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Arkea-Samsic celebrates WorldTour future but ignores Nairo Quintana’s role

Quintana's points despite his Tour de France disqualification were key to the French team's expected jump to the WorldTour.

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Arkéa-Samsic is expected to race in the WorldTour league in 2023, but the French team is ignoring Nairo Quintana and the Colombian’s decisive contribution.

Despite the Colombian rider losing his bid to reverse a UCI-imposed disqualification of his 2022 Tour de France results in a high-profile tramadol case, the French team still managed to finish among the top-ranked teams to meet WorldTour qualification.

Yet without Quintana’s victories and points during the past three seasons — even excluding the points disqualified from the 2022 Tour — Arkéa-Samsic would not have met the “sporting criteria” to finish among the top 18-ranked teams during the 2020-22 period.

Arkéa-Samsic officials reveled in the team’s WorldTour success but did not mention Quintana in recent public comments this week.

“Mission accomplished,” team manager Emmanuel Hubert said. “The strategy we developed during the past three seasons has borne fruit. At the end of 2022, it culminates with a ‘collective victory’ for Arkéa-Samsic and our team’s ascension to the WorldTour for three seasons.”

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Hubert called out such riders as Warren Barguil, Nacer Bouhanni, Élie Gesbert, Matîs Louvel, Amaury Capiot, Hugo Hofstetter, and Kévin Vauquelin by name, but there was no mention of Quintana.

Hubert made a vague reference that might have inferred Quintana when he added, “sometimes, some of them are forced to leave, but the institution [team] remains strong and mobilizes the forces that remain present.”

Without Quintana, even by forfeiting the points that he earned during the 2022 Tour, the team would not have met the WorldTour qualification.

Quintana joined the French second-tier team in 2020 with the expressed goal of helping it to hit the WorldTour qualification by 2023.

The team deployed a controversial but precise tactic of targeting low-ranking, but high-points-netting races. For example, it skipped a start at the 2022 Giro d’Italia in order to put more emphasis on one-day and shorter stage races.

The tactic paid off handsomely.

The team ended the three-year tally in 18th place with 15,864 points, last in the three-year ranking, but enough to meet the UCI’s “sporting criteria” in its controversial relegation/promotion system that underpins the next round of three-year WorldTour licenses for 2023-25.

Lotto-Soudal and Israel Premier Tech, with 14,869 and 13,868 points, respectively, face relegation.

Quintana’s disqualification from the Tour, and his decision to skip the Vuelta a España to focus on his appeal in the Court of Arbitration for Sport, put Arkéa-Samsic into the danger zone in the closing months of 2022.

The team, however, had just enough points to hang on, thanks in part to the other successes Quintana had across the past three seasons with the team. Across his tenure with the team, Quintana earned more than 2,000 UCI points even with the Tour disqualification, with 11 victories from 2020-22.

Without those points, Arkéa-Samsic would have finished behind Lotto-Soudal in the team rankings.

Of course, without Quintana during the past three seasons, the French team might have signed another rider in his place, and the story might have had a similar ending.

Quintana facing uncertain future

Still, the anecdote marks the final chapter for Quintana at Arkéa-Samsic, which already pulled out of a signed three-year contract extension with the Colombian that would have kept him in team colors through 2025.

Since losing his CAS appeal, Quintana is now searching for a new team to race in 2023.

Also read: Quintana disqualified from 2022 Tour de France

A few top WorldTour teams have publicly confirmed they were not interested in signing Quintana, and his CAS reversal — when the international sports court let a UCI ruling stand — will not help his chances of finding a new team.

The 32-year-old does not face a racing ban or other sanctions and is free to compete. Though tramadol is not banned by WADA — it will be starting in 2024 — the UCI bans its use during competition. Quintana insisted he did not take tramadol despite two separate controls returning traces of the opioid painkiller.

For Arkéa-Samsic, the team fully expects to receive its WorldTour designation starting in 2023.

The team has signed four WorldTour-level riders for its 2023 roster, including Clément Champoussin (Ag2r-Citroën), Cristián Rodríguez (TotalEnergies), Jenthe Biermans (Israel-Premier Tech), and David Dekker (Jumbo-Visma).

Hubert said the team wants to stay there.

“I am happy for my riders, my staff. Winning our place in the UCI WorldTour on the competition field is not an achievement, but a first step of the way up,” Hubert said. “I would like us to stay in this category for the long term. There will be adversity, we know that but we are Bretons, that’s what we like, precisely to take up challenges.”