A handful of high-profile elite men’s racers are missing the UCI Road Cycling World Championships this week because teams are holding them back to chase points in the ongoing battle to secure a WorldTour license in 2023 and beyond.
The Australian-backed team wasn’t about to miss a once-in-a-career chance for its riders to win a rainbow jersey on home roads, even if the team is racing to stave off relegation in the closing days of 2022.
“For us, the selection was pretty easy,” BikeExchange-Jayco sport director Matt White told VeloNews. “We always back our guys to represent their country, and we have a very close connection with the [Australian] federation.”
- Matthews could become men’s first ‘home road’ world champion since 2008
- Israel Premier Tech owner threatens legal action if relegated
- Unintended consequences of UCI’s relegation battle
BikeExchange-Jayco’s Michael Matthews will be a five-star favorite for the rainbow jersey Sunday in the elite men’s road race.
That honor and rare chance to race for the world title on home roads was simply too attractive to pass up or forfeit by erring on the side of caution.
Though BikeExchange-Jayco is hovering near the relegation zone, the team gave the green light for select riders to compete in Wollongong despite the team’s down-to-the-wire fight to finish among the WorldTour’s top 18-ranked teams.
“Our decision to let our guys go was a tactical one as well,” White said. “We know how many points are up at the world championships, and we have faith that those guys will deliver us points at the worlds.”
It’s a balancing act for White and BikeExchange-Jayco management.
On one side, the team could play it safe and insist riders don’t travel to Australia in order to keep them fresh going into the closing races in Europe in a bid to hoover up points.
On the other hand, a world championships in Australia only comes once a generation.
There was no way the squad, with its Australian DNA hard-wired into the team’s identity, was going to miss this chance.
“We support our guys to win world championships and Olympic Games for Australia, and with our other nations as well,” White said.
With UCI points in play during the world championships also counting toward the WorldTour team rankings, White said the was double motivation to race for the rainbow this week.
“We’re gambling that our points in Australia will be worth more for us than not letting our riders attend the world championships,” White said.
The team’s bet paid dividends in Wednesday’s mixed relay team time trial, where Australia finished with a crowd-pleasing bronze medal.
Even more important, at least from BikeExchange-Jayco’s point of view, Matthews and Luke Durbridge scooped up invaluable points with a trip to the podium.
That podium was worth 123 points for BikeExchange-Jayco, more points than if one of the team’s riders won a stage at the recent Vuelta a España.
Another team rider, Matteo Sobrero, also hit points with Italy in silver, but points from only the top 10-ranked riders per season per team will count in the three-year tabulation.
‘Gambling’ on big payout at the worlds
White also pointed out that during this week there are not a lot of racing days, though late September and early October are packed with the final races in Europe.
Some teams rested riders coming out of the Vuelta so they will be fresher for the closing round of races.
“There’s not too much on this week in Europe any way,” White said. “I can understand teams were worried about people coming back with jet lag, and there is a pretty big series of races starting next week in Italy, which a lot of the guys who do the worlds will be involved in.”
Even with all eyes on Australia, the relegation battle continues to play out in Europe.
Wednesday’s one-day Omloop van het Houtland Middelkerke-Lichtervelde in Belgium — ranked 1.1 on the UCI scale — saw four of the “bubble” teams on the UCI relegation wars lining up.
BikeExchange-Jayco hit third in the bunch sprint with Dylan Groenewegen in the otherwise minor race Wednesday. Relegation rival Lotto-Soudal finished second with Arnaud De Lie, while Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Deceuninck) took the flowers.
BikeExchange-Jayco even bounced ahead of Cofidis into 17th spot by one-half point, at least according to UCI points guru Raúl Banqueri.
That was a good haul for a Wednesday in mid-September.
There’s more racing this month, and BikeExchange-Jayco vows to be there on all fronts.
Five teams racing for four spots
Going into this weekend, five teams are locked in a battle for four WorldTour spots.
Movistar, now ranked 14th with 15,800 points, all but secured its WorldTour future thanks to a solid, healthy, and consistent Vuelta a España. Israel Premier Tech, ranked 20th at 13,515 points, seems doomed to relegation.
Above and below those thresholds, things are heating up.
EF Education-EasyPost, 15th on the points accumulation, and Lotto-Soudal, ranked 19th just outside the “safe zone,” are separated by about 1,ooo points.
With less than one month left of racing on the official 2022 calendar, that balance could tip either way for one of those teams.
The top-ranked 18 teams on points during the 2020-2022 seasons will meet the “sporting” criteria to be considered for the next round of three-year WorldTour licenses.
Even though the top-two ranked teams on points during 2022 beyond the 18 WorldTour teams will be assured invitations to all 2023 WorldTour events, teams are worried that sponsors and backers could leave if a squad does not retain its WorldTour status.
Actualización del descenso: Movistar prácticamente asegura su permanencia con los podios de Kanter y Serrano en Bélgica.
Israel sigue decepcionando y Lotto no aprovecha las clásicas belgas para remontar. Una semana menos para ellos.
Rankings actualizados a diario 👇
— Raúl Banqueri (@raulbanqueri) September 18, 2022