is my impression that it hasn’t been unusual for the smaller teams (that don’t have a Top Ten candidate( to enter a somewhat “B” team and save the “A” guys for the home turf races an the GT they and their sponsors truly want to be in.

        • So the UCI’s hopes of having the best riders at the biggest races are proven to be flawed again by their own rules!
          I do feel sorry for the guys who want to ride the Giro and the team says no. Could have been a chance for guys to make a name for themselves. Just think of Jay Vine for example.
          As for the sponsors, Proteams sponsors must surely give their eye teeth for 3 weeks at a Grand Tour – think of Q36.5 for example.

          • I think the kind of up-and-coming rider who has the quality and the form needed to make a name for himself in the Giro is guarateed a place in the team for the Tour – which we cannot imagine Lotto or Total skipping 🙂
            I was also thinking of WT teams that have only one realistic Top Ten contender, which has resulted in some rather weak Giro teams.

            It is, of course, a whole different kettle of fish for the ProTeams that do not have automatic invitations, they must take what they can get!

      • Teams are turning down the Giro in part because they can score elsewhere but also just because of commercial reasons, eg Lotto-DSTNY have to commit to sending eight riders and all the support staff but don’t think they’ll get much out of it; one the one hand there will be a lot of Belgian media this time, on the other they’ll probably only have eyes for Evenepoel. Similar for Total Energies which doesn’t have much of a consumer business in Italy so sending a team for little publicity (it’s not on French TV) it’s not so rewarding for them in a way it could be for other teams.

        But teams that turn down grand tours might also have recruitment issues, would a rider sign for them if they doubt they’ll get a grand tour a season in their legs? Maybe, maybe not but it could be a factor. If you’re a promising Belgian rider but not yet ready to make Lotto’s Tour de France team, do you sign with them or go to Alpecin where you’ll almost have to ride a grand tour in your first two years?

        • If Lotto-DSTNY or Total Energies were still World Tour teams would they have done the Giro? I understand the budget/points issue but it does feel a bit like they are shooting themselves in the foot, especially in regards to your point about recruiting. In contrast, Israel PT are seemingly doing every race they can, and we’ll see at the end of the year which is the better strategy.

  4. Do the teams with an auto invite to the WT races now get an even bigger advantage as these races are bigger points than before. The teams without the auto invite have to score more points in lower ranked events.

    • Yes and that seems a bit unfair unless it’s intended to make the WT stable and more valuable.

      Just reading a team preview of IWG and outside Grimay they’ll have a hard time getting points. Can’t really see them scoring much in the GC at any GT’s or any stage race really. They might be the one team to drop out of top 18.

      • I thought IWG would struggle last year but they finished as the best Belgian team on the rankings, scoring more points than QuickStep, Alpecin and Lotto. Now repeating this will be a lot harder but they have riders who can get points on lots of days.

      • Louis Meintjes shouldn’t be forgotten from a list of candidates for the Top 10 in the Tour GC.
        And if I were a betting man, I would put the price of a good bar tape on an IWG rider (1) winning a stage and (2) finishing in the Top 10 GC in a stage race.
        Losing Kristoff, Hermans and Hirt was a major blow, but if, at the end of the season, we will tally up the points earned in stage races, I believe we will find IWG higher than 19th.
        And I fully expect the young riders in the team to bring in loads of points in 2024 and 2025,

          • Do you mean it is ridiculous that the points allotment for the TDU is the same for the five “more valauable than the Volta and the Itzulia” WorldTour team races?
            Or do you mean that it is ridiculous that the seventh place gets 150 points (when the winner takes 500 points)?
            If the latter, the percentage is the same all across the board in WT races, 30% of the winner’s points for a seventh place, for instance.
            If the former, a seventh place in the UAE Tour would earn 95 points or 120 points in the Tour of Basque country.

        • I welcome the achievement gladly – and expect more from Bystrøm in the spring; the U23 road race world champion is a rider who at 30 could finally deliver some results – but I was thinking (like I suspect Cd was) of the stage races in Europe (where, to quote Larry T, the season truly starts).
          I hesitate to say where or who, but an IWG rider other than Biniam Girmay will be in the Top Ten where the positions 6-10 are more contested than they perhaps were in the TDU.

  5. I really hope the women’s relegation is decided on the road and not by a team folding. Le Col suddenly pulling out as the title sponsor of Le Col-Wahoo, and the team having to scramble for a new sponsor is just one reminder of how quickly these things can happen. Given this, as well as the horrible situation with B&B last year, isn’t it time for the UCI to move up the date for all the license renewal paperwork to be submitted? It won’t solve the systemic issues with sponsorship, but it would at least give riders and staff a head start on finding new teams.

  6. I think a key point is that 20 racers now count instead of 10, it will reward team breath and probably cause more focus on points down to 60, just in case!

  7. After the prologue and four of the five road stages at the TDU, Ewan has scored 57 points for Lotto-Dstny. A good start to a year when they need all the points they can get, and especially since they made the Moneybag move of

    Israel-PT have also been active.
    28 points for Corbin Strong, 5 points for Taj Jones.

    • Was meant to read:

      … the Moneyball move of pushing for Ewan and Drizners to ride in the Australian National Team, rather than spending resources on contesting the race directly.

  8. I’m looking at Pro Teams calendars, automatic invitations and wild cards already assigned in WT (spring, Giro & Tour):
    – Israel PT will race every WT race except Itzulia (24 WT races in calendar);
    – Lotto dropped invitations to australian races, Giro and Tirreno (20 races);
    – for Total DE no Giro and, based on PCS, no Ardennes (10 races);
    – Uno-X is getting a lot of invitations to big events (12 races);
    – Bingoal WB (11 races) should race a lot more than Flanders (5);
    – the 3 italian teams are invited to home races (Eolo and Bardiani 4, Corratec 2);
    – same for the spanish teams (BH, CR and Kern 2, Euskaltel 1);
    – the 2 new swiss teams get invitations to 3 italian spring races (and 2 swiss tours, I presume);
    – for HumanPoweredHealth only a couple of cobbled classics;
    – BoltonEquities will be at CEGORR and nowhere else;
    – NovoNordisk, with all these automatic invitations has lost opportunities, even for the traditional spot at Milano-Sanremo.
    In my humble opinion, IPT and Lotto will have a big advantage in the race for next year’s automatic invitations, with Uno-X and TDE a step down.

    • When will the Vuelta wildards given?
      If Lotto – Dstny and Total Energies don’t turn their invite down, it doesn’t look too good for the Spanish teams! Four teams fighting for two places…
      …and if Israel – Premier Tech likes to pretend it’s a WorldTeam. they won’t turn down their wildcard if they are given one – which would leave only one place.
      The three Spanish ProTeams didn’t leave much of an impression last year, but I still think a Vuelta without at least three of them is not a proper Vuelta!

        • IPT does not have a compulsory invite to the Vuelta as the special regulation introduced to prevent their legal action specifically states it does not include the grand tours. Their only chance of racing the Vuelta is to hope ASO/Unipublic offer them a wildcard invitation.

          Compulsory invitations must have been issued to the teams by 10 December 2022, and the deadline for the teams to accept is the earlier of 60 days from the invitation or 50 days before the race. This means Lotto-Dstny and Total have until 8 February 2023 to formally accept, otherwise the compulsory invitation will lapse and can be used by the organiser as an additional wildcard.

          • I see Lotto-Dstny have declined an invite to Tirreno Ad and Itzulia Basque Country as well, so their reckoning seems to be if Ewan or De Lie have not got a chance to win, then we’ll pass!

          • They are taking advantage of the rule which makes all WT teams go to all WT races.
            – No point in getting relegated if you don’t then pick and choose.

            This rule can be ridiculous: Like when a team of climbers gets forced to ride the cobbled classics. Or diluting sponsors’ contributions to cover races where they don’t trade, and the team doesn’t recruit riders.

            But any system is going to have its foibles.

          • “Like when a team of climbers gets forced to ride the cobbled classics.”

            Well, the “World” in World Tour is larger than simply the mountainous regions.

            “Or diluting sponsors’ contributions to cover races where they don’t trade, and the team doesn’t recruit riders.”

            If the “World” in WT is to mean anything it will inevitably encompass regions where the sponsors don’t trade. If you really want to specialize regionally (whether that region is national or terrain-type) don’t be in the WT. But it might be tough to race the WT races you want if there are other teams who do want to be WT teams.

          • Point being that the vast majority of teams always have sponsors that trade in the same region they are from. There is no real commercial route out of this, unless a team gets backing from a business on the same trajectory.
            Oh sure, Quickstep is a flooring company that own worldwide patents, but Lotto, Dekeuninck can’t trade outside Belgium. And so on.
            The climbing team I had in mind was Euskaltel which used to be WT but was exclusively climbers, since that aptitude is needed to be a successful rider where they are from.
            So usually the teams are not structured and financed to succeed on a World level. This leads to big disparities and allows teams to dominate, so long as they have the backing of a global entity, or a plutocrat who happens to like our sport.
            -Trying to shoehorn a sport into a format that only works to meet the governing body’s ambition may not be the recipe for success. Some teams, their owners and sponsors realise this and thus we have teams that prefer not to be WT.

          • @plurien
            What you say isn’t exactly true – or it is, only if you extend the meaning and duration of “going international”.
            Like, Segafredo is Italian, of course, but they no doubt are working on international markets. Same for BORA. Not every business is born as structurally international from scratch (several are), most go through a process of a sort – which is when they might become interested in cycling.
            In fact, cycling’s sponsorship can be among the most effective when you need to first make your brand known (“Oh yeah, we might try this, I already heard that name…”), to establish that sort of very basic trust (“Ehi, this *is even* a brand!”), rather than, dunno, forging a winning image or associating yourself with abundant wealth (few winners, many losers; sport of suffering for passing glory).

            And we don’t have many sugardaddies as such anymore. Ratcliffe up to a certain point is really promoting his business (more than, say, Ryan). And they’re the two who’re left in the WT. The rest is rather “promoting nations” or sportwashing (nothing new in cycling), as in Astana, Bahrain or UAE, even if of course some specific sheikh might be involved. But it’s a different sort of thing.

            EF, Cofidis, Alpecin, DSM, Trek (and Segafredo, as I said), BORA, Movistar, Citroën, Quickstep, which you named, are all commercial companies working on and for transnational markets. And it’s half of the WT. You might add INEOS as a hybrid case.
            And the sportwashing thing is international by nature, but let’s leave it aside.

            We’re left with Jumbo, Arkea, Intermarché and Groupama (plus the other sponsors of these teams) as companies which work on more local markets… maybe!… because perhaps it’s just me ignoring they’re actual scope.

            OTOH, you’re surely right if we speak of ProTeam. Which is often, uhmmm, the reason why they’re ProTeam and not WT?

          • Honestly, Gabriele, I really agree with your assessment of the teams and their exposure.

            Now, with that being said, to me, their exposure is based on their name and longevity in the sport – eg. Quickstep – if I move to Europe and need flooring, I will immediately connect with that brand. Same if I travel to Netherlands (to see my Grandpa’s family), I will for sure stop at a Jumbo market.

            However, I think the UCI did a favour by swapping the stupid names from Tier 1, ProConti, WorldTour, Protooons, ProTeam, WorldTeam, etc… I have NO clue what the league is called any more. Not like the NFL or EPL, the only thing that has any exposure to me is WVA ripping it apart at the front of the Tour for days and days… that name is plastered in my memory. Also, if the race organisers caught on to that concept right now, and worked together, they could create a league completely separate from the UCI… but the problem is, the organisers and teams will NEVER group together… Velon is a complete well, nothing… it hasn’t led to any income (material income) and there has no power.

            The race organisers/Teams need to take charge of the rule book and make a great league, based on their rules, create a pipeline of sponsors, keep building on the women’s peloton (they are amazing… and are so interesting – AVV’s latest off the record interview while riding with Zack Morris of the EF Coaching group was amazing).

            These girls are more interesting than most of the guys, and more than tennis players (way more than hockey/soccer players).

            Cycling is at a great spot, I’m really looking forward to watching the next years, hope they can keep this going without letting the UCI make things too difficult. The next league name will be WaffleTour….

  9. GT stages giving points down to 15th… will this potentially make the sprints more hectic and dangerous as the smaller teams encourage riders to keep the power down all the way to the line?

  10. De Lie carries on his good sprinting form from last year in Spain. I think we might see a lot of De Lie/Ewan versus Boasson Hagen/Sagan this year. One bad point was the raised pedestrian crossing with only 150m to go – some nasty crashes there at the end.

  11. Pointy end yesterday: Quinn Simmons, Trek Segafredo
    Points PCS 30
    Points UCI 20
    Vuelta a San Juan Internacional (2.Pro)
    24.01 1 Stage 3 – Autodrómo de Villicum › Autodrómo de Villicum
    He called it, and was great fun watching him do it.

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