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Fight for final Women’s WorldTeam license heats up as opportunities for points dwindle

At least three teams are looking to step up for 2023 but only there's only one place available.

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There’s a lot of talk about the tense contest for the final places in the men’s WorldTour for 2023, but there’s an equally tight fight to make it to the women’s top tier.

Only one Women’s WorldTeam license remains available for next year and at least three teams have publicly stated their intent on staking a claim to it.

Plantur Pura, Ceratizit-WNT, and AG Insurance-NXTG have all indicated their intent to seek promotion, while top-ranked Continental team Valcar Travel & Service has so far remained silent on the matter. Le Col-Wahoo had previously stated their intention of seeking promotion in 2023 but the team has since said it didn’t apply for next season and is now looking to 2024.

When the WorldTeam licenses were first launched, the UCI had hoped to have a full complement of 15 squads signed up already but a slump in the second year of the series means that there is a vacant slot for 2023. The fight for this final spot will be a small preview of what is to come when the Women’s WorldTour kicks into top gear for the 2024 season.

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There are several criteria that need to be met for a women’s team to make it to the top tier, including financial, administrative, ethical, and organizational. Teams will have to reach that hurdle before they can be considered, but when there are more teams than places, the points haul will ultimately decide who makes it and who doesn’t.

It’s the first time that this criterion will be tested as all previous applicants to the Women’s WorldTour were granted their place, or rejected, on the basis of the four initial criteria.

Though it already feels like a firm part of the cycling setup, the Women’s WorldTeam category is still a relatively new addition. Unveiled in 2018, the new tiered system got its first outing in the COVID-disrupted 2020 season.

The plan was to add five new teams each season for the first three years for a total of 15. License durations would range from four to two years, depending on when it was awarded, with the intention of starting a promotion and relegation system — similar to the men’s — starting in 2024.

That opening season went far better than expected in terms of new squads with eight snapping up a WorldTeam spot. However, only one applied the following season. With the expected five coming in for the 2022 season, it leaves one more place open.

While the 14 current teams are locked in for next year, all 15 spots will be up for grabs ahead of the 2024 season with two-year licenses on offer. That will then extend to three years when the next round of promotion and relegation happens in 2026.

The team that does gain its place in the WorldTour for 2023 will have to fight right from the off to ensure that they’ve accrued enough points to stay there. The 2024 licenses will be awarded on the basis of the past two years of points and the tight battle this year will mean fine margins at the end of next season.

The situation right now

Opportunities to add to the team’s points tally are fast dwindling with only a few races remaining before the season is over.

Following Tuesday’s one-day races in Italy and Belgium, the last likely haul of points is probably going to come from the final WorldTour race of the Tour de Romandie and the one-day Chrono des Nations.

The Italian squad Valcar Travel & Service, which has helped to develop the likes of Marta Cavalli and Elisa Balsamo, is far and away the top-ranked Continental team at seventh in the standings. However, it has previously denied any intention of stepping up to WorldTour as it doesn’t have a budget that it needs to make the step.

With a swath of its riders set to step up with other teams next year — primarily UAE Team ADQ — it looks set to stay where it is and work as a feeder team.

Plantur Pura — the sister team of Alpecin-Deceuninck that looks set to climb into the men’s WorldTour next year — is the next best Continental team in 12th place. The team confirmed to VeloNews that it would apply for the WorldTeam license for 2023.

It has a lead of over 150 points on the next team, Ceratizit-WNT, and is in a prime place to take the final license. With just two more races on the calendar of most top teams, it’s going to be difficult to overhaul that advantage but not impossible and it will need to keep an eye on its rivals going into the final races.

Ceratizit-WNT is down in 14th and has a lot to do if it wants to jump above Plantur-Pura. With just three points from the Tre Valli Varesine race compared to Plantur Pura’s 155 from Binche-Chimay-Binche later Tuesday, the Belgian squad is pushing ahead.

It will all come down to the final round of the WorldTour with the Tour de Romandie.

AG Insurance-NXTG is the final team that has signaled its intentions to try and go WorldTour for next year. While it is ahead of some current WorldTeams in the UCI standings, it is far behind the others fighting for promotion.

With almost a 1,000-point deficit to Plantur-Pura, the team has not done enough to secure that 15th spot. Management told VeloNews earlier this year that its only hope for a 2023 license was the UCI creating a 16th spot just for it on the basis of its current organizational structure, which sees it as one of the very few teams with a development squad.

Given the UCI’s usual rigidity, it’s unlikely to budge on this matter and the team will need to look to 2024 instead.